Many companies have a practice of conducting performance reviews for employees, whether it's once a year or once a quarter. But what happens when your review is loaded with negative feedback? Here's how to cope with a bad performance review -- and quite possibly save your job in the process.
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1. Keep your cool
It's never easy to sit in a room listening to all the things you're doing wrong, but it's critical that you resist the urge to get emotional or defensive in the face of a negative review. It may be that you think your manager is being overly harsh, or perhaps doesn't have all the facts straight, but rather than jump down his or her throat or make excuses for your less-than-stellar performance, let your boss speak, nod professionally, and don't interrupt.
2. Take that feedback to heart
It's easy to turn off your brain when all you're hearing is a series of negative remarks. But one major reason why companies conduct performance reviews is to let employees know where they stand and give them a chance to do better. Rather than ignore what your manager has to say, make sure to absorb that feedback, especially if it's respectful and constructive in nature. Sure, it's never easy to hear that your sales presentations come across as sloppy and poorly rehearsed, but if nobody points that out, you're not going to advance in your career. Quite the contrary -- you could risk losing your job if your sales numbers stay low and you have no idea why.
3. Ask questions
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Performance reviews aren't typically a one-way street. In most cases, you'll be given a chance to ask questions in response to your manager's feedback, so if there's anything you're unclear about, be sure to request that clarification. That said, it's easy to come off as defensive when asking questions following a negative review, so watch your tone and phrasing.
Say your boss claims to be unimpressed with the fact that you rarely take the lead on projects. You might respond with: "I'm definitely willing to take more initiative. Can you please give me a few examples of recent projects you feel I was equipped to manage?"
4. Request a follow-up meeting
If your performance review is loaded with negative feedback, that's enough to not only get you upset but catch you off guard. You may therefore need some time to process that information and come up with ways to address that feedback. With that in mind, it pays to schedule a follow-up meeting with your manager several days, or even a week, after the fact, to discuss any remaining concerns you might have or reaffirm your commitment to improving. Requesting that meeting will show your boss that you're serious about doing a better job, and that you're taking the time to let that feedback sink in rather than minimize it.
5. Come up with a game plan
The best way to recover from a negative performance review is to improve drastically, so it pays to come up with a plan for how you might do that. Once you've had that follow-up meeting with your boss, take the time to map out your strategy for addressing his or her feedback and then ask your manager for input.
For example, say your key takeaway from your review is that your work is generally sloppy. You might put together a list of ways you'll work on cleaning up your act, from verifying data points with your statistics team to enlisting the help of an in-house copyeditor when you're unsure about spelling and grammar.
One final thing to keep in mind is that just because you receive a negative performance review doesn't mean you're about to get fired. The fact that your manager has taken the time to discuss your flaws means he or she is committed to helping you improve, so if you work on addressing that feedback, there's a good chance you'll not only remain in your job but have a better much experience the next time around.
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