Advancing

How to Handle an Unfair Performance Review

unfair performance review

Even when you think you are doing everything right, it only takes one review from a supervisor to send your spirits south.

In a recent article, I shared a story from a friend of mine. He had received high commendations from his supervisor for developing new revenue streams, strategic thinking, and training and developing his staff – only to be completely blindsided! He was chastised and told he needs to fight harder in negotiations, be harder on his staff, and get better deals from clients. A complete 180!

Initially, I felt he should start looking for the exit because he was clearly working for people who couldn’t appreciate his management style. However as a career coach, I recommended he step back and think about how he wanted to address the inconsistency in this feedback. We both agreed that this criticism could impact his chances to advance in the company, and that he needed to assess the performance areas that had drawn negative feedback from his boss.

Before you do anything else, apply some serious ‘managing up‘ and try to understand where your boss might be coming from. If your boss is acting erratically, it can mean one of a few things:

  • They are having a tough day (personally). In this case, you can try and find out if there is anything you can do to make their day go easier. Don’t pressure them if they do not want to divulge personal information that might be ruining their day.
  • They are having a tough day (professionally). It is possible they are having a tough time achieving goals, staying on budget/schedule with their divisions. Often, managers are reluctant to share problems they are unable to solve. Offer your help in solving their problems. This will give you some serious brownie points.
  • They just want you to perform better! Your manager might be showing you some tough love – but only because they want you to out-perform yourself. They just might not be too good at showing it.

So here’s what I suggested he should do in future performance reviews:

  • Acknowledge what was said – “You need to see me be more aggressive…take no prisoners in negotiating with clients”
  • Ask questions – “What specifically do you think I’m not doing to bring in the best deal from for the business? What do you need to see me do more of in order to drive home the business?”
  • Repeat back – Restate the positives you heard illustrating key success points. “I heard you say I did increase productivity, I am good at developing staff and I increased revenue.”

Not every review is consistent, but often if you can review, state the obvious, and acknowledge what you heard, it forces the manager to hear the inconsistency in what was presented, and provides an opportunity for course correction on their part with suggestions for improvement and sharing their professional wisdom for career success.

People often project their own professional styles on to people they manage looking for “themselves” in how work gets done. You need to recognize this and learn how to work beyond their style as a team to deliver what your manager wants and what’s in the best interest of the business. End the conversation with a great thank you and with a commitment to work towards the goals you’ve discussed. And then continue to do good work.

That’s it for now…Your Coach on Call

About the Author

Jennifer Randolph is an author and consultant specializing in diversity management, organizational team building and development, strategic partnership development and career coaching. Her current book Coach on Call: A Practical Guide For Getting and Keeping the Job You Want, focuses on key tips to navigate the current job market and offers strategies for differentiating yourself from the competition.