A negative performance evaluation can leave a bitter taste, but it need not spell failure, provided you know how to react. Receiving a poor assessment can help you identify and overcome obstacles that are holding back your career. With proper preparation and a plan of action, you can turn a negative into a positive. Here are seven tips for dealing with bad feedback from your boss.
1) Don’t do anything impulsive
It can be difficult, but don’t react if you are feeling angry or emotional. Your boss’ review of your performance isn’t up for debate and if you try to argue back immediately, it can quickly lead to crisis. Express your surprise calmly and reasonably, then seek a follow-up meeting after taking time to digest what has been said. Be sure to listen to your manager’s comments carefully and try to understand them. You won’t succeed as long as you remain upset or angry.
2) Take a step back
All employees accustomed to receiving good appraisals get alarmed when they hear criticisms. Don’t panic! Unless the criticisms are recurring, you should treat the evaluation as an opportunity to improve, not a warning. Remember to measure the type of feedback you receive, whether it’s an ultimatum, comment on your performance in general, or a concern about a specific aspect of your work. When an employer explains how you can become even better, it usually means he thinks you’re able to improve, not that he wants to get rid of you. Managers often identify areas of improvement for all employees, even the best ones.
3) Ask for clarification
It is important to understand criticism, whether you agree with it or not. And if you don’t, set up a further meeting with your manager. Ask your boss for details of the criticism if you think it’s vague, such as “poor communication”. And try to get specific examples, explaining that you want to better understand their comments, not challenge them.
4) Correct any errors in the evaluation
If necessary, correct any (real) errors your manager has made in your appraisal by providing measurable data. But don’t be defensive when doing this, and submit data or other objective indicators to support yourself.
5) Establish an action plan and share it with your manager
Develop a strategy in which you translate critical evaluations into specific actions. A simple example: If you are accused of not knowing how to meet deadlines, reconfigure your calendar and alert system and reset your daily priorities. Once this action plan is established, tell your manager about it. This may help alleviate their concerns, while involving them in your approach.
6) Do not hesitate to ask for help
If you’re struggling to improve, ask one or two colleagues for feedback, or even get their help with a particular project. They may have an opinion on certain aspects of your work. However, the best solution is still to go directly to the source of criticism, namely your supervisor.
7) Track your progress
If you were surprised by the criticism during your evaluation, this may mean that you and your manager don’t have enough regular contact. Do not hesitate to propose follow-up meetings and regular briefings to discuss your progress on key issues. Your collaboration will be more regular and thus you are more likely to get a good review next time.
Fabrice Coudray is a director at Robert Half International France