Here’s How to Advocate for Yourself When Your Performance Review Didn’t Go as Expected

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Ever been on the receiving end of a performance review that didn’t go as you expected? Your boss criticized several areas of your work … and you felt that some of the details weren’t accurate.

What should you do?

How can you set the record straight assertively without appearing argumentative? Or should you even attempt that? And how can you keep from being caught off guard in future reviews?

 

First, don’t overreact suggests career coach Hallie Crawford for monster.com. Although sometimes easier said than done, it’s important to stay calm and polite without getting defensive. Listen completely to the criticism. Ask questions to get clarification. But save any rebuttals for a follow-up meeting … or handle them with extreme care.

Carefully consider the feedback you get. Try to stay objective and not take the comments personally. Take notes so you can remember exactly what was said.

It’s also imperative to remember that a performance appraisal is your boss’s opinion of your work, suggests Dick Grote for hbr.org. “We all think we’re better than we really are … and research consistently demonstrates that individuals are notoriously inaccurate in assessing the quality of their own performance….” But regardless of whether you agree with your boss’s assessment or not, the responsibility for changing his or her opinion of your work … rests on you.

Next, if after careful consideration, you think some of the objective information (dates, dollars, responsibilities, etc.) is inaccurate and you’d like to address it during the review, try saying “I have a different perspective on a couple of those items; here’s what happened with the first project you mentioned.” As you give your perspective, don’t pass the buck or point fingers. Keep your comments fact based and “I” focused. Take responsibility if there was a misunderstanding of your responsibilities, target dates or goals.

Taking the time to prepare for a follow-up meeting might make more sense. If so, ask to schedule a follow-up meeting during the review, suggests Crawford. “Explain to your manager that you’d like to take a day or two to develop a plan of action to address these issues.” Or say, “I want to be sure I’m handling these situations the way you’d like, could I check back with you in a day or two on a couple scenarios and some ideas I’d like to put together?”

Always remember that being assertive does not mean being confrontational.

Related reading: 7 Ways to Become More Assertive so You’re Less Stressed

The bottom line: If there are factual inaccuracies in your review, you should respectfully set the record straight. But, if it’s your boss’s opinion you disagree with, there’s no point in arguing—only working on a go-forward basis can raise that opinion.

 

How to insure future reviews go better:

  • Many bosses are overloaded these days, making it hard for them to notice all your work, suggests fastcompany.com. Don’t assume your boss will know every aspect of your projects. Start tracking your good work … your successes … examples of your initiative. (If during your review, your boss pointed out specific things he or she would like to see improvement on, chart your effort and progress.) Consider your work from your boss’s perspective. Chances are he periodically meets with senior leadership and needs to know how things are progressing. Anything you can do to keep him in the loop will make him appreciate your work and good communication.
  • Make your accomplishments known. It’s not what you do in your career that matters, it’s what people know you do. Get right to the point of your accomplishments. Your boss doesn’t want to know that you typed 52 reports and talked to 47 customers. He wants to understand the results of your work …. “The new program rollout is underway and seems to be well-received. One problem I’ve run into is …. Here’s how I fixed that and it seems to be working.”
  • Encourage feedback on a more consistent basis. If your boss seems busy or isn’t initiating ongoing feedback. Take the initiative by saying as you see him or her in the hall, “I’d like to catch you up on the Jamison project, could we get together for a couple minutes at 3 today?” “I want to make sure this is going the way you’d like it to….” Make these conversations a regular part of your routine. Get comfortable discussing your work with your boss. Get comfortable taking his or her advice. Almost every boss wants to be kept in the loop. Be conscious of interrupting and keep your visits brief and organized.

Related reading: Not Getting Feedback at Work? How to Get It Started

Related reading: Women: Get Credit for Your Ideas, Opinions and Hard Work

Performance reviews are a reflection of how your boss perceives your work. If you feel some of the facts are inaccurate, tactfully address it in the review. If it’s the opinion you want to change, better communication can help. With assertive and respectful regular communication, you can help ensure your boss’s opinion (and your next review) greatly improve.

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