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 | By Jim Berlucchi

I Got a Bad Performance Review


I got a bad performance review, and I disagree with my manager. How can I express that without making the situation worse?

You can’t. At least not now.

Instead, be honest with yourself. If you disagreed with a good performance review would you debate it? If it came with an increase in pay, would you refuse it?

If your answer is “no” to either of these questions, you might just be defensive. No employee likes bad news about his/her performance. That’s a natural response – but not productive. Nor does it make for increased self-awareness or professional growth. Don’t react. Reflect.

Instead, try to apply four mindsets: sagacity, humility, curiosity, teachability. All itty-bittys, but actually biggies.

1.  Sagacity. This strange word is defined as: “acuteness of mental discernment and soundness of judgment.” Sagacity recognizes that a performance evaluation is not a two-way street. The boss is the evaluator, not the employee. Sagacity recognizes that countering the boss’ evaluation will likely make things worse (you seem to recognize that). Sagacity concludes, therefore, that pushing back will probably not help. Don’t poke the bear (so to speak).

2.  Humility. At first it hurts, but then it helps. “Whoever loves discipline love knowledge, but whoever hates reproof is stupid.” (Prv 12:1) One might add … “stupid, stupid, stupid.” “Do not reprove the arrogant, lest they hate you; reprove the wise, and they will love you.” (Prv 9:8) You have been corrected. Make every effort to humbly receive the correction.

3.  Curiosity. A humble person is a curious person. Be genuinely inquisitive. We all suffer from blind spots. And the problem with blind spots is that we can’t see them. But others can. What might your boss be seeing that you are missing? Ask curious (not defensive) questions, realizing that you could be enlightened. And enlightenment is a good thing.

4.  Teachability. Be a learner. Take what you hear and act on it. Take advantage of the probability that your boss sees and knows something that you don’t and really try to learn from him/her. Be proactive and ask for help or resources to improve the points of critique. And then act on them.

These four mindsets do not, by the way, make meaningless or dismiss your objections. But raise them, if you need to, as a secondary step at a later time – again with humility and curiosity. Who knows? You might get a bear hug.