How to turn a negative performance review into a positive one

Bad performance reviews suck. There’s no way around how terrible it feels to know that you haven’t surpassed or even met your boss’s expectations. It’s easy to experience mixed emotions like anger, embarrassment, and confusion. So how do you recover? Here are a few ways to turn a not-so-great review around.

What the research says

Negative feedback often contradicts what we tell ourselves about our capabilities, and confirms our worst fears. It happens to everyone, but you can’t let it question who you are as a professional. “No one bats a thousand,” says Mitchell Marks, professor of management at San Francisco State University and president of the consultancy JoiningForces.org said in an article with the Harvard Business Review. 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.

Take a deeper look at the review before responding

Our first instinct when receiving harsh critique is to be angry, hurt and disappointed, especially if this is the first time you’ve experienced a negative review. But you have to be smart and keep your emotions at bay. If it takes you phoning a friend outside of the workplace to vent, decompressing by playing a quick video game or taking a few cleansing breaths, you have to do whatever it takes to keep your feelings in check in front of your supervisor.

Take a look at your blind spots

We all have areas of improvement that we usually don’t realize needs fixing until someone points it out. That’s why it’s possible that you don’t recognize yourself in the review’s critique. That’s because we tend to see ourselves a bit differently than how others do. Although it’s important to have loved ones who sympathize with us, it’s doubly essential to have honest friends in your circle who will tell you the hard truths as well. Sometimes, we have to turn a mirror on ourselves and ask, “was this criticism warranted?” “Is this the first time someone has told me this about myself?” Perhaps your approach isn’t as friendly as you thought or your work ethic isn’t as strong as you perceived it to be. When receiving this kind of feedback, keep an open mind.

Provide some feedback of your own

Once you’ve taken a bit of time to reflect, make sure you fully understand everything your reviewer conveyed in the report. This, more than likely, would require you to ask your boss some questions. But be careful with your tone and how you phrase your questions as to not come off as if you’re challenging the review. Also, try your best to get some examples from your boss pointing out what you could’ve done better.

Strategize and plan for a comeback

Remember a performance review is to help you improve your job and highlight areas of improvement. But that requires a series of actionable steps, strung together in a cohesive plan. If that means learning some skills that you didn’t have before you came on board, allocating your time better or adjusting your temperament toward your colleagues, try to figure out how to change a bit. This first requires you to get on the same page as your manager and walk through some ways in which you can improve. Lastly, give it some time. Agree with your supervisor to set some milestones to measure progress and stick to those.

Don’t worry, you’ve got this.