What to do when you receive a poor job review
What do you do when a job review goes sideways? For many of us, a poor job review can seem like the end of the world. We feel like we’ve failed, we lose confidence, and in some cases, we can feel physically ill when a boss blasts us with bad news. In recent conversations with a couple of different people, they’ve found themselves in this situation. What to do?
Here are seven steps you can take to help you recover.
1. Maintain your composure.
It’s hard to not take negative comments personally, and the most important thing you can do is to maintain your composure. Don’t burst into tears, get defensive, or blame others for the feedback you’re hearing. It’s hard, I know. Breathe, and really listen to what your boss is telling you. If you start to answer back (even if it’s only in your own head), you’ll miss valuable parts of the conversation, and not hear information you need to know.
2. Ask for specific examples, or clarification.
Sometimes, bosses don’t deliver detailed information about your performance, and you’re left with a feeling that you’re just ‘not up to par.’ Ask him or her to be specific about where you’ve fallen short. Having a specific example can help you improve and take steps to avoid a similar situation in the future. “Help me understand” can be three of the most powerful words in the English language. Don’t be afraid to ask for details if you’re not sure.
3. Own your part in the areas that aren’t going well.
If there are situations where you could have handled it better, made an error, or missed a deadline – own up to it. Admit that you take responsibility for it, and are taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again, or you’ve set up a process to correct the situation. None of us is perfect! And if we have made a mistake, don’t blame someone else. Own your part. I remember early in my career, reporting on a case of meningococcal disease. While I was out interviewing a doctor, another person in the newsroom was busy gathering other information for my report, but I didn’t realize she was getting information on meningitis – not meningococcal disease. While they can be related, they are not the same thing. In a case of not knowing what I didn’t know, I had to make a correction. I owned up to it, and always double-checked my facts from others after that.
4. Set a follow up conversation.
Make sure to follow up with your boss. One of my colleagues when I worked in TV news had a great response during highly charged meetings if he started to get emotional (angry, frustrated or overwhelmed). He would calmly say, “That’s an interesting perspective. Let me think on it, and let’s set a time to follow up on this tomorrow (or a specific date).” He knew he had to take himself out of the conversation, and would set up a specific time for a follow up. That allowed him time to process what he’d heard, and come up with a game plan.
5. Outline the steps you’re taking to improve.
During the follow up conversation, this is a great time to outline what you’re doing to correct the situation, or improve your performance. Be proactive! This lets your boss know that you care about your job, want to improve, and are taking the necessary steps to avoid another subpar performance.
6. View it as an opportunity!
If things are always perfect, we never have a chance to learn. We learn when things go wrong. Knowing that doesn’t always make it easier to handle, but step back and take the 30,000 foot view for a moment. When we’re triggered, or emotional, it’s hard to process negative news. When we view the bigger picture, we can review the situation and think about what we’ve learned. What’s the ‘takeaway’ from this situation? And that’s a lesson we can apply going forward. One of my clients took a job knowing it was a bad fit. She lasted five weeks. When we reviewed her ‘takeaway,’ she realized she had taken the job just to have a job after being out of work for awhile. She learned taking the ‘right’ job was critical to her success, and she was much more careful about interviewing for jobs where she could play to her strengths.
7. Re-evaluate where you are.
If you’ve done all of the above, and still feel like you’re not making progress, reassess the situation. Maybe, like my client, it’s not a good fit and it’s time to move on. You’ll still want to maintain good relations with your boss (or as good as possible if you need a reference), as well as with your colleagues. If the atmosphere has deteriorated, or feels toxic, there may be a job where you’ll be happier and more productive.
The one thing to keep in mind is… you get to choose how you respond. If you generally like your job and the company, a poor job review can be a wake-up call. If you become defensive or angry, that will be reflected in your performance and may prove your boss’s point. Again, you get to choose how you respond. If you handle the situation with professionalism, you could actually turn around the situation and improve your chances for promotion. Your boss will know you are able to handle constructive criticism, can assess your performance and take the steps needed to improve. If it really is your time to make a move, a poor evaluation can actually be a blessing and spur you into a new position.
Let me know how you’ve handled a poor job review, and what happened. I look forward to seeing your comments.