How To Cope With A Negative Performance Review?

by Srikant Chellappa Nov 16,2021

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

According to a survey by Zenger and Folkman, “Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.”

The outcome of a performance review will not always be up to your expectation, it can be positive or negative. Hearing that you didn’t perform well, or you were not up to the mark, can be overwhelming and scary. But it can happen and even the best of all performers can stumble. Even our best efforts aren’t fruitful at times. It will be a totally different scenario if you are not putting in efforts but still expecting to have a good performance review. In this case, evaluate your priorities and introspect to understand why things are not how you expected them to be.

In this article, we will highlight what to do after a negative performance review.

Don’t Overthink

Of course, this is easier said than done, but it is the first thing we need to keep in mind. After an instance of negative feedback, it can be very easy to spiral into negative thinking. It’s not long before this spiral can become a loop of self-recrimination.

However, this is not the correct way to approach negative feedback. Carefully re-evaluate. It helps to look back at work over the course of a certain period. Ask your manager for examples. Perhaps there are certain points you can refute. And perhaps there are certain points you can accept. Either way, do not assume it is all on your shoulders and that you are a terrible employee. Instead of overthinking, reflect deeply.

Also Read: Creating A Performance Based Structure In Your Organization

Take Time To Process It

Ask for some time to process the meeting. Be sure to set up a follow-up meeting. Your manager will not mind. Remember, they too may have been in the same place you once were. Handling a negative performance review in a sensible fashion while not being immediately reactionary is a valuable skill to have. It indicates maturity and thoughtfulness. This is not to say that you should listen to everything and refute nothing. Use rational thought to guide your words. In other words, pick the battles you want to fight. There’s no necessity to fight everything or accept everything unless of course, yours is an outlier of a situation that involves a bad manager and worse review practices.

Try Not To Get Overwhelmed

Once again, this is easier said than done. Obviously, negative reviews are a difficult pill to swallow (especially if you are dealing with one for the first time after years of having been a consistent performer).

However, all the trite phrases and proverbs you’ve heard your elders tell you over the years are finally going to make sense now, much to your chagrin. Failure will help you appreciate all your successes better. Failure teaches you how both sides of the equation are. It can install a sense of caution, temper aggression and even plant our feet firmly on the ground. Contrary to popular belief, failure is not a permanent blemish on your career. You can bounce back from 99% of the errors you have made.

The tag might follow you for a while, but subsequent good work will not only help the tag fade, but it will also help showcase your determination and hard work, and who knows, even an example of a success story to be admired for the years to come.

Also Read: Signs That Your HR Department Is Overwhelmed 

Take out the learning points

There’s a difference between maintaining a positive and upbeat attitude and willful ignorance. Do not make the mistake of being foolish and ignoring a negative performance review. At best, you really might be shrugging off minor mistakes or criticisms. At the worst, you might be ignoring blaring warning signs.
A negative performance review can be considered a reckoning. Use it to reflect upon where you currently are at. A negative review can help you ascertain quite a few outcomes.

  • Maybe you aren’t a good fit for the job. That’s alright. You can consider a change.
  • Maybe this new role isn’t your cup of tea. No harm in going back to your old role.
  • Maybe you and your manager have very different working styles. There’s no way to reconcile this except by making your peace or choosing to move on.
  • Maybe you overloaded your plate. You can always re-negotiate your responsibilities.

It is important to remember that all these instances are plausible and they are probably not the first time your manager has run up against them. There is no weakness in admitting that things aren’t working out for you the way you expected them to. Sharing this view with your manager could help both of you have an insightful conversation about what your next move is.

It is not about personal failure

Many hard things are easier said than done. A negative performance review is not a direct reflection of who you are. But it is a mirror of some of your abilities. The moment it becomes a personal failure, that’s when it stops becoming a necessary aspect of work and becomes an obstacle that you cannot overcome.
We wouldn’t say that everyone should experience negative reviews. However, it is important to see the other side of things. The fear of failure can oftentimes be a paralyzing thing. It is worth noting how you deal with failure. There’s no bigger lesson than learning how to overcome failure. And some people who are well acquainted with this lesson will have no problem moving on from failure. For others, it might take some work, but it can be done.

Absorb and Assimilate

Before you say anything or react to the review, listen to your manager and make a concentrated effort to understand what they are saying. If your manager hasn’t given, you cause to doubt them and their opinions before, then there’s probably a grain of truth to what they are saying. 

Ask for support when required

This is the best thing you can do after receiving a negative performance review. Asking for help to get better shows your manager you care. It might be difficult to ask for help, but asking for help is not a weakness, but rather you admitting that things aren’t so hot right now and you need some guidance to get through this.

Discuss an improvement plan with your manager. They probably have a few ideas as to how to help. Everyone knows that it is not possible for any employee to be superhumanly good. And neither should anybody aim to be one either. That way lies the specter of burnout.

Also Read: Employee Burnout: What you need to know about it

Instead, ask for help, put the review at the back of your mind, and keep going on. The past is not something you can change. But the future is something you certainly can control.

Want to know how Engagedly can help you with performance reviews?

Request a live demo from our experts!

Request A Demo

Srikant Chellappa
CEO & Co-Founder of Engagedly

Srikant Chellappa is the Co-Founder and CEO at Engagedly and is a passionate entrepreneur and people leader. He is an author, producer/director of 6 feature films, a music album with his band Manchester Underground, and is the host of The People Strategy Leaders Podcast. He is currently working on his next book, Ikigai at the Workplace, which is slated for release in the fall of 2024.

Privacy Preference Center