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Question:  “On her performance review, my sister “Jenna” was rated “below expectations” because her boss said she took too long to complete a major project. However, this really wasn’t her fault.  During that time, she had a lot of computer problems. Also, management changes created some confusion, and her co-workers weren’t very cooperative. Now Jenna is on a three-month probation with a warning that her current project must be completed on time. It’s not clear what will happen if she doesn’t meet the deadline. I don’t think this is fair, because many things are beyond her control and she gets little cooperation from others. What do you think?” — Angry Sis

Marie’s Answer: I think you have only one side of the story. Here are some points to consider:

•    When someone receives a reprimand, her first response is almost always to point out other reasons for the problem. That’s just human nature. But here’s the catch: People who never see their own flaws continue to repeat the same ineffective behaviors.  

•    Jenna received a low rating because her project was late. Other factors may have contributed, but her boss clearly believes she was responsible. At this point, she should stop fretting about “fairness” and concentrate on meeting expectations.  

•    To get off probation, Jenna must focus like a laser on her upcoming project deadline. If unavoidable obstacles arise, she should tell her boss immediately.  And she needs to do whatever it takes to get along with her co-workers.  
By continuing to encourage your sister’s search for scapegoats, you are only perpetuating the problem. So instead of collaborating in her denial, try to help Jenna save her job.   

For tips on dealing with a negative performance appraisal, see How to Respond to a Bad Performance Review.

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