Performance Reviews: When Bad Job Evaluations Happen to Good People

So you’ve been at the job for a while and it’s finally time to find out what your boss really thinks of you. The door closes behind you as the air gets sucked out of the room. It’s just the two of you now.

And then it happens. Your boss says you aren’t pulling your weight. Or you didn’t take enough initiative on that last project. Or you’ve taken too many sick days. Or been late too often. Or the quality of your work is below par. Or simply you’re good…but not as good as you could be.

So how do you handle a bad review?

The most important thing you can do is enter that room with a willingness to hear what’s being said. I know it’s hard. It’s only natural to want to defend ourselves – especially if we feel that we’re being unfairly judged.

But the worst thing you can do is walk into the room ready for the fight. It’s a bad move. When you are in fight mode, you can’t hear the words as they are being said. And you might actually wind up hearing something useful for your own career – if you just listen.

I know that’s easier said than done. Whether you know it or not, even when we think we’re listening, we often have our internal filters going big time. Sometimes we only hear what we want to hear or the words get colored in a way that reflects what we think the other person feels about us – or what we feel about them. Words that may be fairly harmless can come in and get processed in a way that turns them into big-time button-pushers. Oh yeah! You think I can do better? Well that’s what my mother used to say and I hated my mother! (Although usually the buttons aren’t that obvious.)

So more often than not, we’ve walked away from a bad review not having heard what was really said or having incorrectly interpreted the real meaning behind it. All the while interjecting lots of our own thoughts and associations into every word.

How to improve listening when we get work feedback

  • Make a deal with yourself to listen from a place of knowing nothing and wanting to learn.
  • Let your boss finish his thoughts before even trying to respond.
  • Don’t run a script of automatic responses in your head while your boss is talking. While you’re doing that, you’re missing a lot of what is being said.
  • Ask clarifying questions. (Allowing your boss to finish the point s/he is making, of course.) Rephrase what you think you heard so you can be sure you got it right.
  • Show a willingness to listen by assuming a friendly, welcoming posture. You want your boss to know you’re willing to hear what s/he has to say. (If you keep your arms crossed in front of you, for example, it shows you are defending.)

What else should you do or say during the job review?

  • Let your boss know you appreciate the constructive criticism (as hard as it is to say that).
  • Discuss any points you think are unfair, but do so as calmly and intelligently as possible, making solid points for yourself by drawing on concrete examples – rather than simply saying it’s not true while looking all upset.
  • Don’t bring up co-workers and point to how they are treated in comparison to you. It won’t help and makes you look like a cry-baby.
  • Do calmly come up with things that you have improved on or accomplished over the last year that your boss may have forgotten to mention.
  • Ask your boss for specific things you might work on over the next year.
  • Make sure s/he knows you want to improve and are taking her/his words seriously.
  • Thank her or him at the end, smiling, looking directly into her/his eyes, and shaking hands. You want to walk out with an air of positive strength and an honest commitment to improve. Even if not everything said feels fair, there’s always something you can work on. None of us is perfect.

Afterwards, send your boss a short e-mail note thanking her/him again for the constructive criticism and outlining the things you intend to do. Ask for any additional suggestions. This not only serves as a contract of sorts between you, but provides you written proof should there be more going on than just a less-than-glowing review.

A bad review can give you a chance to improve

It’s important to keep your perspective. I’ve known people who walk away devastated (and show it in their work attitude) just because the didn’t get “excellent” in every category. That’s way out of proportion and only hurting yourself.

But sometimes, a bad review is your boss’s way of putting you on notice that you better get your act together if you want to keep your job. If, during the review you get any sense that it might be the latter, then make sure you ask your boss directly whether you should be worried about losing your job. Better to know than not know.

But as I said, in most cases, bad reviews are just a wake-up call. The most important thing for you to look at is whether any of it came as a shock to you. If so, you might want to improve your office radar and also ask your boss for more regular meetings that help you know how s/he feels about your work. In fact, after a bad review, I’d make it a point to connect more regularly to discuss how things are going. And also, make sure your boss finds out about things you do well!

We all get bad reviews of some kind. So don’t feel bad!

I know one person who got a rotten review – so bad he felt like quitting – and he went around sulking and angry at everyone. But after we had a long talk, he stopped obsessing about everything he doesn’t get enough appreciation for (the list was long) and instead decided to take an approach that might actually do him some good. Whether he was right or wrong in fact, his way just wasn’t working.

So he sat down with his boss in a professional manner and sincerely acknowledged there was room for improvement – and that he would do whatever was necessary to the best of his ability. He also discussed some of the areas he wanted to get into that he hadn’t yet been given the opportunity to take on.

His boss was very happy about the improved attitude and willingness to change. They made a deal that if he buckled down and improved on his assigned tasks (and attitude) and did what the company needed from him, he would be given a chance to take on a some of the new things he really wanted. He did. They did. And he is now in a new role doing what he loves.

All he had to do was switch from his perpetual “they don’t appreciate me” mode to a new, improved “I am taking charge of my own career” mode. Plus, he moved himself out of “victim” mode by treating his boss as an ally and not an enemy. Ironically, the bad evaluation became the beginning pf his new career.

If you wind up getting one of those bad evaluations, try your best to let any resulting negative feelings go as soon as possible. See it as the beginning of the rest of your career – since it is. If you get stuck in being pissed off, you’ll only prove your boss’s point.

Instead, focus on what actions you can take now to show your boss – and yourself – how good you really are!

We usually have at least two choices: accept things as they are or change! Since you’re already at this job, it really does pay to give it another chance by seeing what you can do to make things better for yourself. You might surprise yourself.

But of course, if it’s really time for you to go…then see this as your ticket to something better. Sometimes when bad evaluations happen to good people it turns out to be a blessing. 🙂

Good luck!

~ Ronnie Ann


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. I think your suggestions were very professional. However, it doesn’t apply to me as I am getting ready to retire in about 5 months and I’ve had good evaluations since I started my job 12 years ago. She is my third Director that I’ve worked with, and the most hostile. Everyone that works here comments on how unfriendly she is and how mean they have been treated by her. Since she arrived here 5 years ago I’ve felt disliked by her and thought it may be because she did not choose me as her Executive Assistant. During these past years I’ve tried to be friendly towards her, always saying good morning ____, have a nice weekend _____, or asking her if there’s anything I can do for her. I’ve even suggested meeting once per month so we can discuss any expectations she may have of me and she responded that she didn’t have the time. My first evaluation by her was good and then this year, nothing was said about my work or her expectations for the coming year, only things like I socialize at my desk too much and an Executive Secretary needs to be above that, I was accused of not saying hi or being friendly to her, and basically it was all about how she is treated. I’m a very approachable and friendly person and felt my evaluation was very contradictory. I am well-liked by the employees and always approach me for answers instead of the Director. I find it very hard to work with her because she only talks to those who meet her standards and every body else are low life’s. Also, she knows I will be leaving August 1, so I think by giving me an evaluation she knew I wouldn’t like, that she could push me out the door quicker.

  2. Although I am sorry you’re going through this, I love comments like yours because they help fill out the picture of what’s really happening out there. There’s no way I can cover all the possibilities when I write a post or answer a comment. In your particular case, I’m glad you are about to say good-bye to the job and your current boss. Her evaluation of you has no lasting power since you’re retiring. Buh bye!

    Now if you were at an earlier point in your career, after hearing all this I’d suggest being open to a new job. When you get a clunker boss, and after trying your best to make it work it still doesn’t, then a change of scenery is often the best option. In your case, you’re already planning the change most of us still dream about! 🙂

    I wish you a marvelous retirement, Elva.

    • I just wanted to add how much it bugged me to read “I’ve even suggested meeting once per month so we can discuss any expectations she may have of me and she responded that she didn’t have the time.” Some companies use 360 reviews, meaning you get to review back. I wish you luck hanging in there and if it were me, I’d document all of this (just in case, for instance could be useful negotiating a package) and then do my best to stay until the date I deserve. 😉

      I wish you all the best, Elva.

  3. Anon Geek says:

    Thanks so much for the great post. I just came off of the worst review of my life and the funny thing is I have had regular 1-on-1s with my manager and everything had seemed to be going well. The guy has recently stepped down as manager and I think I believe I know why (communication issues perhaps?).

    Anyway, while I agree some of the stuff he wrote was true, I do not believe that he presented to me the information in a timely manner…waiting six months to tell me that I’m not doing well while each weekly meeting has been fine is a shocker!

    I’m not sure what to do at this point. The guy is no longer my manager but still works in my group and is a respected IC. My new manager says I’ve basically got a couple of months to prove myself and he’s going to help by giving me specific things I need to accomplish and changes I need to make. The problem is I’m not really sure I feel like I want to stay at this point. I’ve been with the company for a little over a year and haven’t really meshed well with anyone. The work is uninspiring (writing code to test more code) but the reason I stay is because we were bought out a few months ago and I’m going to make an extra year’s salary for the next 3 years I work (work 3 years, get an extra year of pay for free due to vesting options). While it’s not a LOT of money, it’s still rather substantial and I’d kinda like to extract all of the value before I call it quits.

    Any advice?

  4. Hi Anon Geek!

    Sorry for the delay. I just saw your comment. Sometimes our e-mail alert goes haywire. Ironic that this happened about tech work, no?

    You wrote “While it’s not a LOT of money, it’s still rather substantial and I’d kinda like to extract all of the value before I call it quits.” This raises several thoughts for me. I hope you will permit me to share them, even if none of what I say rings true for you.

    The word value has so many ways of being interpreted. If you don’t like the job (you call it uninspiring) and you don’t feel you match well with your environment or the people you work with, than the only value I see is the promise of that extra money, which even you say isn’t all that substantial. But there would be HUGE value in spending your days doing something that feels good and gets your juices flowing, rather than slogging through just to get a carrot that may never come. (I will address that point soon.) A different perspective may open some doors for you.

    Real value could come by finding a new job that you actually feel good about! That value is priceless; it is your health and your mental well-being as well as your future career opportunities. (One door leads to another.) We are not enhanced by slogging. In a new job where you feel energized, you could move ahead to the point that the monetary gain you would have stayed for would be well-surpassed in about 5 years. By staying, you will only etch into yourself an attitude that you may not see, but potential employers will. Choices like this can shape your whole career. Shaking off the mismatched environment and moving on may be the wisest move, both from an emotional and monetary point of view.

    But let me throw in one other factor. This poor performance review that seems to have come out of the blue may mean they don’t see you being with them the whole 3 years and therefore that extra bonus you are in effect selling your life for may never materialize! Before staying 3 whole years for that purpose, I would want you to make sure you have support from the new boss and a real sense that you are wanted there. (Finding a mentor would be a great idea if you choose to stay.) I like that your manager is willing to set goals so you aren’t shooting in the dark, but they may already have formed an opinion of you. In fact, your former manager may have simply reflected the opinion of others in his review and have been trying to help you see what you need to pay attention to.

    Now, looking at it from yet another angle…you might choose to use this wake-up call as a chance to challenge yourself and wow them! Maybe there is a place for you there after all that would be good for you – as well as for whatever job you wind up in next. (By the way…I’ve worked in IT as a PM and good people move up to get more interesting assignments – but the secret is they also treat the less exciting assignments with the same thorough professionalism, good attitude, and enthusiasm as the more challenging ones.) Maybe they haven’t seen all that you could be yet. Maybe you know you have more to offer, but you need to find ways to show them just how much you can shine. If you choose this path, find allies. Ask your manager for more help. Be sincere and then give it your all! (This path can never be a losing one even if you later decide to leave. At the very least, it gets you good references!)

    There’s no way, of course, that I can know the real circumstances and how they truly view you or what your ideal move would be. Only you can know that. Trust your instincts and not just your “logical” head. But if you feel the way you describe about your job, I am sure of one thing: you will be rewarded on many levels by choosing to either stay and do your very best (working with them in the most positive way you know how) or to find a job that feels better for you as soon as possible. I think the idea of just hanging in and staying for that bonus without you deciding to change things for yourself may only bring short-term gains and lots of continued dissatisfaction. (And again, you may never get to that bonus unless they decide you’re a “keeper”! Many companies weed out people before such deadlines to avoid paying the bonus. These are instituted to encourage good employees to stay; the others, unless they make the effort to show their worth, are expendable.)

    I hope something I said has helped you think this through for yourself. Jobs are rarely perfect – but, if you are lucky enough to have options, please don’t settle for just “getting through each day”. I want so much more for you. 🙂

    Good luck with whatever you do. Please let us know what happens!

    Ronnie Ann

  5. I have been in a job for 5 1/2 years. The first 4 years were great until a co-worker (who disliked me from day one) was promoted to supervisor. Getting work done and reaching decisions really don’t matter because it’ll all be wrong anyway. I have talked to her and she said she was trying to get rid of me. She gave me a need improvements standards. The job is boring but the pay/benefits/location are great. I have filed grievances against her but nobody wants to step up to the plat and demote and/or fire her. She is unprofessional, dresses like a hooker to work, talks like a 3 years old (we goin’ to wha meetin). Oh, it’s a state job – what can I expect from people who walk around saying I have 4 years, 2 days and one minute left to go. I’m searching for employment elsewhere while dealing with this boss. I suppose I’m a dead woman walking, there is no way out of these situations except to find another job or get your walking papers. She tells people whom to befriend and other clerical workers don’t talk to me because of it but she rates me bad for team work, I pray that God helps me make a decision because I don’t want to be without a job in today’s economy.

  6. heeellpppp crap is rolling downstream!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Hi Sandra!

    I just came home and it’s late and I’m exhausted. So please excuse this short response. Just want you to know I hear you and will respond at length tomorrow. So sorry you are going through this. Ugh. Meanwhile, let’s both hope for something good to come your way soon! I am a firm believer that openings appear when we need them. Hard part sometimes is recognizing them when they shows up. 🙂

    More tomorrow! Sleep well, Sandra. There’s always a way.

    Ronnie Ann

  8. Hello again Sandra!

    When I read stories like yours, I really wish I had a magic wand that could help. Since you’ve already tried speaking to your boss, and you also say even if you do your very best you still get the evil eye, then it looks like you are the only one with a magic wand that can help you right now – meaning you can find a way to help yourself. I’m glad you’ve already started that by looking for another job

    To anyone just beginning in a job, this is a great reminder why you should make every effort to build allies over the years, not only in your department but in other parts of the company. And in other companies, just in case. 🙂 I had a friend in a similar situation in a government job, and when her new boss (who never even gave her a chance) decided to let her go, she went to her allies who stepped in and saved the day. But as in Sandra’s case, that may not be enough.

    Although I don’t know all your circumstances, from what you tell me if I were in your situation I would step up my efforts to find a new job. And since you say “I pray that God helps me make a decision”, this may be a gift from heaven after all. A boring job day in and day out eats at your spirit and your health. But when there are good conditions, it’s so hard to leave. Maybe you can think of this as a chance to find something that you actually like!

    I’m reminded of the famous story about a woman who was trapped by a flood and prayed to God. When a boat came she sent it away saying God would save her. Then a helicopter came begging her to climb up, but she said “No. God will save me. he always has.” And she stayed firm in her faith of that and she waited. Unfortunately, she died. When she got to heaven, she asked God why he didn’t save her. God said “I sent you a boat AND a helicopter!”

    This may be your helicopter.

    Again, this is just my opinion. Only you know your circumstances. But if it feels right to you, I would suggest making a strong effort to find yourself a job. That means not only applying to things you see posted, but contacting friends, past employers, and anyone you can think of and let them know you are looking for a job that you really care about. And don’t spend a lot of time telling folks about how awful everything is where you are. As valid as your complaints are, you’ll get further in a job hunt by being positive. Also look for places you’d like to work and send them a great cover letter and resume. (I have posts on that elsewhere on this blog.)

    Meanwhile, hard as it may be, keep doing your best where you are. Be extra friendly to your boss and treat her as if everything is ok. That’s not about being phony. It’s about letting go of what’s not working and setting your mind and heart on your future new job that is going to be so much better. That positive energy will carry over into your day and when you meet people who might know of a job. Don’t let this boss keep your spirit from finding the helicopter waiting for you out there!

    I’ve had a long lifetime of careers and have had horrible situations that moved me to find something else. Of course, I tried to make it work first, but sometimes you just can’t. And each time, as much as I might have hated giving up the good parts and as much as I might have cursed some of the people who made it horrible, I was always grateful that something happened to make me look for something even better.

    Hope that helps even a little. Please let us know what happens.

    I wish you much luck, Sandra.

    Ronnie Ann

  9. Hi,
    thanks for this article it has helped me a lot. I’ve just started a new job and got a really bad review yesterday. It happened in front of two other colleagues and i felt shocked when it happened and completely devasted. I’ve worked with other companies before and have never been given bad reviews like this one. I don’t know what to do.

  10. New Policy: I finally had to stop answering individual questions because, as traffic continued to increase, I was getting way too many to keep up with and stay sane. 🙂 Believe me, it was a tough decision to make, but my only other choice was to close down the blog completely – which I did for a while. But thoughts and advice from my readers are most welcome. I always wanted it to be a place where we help each other. So please feel free to add your comments or share your own stories!

    With apologies to my readers…

  11. Two years ago I was layed off after being with the company for ten years due to one bad review that my project manager of four months gave me. I was shocked ! Through all those years with the company my reviews were always good never had any problems . Make a long story short I’ve applied for few jobs with this company. yesterday I’ve received an email that because of this one lousy review I can’t apply for any jobs with the company. So here I am in shock again not knowing what my next step should be .

  12. I read your comments and find them very interesting. Hope you are able to answer this.
    I have worked for a company for 10 years and past 2 years I have been placed out of the loop completely especially by the new manager. Any project that comes up goes past me to my assistant and I admit the person is great. Can accomplish anything and is a great personality and likable. People just went. I was left out.
    So I had feeling that writing on the wall and today received the meeting with HR that my manager sees my performance as not measuring up and not happy. Sorry I did not act wel so my have missed a great deal that was said but when they said that probably the poor performance was due to my cancer and they know I am there no matter what but if sick stay home! I blew! But then if I have been excluded and everybody avoids asking me to do anything how do I get back in. I do not think I can so I am hanging in as long as possible hopefully calmly. In this state being let go for just cause (poor performance) means you can not collect unemployment so as many paychecks as possible is needed. I did ask if job on the line but supposedly no but poor performance! They recommended training for my dept so good idea but when boss has been harping on recycling and making things work. In addition, I will work the extra hours every day, I come in early but boss wants us there after hours so will. More checks I get the better and benefits for the cancer great! Just wish I could get in the loop and prove that I can do some of the stuff, naybe not all but willing to learn and try!

    • Not sure which state you live in, but in NY you can’t be denied unemployment benefits for poor performance. I was under the impression most if not all states had the same policy.

  13. Jackie,

    First, let me say how sorry I am you are going through all this! I wish you much luck fighting and beating the cancer…and in making things at work better for you.

    There’s too much I can’t understand about the details to answer you fully.

    My first question is…are you fully aware of your rights under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and about how your job is required to make reasonable accommodations? If not, you might want to read HERE.

    Second…sometimes it helps to sit calmly with the boss – make lots of apologies for your reaction (believe me…I probably would have blown my lid too 😉 but unfortunately it just works against us in the workplace) – and ask for a few concrete steps so you can focus on these steps and show you are making progress. Let your boss know how much you appreciate the fresh start.

    Most of all…have compassion for yourself. But also…get your resume together just in case. And look for local support resources through your care givers if that might help.

    Sounds like you are battling way too much at once. Having a list that you can check off as you go along might help at least a little at work.

    I wish you all the best, Jackie! We’re all rooting for you. ~ Ronnie Ann

  14. Hi. I have found all these comments very interesting but they still don’t seem to help me get any where. Basically every job I have had sucks. The first job I liked but I got bullied out of it and my employer sacked me for gross misconduct. I won my case at a tribunal for unfair dismissal but had to face the fact that they were just trying to get rid of me. Since then I have been stuck in a series of demeaning jobs that only pay the minimum wage. I have tried to climb the ladder to get higher but all my employers did not want me to learn new skill or to know how to do things. I often get the blame for things other people have done and on pointing this out I am told “not to argue” and to accept that I am being blamed for what ever has happened. My confidence is being stripped away and I know I will probably never have a good job, for example I cannot drive. I have had over 85 lessons and cannot afford any more. I am 33 and feel like life is passing me by. It feels like I am always stuck in rubbish jobs with no prospects but just have to put up with it. Why does this keep happening to me or is it because I have just been that unfortunate that I have worked for really bad bosses?

  15. Hi Ali!

    First let me say how sorry I am to read all this. There’s no way for me to be able to answer your question based only on a comment. I wish there were. I do know jobs are a two-way street, but then again sometimes, as in dating, we keep picking the wrong ones. 😉

    When I read “all my employers did not want me to learn new skill or to know how to do things” this is so hard for me to understand. I’ve almost always been able to find new things to learn or take on. BUT I have had a boss or two that wanted it just their way. And that’s a bad boss.

    Please don’t give up. Just make sure when you interview you look for jobs that want you to learn and grow. It’s ok to bring that up in an interview. Jobs like that are out there. Might also help to look at your resume again and see if there is anything you can do to aim yourself more toward employers who seek thinking employees. 😉

    There is a job out there for you, Ali. Sometimes it takes a while before a career gets going. Just think about what you can do to meet it halfway. And don’t forget the power of taking a course (you not only learn but make connections) or learning a new skill so well on your own that you become the go-to person.

    Best of luck!

  16. Margaret Brennan says:

    This is a well-written and wonderful piece. Really helped me today. I would like to share a link to this on my website.

  17. Hi Margaret!

    Comments like yours make my day. Thanks. Links that identify the site and only quote a paragraph or two at most are always welcome.

    I wish you much luck in your career. And please know that what can’t be made to feel right for us today can be a great motivator to aim toward right – even if it takes a while. 😉

  18. problems have arisen in my work place concerning my supervisors. We recently had evaluations the past couple of weeks and I had my 90 day evaluation. As part of the process, the staff does a self evaluation and then the managers/supervisors evaluate it and go over it with each staff. On a scale from 1-5, one supervisor gave me all 3s and she had told me that since I’m new, I can’t be perfect.
    The 2nd half was done by the 2nd supervisor. I had given myself 4s in a couple of areas and 2, 5s. My 2nd supervisor crossed out all of the 4s and put all 3s, which I think is unfair. She never justified the 3s and she all she stated in the employer comment section that she’s thankful for the help and that as a reminder, the managers are here to direct all concerns and questions that I may have. I find this unfair as I think that within this 90 day period, I would be considered a 4 in all areas and even a 5 in some areas. If I didn’t go above and beyond, I wouldn’t have accomplished coming in 6 (12 hour) nights in a row to cover the other staffer when she went on vacation. Furthermore, during my shift, she doesn’t address any concerns or assign any tasks, even when I offer and initiate that I would like to help out. Moreso, there is no room to hone your skills or really fulfill your responsibilities as she not only manages but does our tasks even if we’re ready and to do them. It’s agreed for that job that if more than one person does the job, it gets very confusing and a higher rate of mistakes can occur. I understand that people have different work dynamics but I don’t see how it’s fair to penalize an employee when the employee doesn’t have the opportunities to even do their own work based on interference.

    It’s also not very pleasant that she offers me leftover old food to order new food to feed the rest of the staff during our meeting. I’ve already declined many times because the food isn’t healthy, it’s offensive, and it can affect my health.

    I’m not very happy with the position as I think I’m trying my best and yet I get a poor evaluation and that it’s affecting my emotional and physical health. In the past, I’ve been handed director-level work because my supervisors knew my capabilities. I’m not sure how to approach this situation. Since it’s busy at work, I haven’t had the chance to ask to her justify her ratings but I plan to on Friday night. I’d like for her to change her evaluations but there is some element of fear of retaliation and also, their perspective of insubordination. This position was intentionally was supposed to be a stepping stone, as I am extremely over qualified for this position but with these evaluations, I don’t know where I could even transition to.

    Do you have any recommendations as to how to approach this situation with the most tact and the least amount of awkwardness and retaliation as possible?

    • Hi Mia!

      I guess by now you’ve had a talk with her. I hope it went well. The most effective way is usually to express yourself clearly and as calmly as possible to your supervisor – coming from a position of wanting to do better rather than blame (or asking her to “justify” her ratings), of course. Ask for her help along with some specific goals so you can see how you’re doing. In normal circumstances, at this point you’d bring up a few things that aren’t working for you – but not sure this is a person who would be open to that without retaliation. You have to trust your instincts here.

      But from what you describe, to be honest I’d also have my resume out there big time! This does not seem like a good match – at least from what you write – and maybe it’s time to cut your losses if at all possible. 😉 Good luck!

  19. I am a student and just finished a summer internship. It was a dream job…the company I had my eyes set on since day one! I received several compliments on my performance while I was there, and really meshed well with the department. They even threw me a going away party (even though I was only there 4 months), and offered an extension on my term.

    I worked extremely hard, trying to learn all aspects of a complex job in a short time, and had my hands on every project that came through the office the entire summer. Midway through the term I was completing all of the reports in the office (of 10 people), and leaving them in a neat package for them to just sign off. My name never appeared on any of these reports, for accountability purposes, I was told.

    Although I tried to convey my efforts to the manager, I don’t think he really had any idea of the type of work I was capable of. He was always too busy to deal with me, and when I asked him driectly for assignments he basically used me to send confrontational emails, or run the photocopier.

    I submitted my student evaluation forms to be completed mid August, and was told that they would be completed and emailed to me shortly. As part of my schooling requirements, the forms needed to be submitted to the school by tomorrow (Oct 6). Within the last month, I sent two emails to and phoned the manager twice, with no response. I asked co-workers (who did respond) if they could have the manager contact me regarding the forms, and stated the urgency of my request. “He just about bit my head off when I mentioned your paperwork”, is the email message I received from a co-worker yesterday.

    Today I received a student evaluation form with satisfactory ticked in every box.

    I don’t know what went wrong. I’m not sure if he thinks I only did a satisfactory job, since I never really reported to him, or if he was annoyed with the paperwork. I don’t think I was unreasonable in trying to track down the paperwork, but I can’t really think of another explanation. The guy offered me a job, and then a reference (after I declined) 6 weeks ago.

    On top of killing my GPA (I have never received a grade below 90 before this), this makes me look bad. This is a very sought after internship, and my professors will think I half-assed it. And what are my chances going to be like to return to this company if they think I am a ‘satisfactory employee’!

    What should I do? If anything.

    • Hi Angela!

      I’ve been thinking a lot about your situation. While I understand how absolutely frustrating this is for you, perhaps my own experience will help answer your question.

      I was a top student in high school, but when I got to college I focused only on the courses I loved, and got some incredibly bad grades in the other courses as a result – along with As in the courses I cared about. 😉 While I don’t recommend this approach for other people, let me tell you that it hasn’t stopped me from getting into top companies and having an exciting and successful career.

      No one that matters will care about that “satisfactory” other than you. Shake it off and let it go (good practice for your career which even if ultra successful will have lows) and focus on how to sell your strengths – of which there seem to be many. You can perhaps even get recommendations on your LinkedIn profile from that very company (and other people who know you) and use the things you did on your resume (and when you interview) where it really counts – making it into a big win. It’s not the individual details, but the whole package.

      As for working there, the satisfactory is not your problem. It’s mostly the relationships you built and how you are perceived by folks you actually worked with that matter. Maybe…just maybe…by making such a big thing of this (in their eyes) and annoying the boss – even if you were absolutely right in pursuing what you needed – you may have done yourself more harm than good. Perhaps in hindsight there was a better way to approach it, but that’s for you to know. Always good to try to see it from their side.

      BUT…turning him down may also have been the issue. You can’t control how people react. Maybe also reflects on the company. For you to do so much and not get outright credit…well, I’d think twice before going back there anyway.

      So if it were me (strange as this may seem to you now), I’d write the manager a nice warm note thanking him for the experience of working there, letting him know how much you enjoyed it and how much you learned. Keep it short and use it to leave a great last impression. You might even mention that you apologize for bugging him, but only if you still might want to go back there; that’s your call. If it works…great. If not…a lesson learned. For the sake of references and since you never know who you’ll run into again down the road, good to leave on the best note possible.

      In any event, this grade will not hurt your career. It’s all in your hands now. 😉

      Best of luck, Angela!

  20. Ronnie Ann,

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I have been working so hard at my job only to receive some poor feedback in some of the areas where I feel are my strengths. I hate to admit this, but I’ve had a bad attitude for about a month after discovering that my mother almost died and doesn’t have much time left. This happened one month after I had two other friends pass away.

    I am a 28-yr old recent grad, and I admit that I have a lot to learn and a lot of maturing yet to do, but I’ve had troubles keeping my personal life out of my job. My boss finally talked to me because of my on-going attitude. I was crushed to hear the news, but I’ve since then decided to turn off the pissed-off mode to “kill em with kindess” mode (it kills me at times due to how much my supervisor criticizes me – bad kind). I’ll try with all of my strength to not let this eval get me down despite all of the stuff I have faced while at my new job.


    • Good luck with the new attitude, Ashlee. If it helps to know this, I spent many years learning how to keep my personal life and bad attitude out of the workplace. But once you learn how, it gets easier all the time. And then you have more time and energy to focus on doing a good job and hopefully enjoying the work!

      Thing is…I don’t want anyone to think this means you should let anyone treat you badly on an ongoing basis. Yes…check to see how much you’re contributing to it. And then check again to make sure. 🙂 As for honest feedback and be open to seeing where you can improve, looking for ways to shine where possible.

      BUT…if any of you are truly being treated unfairly, there is a short-term and long-term benefit to standing up for yourself, Start by asking for specific feedback and making sure your managers know when you have done well. And if it reaches a point where you are sucking in your emotions all the time and in effect becoming a door mat, then (1) find a good counselor; and (2) find a new job!

      • Well, my supervisor could no longer hold in their grudge towards me and reported me once again for something I had no control over. They reported the incident to my boss and only I was blamed for it (my co-worker who works in the same room was not reported). Since my boss really enjoys having me around, they gave me the option to either resign or to be reported to higher authority with the high risk of termination. As of next Friday, I am out of a job I absolutely LOVE! I just hate being micromanaged and judged for everything I do incorrectly rather than the things I do correctly. While it’s extremely depressing for me at the moment (being the first job in which I was forced to resign or risk being fired), I’m hoping this is for the better. 🙁

      • Well, the good news is that you found a job that you LOVE doing, and that you were able to resign rather than being fired. The bad news is that you’ll be out of a job shortly. That is tough, but it is also definitely survivable!

        Before you leave, ask the boss who enjoys having you around for a written recommendation for you to use in the future, and ask if you would be able to use him or her as a reference for your new job search. It’s good to have someone at the old job who can vouch for you and your work.

        Also ask if he/she knows a place where you could do similar work, and if he/she knows anyone there you could talk to about a new job. Maybe you’ll get an inside track to a new job. A long shot, perhaps, but worth a try.

        Then, do your best to get rid of the anger and hurt so it doesn’t sabotage your job search. Write it all down, cry in the shower, complain to your family and/or non-work friends or whatever works for you. Dump as much of the hurt and anger as you can.

        Then, put together your version of what happened. Because you will be asked why you left – everyone is usually asked that question when they interview for a new job. Write it down (and cross out all the names and the bad words), and practice saying it out loud so that you don’t stumble over it.

        Your answer will probably be something along the lines of “I had bad chemistry with a supervisor. In the end, it just was not a pleasant place for me to work, so the best option for me was to leave. I learned a lot from the experience, and I don’t plan to repeat it.” All true! Don’t go into any details! Don’t trash your former employer or your coworkers, no matter how tempting it may feel!’s Job Search Mindset Expert, Harry Urschel, wrote an article that should help you understand how to present this situation in your next interview – How Employers Hear Your True Stories. It’s worth reading, and I think it will help you understand how to manage your response in this situation.

        In your new job search, you will be much more careful about the potential work situation and your new co-workers. So, you HAVE learned a lot from this situation, painful as it has been. And, you will probably be happier in your next job.

        Good luck!

        Work Coach Cafe Team Captain

      • Why on earth would someone allow an employer to railroad them into resigning so they can avoid having to pay into the employee’s unemployment benefits? I would NEVER resign – unless you did something egregious like stole from the company, you’re entitled to unemployment payments and won’t get them if you resign.

      • chandlee says:


        The answer to this question is complicated — whether one should resign or not resign is complicated and has to do with company policy on what references checks involve — and also on umemployment regulations in individual states. In some states, if you are terminated — you are not eligible for unemployment.

        Good luck,

  21. Let me add to the list of people that have gotten bad reviews. I have been working at various companies for over 20 years and been at my current company for over 11 years, 4 years in this particular group. Over all that time I have never gotten a bad review, and this one was a doozy. Not only did I get a “Does not meets” but the comments were all negative. I was prepared for this review so I was able to respond calmly and refute many of the points. My problem was these 2 people were interim managers while my real manager was out on maternity leave. They really didnt manage me very well, the main problem being they cancelled our 1-1 meetings quite frequently so my feedback was not on a regular basis. That is the part that infuriates me the most – that I get all this dumped on me at the end of the year rather than what they shold have done and told me during the year. Anyway my regular boss returns in 4 weeks and I have asked these 2 numskulls to lay out what they want going forward. I have a meeting with their boss in 2 days to also discuss the review (I ran it by one of my bosses and he was fine with it). I have seen all the advice regarding playing nice and asking for the feedback to turn things around but I think there is a point where you have to at least be firm and direct and point out where you think things are incorrect. I plan to speak with their boss to point out that the review was done in bad faith and there are several inaccuracies in it which I can easlily point out with facts. I also kept track of all the times the 1-1 were cancelled. I also believe that if layoffs were to come this year this will be used as a reason.
    so, what are peoples thoughts? Do I speak with the bosses boss? Do I just say “thank you” and wait for my regular manager to come back? They have already said some of my responsibilities will be taken away so I can focus on what I need to do to be successful.

    • Wow, Barry! Tough situation!

      Can you pick up any hint of the “numskulls” doing this kind of thing to other employees?

      The HR staff, if there is one, should be aware and advising in this situation – if they are effective.

      My preference would be to wait for my real boss to return and ask her to help you recover from this situation – assuming that she IS returning. However, IF layoffs are pending, you could be in the cross-hairs with this review.

      It sounds like you have already discussed going to the higher manager with one of the current bosses, so it may be difficult to back out. Regardless of what the current manager said to you about being “fine with it,” I doubt that they are happy you are planning to do this and may have already put their side forward.

      So, I would present my case, as clearly and unemotionally as possible! Use all of your documentation – the list of cancelled meetings. If possible, refute the negative comments point-by-point with facts or other documentation. If you have copies of your old reviews, I would bring them too. These managers could be excused because they were filling in, without real familiarity with you and your work (yes?).

      I would not throw around terms like “bad faith” or “numskulls” – regardless of how appropriate you feel they are. I would stick to the facts, pointing out the inaccuracies.

      Re-read Ronnie Ann’s post before you go in.

      Good luck!

  22. I need advice, here is my situation:

    I am the manager of several groups and this past year I put in 75 – 100 hours a week at work, not because I am inefficient but rather because we are so short staffed my teams can barely keep up. We also went through a full systems conversion to systems that are less automated and require more manual intervention. Several on my team have shown great leadership, several have essentially met the requirements, and of course I have a few that need improvement. I am giving them fair reviews based on their level of performance and they all should feel comfortable with what I am giving them, based on my ratings versus their self assessments.

    Here is my problem, my direction is to not give anyone a good review (no need for advice here, I will do the right thing and take whatever punishment I get) and I was informed that I will be getting a met expectations on several major projects I worked on successfully. I met the due date of the project, overcame major obstacles throughout the project, and it was no secret I chose work over my family to complete the project. Now for the real kick to the head, everyone in the organization had the same objective in this project even if they had no involved. I agree they would all get a “met expectations” because they neither went out of their way to help or hinder the project. My level of attention and dedication to the project is what got it done on time. Not to mention all the day to day activities that needed addressed as well. Our top rating says that the employee would demonstrate a high level of self initiative (I never needed direction for this project, I actually set the guidelines for other regions to meet the same project) and demonstrates a high level of dedication to the job. I couldn’t have possibly done more to meet the date of the project, which was a very aggressive date. I don’t understand how this could be rated as “meets expectations”. The only feedback I got was that if I wanted a higher rating I should have beat the expected completion date. This is only one example, but am I out of line? I have plenty of feedback from my peers that says otherwise. My VP is so angry at my self assessment that I don’t even know if I can talk to him further. I feel like I gave of my life to do a great job only to find out that 1 person (my boss) says I did a mediocre job. HELP!!

    • Wow! Talk about a tough situation! I applaud you for doing the right thing by your people, but I do worry about your job when this is over.

      Were you able to get any more details out of him about why he feels you did a mediocre job? It must (surely!) be about more than not beating a “very aggressive” project deadline which, I assume, you had little input in establishing. Doing a faster – but poorly done – implementation that beat the deadline would have been “exceeding expectations?” Is that really what he wanted? I don’t think so, but I could be wrong!

      Do you have any proof that you did an “exceeds” job on this project? Congratulatory or laudatory emails you could provide to your boss? Do you have any allies in the organization – perhaps some of the regional people or one of your peers (or – very carefully – one of your bosses’ peers) – who could tell your boss, or document in an email to you that you could forward to your boss, about what an extraordinary job you did on this project? Or would that just be throwing fuel onto a fire?

      Based on my experience in large organizations, this could be:
      * You did it well, and you didn’t need his help.
      * Your boss is out-of-touch with what’s really going on in his organization.
      * Your boss wants you to move on (are you a threat to him?).
      * Your boss is completely clueless.

      If you have had a good relationship with him previously and gotten “exceeds” expectations in earlier reviews, perhaps there something else bothering him – something from my list above or something else?

      If you can figure out what’s really wrong, you can address it going ahead, but – for this review – I’m really not sure what the best thing is. If the review has already been made a part of your official record, it may not be modifiable. Is there any possibility that someone from HR could help in this situation – or is that not do-able or not practical/acceptable in this organization?

      I hope you have an up-to-date LinkedIn Profile, documentation of all your past achievements in this organization, and copies of everything in your personnel folder. Then, I would be seriously considering moving on to find a better situation or, at least, a better boss.

      Good luck!

  23. Ugh I just started a new job two and a half weeks ago and today I received verbal counseling from my manager. It seems I have not met their expectations. This is a first for me. At my previous job I was a star. I was well liked and performed very well and it was recognized by my bosses. I feel like my new manager is not always there to see what is going on. And is going by what my trainer is saying. The person that is training me is not the most patient person in the world. I am doing something different than I used to do and really don’t get it until I do it myself a few times. I got very upset when my manager told me today and I have not been able to shake it. I know this probably happens to a lot of people. I am just not used to it. I just felt incredibly awkward the rest of the day. I don’t want to be somewhere where people think I am doing sub par work. But I really need this job. I guess if I continue to feel uncomfortable maybe I can transfer in six months. I am going to reread your article and hopefully I can turn this around. I am just bummed because I really thought I was improving. Also I asked my manager what she thought. She told me that she would not be coming to me with this if she didn’t think I could do a good job. Just so confused need some advice.

    • Stay calm, K. It doesn’t feel like it, but his is good news even if it’s a shock to you after being a star in your previous job. As your manager said, she thinks you can do a good job and is trying to help you!

      You say this job is “doing something different than you used to do” so that means you have things to learn. Excellent! You are stretching your capabilities, learning new things, and developing new skills.

      So, pay attention to what they are telling you, and learn as much as you can. It sounds like a very good place to work – you have a trainer, and you also have a manager who is paying attention. Even if the trainer is not really patient, having a trainer is a luxury. Most of the time, new employees just get thrown into the job to succeed or to fail on their own. You have help!

      So, don’t be discouraged. Just dig in, and show them you can do it! Show your manager she is right to have confidence in you. Go for it!

      Good luck!

  24. I just received 2 bad reviews in a matter of 3 weeks. One boss basically told me to start looking for a new job (even though we are not firing you). Said that I do not fit in the new generation of where the company was going. (I’ve been here for 21 years)

    The 2nd bad review was from her sister, the big boss. After I had tried to explain my side of the situation, it did not matter what I said they didn’t want to hear my side. She said I wasn’t invested enough. I’ve been there for 21 years, I am invested. I would like to write something, but afraid they would fire me on the spot. What should I do?

    • Hi Loreta,

      I can hear you wanting to tell your “side” of the situation to your boss and the big boss, and I know it’s very important to be heard.

      But, at least right now, what really matters – if you want to keep this job – is for you to listen to them. You need to really hear what they are saying to you without trying to defend yourself. What happened in the past is in the past.

      The sad truth is that companies need to change direction sometimes to survive. So, the way things were done the last 21 years might not be useful any more because the company has changed.

      They have told you that you “do not fit in” now. That’s a pretty clear message from them.

      Think of it this way – someone who has lived in Alaska for 20+ years knows how to dress for Alaska’s winters. Then, they move to Southern California where the winters are very different. If they keep dressing in all those layers of warm clothes like they did in Alaska, they will look ridiculous and probably have some sort of medical emergency for being too hot. Because the surroundings have changed, the way they dressed the last 20+ years (when they lived in a different climate) is not appropriate or necessary now. If they don’t change, they “fail” in their new surroundings.

      This feels like a similar situation to me. The company – not the climate, in this case – has changed, and you are no longer fitting in with the current climate in this company.

      Right now, there are 3 important questions for you to answer:

      1. What is the “new” reality at this company right now? What do they need you to do now? How do they need you to change to fit in?

      2. Do you want to fit in with the company now? Has it changed so much that you don’t want to work there any more, or do you still like the “new” job?

      3. Can you recover this situation? Can you go to your boss and ask her what you need to be doing differently, and then can you do what she has told you she wants?

      I agree that you should not put your side in writing to them. If you write to them at all, I would write a letter that tells them you want to continue to work for them and asks them what you need to do to “fit in” now, to succeed in your “new” job.

      Re-read Ronnie Ann’s article above, and try listening to your boss with an open mind. Pretend you are starting a new job with the same company, and learn what you need to do to succeed in your new job.

      Good luck!

  25. Every review I have had has always been very good. I have a supervisor that has poor listening and communication skills. When my supervisor is approached with concerns or questions she/he avoids eye contact , fidgets, looks at the computer while I am talking. Though this always happens I still approach my supervisor when it is important of if I have an idea that could improve workflow.
    She/he has been allowing a non-management coworker to delegate job duties and this person has been acting on it with fierceness. This non-mangement person has been basically delegating and commenting things are done that way because this person says so. If one tries to communicate that the work should be done another way this non-management person gets basically really angry and becomes verbally aggressive which the supervisor knows and does nothing about.
    Recently there was a situation where something this co-worker had me do my job a certain way which wasn’t correct and so I got it clarified with how it was supposed to be done with the ordering staff. Even after clarification this person insisted it be done the way this person said. My supervisor who happened to pass by was informed of the incident by both of us at the same time but supervisor went ahead with what this person said so I did it.
    I approached supervisor next day. Went over the details of what happened up to the explanation from both of us. Supervisor got really upset at me and said that I better learn how to communicate better or else he would put it in my review. I replied that I did follow the steps of talking with who I needed to communicate with to include being presently talking with him. My supervisor then said that I need to figure out what to come to this supervisor with and that I better learn how to communicate with this person. I asked for supervisors clarification as to when I would or should approach supervisor about concerns or issues. Supervisor still wasn’t able to clarify but said if I can’t get a clear answer from this non-management (but acting like manager) person.
    I have looked at my previous reviews which my supervisor has stated she/he likes how I talk with my supervisor about concerns, issues or bounces of ideas. Then also stated would like for L to continue coming to me with any issues or concerns. Which I have always done.
    I am by the book and am constantly communicating with whom I need to no matter how difficult it is.
    How would I respond if this supervisor writes this in my next review even if it is not true and this supervisor has written in the most recent review about how it is appreciated that I do communicate what is needed?
    Please advise.

    • Hi L,

      I’m sorry this frustrating situation is happening to you. Having to do things you know are wrong puts you in a difficult position.

      But it sounds like you’re most concerned that the supervisor will contradict the good review he/she has given you in the past. It could happen if, for whatever reason and whether or not it is warranted, the supervisor feels your performance has declined.

      It would be a good idea if you can do your best to keep an open mind and go with the current flow being set out by the non-management problematic co-worker. You don’t want to make yourself look worse by not toeing the line, or by complaining on the side about him/her.

      It would also be a good idea to privately keep a diary to document what’s going on, and especially to note how frequently you have been communicating well, since that seems to be a major complaint of your supervisor (whether or not they’re right).

      If you end up getting an unsatisfactory performance review, you’ll have ammunition to apply one of the things Ronnie Ann suggested in the post:

      “Discuss any points you think are unfair, but do so as calmly and intelligently as possible, making solid points for yourself by drawing on concrete examples – rather than simply saying it’s not true while looking all upset.”

      I hope things improve and your performance review isn’t jeopardized.

      Meg Guiseppi
      Member, WorkCoachCafe Team

  26. Kathy Lee says:

    Hello, Susan-

    I have recently found myself on the receiving end of two very negative reviews, and am currently at a loss as to how I should proceed.

    In September, I signed on to work for a start-up company of a former boss and mentor. The first big contract for this start-up firm required me to temporarily relocate to South Africa for several months. Within the first two weeks of my deployment, the portion of the scope that dictated my work for the client was cut, but I was asked to stay in-country in support of the team. A personal friend and former colleague was also hired by this company, and due to the nature of the work, all employees were living and working in the same place. I struggled a bit to find my place within the pared down contract, but felt quite out of my league.

    At the end of my three month deployment, I noticed that one of my colleagues (a woman older than myself with many more years experience) was treating me very coldly. She was not directly over me, but certainly was considered higher-up on the corporate food chain than I was. I approached her about the subject, and was floored with her response. I was told that:

    1) She was incredibly disappointed by my poor work ethic.
    2) I had been given countless opportunities to “grab the brass ring” but continually failed to do so.
    3) I was preventing others from “grabbing the brass ring.”
    4) I was acting unprofessionally, and as a distraction for my co-worker/friend.
    5) I had dropped the ball countless times on assignments given to me by the boss (examples given that were all circumstances outside of my control.
    6) She had already discussed all of these concerns with my boss, and he agreed/was disappointed.

    The diatribe was stated with such vehemence that I was totally taken aback. I addressed her specific examples, asked where I had failed to deliver on tasks for her (“You haven’t, but only because I don’t give you anything, as I cannot trust you to follow-through on it.”), thanked her for her criticism, and left.

    Immediately after, I contacted my boss who was out of the country for an explanation. He informed me that they had had a conversation about me “squandering my abilities,” but nothing to that degree. It turned out that I was having a private conversation with my coworker/friend that was not flattering to her, and she was lashing out. The boss asked that I not repeat my knowledge of the overheard conversation to the woman, as she told him that in private.

    Needless to say, I was really wounded by such an assessment. I wouldn’t have placed much stock in it, except that our direct client (who was also living/working with us for a short period of time) voiced strong concerns about my and my coworker/friend’s “lack of professionalism,” and questioned whether or not we were to right hire(s) to my boss. I will admit that my relationship with my coworker/friend does breed a casual dynamic, but I had no idea to the degree that dynamic was negatively affecting those around us.

    I am back in the states now working with old clients doing business development, but still; the entire experience has left a very sour taste in my mouth, both about my own performance, and my role with this company. As previously stated, I have never received a review that questioned my professionalism; in fact, that’s a part of my work I have always been lauded for (I am in communications, so perception is reality for me).

    My question is this: can I recover from such a negative review/situation, and if so, how?

    Thanks in advance for your feedback/advice.

    • Hi Kathy Lee,

      Yes, you can recover from this, particularly if nothing was put into writing. The important thing is to also learn from the experience, too.

      It doesn’t sound as though anything has been put into writing in your official personnel file with this employer, correct? If so, that’s very good! It also sounds like this project is over, and you are back to a more normal working situation, no longer working with the woman or the client associated with this contract. And you still have a good relationship with the boss. If so, all of that is VERY good indeed!

      That means you probably don’t have any serious administrative issues to address. So, you can focus on the things you can learn from this experience:

      1. It does seem like you have made an enemy – this woman. You won’t change her mind about you, so let go of it. Just stay as far away from her as you can. If you are both still in the same organization, be very careful. She’s being unprofessional, but she can still hurt you.

      2. I would focus on being very professional and productive at work. And, I would keep track of my accomplishments on a personal (not at work!) computer or file drawer at home.

      3. It appears that you and your friend might not have been very business-like while you were working on this project. When you are living and working in the same place in a foreign country, it must be difficult to stay professional all the time, but, now that you are back in a more normal situation, you should both focus on being professional with each other when you are “at work” – not informal.

      The comments by the client (former, now?) are troubling. “Professionalism” might be defined differently in differ countries, but that does seem to suggest that you and your friend need to be more professional when you are working together.

      4. It would be good to know what you could have done differently regarding the change in the contract and your feeling “quite out of my league” as you continued to work on the project. Perhaps it was an opportunity to learn another role or to support other staff members? If you could get some constructive feedback on that, it would help you if you ever run into that kind of situation again. Possibly the boss could help you or other people who were there working on the project with you.

      5. Everyone makes mistakes. EVERYONE! If you haven’t made mistakes, you aren’t trying hard enough. So, learn as much as you can from this experience, and move on. You won’t be able to change attitudes or history, but you will be able to avoid this kind of situation, if there is a next time.

      Don’t be too discouraged by this. Chalk it up to a “learning experience.”

      Good luck!

      • Kathy Lee says:

        Hi, Susan-

        I am a bit late in saying this, but thank you for your advice.

        Wanted to send a brief update to let you know that I stayed with the start-up firm, and really took your advice and the criticisms of my coworker / former client to heart in order to make positive, substantive changes.

        In fact, the aforementioned coworker and I have been able to establish a positive working relationship, as new opportunities have required both of our skill sets. She apologized for “misjudging” me, and I apologized for the my actions that negatively impacted her.

        Again, thank you for your feedback–it was useful, and I am really glad I stuck it out. Good luck to other folks in similar situations–don’t give up!

      • Kathy Lee,

        Thanks for taking the opportunity to get back to us and give us an update. Glad to hear that everything has worked out so well. We appreciate your follow-up and wish you all the best with your endeavors.

        Chandlee (on behalf of Susan)

  27. Hi, I just have have one long question , what should I expect from my work status does a horrible one week review mean more than likely I wont have a job in a month, should I start looking for another job?
    Help im very confused and upset.

    • Hi yajis,

      Well, it’s difficult to answer since I don’t know anything about the company, your job, or the situation. My recommendation is that you ask your boss how you can improve, and then you follow that advice.

      Good luck!

  28. Hi.Here’s my situation.I’m a fresher , onto my first job.Near to completing a yr.I’m working on a very complex project for the last 6 months. My partner/teammate is a pathetic lady , very selfish and people detest her to the core.In fact a senior resource quit over arguments with her. I j just keep it very professional with her.Today, my manager calls both of us and says that there is no co-ordination between us.No collaboration.I’m worried how it’ll affect my review. I’ve taken up additional work and performed very well.Don’t want this ” co-ordination ” feedback to overshadow my good work.I’ve a 1-1 with manager in a few days, and a month to go before my appraisal. How should I justify myself without complaining ?? How should I bring my good work to the fore ?? Thanks

    • chandlee says:

      Hi Ashwin,

      If this is your first job, I recommend that you seek out a mentor — not your boss or a colleague who you work with everyday — and get their help on navigating the situation.

      In most organizations, it’s very important that you work to collaborate with partners and teammates — even if you don’t like them personally. I recommend not complaining about your colleague to others, instead I recommend figuring out how you can collaborate with her.

      One of the best ways to collaborate with difficult people is to ask them how they’d like you to communicate with them. If one of the problems with past performance is not doing work, make sure you both cc your manager on messages about your work to one another — this will keep your manager informed and show them that you are trying.

      Make sure you keep a separate record of the other things you’ve accomplished in your job and highlight these in any self-assessment you need to put forward as part of your review.

      Good luck,

      • Hi Chandlee,

        Thanks for the advice. IT really gave me a sense of direction. Actually the manager is right in pointing out that there is no co-ordiantion. The primary reason being her ” I know it all and you are just a fresher though you might be smart ” attitude. Another big reason is she often works from home,leaving no room for face to face interactions and communications.I try contacting ,but to no avail.How to still show my mgr that I’m still trying to co-ordinate ??


      • chandlee says:

        Hi Ashwin,

        Write her an e-mail and cc your boss — tell her what you are currently doing and that you’d like to set up a time to talk each week to make sure that you are both on the same page. Ask her what time and place work best for her — and offer to meet by phone or Skype if that works best for her.

        I’d close the email and all future communications with — I’m cc’ing (manager’s name) on this, so that we can keep him in the loop and updated on the status of our work together.

        Good luck,

  29. So about a month ago I received my six month evaluation, which was due 5 months prior. It was not delivered by supervisor but by the department educator. Now I had been asking for this evaluation for months. I came in twice on my own time and both times my manager did not show for various reasons. When I finally received it she was unable to stay due to not feeling well, this also was the last day before she went on vacation for 2 weeks. In my evaluation are 3 statements in quotes that I supposedly made. Now I have no recollection of 2 of them, nor do I remember getting a head injury which would harm my memory. After speaking to my manager she swears that she heard them directly and spoke to me about them. The one I remember was a private discussion with another staff member questioning why a task is performed in a certain manner as the documentation states it should be done on a different shift. This has turned into me “refusing” to perform said task. Another was only half of an actual statement I made and is completely out of context. Lastly was a statement that I supposedly made to a patient who was upset about not getting more pain medication, she directly accused me of callling her a “junkie” after receiving the explanation of why she could not receive more medication. Now this patient is friends with a staff member who is friends with my supervisor. The other problem is that this staff member is frequently difficult to find. Now when she is assigned to work under me her disappearing is an issue as I find it unacceptable and I have complained about her several time but no action gets taken. Now I have requested a meeting with the dept. head to discuss my evaluation. My problem is that while I believe that my supervisor is allowing her feelings for me to be influenced by her relationship with that other employee, I cannot very well directly accuse her of lying. I do however want these incorrect statements removed from the evaluation.

    • chandlee says:


      You’re in a tough situation. Here are a few things you could do.

      1. Avoid looking defensive. Say instead: This is how I remember the situation. Avoid using adjectives and say only what happened. Example, the patient was prescribed ___ ; I gave her what was prescribed. She asked for ____, and I said I could not do that.

      2. Ask what improved performance would look like in 60 days — and for any support you would need to get there.

      2. Acknowledge the bad relationship dynamics in your work with your subordinate — lack of respect and trust. See if you can have a meeting with the employee and HR.

      Both of you want the company to succeed — how can you do a better job of communicating?

      3. When discussing things that have gone wrong, don’t give adjectives — stick to what happened. On ___ date, I couldn’t find you when we needed to do _____. On ______, I expected you to be ___ but could not find you.

      Keep records.

      4. Provide what happened anecdotes in response to each evaluation and reiterate your interest in working for the company.

      5. Begin to explore your other options — and job opportunities — in case this doesn’t work out.

      Good luck!


  30. Body language says:

    Good day. After receiving excellent reviews for many years, I have a (relatively) new supervisor who takes issue with my “body language” but only find it fit to point this out during “evaluation” sessions. Now I have been “blessed” with a formal counseling saying that my non verbal communication is disrespectful and will not be tolerated. I am a well educated and experienced individual. How can someone counsel you on body language when they have never printed it out when it supposedly occurred, nor have they ever inquired or requested clarification on their (mis)perception. I intend to submit a rebuttal to the inaccuracies I. The counseling albeit, disrespectful body language, however I would like some advice to mitigate this situation so that it does not escalate into further nonsense.

    • chandlee says:

      Sounds like a tough situation to me.

      One of the things that is most challenging about communication in the workplace is that people like to be treated differently — and they have different expectations about what social behaviors are friendly and what are not. For example, I am a knitter and often knit when I attend social gatherings. I have learned — that this is okay with some people — and not with others. I’ve learned to ask before I knit, because some people think that when I do I am not paying attention. In this case, I don’t knit. Others simply want to know what I’m making.

      The Golden Rule doesn’t work in practice: Because not all people have the same perspective on how they’d like to be treated.

      I’d encourage you to consider this situation from a different perspective — something you are doing is coming off as negative energy to your supervisor. If you want to have a good relationship with her — which I’d suggest — is important to your career at your company no matter how long you have been there, I think it’s a better approach to ask her to identify the behaviors she is seeing, what she feels like when she sees it, and how you might do it differently. Than you can explain to her that it isn’t what you meant — if that is in fact the case.

      Filing a rebuttal to your performance review is more likely to come across as aggressive and defensive — which generally won’t work in your favor in the long term. What I suggest you do instead is to work through the issues. And if the environment still isn’t working for you, perhaps you should explore other opportunities.

      I wish you all the best of luck with this.


  31. After six months working in this company, I decided to moving back home. I was aiming for one company in home town. I told me current boss. He told me that that company is not good. Three weeks later, I told him that I accepted the offer and would leave in 6 months. He throw paper on his dest and said that I am still his in the next 6 months and he would screw me in the evaluation. Well he did. I just received his bad evaluation in a numeric form with no commends. I donot know what else he will do to destroy me in the rest few weeks. is he going to fail me? .

    • chandlee says:

      Hi Jenny,

      If you have indeed accepted a new job, part of your worrying is a moot point since you already have a new job. That said, in the interim — the trick is to leave your current employer as gracefully as possible.

      It sounds to me as though your current work environment may not be healthy. I recommend you figure out your own timeline — is it wise to stay another six months or could you potentially start your next job earlier? How can you leave in the best way possible?

      From the employer’s perspective, hiring can be complicated and can cost over $10,000 U.S. per newly hired employee. Training costs and recruiting can be as much of a headache for your boss as it is for you to find a job. It isn’t great to leave within a year, and I’m not sure why you chose to tell your current boss so early in advance. If he’s had trouble keeping people in the past, this might be one of the reasons for his anger. This is why the standard is often for people to give two weeks notice.

      What he may be setting you up for — is to have you leave sooner rather than later…because often people who know they are leaving don’t put as much as effort into the job.

      What’s likely most important to your boss is likely your continued STRONG performance in the role. I would ask him about how he would — ideally — like to see from you before you leave. And how you could make the transition for him as easy as possible. Can you write up procedures of how you are doing things? Are there any special projects he’d like for you to accomplish?

      Be the best employee as possible, and you may want to let HR know of your ultimate plans — and that you know your boss was unsettled when you told him of the anticipated change — and that you’d like to finish out as strong as possible. But be open to the possibility that it may be easier for them if you leave before the six months is up. Regardless of anything, your goal with the company is to leave well!

      Good luck and keep us posted.


      • Hi Chandlee,
        Thanks for your response.
        you are right that the environment is not very healthy which part of my reason to leave is. This is a training program. I was supposed to stay for 3 years. However a few weeks after I started to work here, I could feel the hostile between the employees and lack of support from every level. I love the work I do but I cannot work in this kind of environment. Fortunately, I got an offer to continue my training from another program. I had to inform my current program director as early as possible so that he can find a substitute, which is not easy as you mentioned. While I was feeling lucky, my nightmare just started. There were too many things happened that broke my heart. Just one example, I was pregnant and due in 2 days. He let me do a service which required running and had risk of exposing to radiation. Luckily, Chairman found out and said it was too dangerous for me. He changed my rotation back. I have never dealt with this kind of people before. I knew that he hates me because of my leaving, but I did not know that he could do all these. I am really disappointed. Can evil person be a good leader? My answer is No, because they cannot even discipline themselves. I do not have much time left working here. I have always been working hard. This won’t change even in the last day of working anywhere. However how can I prove it? He is still my program director that has the power to write anything he wants in my evaluation. Although I am leaving, I felt so powerless and sad. How much more influence he has on me? Can I really discard his evaluation? I am going to continue my training, does that mean that I have to carry his commends on to the new program?

      • chandlee says:


        I’m concerned by the words you are using to describe this situation. Here’s a general rule of thumb that I advocate for — and share widely: NEVER interpret events or assign judgment to other people in a post. “Evil person,””these kinds of people,” all of these are very negative ways to discuss colleagues — even if you know the chances that they will see this information is null. When you put out negative energy, you often get negative results…

        It sounds as though your new opportunity is a needed one, and that you’ve done a good thing by pursuing the new opportunity and giving notice appropriately. What I recommend now is working as hard as you can to make sure the rest of your experience is a positive one — how can you help your current colleagues to ensure a good transition. Document what you are doing and what you are learning — even if parting is not “sweet sorrow,” it will ease the way for your future colleagues and put you in a better position. Get to know other current colleagues who can support you in future opportunities. Help them out, and be a member of the team in the time you have left — it will make it easier for everyone to send you off with good commends and a strong evaluation.

        Try looking at the situation from your boss’s perspective first, then consider your own. I know this is likely the advice you didn’t want to hear, but there it is.

        Best of luck,

  32. I would love to get your feedback. For the first time in my career, I have received a bad review. I have been able to provide documentation that most of the items are incorrect, which I feel good about. However, there are two items that I am quite upset about, and it is difficult for me to respond to. One of the items states that management has serious concerns about my ability to keep confidential information private. The example they give is a conversation that was overheard by a manager at a happy hour where employees were drinking, that I had known where we were going to move. I was not present at this happy hour and not only did I never state to anyone that I had this kind of information, I never had that type of information confided in me. I was told that because I assisted the director and manager of our department I should assume people would think I have knowledge of things. Quite frankly, our entire office has been openly speculating where we might move to or the last two years, and no comment has ever made about this from management. The other item was that other managers/coordinators found my scheduling to be ineffective and confusing. I have never received this feedback from the people I work with in this capacity, so I requested this information. All managers that I work with gave me great feedback, commented they had never been asked to provide feedback regarding my performance, and expressed they were very surprised by the negative review I received. One manager mentioned she thought that twice she had gone to the wrong location of a meeting (she didn’t check her calendar), but said it was likely due to the frequent location meeting changes. Another manager stated she found it confusing when meetings changed a lot. These two things are not under my control, and I don’t feel should be reflective of my work. On top of it all, my hours are due to be cut to part time due to funding issues, and management is aware I am seeking full time employment elsewhere, and said they would support me in this. I feel this review, and any subsequent references will seriously impede my job search. What should I do?

  33. I am so thankful for this forum b/c I am in a bit of a pickle.

    I began working in my current job 1 year ago, March 2012. I received my first review at my 6 month mark by my direct Supervisor (we will call her Carol). The review was good w/ a rating of 2 out of 3.

    Two months following the review Carol was placed on administrative leave and a full investigation was conducted, which created a very stressful environment for everyone. Ultimately, Carol was terminated and an interim Supervisor (we will call her Marcy) was put in place. The transition was difficult. Marcy became the permanent Supervisor in Feb. and my annual review was due in March (which was not done).

    In June there was a raise being extended to employee’s w/ a performance score of 2 or higher. I knew I was going to receive the raise b/c Carol had given me a rating of 2. Until I noticed that Carol’s Supervisor, (we will call her Sam) had conducted my annual review in July and gave me a rating of 1. I was unaware that the review was done, I literally stumbled upon it. Sam, who (as of July) has been in her position for 9 months has not directly supervised MY WORK nor does she know ME as a worker, however she conducted my evaluation. This rating, as I stated, prevented me from receiving the raise.

    Upon reviewing the evaluation there were inconsistencies b/w the two evaluations. During my employment I have had one talk w/ Marcy and later Sam this being due to a complaint from a co-worker regarding my communication. Following the discussion w/ Marcy there were no further issues, however @Feb (after Marcy was terminated) the same issue was addressed w/ me by Sam. Despite there being no further issues following Marcy’s termination. Outside of that I have had no write-ups no complaints about poor work performance. NOTHING.

    I disagree w/ alot that is noted in the evaluation and I need to know exactly what to say to address the untrue statements made by Sam. I have to address it b/c its in my personnel file and could ultimately have a negative impact on my career in the future. Oh may I add that I am an At-Will Employee.

    Please help!! Very specific questions would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks in advance!

    • Kayla,

      My first take on this is that you are focusing on a tough spot. If you respond defensively to each comment in your review, it may go in your personnel file — but it’s unlikely that it will prompt the company to review your performance and give you a revised rating of 2 or above.

      One of the things that’s challenging about work environments is that everyone has different communication styles and experiences — and we often communicate in the style that we prefer. The golden rule — treat everyone as you’d like to be treated — doesn’t always work. As what’s most important is that you find out how others like to be communicated with — and then follow suit.

      If you’d like to stay in the job/organization long-term, I’d recommend you focus on improving your performance first — how can you do a better job communicating with others…What recommendations does Sam have for you on how you can improve? What’s getting in the way of her seeing you as a highly effective employee? Are there areas which you can easily improve on — or clarify the misunderstandings/situation and get her take on how you can handle things differently? What’s the best way you can increase your ranking?

      Organizational cultures are messy. Performance reviews aren’t always fair. But handle your process with care if you want to remain working there. Show that you are open, clarify any mis-understandings by explaining your situation as it happened (no adjectives that show how you feel about it…this is “I saw _____, I did _____ in response), ask for feedback and thoughts on how situations should be approached.

      And if this job/organization doesn’t feel like a fit, consider looking for a new one. Start applying for new options.

      Good luck,

  34. Devistated says:

    I just received a bad performance review after being with my company for close to 15 years. The first one like this in my time with the company.

    I was made the fall guy for not being adaptive to change on a project, not implemented by me, which was directly impacting the productivity of my work. My direct manager tasked me with getting the change reversed. Now he is saying he had no part in it.

    Comments were made on my review that I am unenthuased and have no zest. I was told that I don’t have good control of my work load..which I might add is entirely unbalanced and can not be acheived.
    I am now being tasked with additional responsibilites which are currently being done by 3 people.

    Earlier in the year, I was involved in a sexual harrassment suit at work. I work in an environment of all men, and the behavior, language, and actions are completley inappropriate. Everyone knows it, but no one would step up. I advised my manager on several occassions, but nothing was ever done. I was told he never heard it, even though he was present for most of it. I began documenting the behavior. It was an extremely stressful, hostile environment. Finally, a new employee heard it, and was absolutely disgusted. I then went to upper management. A full investigation took place, and my accusations were confirmed. The persons were terminated for sexual harrassment. When I did go to upper management, I left my managers name out of it, and did not include him in any way…even though he was just as guilty.

    I believe this bad review was done as a retaliation for the sexual harrassment suit. Do I have any leg to stand on, or any grounds for legal action?

    • I am not an attorney nor does this site comment on potential legal cases as we are not employment lawyers. Based on the facts that you have laid out here, I would advise you to think about another question altogether: Do you want to stay with the company? It may be a good time to consider an alternative work environment — you could start by looking at available openings in your area. If you see anything that interests you, you may want to go for it.

      It’s always a good idea to have options.

      Good luck and sorry to hear of your situation,

  35. Hi,

    I had a poor review today, the first in 25 years. I transferred jobs half way through the year and did not have a formal 6 month review, and no formal objectives set for the new role. I meet with my boss weekly and not once did I receive any formal, explicit comments that my appraisal would be affected by how I was performing. I’m pretty upset about the lack of feedback, and not having the opportunity to put things right.

    I’ve listened to the feedback, and I’m willing to put in the effort to meet expectations. However I don’t want this blot on my HR record, so I have told them I want to appeal the decision with HR. Do you think this is the way to go, or should I just shut up and get on with it. I’m contemplating moving on but that would be a last resort.

    • Lee,

      Sorry to hear about this. Is there a middle road you can pursue rather than a “complete appeal”? It sounds like part of the challenge might be the transition into the new role and the need for a more structured training/communication plan. Acknowledging gaps in learning the role, getting a better sense of expectations, and working with your boss on a way to clear up the matter proactively — may ultimately play better than appealing the decision.

      Ultimately, you want to play proactive offense not defense…

      Good luck,

  36. Need HELP! I had my annual performance review and was given unsatisfactory review. The situation is like this. Two years ago the the org structure changed and my boss was let go. Later, last year one of my colleague was also let go. My hunch was I was going to be next. Apparently, my boss is in Europe and we connect when it’s needed. But whenever, he’s in US, he makes a point to address only negative aspects. He played me to get rid of my previous boss. Later I could see an attitude change in my new boss and we weren’t given much importance in terms of visibility to senior management, etc. Besides, working here lonely wasn’t helping much either. last year, my colleagues was let go under the pretext that she’s not performing at the level she’s expected to. This was a warning sign for me as well. I approached the HR and explained the situation. HR advised not be concerned and they’ll address it. Apparently, my boss’s direct report didn’t like our group and her intentions were to get rid of this team. My boss initiated a 360, to create a paper trail in case if I create a legal issues. As usual, he kept saying it’s not my opinion but others. I kind of felt marked and it was not helping me. I pushed myself second half of the year and worked hard to meet all my objectives. At our annual review, my boss said that he didn’t receive feedback from one the raters and it’s not good sign. Apparently, I’ve no insight into who gave the feedback and who didn’t. He kept insisting this fact and mentioned he called him and came to know that the rater is not happy with me. This came a shock and I thought I had good relationship with the rater and never got any negative feedback. So couple of facts:

    1) There was no mention of the fact that I didn’t meet any deliverables. The discussion was how I could improve on certain things. If the performance review is measured against that objective, then I’ve fully met the expectations.

    2) Given the history with this team, there were good chances that I was already marked no matter who gives what reviews. Apparently, my boss didn’t share the multi-raters feedback but mentioned what they’ve written. hard to believe the truth

    3) My boss has tendency to reach out to senior people and solicit opinions from someone whom you’ve not had much interactions. It’s sometimes goes against you

    4) I see element of racism as people who were previously let go were blacks and I am Asian.

    5) I’ll be put on a 90 days program to see if I make any progress. If I don’t then chances are that I’ll lose my job. Given the past history of this program, nobody has done it successfully unless you pull certain weight with people.

    This is my situation and my options are:

    1) Go through the 90 days program and wait for the obvious

    2) File an appeal to the review process done by independent HR

    3) File an racism harassment issue with internal investigation and see what happens

    Lot of my colleagues are shocked. My prev. colleague mentioned that I might be targeted next in her exit interview.

    I am not sure what path I should take. I feel helpless and need help! Please advice

    • Hi Krish,

      This doesn’t sound like a good situation. I would definitely NOT wait for the obvious to happen. I am unfamiliar with how the independent HR review process would work with your employer.

      If I were in your shoes, I would start looking for another job NOW:
      * Are there any other opportunities in this organization, not working for this boss, that might work out for you?
      * Prepare your resume and start putting out feelers to your network.

      Get copies of your previous performance reviews and any other documentation of how well you have performed in your job.

      Reconnect with the former boss and former colleague who, hopefully, have new jobs to see if they have any suggestions or connections for you. If you have a LinkedIn Profile, carefully (and gradually!) become more active on LinkedIn.

      It is MUCH easier to find a new job when you are employed than when you are unemployed. So, don’t wait until the proverbial “ax falls” before you start your job search.

      Stay in touch, and let us know how this works out for you.

      Good luck!

      • Thanks Susan. Is there an harm in filing a work place harassment case? It definitely looks like there’s a pattern here. My company has an internal investigation team. I want to explore and bring this issue out even if there are repercussions. They are making me go thru a hell. When I exit, want to make sure I give them a good fight. Not sure about impact on my exit package. I am not willing to go down without a flight .

      • Hi Krish,

        I can understand the feeling of not going “down without a fight.” Discrimination certainly exists – all the isms are alive and well – racism, ageism, sexism. It is illegal and stupid, harming organizations and people greatly.

        I don’t think this fight is a good idea for you. Since I really don’t know you or the organization or the manager involved, I could certainly be wrong in this instance, but that’s how this situation feels to me.

        Whether or not you stay in this organization, think about that next job search. You will need references for that next opportunity. Will you get good references or will you be “a good worker who sometimes has an attitude problem and is hard to manage.”

        I know several people who have launched similar law suits or internal complaints, and I don’t know a single one who has benefitted from it. The suits are not won, the organizations do not change, the bad managers continue being bad managers, and the person who launched the effort/law suit has “TROUBLE-MAKER” permanently stamped on their forehead.

        Think about what you expect your fight to accomplish for you:

        * Hurting this manager’s reputation and impacting his future –
        Maybe or maybe NOT, but I’m betting it won’t have much impact, if this organization is like most organizations (and it may be different).

        * Correcting a flaw in this organization –
        This may correct a flaw, but, if I were betting (again), I would bet that it would have little impact, if any, on this organization.

        * Personal satisfaction from making this manager uncomfortable.
        Perhaps, but will that satisfaction be worth the price you might pay in terms of your reputation and your next job(s).

        I encourage you to look at the bigger picture here:
        * Your exit package (if any)
        * Your reputation
        * Your career

        You must do what you feel is right and appropriate, and I am not a lawyer giving legal advice.

        Good luck with whatever you decide!

  37. I got a bad review which was a surprise.
    My bosses say there are areas I need to improve on
    Even though I went above and beyond my role
    Alot during the year.
    The only thing I can think of is that my experience
    In particular areas is less than other workers…
    I am usually the one who is learning the new skill
    System whilst the others are key experts.
    This doesn’t mean I have done a lesser job.
    I felt like it was really undeserved.
    I didn’t say anything in the meeting though because
    The way they had structured it to be all constructive
    I am just feeling a bit useless and lost as this was
    Completely unexpected.

  38. cathy williams says:

    hello everyone,
    my granddaughter has been working for a company for a few months and she got her first evaluation the other day and it was not good at all. now, she is a very hard worker and does whatever she is supposed to do. her problem is she doesnt like to associate with people. she does her work and thats it. she is not the kind of person to socialize and her coworkers have told the boss a lot of things about her and she got a really bad eval she said. she is so upset. she thought she was doing a great job. could you give me some advice so i can tell her what she should do? she would be upset with me if she knew i was writing to you.

  39. Hello work coach,

    I just erased my long post that praised you for helping me understand my last review and how I may try to grow from here. Instead I will give you a review of your article from my bosses perspective.

    You said a lot but you have got to work on your spelling and grammar. It is terrible. For example “the words get colored in away that reflects” “away” should be “a way”.

    See my point. This is what I deal with. I work very, very hard trying to keep the company doors from closing and I get trivial errors tossed at me. Your article was fantastic, small errors can be ignawed. Oops spelling error.

    • Hi Joe,

      Thank you for catching that typo! It has been fixed, you might notice.

      Yes, often it seems like the goal is to eliminate as many people as possible rather than hiring the right one, but it’s not that much fun on the other side of this process either, although they are the people collecting paychecks for what they are doing.

      This is where networking can be a big help – not that the standards are lower, but when someone knows you and can vouch for your quality, “little mistakes” can be more easily over-looked since (truly!) no one is perfect. But, when no one can vouch for you, they don’t know if that is simply a little mistake or the sign of a bigger problem, so they don’t take a chance.

      Don’t give up!

      Good luck with your job search!

  40. Need Help.
    I have been working for the same company for close to 15 years. I have had 5 promotions over past 15 years. My performance have always been rated as exceeds expectation except this year. Two years ago, my workload doubled due to restructure. During past two years we have had many challenges, specially during past 12 months. I have worked hard and really long hours to overcome all these challenges. I have been receiving verbal comments throught year that, I am doing excellent work and my boss has no concern about my work or my ability to execute expectations of my position. On the contrary when ever I took responsibility failure, I was told it is not your efforts that causes the issue, it is the team I manage. I have worked hard to keep my boss and management team informed regarding issues and my efforts to resolve them. During past few years I have made significant improvements to in effective processes or systems that were in place before it became my responsibility.

    During review, I heared comment from my boss that he does not know everything I do or everything that is on my “plate” and have only general idea of my challenges I face.” I have noted that most of my meetings with my boss gets cancled due to several reasons and when I ask for a time to meet, I have been given few minutes to talk while my boss is doing other stuff. Most of the time during meetings I feel that my bass is not interested in listening to my concerns. `My collegues who report to same boss never had their meetings cancelled. They can go in to my bosses anytime and talk for long time and several time that was the reason my meeting got cancelled becasue my boss was in this “Unscheduled Meeting”.

    I feel that I am bing targeted and first low performance rating this year is to lay groundwork for finding a reason to make change.

    I am really concerned and I feel like taking this to next level, but I am afraid, that once I take it to next level, there will be some sort of retaliation.

    Please advise.

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Hi SP,

      If I understand the situation correctly, you are not getting sufficient attention from your boss and are anticipating a negative performance review?

      Since you have not received the bad review yet, perhaps you can head it off – if it is indeed coming – by putting together a rather detailed list of your accomplishments. Tell your boss that it is the first of a series of monthly reports (or weekly if you prefer) you will be submitting to him so he knows what is going on in your department. Then, ask if you can have some of his time every month (or every week) to go over the report.

      When you have presented things to him in writing, he will have visible reminders of your accomplishments, and, with the meetings, you will hopefully get him to focus on what you and your team are doing on a regular basis. With the reports and the meetings, you may be able to retain your top performance rating, or, at least, have documentation to use to dispute a bad rating.

      Good luck with this!

  41. Hi,

    I recently had my 6 month review and I was torn apart. I was never given such feedback before the review and so I thought I was doing just fine. A particular aspect of my job has not been performed as per expectations. Since then, I’ve been having monthly reviews, but I have not been given any projects that will help demonstrate that I can do that aspect of the job. Will they just be letting me go?

  42. Thank you so much for this article Ronnie Ann. It’s exactly what is needed to handle this sort of situation in the best way possible and incredibly useful!

  43. Hello I have been with this company for five years and never was given a bad review until now. I always do my job and th job of 3 others. I stay late when needed and work to cover other shifts when people are away on vacation. I just wonder if maybe they looked for excuses to refrain from giving me a raise for budget reasons. Should I take this issue to my HR manager?

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      It’s hard to tell whether or not HR will help you. Do you know any other employee who has successfully resolved a similar issue working with HR? That would be the key for me.

      If you go to HR, don’t try to read any motivation into what has happened because you’ll only be guessing and you could very easily be guessing wrong. By sharing your suspicions with HR, you’ll sound like someone trying to avoid taking responsibility for your performance.

      So, if you go to HR, go with the idea of identifying the problem and fixing it because you enjoy the job and you want to continue to work there.

      If possible, see if you can transfer to a different department or manager inside this employer, or begin to look for a job outside of this organization.

      Good luck with your job search!

  44. Hi, I’ve just been told that my stress reaction is out of proportion to incidents and that it was inappropriate for me to cry when I got told by a colleague that I had mislead a partner agency’s Chief Executive on something (which the manager of that project told me later was wrong as I had followed his instructions precisely so all was good). I cried because I was shocked and thought I was going to be fired.

    Anyway, this is the example my manager has given me as a rationale for me getting a bad performance review. I think there must be something more in it but I don’t know what to do. Help!!

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Hi Kate,

      This should be recoverable for you. You need to be open to learning how to improve your performance, without being defensive. You must also do your best to refrain from crying in the office again.

      Ask to speak with your manager. Tell him that you take the job very seriously, want ALWAYS to do your best, and, in this past situation, you were upset that you had not performed as well as you want to perform. Apologize for crying, say that NOW you understand it isn’t considered appropriate in the office, you have learned from the experience, and it won’t happen again.

      Then, ask if there is anything else that needs improvement because you want to learn how to do the job exactly the way that the company wants the job done.

      If crying is the only complaint your manager has, then this should take care of the situation. If your manager has other areas where he thinks you need to improve your performance, listen to what he has to say, and do your best to meet his requests.

      Chalk it up to a learning experience, and do your best to live up to what you have just told your manager.

      Good luck!

  45. I am trying to seek re-employment with a prior employer. After applying several times and getting emails indicating they are interviewing other applicants I finally talked to a recruiter. The recruiter indicated I am not eligible for rehire due to me leaving the company due to poor performance. First of all I did not leave due to poor performance issues, but due to the requirements of my job changing and no longer having the “newly added” qualifications. I did not leave due to poor performance. How do I clear this up with my prior employer so they will consider me for re-employment?

  46. i think it is managers who are really kidingers and are threatened. I had mine throw out the million things I did right and focused on one minor mistake and ripped me off my whole bonus. Needless to say, I like myself too much to stay in this rathole and will find people that appreciate my hard work.

  47. I worked for a company for 8 years and always received outstanding reviews but when I left to relocate to my parents she was so angry she tried to sue me. She gave me a horrible review and when I tried to go back to work there after two months they said something about my background check which is that manager. I now find myself without a job because of something that happened 10 years ago. I need a recourse to get my job back

  48. Julia R says:

    Your suggestions are great–they just didn’t work for me. In my case, I was transferred to another office in which I was supposed to be the savior (or something) due to the fact that the other office was TOXIC. So, after my first review, things were fine…and then, I switched heart medications. My previous supervisor told the new supervisor about what I was taking, how sometimes I may be a wee bit slow, but otherwise fine. The new supervisor was on his way out, and there was yet ANOTHER supervisor coming in, and I don’t know if she was ever told anything, because I didn’t say anything. I know that it’s one of the stupidest things to do, but instead of getting things in writing, I did what I usually do, and let things go. And they went. After noticing that my review said things like “confusion about what time to come in,” “forgetting names of professors, students, etc.” and other memory problems, I STILL didn’t mention the medicine problems, so no surprise when I got the beige slip on May 31, 2013. The HR guy looked confused as he asked did I have anything to add, and I said, “I guess I don’t–it won’t matter anyway.” took my milk crate o’ stuff and left.

    What have I learned in the year since? Document, document, document. Even though the previous worker was the devil incarnate, spread rumors, lied constantly, yelled at her superior, and tried to get her fired, she still has a job, whilst I wait for an assignment from a temp agency (fingers crossed!)
    Whoever said life was fair was a liar, and whatever I was thinking when I didn’t get any documentation was probably due to the fact that the side effects of the medicine were clouding my mind. So, live and learn!


  50. That’s what this article is all about, Mara. I give point-by-point tips. Do you have a specific question?

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