Dealing With a Bad Performance Review

A while ago, one of our readers sent us a link to an interesting article, What to Do if Your Boss Gives You a Bad Performance Review. The author offers several good suggestions for those who may have been caught in this all too common situation.

The article suggests employees who receive bad reviews should:

  • Avoid an outburst or emotional reaction. This is good advice, as becoming emotional or defensive blocks your ability to effectively process the information the boss is offering. If you remain calm, it might surprise or even disappoint the boss.
  • Listen to the reasons for the bad review. You may not agree, but you need to understand what is being said if you want to be able to challenge the review or avoid these criticisms in the future.
  • Ask questions to clarify the opinions if you are uncertain what they mean or why they are being said. The author points out the need to ask questions in a positive manner, asking “What should I have done differently to prevent the problem from happening?”, not “Why did you write such a stupid review?”
  • After the review, focus on the future. Concentrate on what you can do differently to avoid a bad review in the future.
  • Present your point of view in a calm manner.
  • Come to an agreement with your boss on what needs to be done to demonstrate improvement. Schedule times to meet with the boss to discuss progress.

I would also add to this list, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.” As a manager, when I had to give a bad review I felt an obligation to offer ideas on how the employee could improve and support their efforts.

We have worked with labor-management groups that have tried to craft a fair and effective employee performance review process. The best way to develop a strong process is through the joint efforts of labor and management. In this way, a workable process can be built that is understood by employees and managers.

A jointly developed process can also avoid some of the pitfalls that doom most employee assessment processes to failure. We will say more about that in a future blog.

About CALMC Blog

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to involving employers and employees to preserve jobs, resolve workplace issues, and promote labor-management cooperation. Visit our website at
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