How to Disagree With Your Negative Performance Review

October 30th, 2022

At some point in our professional lives, we all have to deal with negative feedback at work. Often, this comes in the form of constructive criticism and offers us a chance to learn, grow, and improve the quality of our work. When conducted properly, performance review meetings can serve as a valuable tool for developing a healthy, transparent, and employee-centric company culture. But what if you believe the feedback you have received is unfair or unwarranted? Do you know how to disagree with performance review professionally?

Although it can be tempting to react angrily or defensively against a bad performance review, it is important to remain calm and handle negative performance reviews in a professional and respectful manner. However, you don't need to just accept performance evaluation you disagree with. Instead, try to have an honest conversation with your manager to share your side of the story. You might find that the opportunity to share both of your perspectives can foster respect and understanding between you and your manager and lead to a better working relationship and professional development opportunities in the future.

So what are the best practices for pushing back on a negative performance review? Keep reading to check out our advice on how to help you keep your cool and respond to critical feedback in a professional, balanced manner.

Wait before responding

Before responding to negative feedback, take a moment to process it. You might even need a day or two to go over the evaluation and come up with a respectful, effective, counterargument. In this situation, tell your boss that you are surprised by the feedback and ask for some time to process it. Schedule a follow-up one on one meeting, then use this time to carefully review the feedback and develop a plan for responding.

Ask questions and acknowledge your manager's point of view

If you are confused by your manager's feedback, don't be afraid to ask for additional explanation about your own performance. Maybe their criticism comes across as vague or too broad–in this case, ask your manager to provide specific examples that support their claims. In order to come up with a solid counterargument and respond effectively to criticism, you need to know exactly where your reviewer is coming from.

During this process, you might find that there is some truth to your manager's evaluation. If this occurs, be open to the idea that there are some aspects of your performance that you can improve.

Develop a well-supported response

Now that you fully understand your manager's feedback, it's time to develop your response. Keep in mind that it is probably best to avoid directly accusing your reviewer of being wrong. Instead, remind your manager of all the things you are doing right with kind words. Performance reviews are often influenced by one big or recent issue, so try to showcase all the other things you've worked on or accomplished recently. To fully support your case, be sure to use specific examples, data, and evidence that demonstrate your value to the organization and highlight the quality of your work. We know it's one of those difficult conversations, but this is the way most managers would prefer.

It is also possible that your negative performance review resulted from incorrect information or a misunderstanding. If applicable, you should list any errors or inconsistencies you noticed in your manager's feedback that could have influenced their assessment of you.

Finally, remember that professional feedback represents a chance for you to improve your work and grow as an employee. Acknowledge any aspects of the review that seem fair and express your commitment to improving in these areas. An accurate feedback, even though it's a negative one, is the key to a future positive feedback and a performance appraisal from your manager.

Be respectful and polite

When you reconnect with your manager to discuss your performance, your tone and demeanor are just as important as the contents of your rebuttal. Don't just assume that your boss has it out for you. Thank them for taking the time to meet with you and convey that you hope to have an honest, open discussion. You will want to appear polished and professional, even while disagreeing with your bad review.

Outline the steps you will take to receive a positive feedback in the future

Yes we know, it can be challenging to move forward after receiving a bad performance review. However, coming up with an effective action plan is the first step in the right direction. To speed ahead towards improvement, you must take some time to reflect on the feedback and identify areas for improvement. Remember to be specific and break down your plan into smaller, achievable goals. By doing so, you can track your progress and make adjustments as needed. Taking the time to come up with an effective action plan will not only be helpful for your success but will also show your commitment to the improvement process.

Again, we know that it will require hard work, dedication, and guidance, but it is possible. Your manager will likely appreciate the effort you put in to address the feedback, and you will demonstrate your willingness to learn and grow. All you need to do is to spare time to work on areas that need improvement. Remember that the process of improvement is not an overnight success, but with patience and perseverance, you will prove that you care about the feedback you received -even though you think it was an unfair one-. After that, you will have a strong hand in your next performance review and it's not that likely to have another bad performance review from your manager.

Set-up a timeline for the next review

Setting up a timeline for the next review is crucial for you after receiving a negative performance review. It gives you the opportunity to review your performance, work on your weaknesses -if there are any-, and set goals for the next appraisal. And basically, this is the key that allows you to receive positive feedback and recognition for your improvements. This timeline will give you the chance to take ownership of your performance and set realistic goals that align with the organization's objectives. Even for the managers, the next performance review meeting should be considered an opportunity for growth, rather than a critique of the employee's work.

By setting up a timeline for the next review, you can create a plan of action. It's important to judge your performance objectively. After that, you should use this opportunity to conduct a self-assessment of your work and identify any possible gaps in your skillset, as well as any kind of negativity that prevents you putting your 100% into your duties. Also keep in mind that this is a great opportunity to seek more responsibility. When this is done, you are already halfway through a positive performance review. With the right mindset and approach, you can turn a negative performance review into a positive one. With the effort you show, a negative review will end up with a performance appraisal from your manager.

Come to an agreement

Once you have been given a chance to explain your side of the story, you should obtain closure and work on next steps. This process could require compromise from both you and your manager. 

For example, you might realize that although your boss was largely unfair in their appraisal, there are some elements of your performance that you could improve. If this is the case, talk to your manager about coming up with some fair next steps that would help you get to a place where you are both happy with your work. This will help you receiving a positive performance review in the future.

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that you might not be able to change your manager's mind about this specific appraisal. However, you probably have a much better understanding of their expectations and a clear plan for improving your performance reviews and receiving a positive review in the future. 

Make performance conversations a regular part of your work environment

Performance conversations are most beneficial when they are held on a continuous basis. To prevent future misunderstandings and make sure you are on track, don't be afraid to follow up with your manager. Find out whether you are meeting expectations and seek clarification on tasks or projects that you don't fully understand. Establishing regular check-ins with your boss will also demonstrate that you are engaged and care about the quality of your work.

Teamble can help you make continuous feedback and regular check-ins a part of your work experience. We know that managers often have busy schedules, so we make it easy to have meaningful performance conversations using tools you are already familiar with: Slack and Microsoft Teams. Teamble allows you to have efficient, documented interactions in real-time–providing you with the environment you need to make your voice heard in any situation.

For additional information on how Teamble can help you build stronger working relationships with your manager or other members or your team, connect with us using our Help feature.