We have all been there, the annual or bi-annual performance review where we expect great things and get blindsided by management. Here are 5 tips to handling a bad performance appraisal when you feel it is unfair.
If your performance appraisal is negative when you aren’t expecting it, the natural instinct is to become angry and defensive. This will not help you deal clearly and effectively with the situation, however, so try to regain your composure. If you need a break, ask the supervisor if you can take a minute to collect your thoughts.
Most of us don’t get a poor performance review without having some reason for the manager to give one, and you should be realistic about areas where you legitimately could use improvement. Performance appraisals are often not done regularly enough and your manager may only remember the most recent things you have done. This is known as the halo/horns effect and it’s a frequent problem in performance evaluations. Acknowledge the areas where you can see that you dropped the ball or didn’t perform as well and pick your battles for the areas where you feel the manager is being unfair.
Don’t threaten action
If you feel your manager has a bias against you or is discriminating against you, now is not the time to threaten to file an EEOC complaint, lawsuit or other action. This is not to say you shouldn’t do so if you feel that there is a claim, but the timing is not right. It will only make tempers flare and will not solve anything. If you believe action is necessary, go to your HR department and ask to have a meeting with HR and your manager together. This will give you time to think about what has occurred and to be taken more seriously by your manager when the meeting happens.
Keep track of your accomplishments
Many managers are so busy and overwhelmed they may not praise you or give you guidance except during the performance appraisal, so make sure you keep track of what you have done well. Bring these things to your manager’s attention and see how he responds. If the manager refuses to change your review, make sure you respond to the review by listing your accomplishments, times you were praised, projects that were successful and so on. It’s especially effective if you have dates, names of superiors or customers and can make a great case for a better review. If there is no place on the performance appraisal form for you to write a response, ask your manager if you can write a response to be placed with the review. If the manager refuses, write your response and take it HR and ask that it be placed in your personnel file.
If your manager states that you didn’t perform well in a specific area, ask what the manager expects? Find out what the manager feels you could have done better by asking for specific examples of what would have made a good review. If the manager never gave you any idea how you were doing, ask why it wasn’t done and if it can be done going forward.
The most important part of fighting a bad review is to remain professional, be logical in your arguments and ask the manager to revise the review if it really does not reflect your performance. The manager can always refuse, but if you don’t ask you’ll never know if they will. Managers often don’t devote a great deal of time to completing performance appraisals and if you can bring them a strong argument to revise the review, it may work to your advantage.