Poor Review? Four Ideas to Get Back on Track

Experiencing a poor performance review can be an unnerving experience – but you can find a way to move forward. Try to control your negative feelings and concentrate on a plan for the future. Give yourself some time to mourn the event, but then make the commitment to look ahead.

Get a complete view of your performance

Gaining a well-rounded view of who you are as a performer is the first step – and information is power. If your organization doesn’t use a 360 degree appraisal format, obtain additional information on your own. If you have a peer you can trust, ask for their honest perception on how you are doing and access your “invisible resume”. (For those who have a role similar to yours, also inquire about the strategies they utilize to attack the tasks you find challenging). Also consider gathering feedback from those who depend on you on a daily basis, as they can also offer a unique vantage point concerning your performance.  Are you meeting their expectations? Find out. (You can read more about that here).

Put your own plan in motion

Don’t be a passive bystander if you feel that your job may be in trouble.  Set up a follow-up session with your supervisor to discuss specific performance improvement strategies. Be your own training and development advocate and do your homework on programs that might help your performance. Bring along any information you have collected to the session. If you have a good candidate, discuss an individual who could serve as your mentor going forward. (Read more about mentoring here).

Set up a feedback system that works

While meeting with your supervisor discuss regular performance feedback. We know that feedback which occurs once a year is simply inadequate. But, you can’t always put the blame on your supervisor. If you need more feedback, ask for it. Negotiate with your supervisor to receive enough feedback for your needs and design a feedback plan which is mutually acceptable. Build more feedback into your work life (some pointers here) and set up a “personal feedback program” which gathers performance information from various sources on a regular basis.

Stay relevant

Become knowledgeable as to how organizational goals might impact your job in the future. For example, learn about planned changes in service or product lines and how your role might support those endeavors.  Stay on track and obtain company  information that will not only help you stay on track personally, but make a positive organizational impact as well.

We all hit plateaus in our careers – but what we make of those obstacles is what really defines our work lives.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. Find her on Twitter and Linkedin.

Just in Case: How to Handle a Less Than Fantastic Performance Review


Hopefully, your performance review will go remarkably well. But just in case, let’s discuss strategies to help you move through the process if things become somewhat complicated.

Don’t Panic

A less than stellar review —like any form of rejection is extremely unsettling. Make an attempt to get a hold of your emotions, handle the pressure and put the brakes on negative thoughts – at least for the time being. While phrases like “I’m going to be fired” or “I have absolutely no future here” may begin run through your head – try not to jump off that proverbial cliff.  Remind yourself that nearly everyone will have a less than glowing performance review at one time or another. They got through it – and so will you.

Extract the Positive

Admittedly, extracting the positive side of the coin can be quite difficult in the midst of  a review – but it is a skill that will serve you well over time. It may seem that the notion of “constructive criticism” is simply an oxymoron – but, we need people to tell us like it is. If you can manage to keep a cool head, at least you can leave with information that will help impact future performance and put you back in the driver’s seat.  Try to separate your feelings from the information presented and try to apply the information – even the negative bits – constructively.

Get Specific and Get Back on Track

If there is one thing to do in the event of a negative review, it is to ask the following question: “Will you please tell me exactly where my performance has gone off track?” You must leave the review knowing where the problem lies. Was it a specific project? Did you miss a deadline? An important metric? Is the problem interpersonal? Information is power – seize the moment.

Discuss Performance Goals

Was there a specific performance goal where you were falling short?  Now is the time to clear up all issues related to goals of your position. Is there a roadblock to achieving your set goals? If you have any doubts concerning the course set for you, voice your concerns and hammer out an understanding before you attempt to move forward.

Get Tough and Discuss Your Weaknesses

It is challenging, but talk about specific weaknesses and how those areas might affect your future. If a specific weakness is a deal breaker, discuss opportunities to improve your skills. Ask for the help you need to set things right. This could include training (internal & external) and mentoring opportunities available through your organization.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist teaches work survival strategies to organizations and individuals nationwide. You can find her on Twitter and Linkedin.