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How to Respond to a Bad Performance Review

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No employee likes getting a negative performance review. Apart from the stress that comes with learning that your job might be on the line, it’s also devastating to find out that your boss isn’t too happy with your work.

While the situation is nerve-wracking, receiving a negative performance review can also be an opportunity, especially if you know how to respond appropriately. Before you start worrying, use this moment to reflect on your work and address the bad performance review so that you can regain your professional confidence.


Why Should You Respond to a Bad Performance Review?

Responding to a bad performance review gives you back the control you need to feel confident about your job again. If the assessment is accurate, acknowledging it decreases the potential awkwardness you can have with your manager. It can also show that you’re professional enough to understand your shortcomings and work towards your improvement.

However, after brutally evaluating your performance, if you find that the review is inaccurate or unfair, responding to it allows you to explain your side and highlight any accomplishments you’ve made throughout the period. This will also help you and your boss understand each other’s points of view and preserve the working relationship you have.

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How to Respond to a Bad Performance Review

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Before you begin taking the bad review to your heart, you need to realize that it’s not personal. Your supervisor is doing their job, and the evaluation is based on how you performed during a certain period.

While a personal bias is inevitable, the analysis isn’t directed at you personally. With this in mind, here are some steps that you can take to respond to your negative performance review:

1. Don’t React Immediately

The most important thing you need to do when responding to a bad performance review is to wait. While this may go against every instinct you have right now, it is crucial to keep your initial reactions to yourself. It’s normal to feel sad or angry the first time you read your evaluation, and responding to your boss with this state of mind can be dangerous.


Remember, taking feedback constructively and proactively is a part of achieving sustained career success. If you can’t take feedback well, your career may suffer. That’s why a negative performance review is an opportunity for you to show that you’re a good sport who can turn a negative situation into a learning opportunity. So, be mindful and don’t let your emotions drive your response.

2. Read and Analyze the Review Thoroughly

Most performance reviews are given as a written report. If this is your case, take time to read it through and make sure that you understand each point written down. Don’t just skim through it; make sure you carefully and honestly review everything on it. Take a deep breath and try to keep yourself objective while reading it.

After you’ve understood the feedback:

  • Write down any questions about things that you find confusing.
  • Ask yourself if any criticisms are unjustified, or you find offensive.
  • List them down as well, so you are prepared to face your boss if you find it beneficial to meet with them.

Related: The Best Tips to Improve Your Relationship With Your Boss

3. Decide Whether You Want to Set Up a Meeting With Your Boss

If you’ve received a written report rather than a personal review, decide whether you want to set up a meeting with your boss to discuss your evaluation. A face-to-face meeting allows you to share your point of view and clarify any issues that you don’t understand in the feedback. However, forgo an appointment if you think it’s no use to discuss the situation or lead to an argument instead of a peaceful discussion.


If you’ve received your review in person, consider setting up another meeting to discuss the report. This allows you to process your emotions in private and be more objective when addressing the report. You can also craft a response and come back with an open mind to find ways to improve your performance and accept any changes required to better your work.

4. Set Up a Meeting

If you decide to talk to your boss, don’t just walk in and demand to speak right away. This may disrupt their day and may set a hostile atmosphere. Instead, be professional and follow the protocol to schedule an appointment with your boss. The meeting can also be through a video confessing app like Zoom if personal sessions are unavailable.

If you agree with your manager’s performance review, the goal of this meeting is to discuss your plan on how you can boost your performance. Here’s what you should do during the meeting:

  • Acknowledge and agree with the points brought up in the review.
  • Present your plan on how you can improve your performance.
  • Ask your boss for suggestions on your plan.

Important things that you should not do during the meeting:

  • Don’t raise your voice.
  • Get angry or lose your temper.
  • Blame other people for your performance.
  • Make excuses for your behavior.

5. Draft Key Objectives

Now that you’ve set up a meeting with your boss and reflected on your review, it’s time to draft a plan that will drive you forward and help improve the areas you need to develop. Your manager may have already prepared a set of objectives for you that you need to work on.

If so, go through them and create a plan on how you will accomplish them over the following days, weeks, or months. If there’s none, go ahead and draft them yourself and share them with your supervisor during the meeting. This will show your enthusiasm to improve and address any issues you may have had during the previous period.

If you’re trying to refute your boss’s negative feedback, use this time to draft a rebuttal and gather any information you need to support your claim. You may include private correspondence with your clients or customers or data that proves your accomplishments. You can also research policies from your company that can establish your counterstatement.

Related: How to Develop Your Career Plan on a Kanban Board

6. Present Your Plan

meeting with boss

Once you have prepared everything you need, you’re all set for your meeting. Even though you’re fully equipped, it’s understandable to feel stressed. However, don’t let stress get to you. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to show what you can offer in the coming period. Be confident and stand your ground, especially if you’re trying to refute your boss’s statements.

Here’s how you should present your case if you disagree with your negative performance review:

  • Acknowledge the valid criticisms included in the report and discuss your plans to improve.
  • Then, talk about the points you feel are inaccurate and show any information that could counterprove the claims.
  • Keep an open mind. During your rebuttal, your boss may bring up valid explanations on why the point was made. If so, hear them out and ask them any suggestions on how you can be better.

A Bad Performance Review Isn’t Everything

While a negative evaluation is overwhelming, it isn’t the end of your career.

This is nothing but a setback, and by adopting the right perspective, you can turn a bad review into an opportunity for growth. You’ll learn and become successful in your career.



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