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Coach's Corner--September 15, 2008

After a lousy performance review, what's a worker to do?

The Client
Name: Sarah 
Age: 28
Title: Service representative
Years in organization: One
Industry: Public sector
Issue: Recovering from a bad review
Q.  I recently changed positions in an organization at which I’ve worked for more than a year. After one month, I was e-mailed a very negative review. I was devastated that my supervisor didn’t give me the feedback in a verbal review and responded as such. What, short of looking for a new job, can I do to become motivated again after such an experience?

A. To get back on your feet, address your concerns about the feedback process; also, look for ways that you can learn from the feedback to succeed in your position.

The inner game
Understandably, you sound very hurt by this experience. Acknowledge how you’re feeling, and then take steps to let go of it. Try writing down your thoughts or finding someone you trust to talk to. Consider reasons that your manager may have handled it this way. She may not have enough management experience or training to know better. Or, she may have thought she was documenting feedback you’d received verbally, perhaps through others. Whatever the reason, allow yourself to move on.

Next, clarify your expectations for treatment from your manager. For example, it’s reasonable to expect timely feedback about performance shortfalls, especially when you’re in a new position. Identify other areas where your working relationship could be improved, prioritizing them so that you can start addressing the area that affects you the most.

Then it’s time to look at the content of the feedback. Regardless of the process, there likely are legitimate areas for you to address. Use them as a source of inspiration for rebuilding your motivation. Your desire to succeed is your best asset for getting re-energized, and your willingness to accept the feedback sends a positive message about you.

The outer game
Once your emotions about the situation are under control, request a meeting with your manager. Outline the points you’d like to make, and emphasize that you want to be successful in your new position. Ask her to give you timely, in-person feedback if your performance is falling short.

In this meeting, also seek her help in improving your work output. Work together to create a training and monitoring plan that will help you learn your job responsibilities, while giving her the assurance that you’re committed to improving. 

Check in with your manager regularly. If you can, set up a schedule of brief check-in meetings so that you can stay on top of her concerns. It'll also help you both rebuild trust so that you can get the working relationship on track.

Seek out a mentor at work — someone who has more experience in the agency, will help you master your position, and who is well-regarded and highly skilled in the organization. This’ll help you build your skills and give you another resource for problem solving.

The last word
It can be hard to recover from a rough start in a job. Open communication and commitment to being successful in your role will help bring the situation around.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted September 14, 2008
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