A negative professional review can come as a shock if your bosses aren’t communicative on all the other days of the year — or it can be expected, depending on how things have been going for you at work. No matter how you feel about it, you should respond to it in writing, though, for a few different reasons.
Why you should respond to a poor performance review
First, you should respond because it’s important to have documentation of everything important that happens at work. You never know when you’ll need to make a case to HR and having an arsenal of receipts is always in your best interest. Just like you should keep a record of all your successes, you should maintain records of the not-so-good stuff, too. Writing a response to a performance review demonstrates you got the message and are committing to rectifying whatever is wrong, so no one can ever say you ignored it.
Second, it shows your bosses you’re invested in your job and serious about getting back on the right track, which is a great first step in fixing the problems overall. Per Indeed, it’s important to take the opportunity to acknowledge your mistakes and show that you do appreciate the feedback.
What to include in your response
Write a business letter or email, and make it pretty formal. You can even wait a day or two after the review so you have time to think, not only about what was said, but about how you can take steps to improve in the future. Unlike a resignation letter, this one should be detailed — you do, after all, want to keep your job, so this is a chance to get specific and make that case.
Don’t let emotions get in your way, either, according to Indeed. Keep this straightforward, professional, and objective. Start with an apology and make sure it addresses the specific issues that were raised in the review. Instead of, “I’m sorry for my poor performance,” say, “I apologise for missing the mark on last quarter’s sales.” If you want, you can add an explanation — say, if a family member was sick — but only if it’s true and only if it won’t actually hurt your chances at convincing them you’ll do better soon.
The most important part of your letter will be the future outlook. Share detailed, specific steps you’ll take to improve going forward, and make sure they align with the tasks you fell short on before. This letter should convey not just that you understand the criticism, but that you’re going to take action to fix the issues. You should maintain a positive attitude and demonstrate an interest in improving throughout.
In the event you disagree with any of the critiques, add documentation to support yourself and show that you met certain criteria or benchmarks, but don’t be unprofessional or aggressive.
Finally, thank your boss for their time, and add your signature. Keep a copy of the letter for your own records and bring it with you to your next performance evaluation so you can go over how well you stuck to the plan you laid out.
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