What to do after a negative performance review

It would be nice to think that your annual performance review won’t contain any surprises. In an ideal world, we’re asking for and receiving feedback on a regular basis, so you always know what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. In the real world however, things are likely different. Everybody gets busy. Everybody has way too many things to do. So things like regular feedback take not only a back seat, but sometimes aren’t even in the car.

So, what do you do when you receive a negative annual review that takes you completely by surprise? Most of the same responses to negative feedback are applicable to a negative performance evaluation.

First, stay calm. It’s a natural reaction to immediately go into a defensive mode. Try your best to stay calm and remain professional. Your manager will appreciate that. Try to keep your emotions in check.

Take a moment. Take a day. If you are truly surprised by the comments, it’s okay to take a little time. “You’ve given me a lot to think about. I’d like to improve my performance. Is it okay if I think about this and get back with you tomorrow?”

Follow-up. Get back with your boss and schedule an appointment to discuss. Prepare by having specific questions ready. Write them down. “Can you give me an example of when I was insufficiently prepared for the presentation?” Show your manager that you want to improve, you value his or her feedback, and want their input to help you develop a plan to improve.

Listen closely. Hear the reasons behind the comments. Ask lots of questions to clarify. Ask for specific examples. Again, take notes.

Develop a plan. Share it with your boss. Again, ask for input. Ask for feedback more often, this could be formal or informal.

Stick to the plan. If you really want to improve, stick to the plan. Just like negative feedback, a negative performance review can help you develop professionally. Use the experience to improve or enhance your skills, take some classes, talk with a mentor.

This all assumes you love your job and the company you work for and you want to stay. If you don’t, then perhaps your performance is an indication of how you feel about your work. Maybe it’s time to make a change.

Above all, be honest with yourself. Most of us think we’re doing a much better job than we’re actually doing. Big surprise. So come back to earth, take off the rose-colored glasses and take your medicine.

It will make you better at your job and make you a better you.