Recovering After a “Less Than Perfect” Performance Review

As conscientious employees, we always strive for our absolute best. However, there may be the rare occasion when our work performance leaves some room for improvement. Whether due to a challenging personal issue, a workplace conflict, or an unusually arduous project or task assignment; negative performance reviews do happen from time to time. If this is not your usual pattern, an understanding employer may actually work with you to explore ways to improve.


Nevertheless, a disapproving review can give any employee reason for disappointment and apprehension. Therefore, regardless of your company’s inclination, it’s imperative that you land on your feet and begin a proactive strategy for resuming top-employee status.


Dr. Patricia Thompson; corporate psychologist and President of Silver Lining Psychology which assists companies of all sizes with team building, executive coaching, and personality assessment for hiring; has shared some valuable steps toward recovering after a negative employee performance review:

It’s okay to feel bad.

Don’t dismiss your emotions or rationalize any negative feedback you received during the review. In fact, it’s actually the initial sting that will motivate you to do better in the future. However, it’s best to do your venting and complaining at home and not during work hours.

Put the experience in perspective.

According to Dr. Thompson, “Once you’ve given yourself a chance to feel your feelings, now’s the time to take a step back, and focus on doing something about it”.  This is where obtaining a strong sense of objectivity becomes key. Thompson sites Muse career coach, Loren Margolis, on the topic of moving past the negative emotions which often stem from bad feedback: “While you’re processing it, write down your thoughts and the actual feedback; think through some of the questions you’d like to ask in advance of your next meeting”. Then be sure to follow through the next time you meet with your boss.

Establish clear objectives.

The next step is to “set clear goals”, but as Thompson notes, “Make them challenging, yet achievable by your next review, and articulate what success for each one might look like”. Be sure to run them past your supervisor to ensure that you’re on the right path, and properly interpreting and incorporating feedback.

Create a development strategy.

It’s not just enough to aspire to your goals; you must have a clear plan for development. Once you’ve identified your strategies, “write out a step-by-step plan of action to guide your efforts”, says Thompson. Isolate your resources – whether books, network contacts, or continued education – and ascertain exactly what you will require from each. Do your research and decide on your course(s) of action. The next step is to present your plan compilation to your boss and request their feedback. Thompson indicates, “This will show that you’re taking your review seriously – and they may even have the budget or resources to help you move forward”.  Once you reach this point, begin a tracking list of your professional accomplishments. This part is important as it provides solid evidence of your progress.

Request consistent feedback.

Don’t hesitate to schedule periodic follow-up meetings with your boss in order to gauge your improvement over the upcoming months. This is a great way to not only gain insight into your boss’ perspective of your growth, but also shows due diligence and commitment to your goals. Thompson also stresses asking trusted colleagues and coworkers for periodic feedback as well. “In addition to giving you the additional perspective on how you’re doing, your colleagues can act as ‘accountability partners’ [who will] help you stay on track,” says Thompson.

Restore other relationships with coworkers.

Believe it or not, colleagues can play a strong role in repairing your boss’ perception of you. Therefore, do your best to improve or build upon your relationships with your coworkers. Offer your help when and wherever possible, and act reliably and honestly. Thompson suggests that “[being] honest about your weaknesses builds trust, and your coworkers will be more likely to notice the changes you’re making (and bring them up to your manager)”. Holding yourself accountable for your actions forces you to keep up.

Consistency is key.

Don’t assume that one successful week is going to completely change your boss’ mind. While your intentions are sincere, it often takes a long time for others to actually take notice.  Thompson references a phenomenon called “confirmatory bias”, which causes us to mostly notice things which already confirm our prior beliefs. Therefore, don’t become impatient, or worse, give up altogether. It may take time for others to become accustomed to your new behaviors, and truly believe they are permanent.


The Takeway

It’s essential to realize that we will all experience some type of setback in our career at one point or another. In fact, as Dr. Thompson points out, there have been countless accomplished individuals who have received criticism at one point or another. Failure should simply be viewed as a stepping stone toward a new level of your own professional development. With the right level of commitment, you will likely find yourself feeling quite proud of your achievements when it comes time for your next performance review.


Fred Coon, CEO

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