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Coping with a Negative Appraisal

Coping with a Negative Appraisal

"I wasn't happy with my last performance review. What must I do now? How can I improve? What is the best way to take my stand? Should I dispute the review? Consult my superior?"

The ritual of the employee performance appraisal brings with it anxiety and surprise. Almost everyone receives a review that is disappointing and confusing.
More often than not, the advice being handed to you is for the greater good of the organization and your long-term career, but that does not make it any easier to deal with. However, what most employees fail to realize is that a negative appraisal is not the end of the road. It is but a reality check, and something that is best dealt with by offering some kind of response - to yourself, and to your organization.

Whether to respond and the way to respond depends on how you react to this criticism. Here are some pointers you can follow:
1) Immediate actions - Listen, Analyze and Stay Focused.
It is not pleasant to hear that your performance and contributions have been below average. However, your immediate reactions are crucial to both understanding and later resolving the performance issues.
First, listen to what your appraisal says about your work. You must recognize that these decisions have been made and reviewed by more than one person, with a better view of the ‘big picture'. The decisions will not be reversed, particularly at a review meeting. It is a losing strategy to try to argue your case at this point. One must be ‘Fertile' while in the hot seat.
Similarly, expressions of hostility and anger are also inappropriate. These emotions tend to make the supervisor defensive, harden negative positions, and "confirm" that the low rating was deserved. Instead, a calm and collective attitude might leave a positive impression, sending the supervisor the right kind of signal.

Two important responses:
Carefully analyze the comments of the supervisor. Make notes. This information is vital in helping you improve.
Stay focused on improvement and not making your case. Most of us tend to get defensive in situations like these. A professional must take it in stride, focus on improvement, and treat the appraisal as a stepping stone.

2) Response parameters - Knowledge, Skill & Attitude.
Having analyzed your performance, make a firm decision to improve. Classify your shortcomings under the below parameters.
Knowledge - Are you lacking the technical competencies your job requires? Do you fail to keep abreast of the latest innovations and advancements? Make it a habit to increase your awareness and technical competency. In this ever-changing day and age, it is crucial that we are up to date with the happenings of the company and our job requirements.
Skill - Does your appraisal find you falling short of certain skills? Identify them and seek counsel of your superiors on how to develop them. Most organizations are glad to send their employees on special courses to improve their skills. The fact that you are enthusiastic about improving and taking the initiative will bode well for you.

Attitude - Has your appraisal made you feel insecure? Are you questioning your capabilities? Has your morale suffered? These are indications of a negative attitude and will most definitely lead to another negative appraisal. A change in attitude can do wonders. Instead of letting the appraisals play on your mind and inhibit your performance, try to think of it as constructive criticism. Use it as guidance to make the necessary changes and rise back to the top. Do not dwell on your mistakes or weaknesses but look to overcome obstacles to build your skills.

3) Negative Appraisal - A Blessing in disguise.

Above all, remember your strengths. View the feedback as an opportunity to improve your image and develop yourself professionally. Believe in yourself. Believe in your superiors. Take confidence in the fact that you are an asset to your organization. Trust that your appraisal is not the end of the road. Know that it is only a chance for you to improve. Most organizations believe in the individual growth of their employees, and appraisals are their way of identifying areas of growth. A positive attitude will lead to not only personal growth, but will find you excelling at the workplace, attracting the right kind of attention, increasing productivity and most importantly - assuring you a positive impact before your next appraisal.

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