How To Respond to a Bad Performance Review

What To Do If You Feel an Evaluation is Unfair or Inaccurate

Businessman sitting in front of a laptop in an office, frowning
Photo: George Doyle / Stockbyte / Getty Images

Getting a bad performance review from your employer is disappointing. No one wants to learn that their boss isn't pleased with their performance, but that feedback can be vitally important to making some changes and moving full speed ahead. Make an honest assessment of the review first so you can be sure that the feedback is accurate, even if that self-assessment is a bit painful. Then take steps to respectfully disagree.

Key Takeaways

  • Give yourself some time to cool off after a bad review so you don't respond emotionally or angrily.
  • Meet with your boss even if it's not required if you think a conversation will be productive and won't escalate into an argument.
  • Follow up on your meeting with an email or other written confirmation of what was discussed.

Wait Before Responding

The first thing you should do is...nothing. Give yourself some time to calm down before you make a move. You may feel sad or angry in the immediate aftermath of the review, and it can be dangerous to respond to your boss while you're in this state of mind. You may say something you'll regret later on.

Read and Analyze the Review

Taking at least 24 hours to go over your boss's evaluation will give you time to carefully and honestly consider everything in it. Try to understand the feedback and come up with a list of questions about things that you find to be confusing. Ask yourself if the criticism is truly unjustified or if it just offends you. Don't let your feelings get in the way of objectivity.

Decide Whether To Meet With Your Boss

Meeting with your boss may not be mandatory in your organization, but it's usually a smart move. A face-to-face talk should provide a chance to share your point of view. But you might want to forgo a meeting if there's no chance your boss will listen to anything you say or if you think the discussion might escalate into an argument.

Keep in mind that not all bosses prefer the same types of communication. The better you know your boss, the more effective you'll be able to communicate. For example, some bosses prefer verbal communication, so a face-to-face meeting makes sense. In other situations, a boss may be busy or work odd hours, and they'd prefer an email that they can read in their spare time.

Use the opportunity to create a plan, along with your boss, if the criticism is fair.


Your goal is to improve your performance. Demonstrate that you're proactive by coming up with ideas to share during the meeting.

Disagreeing With Your Evaluation

Don't just walk into your boss's office and demand to meet on the spot. Disrupting their workflow will set a negative tone for the meeting. Follow your workplace protocol to schedule an appointment.

Present a Plan To Improve Your Performance

The purpose of your meeting is to either refute your boss's negative feedback or present a plan to improve your performance. Prepare for this step before you schedule the appointment so you're ready if your boss wants to sit down with you sooner than expected.

Acknowledge any valid criticism and talk about your plan to improve, then bring up any issues that you feel are inaccurate. Use clear examples to back up your position. Provide proof that you have, indeed, met all your deadlines if your boss says you have poor time management skills.


Be willing to change your mind. Your boss may bring up valid points during the meeting. Ask them to suggest ways to improve or present a plan for improving your performance and ask for suggestions for ways to do that.

What Not To Do During Your Meeting

Take care not to lose your temper, no matter how angry you feel, and do not cry under any excuses. Don't make excuses or blame your coworkers.

Follow Up After Your Meeting

Send your boss an email reiterating everything discussed during the meeting. Put it in writing if you've come up with a plan for improvement. Print the email out and keep it in a safe place. You'll have it if you later need evidence to back up any claims that you aren't taking steps to improve your performance.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you politely disagree with an evaluation?

Waiting a short period of time before responding should allow your temper to cool off. Adding the stress of emotion to the situation won't improve it. Allow yourself time to take a quick breath before each response so you can frame it in a way that it's not confrontational.

How do you handle a disappointing performance review?

Make sure you understand the details behind the allegations made against you. How and why did your boss reach these conclusions? Consider making changes to alter the events or types of behavior that led to criticism. Consider teaming up with a mentor for encouragement and guidance.

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