5 MIN READ
Make a Comeback: How to Recover From a Bad Performance Review
So, you just got out of your performance review, and it didn’t go well. Whether you were anticipating the bad news or it was a total surprise, it stings. You might currently be feeling some combination of embarrassment, disappointment, shock, fear and anger, or you’re worried that your job may be on shaky ground.
Know that all is not lost! During my career as a corporate psychologist, I’ve witnessed numerous professionals who used their negative reviews as a big-time reality check that spurred them on to greater success. With some focused effort, you too can take on the challenge and turn things around.
Here are seven tips to get you back on track:
1. Allow Yourself to Feel Bummed Out
While you might be tempted to protect your ego by dismissing or rationalizing your boss’s feedback, resist the urge. Research suggests that by giving yourself a chance to experience the negative emotions associated with failure, you’ll be more motivated to do better next time.
Feeling the pain now can act as powerful fuel to prevent yourself from making similar mistakes in the future. So, go ahead and mope (at home, of course).
2. Aim for a Sense of Perspective
Once you’ve had some time with your feelings, take a step back and focus on doing something about it. No one enjoys getting a negative review (especially if we don’t like how it was delivered). Still, if you can look at the feedback objectively, you’ll be able to benefit from it.
Muse career coach, Loren Margolis, advises in an article on handling bad feedback that if you really have a hard time moving past your negative emotions, give yourself time to process the feedback.
She adds: “While you’re processing it, write down your thoughts and the actual feedback; think through some of the questions you’d like to ask in advance of your next meeting.” Then, ask them when you meet with your boss again.
3. Set Clear Goals
Once you’ve determined the areas that you need to work on, set clear goals. Make them challenging yet achievable by your next review, and articulate what success for each one might look like. You’ll definitely want to run them past your boss so you can make sure you’re on the right track and incorporating feedback correctly.
4. Create a Development Plan
While goals are great, you’ll be much more likely to accomplish them if you have a strategy. Therefore, for each one, write out a step-by-step plan of action to guide your efforts.
To make this as helpful as possible, consider the resources you’ll need. Are there books you could read? Make a list. Can a colleague or your boss help you? If so, figure out what you need from them and ask. Do you need to take a course or get a coach? Do some research.
Once you’ve compiled this, present it to your boss and ask for their feedback. This will show that you’re taking your review seriously — and they may even have the budget or resources to help you move forward.
Finally, start tracking your accomplishments so you can arrive at your next review with tangible evidence of your improvements using this handy worksheet.
5. Ask for Ongoing Feedback
To gauge how you’re doing, check in with your boss regularly and get their input (you’ll likely want to schedule these check-ins into your plan if you don’t meet regularly). This will not only give you vital information that’ll help you continue to course-correct but also demonstrate to your manager a genuine desire to improve.
You might also want to ask some trusted co-workers for ongoing feedback. In addition to giving you an additional perspective on how you’re doing, your colleagues can act as accountability partners who will help you stay on track.
6. Rebuild Your Other Relationships
Speaking of your colleagues, they can be a huge influence in repairing your reputation in your boss’s mind.
So, you’ll want to be intentional about improving your relationships with everyone you work with. For example, if you were noted in your review as being unreliable, create systems so that you can be more responsive and meet co-workers’ deadlines. If you scored low on “teamwork,” find more ways to work with others on projects.
You might even want to alert the people around you what you’re working on. Being honest about your weaknesses builds trust, and your co-workers will be more likely to notice the changes you’re making (and bring them up to your manager). Plus, it’ll put more “peer” pressure on you to keep it up.
7. Be Consistent
Unfortunately, the sad truth is that when you’re changing a behavior, it can take a while for people to notice.
Due to a phenomenon called confirmatory bias, we’re much more likely to notice things that confirm our beliefs than we are to notice things we don’t believe in. In other words, if you’re seen as the office hothead, people will still notice the one time you lash out in a meeting — even if you’ve been keeping your cool all month.
If you’re trying to change your boss’ opinion about you, you’ll need to be diligent about demonstrating new behaviors, and realize it may take others some time to believe that they’re actually going to stick.
The bottom line? Setbacks such as a poor performance review are a part of life, and many accomplished people have been on the receiving end of criticism.
Make the decision to use the failure as a catalyst for professional development, and commit to getting better. In a year’s time, you’ll walk out of your next performance review feeling awesome.
Author bio: Dr. Patricia Thompson is a corporate psychologist and the President of Silver Lining Psychology, a management consulting firm in which she helps organizations ranging from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies to achieve greater success through executive coaching, team building, and personality assessment for hiring. A frequent writer and media contributor, her advice has been featured in The Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, TIME, Entrepreneur, CNN, and many other outlets. She is also the creator of a variety of online courses geared to help others to strengthen their leadership skills and enhance their work effectiveness through mindfulness.
The Muse strives to humanize the career and job search landscape by being a companion to millions of people as they seek continuous career satisfaction — not just another job.