The correct way to respond to your appraisal
With results and findings of the appraisal exercise beginning to find their way in employee emails and on their desks, it is safe to assume that not everyone will hear the news that they have been expecting. According to one estimate, nearly one in five employees feel that their evaluation has been unfair and only 8% of organizations believe that their performance management system delivers value. However, there is no universal handbook that tells employees how to respond to their performance appraisal reports and reviews. To help employees navigate their responses respectfully and prevent misdirection of emotions, we’ve drafted a few ways to respond to appraisal reports. We’ve taken a look at the different scenarios that employees might find themselves in the coming few days and have dedicated a larger portion to receiving negative feedback because it’s usually harder to respond appropriately to criticism than to acclaim. Let’s dive right in:
Let’s start with the good and easy part first. This section is for employees who have received a glowing report and been appreciated for their performance and are set to receive a better-than-average hike in their salary. Congrats! Clearly, you’ve done well in the last year and your hard work has been duly noted and appreciated. You may go through a variety of emotions, including, relief, pride, and excitement. But what should you do?
Begin by thanking your manager, first immediately when you receive the information, and then later, in a short and well-drafted email. Be honest about how you feel, and acknowledge the fact it feels good to be appreciated; particularly, if there’s a substantial raise or promotion in the cards as well. If you’ve been asked to improve in some aspects, reaffirm your commitment and dedication to the same. Secondly, no matter how much you feel you deserve it, refrain from bragging about the results of your appraisal to your colleagues. Your colleagues might not have been received a similar review and might not agree with you and your manager’s view of how hard you’ve been working. Lastly, do not go overboard and call for a celebration within the office or buy a gift to thank your boss.
Learning: Hard work pays off and your manager is paying closer attention to your achievements than you think. Express gratitude to your seniors and use this as an indicator that you’re on the right track.
In many cases, the results of the appraisal aren’t exactly ‘bad’, but they don’t spell ‘good’ either. Even if you’ve been keeping your head down and have been expecting an average result, these kinds of performance reviews can be a tad underwhelming to digest.
For starters, seek clarifications. Due to the extremely formal nature of the process, oftentimes, the language used can be overly simplistic and borderline misleading. What you may consider a cold and uninspired appraisal of your work, might actually mean that you’re doing okay and should keep doing what you are doing. It might help to know in detail the nuances of your organization’s appraisal system and if your colleagues have also received similar feedback (more on that later).
Nonetheless, make sure you have an open and honest discussion with your manager on the issue. If you are able to set up a follow-up meeting, ask specific questions as to where you can improve and where the company thinks you’ve been doing well. Similarly, if your bonus or hike has been below expectations, you may lodge a formal or an informal appeal with your manager, expressing your dissatisfaction with the same and asking for ways to improve and prevent a similar situation in the future.
Learning: Use this as a learning opportunity to assess your strengths and weaknesses. Discuss the feedback in detail with your seniors and work towards improving your performance in the future.
Negative (and Expected)
If you’ve been dreading the findings of your appraisal because you are anticipating a less-than-kind review, you must know that your response to it can make all the difference. Clearly, something went wrong last year and you realize that your performance has been below par. But what should you do once you’ve been officially communicated the same?
If you’re being given the feedback in-person, do not get your emotions get the better of you. Getting through a meeting wherein someone is categorically listing down your shortcomings isn’t going to be easy, and you might be tempted to defend yourself, but it is important to listen to everything carefully and without interruption. Make notes of everything that has been told to you, and suggest a follow-up meeting. If your results have been delivered over an email or through a letter, analyze what they say and fix a meeting to discuss the same.
Begin by acknowledging that you were expecting what happened. If there’s a particular incident or project that needs to be addressed – do it, and explain what you learned from it. Discuss your vision of how you plan to make a comeback, what support you need for the same, or that how you are planning to ensure that your performance doesn’t dip again. Surely, there must be some positive comments in there as well– make sure you acknowledge them. On the other hand, if you believe that the appraisal results have been overtly and unfairly critical of your work, make sure you state the same by providing concrete examples of your work. The bottom-line is that the appraisal process is a two-way discussion, and once you’ve been told that you aren’t measuring up, you need to discuss how you intend to change that.
Learning: Keep your chin up and carry on. You made a mistake and have acknowledged it, but now it’s time to start afresh. If you’ve been given a chance, clearly, your seniors see potential in you – make sure you prove them right.
Negative (and Unexpected)
While this is one of the trickiest situations to navigate, it also provides the biggest opportunity for improvement. While it is natural for you to feel angry or humiliated (or both), you might also start questioning your future in the organization.
First of all, no matter how distressed you are feeling, don’t respond aggressively and keep your cool. Talk to your colleagues and get a sense of whether this is a trend for everyone in the company or specific to your case. Sometimes, external factors like harsh industry environments, bad publicity, or altered evaluation methodologies result in a negligible bonus or salary hikes, especially if there is a set formula of calculation or teams are evaluated as a whole.
Carefully note everything that you have been told, mark the feedback that you need clarification on, and immediately set up a follow-up meeting for a few days later. It is important for you to be in control of your emotions and get some perspective before going for this meeting. While preparing for the meeting, try to honestly assess the merits and demerits of your review to identify where you could have done better. Identify specific instances where you can prove that your performance and contribution has been better than stated in the report. If your entire team has received negative feedback, avoid pinning the blame on an individual or a set of individuals. Very importantly, no matter how friendly you are with your boss, refrain from appealing to them personally at this point or taking their help in preparing for the meeting.
During the meeting, maintain your calm and present your case without getting emotional. Be honest about why you think the appraisal report is not reflective of your achievements and listen to what your managers and senior leaders have to say about it. Here’s a list of things you should definitely not do in this meeting: get aggressive, defensive, or raise your voice; threaten to resign unless your review is upgraded or hike is increased; compare your review with that of your colleagues. Several companies allow employees to appeal and discuss their appraisal reports, and are even willing to revise it, if need be.
Once the meeting is done with, you should have a better understanding of why there is a disconnect between what you think you and your manager think you have achieved. Take this as a learning experience to identify the source of the challenge and find ways to work on it. Chart a plan to renew your focus and get your boss apprised on the same. However, if you have established and verified that you are not the one at fault and it’s not just a matter of difference in perception, maybe reassess the decision if you want to stay with an employer that sees no value in your work.
Learning: Take a hard look at what went wrong and find common ground with your manager on how to proceed ahead. Recalibrate your existing work approach to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Analyze your performance, get different perspectives, and take back control of your career – one way or another.
The biggest take away from the above discussion is that you need to honestly process and express your reaction. As mentioned earlier, your response to the appraisal report is as critical as the report itself and you need to draft it as carefully as possible. How have you reacted when you’ve been in these situations? Do you have anything to add or suggest? Let us know in a comment below.