How to handle a bad performance review

Getting a bad performance review – or even a less-than-great review – can be a career nightmare. But before you start drafting an angry resignation letter, remember there are ways you can turn the situation around without moving on.

In fact, the way you deal with a bad performance review could be a great opportunity to prove them all wrong and show just how professional you really are.

So here’s how to handle those first few weeks after the review in five steps.

1. Stay calm.
No matter how you’re feeling on the inside, the worst way to handle a bad review is to show anger or defensiveness. Now is the time to be completely businesslike in everything from emails to your manner during meetings. Out of office hours, take the time you need to talk to friends, hit the gym or do whatever it takes to stay cool,calm and collected at work.

2. Re-read and evaluate your feedback.
Take at least 24 hours to clear your head. Then, sit down to read through the feedback on your own. Pay close attention to specific complaints (eg ‘Regularly arrives late to meetings.’) and even closerattention to anything that isn’t specific enough (eg ‘Appears disengaged at times’).

Speaking of which…

3. Ask for specific ways to improve.
Make a time to talk to your boss about any part of your performance review that isn’t totally clear. Remember to approach this meeting as openly as you can. This isn’t the time to make your case against the review, but to find out exactly what the people above you most want to see changed. Remember perception is key here.

4. Set concrete goals.
Once you know what’s expected, turn your feedback into concrete actions. Take each section and turn it into something you can actually do. For example,‘Appears disengaged in meetings’ becomes ‘Note at least one action from each meeting’ and ‘Does not collaborate with team’ becomes ‘Regularly ask colleagues for input in person and/or by email’.

5. Follow up.
Give it at least a month before asking for more feedback – you want people to have enough time to notice the effort you’re making (and to see these aren’t temporary changes).

Then set a time to meet with the people who gave you the original feedback to ask whether things are moving in the right direction.

What if none of that works?

It’s unlikely, but in a worst case scenario, none of the above steps will have an effect, and you’ll end up back at square one. If you think the situation isn’t being handled well and things aren’t getting better, it could be time to seek another opinion or start looking for a new opportunity.


Jason Elias runs Elias Recruitment, a boutique legal recruitment consultancy specialising in finding lawyers for law firms, NFP’s and corporate in-house teams. Jason is also co-founder of – a one-stop shop that simplifies CPD for lawyers. Get in touch at [email protected] .

Source: Blog

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