I’ve never met anyone who really enjoyed performance reviews–giving or receiving them! Some people consider them a necessary evil at best. The fact is, though, that if your company uses performance reviews, you’re not going to have a choice in the matter.
Keeping things as black-and-white as possible, we have two kinds of performance reviews: bad and good. However, like many things in life, it’s not exactly that simple.
One way of looking at this is to label as bad any performance review that does one or more of the following:
Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list. I imagine you could think of some other circumstances that you would consider involved a bad performance review. One of the criteria that I consider is whether or not the review enables you to move forward progressively if you are really willing to do what it takes to make that happen.
On the other hand, a good performance review (at least in my opinion) is one that does the following:
If you receive a positive review, you’re probably not going to lose much sleep over it later. In contrast, a negative performance review can cause you serious concern, stress, uncertainty, and more. It’s seldom, if ever, something you can shrug off and move on without a qualm. And you shouldn’t do that anyway.
According to an article by Carolyn O’Hara on HBR Blog Network titled “What to Do After a Bad Performance Review,” you can take several steps to respond during and after a negative performance review. Briefly, these are:
I believe the first one is possibly the most important, although they’re all valid. For example, if you do a “Mt. Vesuvius” (volcanic eruption) or burst into tears and rush out of the room, you’ve done yourself an immediate disservice. It’s tough to bounce back from that in a beneficial way. It’s kind of like the saying, “Make sure your brain is engaged before putting your mouth into gear.”
Note: In this post I’m not trying to address the kind of negative review that stems from having a totally unreasonable (e.g., toxic) boss who might not have given you a positive review even if his or her life had depended on it. That’s when the last suggestion on the above list might come into play–you might really be better off looking for a new and hopefully better job than spinning your wheels trying to turn that bad performance review into a good situation.