Are performance reviews as painful as seeing the dentist?
Author: Lori Sassoon
Lori Sassoon is the Deputy City Manager for Administrative Services, City of Rancho Cucamonga, California and also serves as Vice-Chair of Women leading Government.
Performance evaluations are an uncomfortable experience even in the best of circumstances, but an evaluation that brings “room for improvement” or the news that you are “not meeting expectations” can suck the oxygen out of the room, and leave you mentally reviewing your savings account balance (meager) and your options (Mom’s couch?).
Instead, take a deep breath and consider the following:
- I can guarantee that your supervisor isn’t relishing this moment, either. Hopefully, she’s been coaching you on these issues so this evaluation isn’t the first time you have heard about the problem. Still, having to put it in writing and then look you in the eye with the news isn’t any manager’s idea of a good time.
- Having these issues day-lighted in the evaluation is a little like going to therapy. Just identifying the issue clears the air and puts you on the path forward to change.
- The best response to this evaluation is to remain open-minded, and try to see you’re boss’ perspective. Ask clarifying questions and seek examples so that you make sure you understand where you have stepped off-course.
- Fight, fight, fight the urge to be defensive. Defensiveness is a huge red flag – it not only shows that you are not open to feedback, but it sends the message that you are ultimately not going to modify your behavior and address the problems at hand.
- It is honest and real to respond with a statement like, “It hurts to know I’m not measuring up, but I’m glad you’re telling me and let’s talk about what I can do differently.” It is not a great idea to say that you don’t agree, or that the boss misunderstood, or that it’s not your fault. Even if you feel that way, or even if it’s true, these types of defensive statements are not productive and are certainly not going to change your supervisor’s perspective.
- Try to leave the evaluation meeting with a specific game plan for how you can meet your manager’s expectations and address the performance issues proactively. This shows that you value the organization and your supervisor’s feedback, and sets the stage for success in the future. It is also a good idea to schedule a follow-up talk in 30 to 60 days to see how you are doing. Again, any steps you can take to show you are committed to learning from the past can only help earn the respect and trust of your manager.
This open-minded, not defensive response is the right one in most cases. Of course, there are a few dysfunctional supervisors in every organization, and if you’re unlucky enough to have one, your best course of action may be to look for other employment opportunities. Talk with a trusted mentor or colleague outside the organization to get an objective perspective before you jump to that conclusion.
The less-than-perfect evaluation is not the end of the world. It can be the start of a process to reinvent your image in the organization, and show you are a person that’s learning, growing, and improving over time. Who doesn’t want an employee like that?