It can be hard to recover from a less-than-stellar performance review, especially one that you didn’t see coming. You might feel angry, embarrassed, and confused. How do you regain your professional confidence? And how do you make the best use of the critical feedback?
What the Experts Say
Negative feedback often contradicts the stories that we tell about ourselves — what we’re good at, what we’re capable of — and sometimes confirms our worst fears. But don’t let a negative review unravel the story of who you are. “No one bats a thousand,” says Mitchell Marks, professor of management at San Francisco State University and president of the consultancy JoiningForces.org. “We’re human beings. And sometimes a reality check is quite valuable.” Without feedback, after all, there wouldn’t be any possibility for growth. “Always getting a glowing review means that you’re not challenging yourself,” says Sheila Heen, author of Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. Critical input can be “a signal that you’re tackling things that are stretching you.” Still, it doesn’t feel good. Here’s how to bounce back from a negative review.
Reflect before you react
It’s tempting to get angry or defensive, especially if you’re accustomed to positive reviews. But it’s important to “hold your emotions in check,” says Marks. “There’s nothing to be gained by lashing out or putting down the system or the person delivering the review.” Take a few days to let the feedback sink in. If it helps, find a friend to vent to, says Heen, but try to do it outside of the office.
Look for your blind spots
It’s possible that you may not recognize yourself in the feedback. That’s because, despite our best intentions, there is often a gap between how we see ourselves and the way that others actually see us. “We need other people to help us see ourselves,” says Heen. Although it can be comforting to lean on a sympathetic friend, try to seek out those who will be candid with you instead of telling you that the input isn’t true. “Think about talking to friends who can help you learn from the feedback, rather than simply reinforce your self-perception,” says Heen. Ask yourself: What might be right about this criticism? Have I heard it before? Perhaps your tone comes across as more exasperated than you intend, or colleagues feel you shoot down ideas too quickly even though you believe that you keep an open mind. If after some self-reflection, you still don’t understand the roots of the critiques, reach out to colleagues for additional feedback, again “making it clear you are interested in honesty, not consolation,” says Marks.
Once you’ve cooled off, make sure you fully understand the review. That may involve going back to your boss with questions. “If anything is not crystal clear, ask,” says Marks. Be careful with your tone: You don’t want to appear as if you’re challenging the review.” “Ask as many questions as possible,” says Heen. If your boss says you aren’t taking enough risks, ask, “Can you give me an example of a time when I should have taken the initiative but didn’t? What might you have done?” If your team is excelling in some performance targets, but bombing in others, ask what level of performance might be considered a success and for insight into how to achieve it. Make it clear you want concrete examples of what you should be doing differently.
Make a performance plan
The purpose of feedback is to help you improve in your job, and that requires a detailed plan of action. That may involve learning new skills, reprioritizing your tasks, or reevaluating how you come across to colleagues. Agree with your manager on what you need to do to make changes. “Give yourself thirty days or sixty days to experiment with trying to do a couple of things differently,” says Heen. “Then check in with the relevant people, and say, ‘Look, I’m changing how I’m approaching this but help me see if I’m on track.’” Marks also suggests asking for an interim review with your manager to make sure that you’re making the performance improvements that you want to make. “Ask your boss if you can set a date now for a meeting in three or six months,” he says. That way you can make sure your performance meets everyone’s expectations.
Give yourself a second score
Remember that the evaluation may not be fully within your control, but your reaction to it is. Imagine that there is a second assessment, based on how you respond to the review and give yourself a score for your handling of it. “You could get an F on the exam, but if you get an A on what you do with it, that’s what matters,” says Heen. “That’s what determines whether you get an A the next time.” Aiming for a great second score, and perhaps sharing that with your boss will remind you that the negative review is not the end of your professional story.
Look at the big picture
Once you’ve taken the time for introspection, you may realize that your lagging performance isn’t a result of a blind spot, but rather an indication that you simply aren’t in the right position. “Sometimes it takes an event like a negative review to realize you’re not a good fit for the organization,” says Marks. Regardless of whether you stay or move on, use the review as a springboard for change — and success. “Many, many successful people have failed at various points in their career, and most of them later looked back on it as a real opportunity,” says Heen. “So even though it feels really crappy, just think, this is your chance.”
Principles to Remember:
- Ask questions and get clarifications — it’s critical to understand the specific ways you can improve
- Take the initiative to make a detailed plan of action
- Remember to see the value in feedback — it can be a springboard for positive change
- Get angry or argue with the feedback — you’ll only make things worse
- Turn only to sympathetic friends to vent — you also need honest mirrors to make sense of the review
- Consider the review the final word — how you react to the feedback is far more important
Case Study #1: Clarify in order to move forward
When Denis Coleman was promoted from finance to management in a fast-growing electronics manufacturer, he didn’t have any experience leading a team. But the company was expanding throughout Europe, and Denis was tapped to lead a new team in the Czech Republic. “To be honest, I was woefully under-qualified,” says Denis.
Denis had always been a hard worker, regularly volunteering for assignments. He took the same hard-charging approach with his direct reports. “I thought being a successful manager meant working long hours and doing lots of things,” says Denis. “And pushing my team to do the same.” After a year, his manager sat him down and said, much to Denis’s surprise, that he wasn’t meeting expectations. “I actually thought he was joking,” says Denis.
After several days of anger and frustration, Denis began to think maybe his boss had a point. He wasn’t effectively communicating to his team which tasks that they should prioritize. “I treated every single thing that came up in front of me as urgent,” he says. As a result, the team had no focus. “I was managing by hours and tasks,” says Denis. “I needed to manage by outcomes and results.”
In order to make sure that he fully understood his manager’s critique, he went back a week later and asked for further clarification. “I said, ‘Look. I don’t fully understand this. Please, can you just explain it to me again?’” Thanks to that conversation, he got a better understanding of what the organization was trying to achieve in the region and how he and his team fit into that approach. “I took that feedback and cascaded it down so that what we were doing was informed by the organizational strategy,” he says.
Denis also asked his boss to check in with him more regularly to give him feedback. As a result, “I got more advice, more direction, more mentoring,” he says. For the following three years, Denis was nominated as Employee of the Year within the company. And his negative review had a lasting effect on him: Today, he’s the founder and CEO of Work Compass, which creates online performance reviews and performance management software for companies.
Case Study #2: Be proactive about your improvement
Stephanie Barnes Taylor had recently transferred to the contracts division of a law firm in Houston. It was early in her career, and she had little experience drafting contracts. “It was a totally different type of work than what I had been doing,” she says.
Still she was unprepared for the scathing performance review a few months later. “I had never got any feedback that suggested that there were major problems,” she says. It was also her very first experience with negative feedback in general. “In college and law school, my work ethic and performance had always been excellent,” she says. “So it was a double shock.”
After she got over the “hurt,” as she put it, she set her mind to improving her performance. She found a contract drafting class that was starting two weeks later and signed up. She developed a performance improvement plan that addressed all of the issues raised during the evaluation, and consulted other trusted attorneys in the firm on her approach.
She then took her plan to her manager. In that conversation, she also asked if he would be willing to coach her more directly. She implemented the plan over the next year and her performance improved. She ended up taking another position at a different firm before the next evaluation period, but since then, she’s never gotten another negative performance review.
Today, as the CEO of The Fruition Group, a leadership and strategic planning firm in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, Stephanie sees the negative review as a pivotal career moment. “Negative feedback is still good feedback because it shows where your opportunities are to improve,” she says. “Rather than focus on the bit that you didn’t do well, you now have an opportunity to really improve in an area where, otherwise, you would continue to be mediocre or failing in.”
Source of this article;