Performance Reviews and Accepting Negative Feedback

Q. It’s review time and I hate the self review part. Isn’t the only part that really matters what my boss says? Why do human resources people torture us with wanting everything to be “participatory.” If I disagree with what my boss says about my performance it only causes issues. Isn’t it better to just say nothing and do my job?

A. Performance reviews typically cause stress for both the employee and the manager who needs to write the review. Both parties are stressed because of the fear of negative feedback – sometimes coached as opportunities for development. A significant employee complaint is that reviews are full of surprises; they wonder why they have never heard any negative feedback before. Managers often complain that they have shared that information prior to the review, and worry about keeping employees motivated, while sometimes delivering difficult comments. No one has issues with positive comments; those are universally accepted as accurate.

The opportunity for self assessment on a review gives you a chance to think about and comment on your performance from all year. Share information on what you saw as your successes, great team contributions and things you would like to learn more about. You don’t need to try to outguess what your boss will say.


Being specific with data may make conversations easier; you are just as capable as your manager in presenting this information in the meeting. Try and use your assessment as the opportunity to start a conversation with your manager about what you want your work life to involve. What works in your role? What might be done differently? With the right attitude, you can have a real discussion about how your manager views you, and how you can improve your own job satisfaction.
Be realistic, and do not be harsh with your own assessment. Instead, if there are areas where you could have offered a better contribution, recognize that, and focus on what you need to be able to do that in the future.
Good employers are offering the chance to participate in your review to get insight into your view of your job, your training and your outlook on the work you are doing. It’s not meant to be painful. There are managers who can make it that way – perhaps due to their own inexperience with reviews, or lack of communications skills. Not all managers are fair or have good management skills. Human resources staff can be made aware that these managers have a developmental opportunity.
-Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner, Keystone Partners

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