Three Dos And Don’ts After You Get A Bad Performance Review

Three Dos And Don’ts After You Get A Bad Performance Review

Performance reviews are already stressful, but when you get told that you’re not doing so hot, it’s even worse. Here are three things you should do after your assessment and three things you shouldn’t.

Photo by Russell James Smith

A bad performance review can send you in a downward spiral -- especially if you feel like it's inaccurate -- but there are still a few good ways to keep your head up and move forward. Carolyn O'Hara at the Harvard Business Review recommends you keep these principles in mind:


  • 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

A bad performance review is not the end of the world, and it's not the end of your career either. It just means that you have things to work on and that's OK. Dealing with a negative review is difficult, but if you keep these three dos and don'ts in mind, you can make it a positive launchpad for the new and improved you.

What to do After a Bad Performance Review [Harvard Business Review]


  • I think what’s worse is when you get a good review, but not a glowing one. A glowing review will leave you feeling all warm and mushy on the inside, thinking you’ve done a great job and everyone appreciates you. A bad review will at least let you know you’re not performing up to scratch, and there are areas you can improve on. Somewhere in the middle, however, you’re left with this void of nothingness. No useful suggestions on how to improve, no warm feeling on the inside, just mediocre nothings.

  • having worked fora few large organisations as a manager, I have several observations.
    – reviews are scaled to avoid too many positive reviews (it’s rare to have too many negative reviews)
    – reviews are rarely quantifiable, no matter how tight the criteria.
    – being on good terms with the boss is more important than good performance.
    – a negative review can often be reflective of a cultural misfit or prejudice by a boss, rather than actual performance.

    I usually score highly in appraisals. I’ve had certain bosses (m&f) who have scored me badly. When you ask, you get a glib answer like “you delivered x late”. If you clarify and say “that was delivered on time”, the outcome doesn’t change, nor do you earn any respect.

    Tl;dr the review process is mostly popularity contest. I’m yet to see a place where it isn’t.

  • The whole concept of a periodic performance review process is flawed.

    If you are doing something exceptionally well or sub-par, your manager should be communicating with you at the time – so that you can do something about it – not waiting months before bringing it up in a review.

  • In my last tech workplace, where the employees were treated as liabilities and not assets, I wrote in my performance review a strength of “I’m awesome at everything”. Which was totally missed by my “manager” (some dude who was offsite and never saw me work). I was given a 1.5% pay rise. Even though I’m awesome at everything.

    Since becomming a contractor, I don’t get performance reviews. I get paid what I think is quite well and I get rehired – that’s a pretty good way of gauging your performance.

    Screw working for a mega corp. I’ll never do that again if I can help it.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!