Performance reviews can be a very stressful experience for a lot of people. Whether your recent performance has been up to par or not, performance reviews can be difficult to navigate. Sometimes, despite your best work and preparations they don’t go well. Every successful professional has a story of a particularly painful review. How you respond in the moment, and in the long term, can be the difference between establishing yourself as a valued employee or alienating yourself from your peers and supervisors.
Responding to a Poor Performance Review
At any performance review, always be prepared to receive critical feedback, and respond to it. Don’t let the idea of negative or critical feedback paralyse you. These review sessions are meant to help you grow. Take care with your emotions, and be able to identify if you are becoming defensive, or worse, combative. Sometimes, the feedback you receive may not seem accurate or fair. It’s important to be able to address those perceived discrepancies, and learn where the issues may stem from. Becoming combative doesn’t help to gather and address these issues.
Understanding the Feedback
First and foremost, you want to be sure that you understand the feedback you are receiving. Ask for specific examples, and be sure that you understand what impact your behavior is having. You always want to be sure that you understand why you should change your behavior. Metacognition (knowing and understanding what you are doing so that you can create an appropriate strategy for it) will help you to develop effective strategies with far less trial and error.
Different Types of Feedback
You’ll also want to understand why your supervisor is providing you this feedback. There are different reasons that you may be receiving critical feedback. Sometimes it has to do with ROI—are you providing enough return to your organisation, for what they are investing in you? In this case, it’s important that you have an improvement plan at the ready, with projected improvements for the future. Look into this ahead of time. Be prepared for this possibility. Other cases though, may be about managing relationships or perceptions. It’s important to know the difference between these types of feedback, and to be able to identify which you are receiving.
It’s also important to know whether your supervisor is reporting on something that he or she has noticed, or if it came through the grapevine. If your reviewer is merely reporting on things that they’ve heard around the water cooler, there is a very good chance that something has been lost in translation. Not that you should ignore these notes, just don’t let them throw you off your main goals. We have a tendency to hang on every word spoken in these reviews sessions. The fact is, these reviews are conversations, and some of what is mentioned may not be nearly as important as other factors. Be sure to identify the important points, so that you can formulate a concrete plan for improvement. If you aren’t sure of where to focus your energy—ask!
Developing an Improvement Plan
After navigating your difficult performance review, the only step left is to sketch out your improvement plan. Focus on the pertinent pieces of feedback you’ve received, paying particular attention to any ROI-related issues.
The first, and most obvious, aspect of your improvement plan, is self-improvement. Research the action steps you can take to improve your skills. Identify books, blogs, conferences, coaches, and other resources that you are interested in using to help build your knowledge and expertise.
Don’t be afraid to identify soft skills that you need to work on as well. Soft skills are things like organisation, time management, different social skills—the things that are more difficult to pinpoint, but have massive effects on our career trajectory over time. It takes self-awareness and confidence to be able to identify gaps in your soft skills, and admit them to yourself and others. Focusing on just one soft skill and one hard skill to improve upon will almost guarantee you a more positive review next time!
Environmental and Workplace Improvement – Ergonomics
There is another aspect to professional improvement though. Those who can adapt to their work environment will survive, but those who can also influence their work environment to adapt and improve will truly thrive. Use this opportunity to identify pinch points in your organisation, or in your role. Those ideas that have been lingering at the back of your head—this could be done better, if…—now is your chance to voice them.
This is not an opportunity to tear down others, or point out flaws in the organisation out of spite. But it is an opportunity to offer constructive input, and to offer your services as an advocate, coordinator, project lead—whatever needs to be done, that you can offer. Turn this into an opportunity to add value to your position, and to yourself!
Searching for direction after a poor performance review? Get in touch today!