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Positive Ways To Handle A Negative Performance Review

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

Before you put in your two-weeks, follow these eight steps to make the best of a bad situation.

Whether you were expecting the poor review or it was a complete surprise, a poor performance can leave even the most confident person confused and insecure.

Before you submit your two weeks or question your capabilities, check out the below eight way to bounce back from a negative performance review. Don't let a negative review redefine who you are!

1. Reflect, Reset, React

If the negative review was a surprise, it could be tempting to become upset and dismissive.

Give yourself a few days to digest the information, allow yourself to be upset, disappointed, or any emotional response, and then focus on your next steps. After receiving a negative review, the worst reaction you can have is becoming defensive.

2. Own Up To Your Mistakes

Personal responsibility allows you to make better decisions.

During my role as a Sales Planner, I received my first negative performance review. I thought I was doing a great job on my proposals, but my manager provided feedback that my proposals seemed "rushed" and included "careless mistakes." I was overworked and knew my quality of work suffered because of my low bandwidth. However, I had to take responsibility for my decreased performance and make efforts to decrease my mistakes. I created a check-list

3. Seek Out Additional Feedback

It is not uncommon for you to receive feedback and are unable to recognize your mistakes and damaging behavior.

Seek out additional feedback from those who will be candid. When I received my negative performance review as a Sales Planner, I asked my manager to survey my reps to hear impartial feedback from those directly connected to my proposals and day-to-day duties. Honestly, I was hoping to hear the opposite of my boss' review, but it only confirmed her criticism.

While receiving additional feedback, I asked myself what are the commonalities between the reviews and how accurate is the criticism. This helped me identify the mistakes and behaviors I was overlooking.

4. Ask Questions, and if Needed Ask for Examples

Make sure you fully understand the review - If any portion of the review is unclear, ask questions.

Be sure your tone does not come off as challenging and emphasize your desire to work with your manager to find solutions. Try sticking to a script by asking the below questions:

  1. Can you give me an example of a time when I _________?

  2. How would you have handled the situation when I ________?

  3. How will you measure my progress for improvement?

  4. Based on the review, I understand I need to improve my skills in _______. Can you confirm we are aligned?

5. Develop a Performance Plan

Performance reviews are designed to provide employees ongoing development - most bosses do not expect you to be perfect. Constructive feedback in the correct framework is vital to your career advancement and helps you reach your full potential.

Develop an improvement plan with your manager. Your plan of action may look like taking a new course, reprioritizing your workload, or reevaluating your colleagues' perception of you. Set up 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day check-ins with the most relevant people to ensure you are making the necessary improvements.

6. Commit to Consistency

It takes longer for people to notice changed behavior. Suppose you have a reputation for a particular behavior. In that case, your colleagues and boss will continue to expect the associated behavior will undoubtedly notice the one-time you slip back into the behavior.

When trying to change one's opinion about you, you will need to commit to consistent behavior and understand it will take some time for people to recognize changed behavior.

7. Find Value in the Review: Appreciate the Reality Check

Could the negative review imply an underlying issue? Were you not a good fit for the position? Are you distracted with personal conflicts/issues? Were you not set-up for success during onboarding? Is your workload too heavy to perform at the highest level?

Whatever the reason, identify the value and make the necessary adjustments for change and success. Accept the feedback as an opportunity for growth and clarity.

8. Be Gentle With Yourself

Finally, it is essential to be gentle with yourself with any bad news. Do not underestimate your talents and consider this as part of your journey.

Remember that you are more than the performance review and your mistakes.


Working through this experience may not be easy. Getting feedback from a mentor, coach, or other professional may help you feel better about your performance, feedback from your manager, and next steps. If you are unsure who can help, check out Mentor, Coach, or Therapist - Who Can Help Me In My Career? And How?

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