A Fairygodboss member recently shared that she had a bad performance review and was wondering how to proceed. "I just had a terrible annual review that I thought was very unfair," she said. "I was really surprised but it was so bad that I think I'm living in an alternative universe to my manager. Should I just start looking for another job? The feedback was really different than what I think I deserve so I normally would just try to improve but it feels kinda hopeless."
Emotions always run high during performance review season, and having a terrible review can feel so defeating. But instead of jumping ship right away, think about moving forward using this 4-step plan. It will help you assess the situation to decide whether or not you can (or want to) continue in your current role.
1. Step back.
During a performance review discussion, good or bad, our minds tend to race. We’re considering how to deal with negative feedback, capitalize on the positive, construct the ‘perfect’ responses and present ourselves in the best possible light. If things aren’t going your way, try your best to stay calm and listen.
Ask clarifying questions, graciously listen to answers and avoid responding right away, just take it in as gracefully as possible. After the conversation, try to gain some perspective and do your best not to take things personally. Put yourself in your boss’ shoes to see why she might have misinterpreted your actions or intent.
Be as objective as possible and play devil’s advocate to look at things from all angles. It can be helpful to enlist the help of a trusted friend or colleague in this phase.
2. Be grateful.
Feedback is a gift, right? (insert eye roll!) Really, though, your boss has shared her perspective and now you know how she feels about your performance. If you don’t know there is a problem, you can’t fix it. It might be the case that others share her opinion and knowing what that opinion is can help you shift your behavior to improve relationships and the way you are perceived.
Now that you’ve had some time to cool off, it’s time to talk with your boss about the review. It’s okay to say that you were surprised by her feedback and share your point of view. Stay inclusive and collaborative as you approach this discussion. It’s not you against her, but rather an effort to make sure you are performing in a way that meets her standards and allows you to grow in your role.
This will be a pivotal moment. You’ll learn whether or not you can or want to meet those standards and that can be a deciding factor in whether or not you look for another role. The best-case scenario is that you and your boss create a plan to help you excel in your role and advance in your career. It might not be hopeless!
4. Set Milestones.
If the plan is to stay and to have an amazing performance review next year, you need to create a plan and define metrics that measure your success. It might be that your boss didn’t think you were doing well because you weren’t visible enough.
A great answer to that might be to schedule monthly or weekly meetings where you can update her on projects. Are you easily frustrated and bringing down your team when things don’t go well? Try removing yourself from frustrating situations so others aren’t impacted or being careful about where and when you express those frustrations. Identify the behaviors and perceptions that you’d like to correct and regularly check your progress in making improvements.
Effective communication and setting clear goals in collaboration with your boss should mean no surprises at review time. If you do find yourself in a tough performance review, follow these steps to decide how you’ll successfully move forward.
Alyson Garrido is passionate about helping people advance their careers and find jobs they will enjoy. As a career coach, she partners with her clients to identify their strengths and create a path toward a more fulfilling career. Learn more at www.alysongarrido.com.