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How to Deal With Unfair or Lousy Performance Reviews


Bad or lousy performance reviews are a gut punch, often leaving employees angry, frustrated, and scared. This is especially true when a poor performance review is a surprise, a situation usually putting an employee in a position of questioning the safety and security of their employment with the company or organization. There are a series of steps to make sure that you will not receive another poor review.


1) Cool off. When you receive and first read the review, you will likely be angry and upset. Immediately responding to a supervisor’s review is generally a mistake. Employees will often say the wrong things in the heat of such moments. If you lash out, you may find yourself unemployed AND without support from colleagues in the form of reference letters. Take at least 24 hours to respond to your job performance evaluation. Go home and talk with mentors, friends, and/or family to discuss the review. As you come to terms with the review in the comfort of your home, write down statements of why you think the review was unfair. Doing so helps create a professional response to your supervisor/ employer while also serving to help you calm your emotions and lessen stress.


2) Write a review of the Performance Review. Once you have cooled off, write down your thoughts about each part of your review. What do you agree with? What do you feel is unfair? For either question, write down projects you have completed or been a part of that support your view of things. Think of all your successes and achievements, but you also need to look at yourself with a critical eye. Where did you have missteps? What did you do in response to missteps to make certain mistakes were not repeated?


3) Meet to discuss the review with your supervisor. It is not an easy conversation to have, but you need to speak up if you disagree with a review. During the meeting, calmly ask for input on why the supervisor wrote whatever he or she wrote that you disagree with. If you see things differently, calmly offer your perspective, identifying achievements that corroborate your successes. If your supervisor recalls/remembers an error you made, explain how you have moved forward and rectified the error.


4) Workplace discrimination. Employees with hearing loss may receive a poor review due to misconception or misunderstanding of that disability. In such instances, it is vital to work with the Human Resources Department to address the review. That said, employees with hearing loss should consider informing a supervisor of limitations of any kind when starting a job and then collaborate with the supervisor on how to address limitations with reasonable accommodations if any. Working with an employer is an essential step in ensuring working conditions help an employee succeed.


5) Move forward with a plan. If you can have your supervisor see things in a new, more favorable light, request a new review be submitted. If, however, your supervisor still disagrees with your perspective of your work ethic and success, carefully consider writing an official response addressed to your supervisor. If your supervisor has submitted the review to his or her superiors, you also could address the letter to them, requesting your letter be included in your file. Doing this is where things get truly difficult. How impactful are reviews where you work? If it appears that administrators rarely react to poor reviews, speaking out may bring you unwanted attention. In cases where reviews impact bonuses, raises, tenure, or promotion, making sure your input receives attention is critical. In either case, move forward with a work plan. Ask for specifics on what your supervisor wants to be completed and when things need to be completed. Then, in addition to making sure you thoroughly complete assigned tasks, work to address concerns or criticisms that your supervisor put in the initial review. In this way, you can establish a record of improvement, which is something employers look for in their employees when considering raises and permanent placements.


6) Move on. Consider a situation where an employee disagrees with a review and asks for a meeting to address the review. The supervisor legitimately considers the employee’s viewpoint can help the employee believing that their job is not in danger. The two could continue to maintain a professional and cordial relationship. This is likely to be the best scenario. But, what happens when things do not go smoothly and an employee fears retaliation and that his or her job is at risk? Or, what should an employee do if his or her job is not in jeopardy, but the work environment becomes/remains stressful and toxic? Consider finding a new job. Establish support from co-workers and supervisors from other departments or units, so you have letters of reference for the jobs you apply to and move on.


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