A poor performance review can be devastating, especially one that catches you off guard.
You may experience various emotions like anger, embarrassment, denial, disappointment, confusion, or shock.
You might even be worried that your job is in jeopardy. For sure, your confidence will be shaken.
What should you do to make the best of the situation?
1. Maintain professionalism.
While getting angry or defensive is tempting, especially if you feel the review is unfair or inaccurate, you need to control your emotions. Nothing will be gained by reacting poorly toward your boss.
Your best approach at the moment is to listen, ask questions, and gain as much detail as you can about why your boss gave you this review.
2. Ask for a follow-up meeting.
Once you’ve calmed down—at least a day or two later—you should ask for another meeting with your boss to better understand the review.
It would help if you reassured your boss that you are not there to contest the review but rather to learn how you can improve your performance. Come prepared with specific questions, and always ask for examples of what you should be doing differently.
3. Develop a performance improvement plan.
Perhaps you must change certain behaviours, learn new skills, take further training, or try new approaches. Whatever the steps, work jointly with your boss to develop this action plan. You should also include measurable outcomes as part of this plan.
4. Obtain feedback from others.
How we see ourselves often differs from how others see us. This is why you should seek advice from trusted colleagues who have observed you in the workplace. Share the performance review comments with them and ask for their unbiased feedback.
Close friends or family will help comfort you, but they are not the best at giving objective advice.
5. Ask for an interim review.
Most performance reviews (unfortunately) are only done annually. If you’ve received a poor review, you cannot wait until next year to find out how you are doing. Ask for an interim review, say, in a month or three months, to check in with your boss. They will appreciate your desire to get feedback on how things are going.
One last thing.
Many successful people have failed at one time or another in their careers and used those failures to advance to bigger and better things. The actual test of your character is how you use your poor performance review to improve.