No employee wants to hear negative things about his performance. But while a poor evaluation can leave you feeling down, embarrassed and even fearful about your future with the company, it also can serve as a wake-up call to institute changes that will increase your value.
Put the bad news behind you and work towards a better review next time with these five strategies:
1. Understand What Went Wrong
In conducting research for their New York Times bestseller Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success, Kerry Patterson and his co-authors found that 70 percent of employees who were aware that their manager was unhappy with their performance couldn’t tell you just what they were doing wrong or how they were going to change.
“If you want to learn something from your performance review, let it be exactly what you’re currently doing right and wrong,” Patterson says. “If your admonitions don’t clearly inform future decisions and future behaviors, you will be left knowing that your boss is unhappy, but not knowing what to do differently. Ask for detailed feedback for both accomplishments and challenges. Don’t stop until you know how to behave in the future.”
2. Devise a Better Communication System
As important as the content of the feedback is when it is given. Learning as soon as possible about areas in which you need to improve and making corresponding changes can prevent a bad evaluation from ever being written.
“If you receive a bad performance evaluation and you had no idea that negative feedback was coming, it means that you and your boss have not been communicating well in the months or year leading up to the review,” says Janet Scarborough Civitelli, workplace psychologist at VocationVillage.com. “In the future, ask for feedback earlier, and do so in a way that makes it easy for your boss to respond. For example, ask, ‘What three things am I doing well and what three things could I improve?’”
Civitelli suggests scheduling monthly check-ins with your boss. If you sense he dislikes face-to-face feedback meetings, see if they can be done via telephone or E-mail. Use these times to get clarification about priorities and expectations, preferably in writing.
3. Make Necessary Changes
It is one thing to say that you’ll work harder at something and quite another to actually do it. Look for concrete steps you can take to solve issues, whether that be enrolling in a public speaking class to improve presentation skills or setting the alarm 15 minutes earlier to ensure consistent punctuality each morning.
4. Find a Mentor
Despite a desire to improve, some people continue to make the same bad moves. A mentor or other trusted individual can help break challenges down into manageable pieces, be a sounding board for ideas, and offer constructive feedback on your progress.
5. Maintain Professionalism
Finally, remember that neither cowering in your cubicle nor glaring whenever the boss enters the room is going to change what was written. In fact, acting overly emotional or defensive will likely make the workplace even more uncomfortable and hinder the progress towards your ultimate goal of a better review next time.
“With regards to repairing the relationship, nothing will make it heal faster than you fixing the problem,” Patterson notes. “Letting your boss know that you’re eager to learn and change will help you through the first few days and weeks. . . . Then, make improvements, seek feedback, let your boss see your advances, and eagerly continue on the path to high performance. Nothing heals the wounds of disappointment like surprising and delighting your boss in the future.”