How to Evaluate a Poor Performance Review

If you’re a young professional, you’ve probably come across this term at one point or another: performance review.



Simply put, a performance review is a manager’s formal assessment of an employee’s performance at work. They are an inevitable and important part of professional life which is why recovering from a negative one can be a challenge. A poor performance review will leave you feeling demotivated, conflicted and sad. 

However, with some time and personal evaluation you can move on and perform better. We’ve got the tips to bring you out of your slump:

Read and Reflect

The first step is to thoroughly and objectively read the performance review. Focus on the good and not just the bad. It is difficult to keep emotions aside but try to focus on the critical portions of the review. The goal here is to recognize finite details that will help you understand your manager’s perspective.

What’s more, if a poor performance review comes as a shock, odds are you don’t know what you’ve done wrong. This means you need to thoroughly read the negative review for the simple purpose of learning why you received it. It can hurt to realize that others don’t see you the way you see yourself but by keeping an open mind and attempting to objectively reflect on the feedback, you can train yourself to find validity in other’s points of view. 

Ask for Further Feedback

After reading and reflecting upon your performance review, you may feel embarrassed to face your manager and think keeping your distance is best. However, this is the number one way to make your superiors think you’re disengaged and not invested in improving your performance. This brings us to the second step: ask for feedback.

If the written report isn’t clear, if you want to know how to improve, or if you just want to discuss the review in further detail, don’t be afraid to talk to your manager. Asking for further feedback shows bravery, initiative, a desire to better oneself without arrogance.

Remember, make sure you don’t come across as defensive or accusatory. You want to show that you’re taking their feedback seriously and are willing to fix your mistakes, not that you’re blaming them. Your manager isn’t out to get you. For your sake and theirs, they want you to improve. Use this opportunity to prove that you’re dealing with the situation maturely.

Look at the Big Picture

This brings us to our final step. The most important thing to remember is that a performance review isn’t a personal attack. It’s the workplace equivalent of a report card. Every employee gets one, and its purpose is to tell you what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and to motivate you to improve your work. This is where looking at the big picture comes into play.

When you zoom out from your own personal distress and view the company as a collection of inner workings, you’ll see that a poor performance review is not a cue to give up but a chance to change for the better. Plus, a poor review doesn’t mean that you didn’t try your best. It could simply mean you misunderstood the objective, you didn’t know what your manager wanted, or you need to prioritize how you execute your work.

Final advice: focus on maintaining a balance between knowing yourself and accepting external feedback. That’s why reflection is important. It allows you to consider what parts of the poor review are within your control and what parts aren’t. After all, a good employee is valuable but an employee who is able to maturely reflect and choose to improve is even more so.