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How to Handle Your Bad Performance Review at Work

Earning a negative performance review at work is, without a doubt, embarrassing. It can immediately spark feelings of rage and anger, which can lead to impulsive responses that you don’t always mean. Especially in those moments where you were confident, bad performance reviews can be a hard hit to the ego. Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and reflect before you act.

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Take a minute

When we hear news that we don’t particularly like – especially about ourselves – we tend to get defensive and act on impulse. Your first reaction after getting the performance review will most likely be embarrassment, followed by some degree of anger or even deflecting the blame onto someone else. “I didn’t do anything wrong, they must just be having a bad day and need to take it out on me,” you might think.

You might feel resentment towards your co-workers, or become angry with your company. In these moments, thoughts about fighting with co-workers, quitting the job or storming out could all very well cross your mind, but that's as far as they should go.

“It was my first job and I was scared as it was,” Allie Rudd from Florida State University shares. “I didn’t know how a performance review worked so I obviously didn’t know what to expect." When it didn't go as expected, Allie admits that she kind of freaked out. "I quit that night and just never went back. I regret it now, of course, but at the time it was very embarrassing, I didn’t want to see them again.”

It’s important to remove yourself from situations that are causing anger in order to have time to chill out and analyze the situation from a rational point of view. Anger is a form of emotional distress that clouds your judgement and rational thinking, so the best thing to do is wait it out, and make a decision about how to proceed after you're able to look at the situation calmly. 


After you’ve chilled out, reflect on your performance review from the point of view of someone else. Were you really doing everything correctly? Is there anything you could have done better?

It can be a hard hit to our egos to admit we’re not doing everything as perfectly as we think we are. Losing our superiority complex is key in self-growth, so analyzing your performance truthfully to yourself and admitting your wrong-doings will help you become better in the long run, which means you’ll never have to endure the pain of getting a bad review again.

Ask for genuine tips and feedback

If you can’t figure out where you went wrong, ask. Request further feedback and ask questions like, “What could I have done better?” “Where was I lacking the most?” “What can I do from here on that will ensure the best performance and success?”

“When I got my first bad performance review at work,” says Catherine Schroder, a senior at UCLA, “I immediately became shamed with embarrassment. I thought I’d let everyone down. Then, my next mission was to change what I was doing wrong." Catherine asked for genuine tips on what she needed to change. "He was happy that I showed interest in bettering my work and I was happy that I knew what I could fix.”

Put in the effort

After you have reflected and gathered feedback on why your review went down the way it did, put the information you’ve received to good use and put in the effort to change. The feedback is nothing if it doesn’t get taken into consideration and used.

“If I could go back and do my review again, I would've just tried harder than slacking off and saying it was because it was my first job. That shouldn’t have mattered. I should’ve still treated it like a life or death situation and took it seriously, I think that would have changed everything,” Allie adds.

Make the conscious effort to start fixing your weaknesses and try to be conscious of them so can catch yourself in time to stop mistakes from happening again.

Change your outlook

You can’t control situations, but you can control how you react to them. Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. The negative review can stunt your growth and confidence, but only if you let it.

“You can look at [performance] reviews as a bad thing, or you can see them as a fundamental opportunity for growth,” Catherine says. “If you’re shut out because you think you’re the best and nobody can tell you that you’re wrong, then a bad review is going to upset you and be a huge wake up call. But if you decide to do something about it, that’s when you’re going to see positive results.”

Start looking at negative feedback as positive opportunities to do better next time. Take negative feedback with confidence and genuinely take the review into consideration. This outlook will help you feel less embarrassed and overall more confident that you are working on your weaknesses.

Getting a bad performance review is embarrassing and irritating, but they serve as crucial steps in success. Without someone pointing out your mistakes and helping you work to fix your weaknesses, you wouldn’t have the opportunity to grow and become as successful as you could be!  

Savannah Seymour is a National Contributing Writer for Her Campus. You can find Savannah on Twitter (@savannahseymour) and Instagram (@savannahseymour).
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