Bad Review Out of the Blue

You think things are going along well at work, or at least adequately enough, until your boss summons you to his or her office and delivers a shock: a bad review.

By Holly Zenith

Sometimes it happens. You think things are going along well at work, or at least adequately enough, until your boss summons you to his or her office and delivers a shock: unless your performance improves, you will soon be out of a job.

In an ideal world, news like this wouldn't come out of the blue. You would have had indications, such as frequent and constructive feedback from your boss, repeated attempts to work with you and show you where you're off track, and attempts to let you rectify things.

Unfortunately, not all bosses communicate effectively with their employees. Some don't bother to deliver this kind of feedback until they've already determined to get rid of an employee - and then they have conversations like this so that they can "document" that they tried to "work" with the employee on whatever the issue is. This way, they can get rid of an employee without getting into trouble with the human resources department. They're just covering their tracks.

If this has happened to you recently, here are some steps to consider taking:

  1. Decide if you even really like the job. If you don't like your job, this could be reflecting in your work, even if you didn't realise it. If you don't like your job, consider this a sign from the universe that it's time to update your resume or consider a career change. Then do it.

  2. If you think the job is worth fighting for, make an appointment with your boss and ask for some specifics. Does your boss think you're not a fit for the position at all, or are there areas of your work that can be improved upon? Get a sense of what your boss is looking for in terms of outcomes. Is your boss willing to help you improve? If not, this is a sign that your boss is just laying the foundation for a future dismissal.

  3. Silently prepare for the worst. Take personal items home. Clear anything off your computer that isn't work-related. And if you're an Internet surfer, be sure to delete your cookies and Internet history. Sure, they can trace it if they want to, but why make it easy for them? And don't make any major purchases in the near future!

  4. After you've had some time to calm down, do some honest reflecting. If any part of your boss's review had merit, use it as a lesson. However, also remember that your boss's assessment is just one opinion. It's possible that your boss is wrong about you. Usually the truth is somewhere in the middle. The worst thing you can do is beat yourself up.

You are not alone. This has happened to countless individuals. Some of the very smartest, sharpest, most successful people in the world have had bad reviews at work.

There are a multitude of reasons for this:

  • Sometimes a good employee goes through a difficult phase in life. They might be depressed or unhealthy, which makes it difficult to perform their best.

  • Occasionally even the best and well-intentioned employee really isn't a good fit for the position.

  • Sometimes the boss has his or her own agenda. It's not unheard of for a boss to prefer supervising people he or she hired, rather than the people hired by the boss's predecessor. Sometimes, unconsciously or not, such a boss will work to wear employees down by constant criticism, until the employees give up and go someplace else.

There are a million other reasons why a good employee might get a bad review. The point is that it's not to be taken personally. Learn from it, decide your course of action, and then move forward.

Holly Zenith is a professional woman by day and an entrepreneur by night. Her mission is to help women move forward in their lives and make their dreams come true.

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