Job evaluations are stressful enough. You feel like you’re behind the defendant’s table and the judge is about to pronounce sentence. If you know you’re going to get a good evaluation, there is still a lot of stress, but you know it won’t last long and will be over soon. However, if you know you’re going to get a bad evaluation, the whole event can feel like an overwhelming weight on your shoulders which can make you physically ill.
It’s important to remember that one bad evaluation doesn’t have to define you or your career. In fact, you can use a negative evaluation as a learning tool to help you become a stronger employee. But it’s important to handle the evaluation correctly, whether you know ahead of time that you’re getting a bad evaluation or whether it’s a surprise.
If you know you’re getting a bad evaluation and you know why you’re getting a bad evaluation, here are some helpful hints:
- Don’t bring excuses. Supervisors don’t want to hear you pointing the finger or trying to blame someone else. If you missed the mark, acknowledge that you missed the mark.
- Bring explanations. In a calm and rational way, discuss what went wrong. Perhaps there was a personal issue that caused you to miss work more than what is acceptable. Perhaps you thought you understood what you were supposed to do, but it turns out the boss had a different understanding of what he thought you were supposed to do. Whatever the reason, recognize what went wrong and take ownership of your part.
- Bring suggestions. Let your boss know what you would have done differently, if given another chance. Discuss alternatives that you should have considered and how to identify those critical moments in the future.
- Ask for suggestions. Even though you may have a great understanding of what you should have done differently, your boss probably has some great insights as well. This may be an issue he’s dealt with before and he can provide great ideas that you can use to your benefit.
- Thank your boss. Thank your boss for honest feedback and his time working with you. It may be hard to listen to, but show yourself as a professional.
Above all, in a negative evaluation, when you agree you messed up, the best thing to do is to look to the future. Ask your boss if you can work together to build a roadmap for the next year. Make sure to clarify what you’re expected to do as you’re doing it and work hard to keep the lines of communication open.
On the other hand, if you are getting a bad evaluation and you don’t think the evaluation is fair or makes sense; here are some additional helpful hints for you:
- Stay calm. You will gain nothing by becoming emotional or overwrought. First and foremost, keep yourself composed and remain business-like. Watch your posture and your body language. Remember that an evaluation is not a personal attack and make that effort to keep from becoming overly defensive.
- Clarify. Always ask for clarification and specific examples of exactly what caused you to get the low rating. Ask your boss what he would have preferred you do differently. Make sure to get specific examples, because otherwise it’s impossible to figure out what to correct.
- Actively listen. Your supervisor is probably uncomfortable as well, so allow him the time to compose and finish his thoughts. Rephrase what you hear being said and ask clarifying questions so that you are sure you understand the point your boss is trying to make. For example, you can say “I hear you saying that if I were to average another two calls per hour, my productivity would become acceptable?”
- Take your time. If you’ve received the clarifying information, but are still a little shocked at what you’re hearing, ask for a few days to evaluate what you’re being told before responding with your feedback. This allows you time to decompress, deal with your emotions first and figure out how to respond professionally. The last thing you want to do is to say or do anything that might continue to hurt you.
No matter whether you expected the bad evaluation or not, it’s always important to do a few additional things:
- Bring what you did right. Just like no one is perfect 100% of the time, no one messes up 100% of the time. Don’t argue or justify about the negative mark – simply point out that although there are things you should have done better, there are other things you’d like to make sure aren’t forgotten. You want your evaluation to be well-rounded, taking into account your entire work history and not just a piece of it.
- Be constructive. Bad evaluations are always difficult to hear, but your attitude and response will determine how well the next year will go. When bad things happen, we can let them continue to ruin our lives or we can use them as an opportunity for learning and growth. Resolve to make the changes and become a better employee.
- Follow-up. Follow-up in writing a few days after the evaluation. Let the boss know what you took away from the evaluation and document the plan for the future. Always end on a positive note showing that you do intend to work hard and meet expectations from now on.
Let’s say you’ve gone through the process and you still believe your evaluation is unfair. Most companies do have an appeal process and you could always avail yourself of that. Some tips to help you successfully appeal a low evaluation include:
- Boss first. Even though most companies will allow you to appeal through Human Resources, going straight to HR can backfire and actually cause you more issues in the long run. After all, you still have to work with your boss in the next year and if he feels you’ve gone over his head unfairly, it could cause bias against you. The best thing to do is to simply meet with your boss and ask him to re-evaluate the rating. Bring with you clear examples of low marks and any factual evidence that counteracts the grade. Perhaps he really didn’t have all the information and he just needed you to state your case.
- Prove it! If you go to HR, bring as much proof as possible. Don’t start pointing fingers at co-workers or comparing yourself to someone else unless you can show a specific underlying unfairness. Just like you want your boss to be specific and provide examples when giving a low rating, HR will expect the same from you when complaining about an unfair rating. Bring all your facts and again – state your case as clearly and concisely as possible.
A negative job evaluation can absolutely affect your self-confidence. Above all, remember that you are more than just one evaluation and you are more than one job. However, if you are receiving negative evaluations constantly, it’s may be time to step back and ask yourself if you’re really in the right job. Not everyone will fit into every job and most people do have to find their niche. A negative job evaluation may be just the right thing to encourage you to find an exciting new career!