What to Do When You Get a Bad Review You Don't Deserve

For better or worse, performance reviews are an integral part of employee evaluations. Your performance review can not only give you insight into what you're doing right and where you need to improve, but can also determine whether you advance professionally at your company or not. Getting a bad review, therefore, can constitute a major career blow. What's even worse, however, is getting a negative review you feel you don't deserve. If you land in this unfortunate situation, here's how you might handle it.

1. Stay calm and try to process the feedback you've gotten

It's never easy to sit and listen to someone else criticize you. But like it or not, that's technically your manager's right, so even if you're seething over the injustice the situation reeks of, do your best to let your boss have his or her say, and resist the urge to interrupt or argue. Furthermore, take a few minutes to think about the feedback you've gotten before fashioning a response. Better yet, ask your manager for a day or two to process that information so that you can gather your thoughts and prepare a more eloquent reply.

2. Press your manager for specifics

It's one thing for your boss to state that you've been doing things wrong, but it's another thing for your manager to actually prove it. If you receive a bad review you feel isn't warranted, don't hesitate to press your manager for more details, as your boss should be able to back up his or her statements with examples.

For instance, if you're dinged on your review for failing to meet deadlines when you have, in fact, consistently gotten your work done on time, politely ask your manager to name a specific instance where you didn't meet expectations. If your boss can't come up with an example, he or she might decide to take that criticism down a notch or two.

3. Politely ask your manager to reconsider

If your performance review is going on record, you don't want that negative feedback taking up precious real estate in your career file, where it can wreck your chances of landing a promotion or raise. Therefore, if your boss fails to come up with concrete examples of your shortcomings, and you're convinced you're in the right, you might, in your most professional tone possible, ask your boss to consider revising that review. Whether your manager complies is a different story, but it pays to ask nonetheless.

4. When all else fails, go to HR

So you asked your boss to elaborate on your so-called poor performance, and he or she not only failed to provide concrete examples, but also refuses to budge on your review's contents regardless. Unfortunately, once you reach this sort of impasse, your next and only move might be to file a grievance with your HR department. If you're forced to go this route, gather as much proof as possible to back up your case.

For example, if your boss states on your review that you failed to follow directions on a high-profile project, but you have team members who are willing to vouch for the fact that you did as you were told, that's something to document and present. The more you're able to undeniably refute your manager's claims, the greater your chances of coming away unscathed professionally. Of course, in going to HR, you risk wrecking your relationship with your boss permanently, but that's a chance you might need to take -- and with any luck, your HR rep will recognize that conflict and work to get you moved to another manager.

Remember, sometimes our performance falters even when we're convinced we've been on top of things. If your boss gives you a negative review and can back up his or her claims, rather than get defensive, accept the fact that you may have fallen down on certain aspects of the job, and that there's ample room for improvement. On the other hand, if your manager's statements truly don't hold water and you feel strongly that his or her negative feedback is utterly unwarranted, then you should by all means fight back.

Maybe your boss was having a bad day when he or she wrote your review. Or maybe he or she just has it in for you. Either way, your career shouldn't have to suffer a setback because of one glaring false representation of your work.

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