Performance reviews: Should you respond to negative comments?

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Question:  “In my performance review, my boss included some negative comments from his own manager. Since I don’t agree with these remarks, I said so in the “Employee Comments” section of the appraisal form. I stood up for what I believe to be true, but now I wonder if I made a mistake.  What do you think?”  — Uncertain Employee

Marie's Answer: I think you’re worrying about the wrong thing. Instead of fretting over your response, you should be trying to correct management's negative impressions. Here are some things to consider:

•    Your appraisal form will soon be filed away and forgotten, but negative management perceptions could affect your career for a long time. After all, higher-level managers approve raises, sign off on promotions and decide who gets laid off. 

•    Even if you disagree with the higher manager, you need to understand the reasons behind the unfavorable comments. Your boss probably knows, so request an explanation, then ask him to help you repair your reputation.

•    If the higher manager is acting on inaccurate information, you should provide the facts as soon as possible. But if your performance is at issue, then you must take a long, hard look in the mirror and decide whether changes are in order.

Adding rebuttal comments to your appraisal was completely appropriate, as long as you expressed yourself in a mature, professional manner. But if your written remarks were irrational or overly emotional, ask whether you can submit a corrected version. 

For Office Coach tips on dealing with negative appraisals, see How to Respond to a Bad Review

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Dottie January 27, 2011 at 3:23 pm

This fiscal year I did not get a raise. My manager has been negative towards me all year long so I was not surprised when I was told I got a “0″ raise. I do not trust my manager because I have found him to be untruthful. He gave me the staff member names that commented on my performance review. I contacted the staff members personally and asked them to send me a copy of what they sent to my Manager. I found out that he altered everyone of their comments to make me sound horrible. What can I do about this, I believe it is illegal to tamper with a person’s comment and change the whole meaning of the comments?

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Des October 21, 2009 at 9:15 pm

I think you should respond to negative comments. Sometimes, I honestly feel that most managers don’t really know how to evaluate employees.

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Mohan M Prasad September 21, 2009 at 6:52 am

Generally, these appraisal comments and feedback are confirmatory endorsement of the dialogue one had during the appraisal interface. I assume there was a dialogue and you had an opportunity to dispassionately correct the view points of the manager as put forth by your Boss.

If this was not done and the process was just the recording of the negative comment by the Boss in your form and on which you did not agree, perhaps you could have taken the initiative to open out a dialogue with your boss to seek data and clarify your point of view. Thereafter your filling in the same in the employee comment column would be quite fair and reasonable and in the greater interest of the organization.

It’s always wise and prudent to put on record anything (especially on matters which impacts your seniors) after you have had an”interface dialogue’ seeking and providing mutual clarity on the matter under reference.

We should be sensitive to this with our seniors especially .

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Srinivasan May 13, 2009 at 11:14 pm

First of all, there need to be good transparency when appraisal process is done. If boss does not trust, then the problem arises… In fact, every boss to act as a HR Manager.

Assuming that there are negative comments and they are not rumours, it is always to counter them very positively so that the message goes down all the levels. It is better to clarify rather than push under carpet.

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Kathy May 13, 2009 at 3:01 pm

My review was not negative, but it wasn’t as positive as I thought it should be; he did not want to rate me “excellent” in all categories, because if an employee is rated “poor” or “excellent” the manager has to provide comments. So, I created an Excel spreadsheet that has the main areas listed on the eval. in which we are rated and am keeping a record of a lot of tasks, respnsibilities, etc. that fall into those categories. So, next year I will send him the spreadsheet so he can see exactly how I exceeded “average” over the previous year. I don’t expect to be over rated, but I would like to be accurately rated.

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