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What to Do When You Get an Unfair Performance Review

 ·  ☕ 3 min read

Getting an unfair performance review can be a crushing or infuriating thing to experience. Unfortunately, you might not be able to change it, but sometimes it’s possible, so you should know what to do both immediately and over the few days or weeks following the review so you don’t sabotage your own efforts to set the record straight.

It can be tempting to get angry or upset on the spot, but try to remain calm and neutral. Getting angry will only reinforce the view that you’re somehow a bad employee, and particularly if it isn’t true, this is the last thing you need to deal with!

First, don’t sign anything. If your supervisor presents you with some kind of plan for improvement or paperwork, look it over carefully before agreeing to sign it. It could imply that you agree you’re a substandard employee, and have done something wrong. You can verbally promise to meet your employer’s standards, but by signing a paper with the standards, you have basically admitted that you have been in the wrong.

Don’t respond right away, as there is no surer way to lose your cool than doing so! Take a few days to look it over and formulate a plan for whether you should respond, and if so, how.

Over the next few days, take some time to carefully read over the entire review. If it’s long, you might want to write out your own summary of the review, with the specific positive and negative points made, along with the evidence for each point (or make a note of points that were unsubstantiated). Be ready to admit when you were at fault — being reasonable (though not falsely reasonable — don’t admit to being at fault if you don’t deserve to have the accusations of misbehavior made) can really help your case.

If you have evidence that proves the statements made about you are false (for example, timesheets proving you worked more hours than your supervisor thinks), prepare it and organize your case, practicing speaking about each point, so you can make your appeal effectively. Sometimes, supervisors will criticize your performance for an entire year on a one-time incident. If this happens, be ready to explain (without whining) why it only happened once and certainly shouldn’t happen again; providing examples of times when you performed that job function without incident helps.

Once you have prepared, you can come up with a way to respond. You may be able to speak with your supervisor or the HR department to get the performance review revised. Make sure you know the company policy on performance reviews and how they should be challenged so you come across as a well-prepared employee who has simply been misunderstood, rather than a disgruntled, whining employee.

While the experience of getting a falsely negative performance review can be disheartening, know how to respond and do so without hostility, and you can greatly improve your chances of getting the record changed.

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