While some employees allege that annual performance appraisals are an organization’s way to play politics with employees that they want to get rid of, others say that it’s a company’s way of passing down individual biases and cutting down perks and bonuses.
The HR team alternatively will always argue that performance appraisals are critical for their functioning. Interestingly, in India and internationally, HR teams are radically re-thinking the effectiveness of current appraisal models in place and how to make them more effective. But until the changes come through, here are 5 ways to deal with a bad performance review at work.
Put your best foot forward
It’s human tendency to remember the number of times bad things have happened rather than celebrate the good things. The same applies to performance appraisals and reviews. When you’re filling out forms for your annual review before the management gives out its final diktat or when you’re meeting senior management to discuss the negative feedback given to you, you need to be well armed with information (read factoids) about the positive impact that you have created in the company.
ET reports Kris Lakshmikanth, CEO & Managing Director of The Head Hunters India advising that you should record your success whether it is in the form of praise given by a customer over email, good feedback given by your one up manager in written or an internal podcast / video of you making valuable suggestions to a new project in a brainstorming session. These facts will be critical in arguing your way in reacting to a negative performance appraisal, if you do get one. Wall Street Journal India quotes Veena Padmanabhan, General Manager at Wipro Technologies saying "Highlight the achievements that have had the maximum impact on the company."
Network with your manager consistently
And you thought networking was only important outside your office for hunting better job prospects? If you can start communicating with your manager before your appraisal period starts, that would be ideal. ET offers a brilliant example given by Kris Lakshmikanth on how you can get the most out of the ‘time windows’ that managers keep for giving promotions. If you want a raise or a promotion, you must talk to your managers before this time window comes in. By doing this, you may be able to avert a bad review in the first place because companies usually decide the people they want to promote months before the actual review takes place.
If you get a negative performance review and if you think you need support from your manager, you need to spell that out very clearly to him/her. Production and sales teams are clearly appraised and reviewed though the number of targets they achieve but for other roles where goals are not easily measurable, you must take the initiative to talk about your targets with your boss.
Be receptive instead of defensive
Assuming you’ve got a bad or an unexpected performance review, you’re bound to be emotionally charged. There are a couple of things that HR executives in general recommend you must follow, even if you eventually decide to quit the job. Enter your in-person performance appraisal with a receptive mind, treating your appraisers as coaches and mentors rather than bosses, per say reports HT.
Take responsibility for the areas where you have goofed up, show potential and promise for your future targets and stand up for yourself and argue with facts if you think you have been wrongly criticized or alleged. WSJ reports Bhasker Bhandary, Director of HR at Acer India Pvt stating that you mustn’t show hostility or anger since that won’t go down too well with the management at any cost. Not only that, a bad taste in the mouth might cause you trouble in getting recommendations, references and future job prospects. Your reaction to a bad performance will test your ‘business maturity’.
"You need to carry on a dialogue, not hold a confession session. If you disagree with him on something, fortify your statements with solid facts." – E Balaji, MD & CEO, Ma Foi Randstad [Source]
Benchmark yourself against your peers
TOI reports LK Gupta, VP, Marketing at LG India saying "A good way to maintain objectivity is to quantify the work you do and benchmark it against that of your peers." In addition to putting your best foot forward, as discussed before, benchmarking yourself against the performance of your peers is also a constructive and structured way of reacting to a negative performance review or an appraisal that had some feedback for improvement.
By comparing the impact you brought about in the company or in a particular project with that of your colleagues will not only help your bosses see your review in a context but will also display your desire of staying in the company and proving your potential. Take this opportunity to subtly reveal a colleague’s slow pace that dropped the performance bar or a senior manager who may have not provided the required resources, without name-taking of course.
The way ahead
So, you’ve put your best foot forward, networked with your manager, have been receptive of feedback and have benchmarked yourself, but your negative performance review still doesn’t change. Then what should your next steps be? Experts advise that the best way forward is to let yourself cool off for a week and see how you feel. Introspect and answer questions like- Do you need to upgrade your skills? Will this job never recognize your talents? Are you being embroiled in a political muck with your appraisal? Would you want to stay the year to prove yourself with a great performance appraisal next year?