When the boss gets the wrong impression, is there a limit to how hard you should try to fix it? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

When the boss gets the wrong impression, is there a limit to how hard you should try to fix it?

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Question: "I recently had a performance review in which a couple of the things that were said about me were simply untrue. These comments took me completely by surprise, and I realize that in defending myself I probably came off as whiny and was very ineffective. Only now that a week has gone by do I realize exactly what I should have said, and how I should have said it. I got my raise and a decent overall mark, so is it just too late now to state my case? In going back over old ground, would I only make myself look worse no matter if the facts are on my side?" - May, Clerical Trainer

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Ginger April 28, 2015 at 12:31 pm

As a manager myself, I would certainly want my employees to come to me and correct me. When the next review comes up, I will be reviewing the previous review and if anything is incorrect, it is going to be way too late to correct it then, and it could potentially effect your current review negatively. And if you were to say something at that time, you would really look desperate. Say something now. You will look very professional if you go about it the right way. Simply go to your boss and start off by acknowledging your raise and positive review, but state that there were just a few negative things that were brought up in your review that are simply not true and it has really been on your mind. Be prepared to provide back up to your statements to prove that you are right in bringing this up of course. State your case, and I bet you get a positive response and your review is updated. You want everything that becomes a part of your permanent employee record to be precise and accurate, so it is highly important to bring it up now, rather than later.

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Madeline April 24, 2015 at 6:29 pm

Easier said than done.
Where I worked, even if the manager said they understood and you presented something to be part of your file, they never wanted to sign anything and have that admitted into your department file as well as your personnel file. They were afraid of supposedly incriminating themselves if something else comes up and even if it had nothing to do with you.
Even if they acknowledged the written piece and it was put away, sometimes those important pieces of documentation had a way to suddenly disappear or as the expression goes: “They walked off on their own”.

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Mary April 24, 2015 at 1:24 pm

I believe it’s never wrong to set the record straight, especially if it’s something in your personnel file. Prepare your remarks ahead of time, schedule a small amount of time with the reviewer, and take a written copy of your “rebuttal” with you, asking that it be made part of your file. Even better, get your boss to initial or sign it – even if it’s just acknowledging that he has read it. If it’s part of your file, that inaccurate information can’t stand on its own – even years down the road, when you may still have this job. And be proud of standing up for yourself.

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Lisa April 24, 2015 at 8:25 am

Some managers are under pressure from his or her supervisor to find something critical as no one is perfect. As Elsa sang in Frozen, just …..let it go.

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Becky April 24, 2015 at 8:19 am

I had the same thing happen to me. We had a lady leave and I covered both her and my job for 9 months, so at eval time I was pumped thinking I had a really great year and kicked butt! But I get in my review and hear how I showed my stress and people found me unfriendly and unapproachable (the first time that had been mentioned to me). I held the comments and it only made me madder, but a year later and the things that were said last year that my Manager took as truth are coming out as false.

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Ditto June 15, 2015 at 5:47 pm

Ha, I had the exact same experience.

We had a change of management in my team. The previous managers loved me and always thought I was lovely and sweet and awesome at my job.

In walks the new head of department and new managers (the old ones left when the old head of department left). She arrived when I was manically working on a new project and covering other roles. I thought I was doing well and showing my skills and my vast experience.

The out of the blue I get this feedback from the new head that I was simply unfriendly, unapproachable and easily stressed. Luckily it was post appraisal time.

However, I’ve noticed new managers join and mysteriously automatically have this view of me. Anything I do or say is scrutinised for signs of unfriendliness or stress. One colleague recently had loads of work (about the same as a typical day for me) and responded by being really moody, complaining about the ‘idiots’ who had made her work harder and walking out at 4pm because she was too stressed to stay any longer. No one batted an eyelid.

This same colleague came in the next day and said to me, ‘How do you do it? You have so much work and you’re always this calm being just sat there ploughing through it all.’

I mentioned that I’d been told I showed stress easily and she said, ‘What? Seriously? No way. I always thought they piled the work on you because you don’t show stress.’

I made an offhand comment recently about being glad the week was over (I’m still working on this massive project and the end of the week signalled the near end of the project, finally). The other managers on the team all looked at me, some scribbled stuff down and sure enough, I was dragged off on following Monday for being negative and bringing down team morale.

I am now looking for a new job. Changing perceptions is hard when new staff come in and view you in a certain way based on what others have said, rather than what they’ve noticed.

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AP April 24, 2015 at 8:04 am

The way my review works is that both my manager and I make comments (it used to be on “paper” – electronic document, but now it has gone completely electronic) on my performance. My comments are the last, so after we have both input comments and spoken face to face, I usually take a day or two to think my final comments through and then add them.

I fully understand, as I too have had “untrue” comments appear on my review. Taking the time to formulate my response on the document has allowed me to refute those comments and stand up for myself in a professional way.

What’s done is done, but this is how I would handle it in the future if it should happen again.

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Kelly August 3, 2015 at 11:35 am

I wish our performance reviews were done electronically. We’re still old school and they’re strictly paper. I once had a review with very negative implications on it. I am a quiet, keep to myself and just do my job kind of person. No one has EVER complained about my attitude at work… until this: I once asked my supervisor first thing in the morning if I could have the following afternoon off. Usually it was no problem, but since she was going to be on vacation that day as well, she thought she’d better ask her boss if it was okay. However, she waited until the end of the day to ask him (I think she did that on purpose because she knew he would say no – she was quite passive aggressive). When she let me know he declined it, she said it was because it was too short of notice. I just said, “Well, perhaps HR should clarify the handbook on how much notice is required for vacations.” (the handbook was rather vague at the time) That’s it… nothing mean, nothing intimidating, just a statement. Well, a few weeks later when my review came up, lo and behold, I was told that I have anger issues and that I intimidate management. Really… for speaking up – one simple sentence – on an issue that she contributed to? There were other false statements in that same review, so I felt compelled to respond to them. Rather than complaining about it during the review, though, I asked for clarification on the specific events she was referring to so there was no confusion. She was very vague and couldn’t really name specific events, nor did she offer any solutions or suggestions on improving. (and that’s when she lost my trust altogether) I then thought it through for a few days, as well as discussed it with a trusted co-worker (who was in a much higher position than me and would be able to coach me on how best to respond (by the way, she too was flabbergasted by what was said about me in this review)), and I finally just typed out my responses to every negative and incorrect thing in the review, as well as how I asked for clarification and was not given any. I was afraid that it would mysteriously disappear, so on the review form itself where employees are required to sign, I made a note that my responses were included on a separate sheet. And, to cover myself even further, I contacted the HR business partner for my dept and let him know that I would be submitting them separately as well.

P.S. She wasn’t a supervisor for much longer after that whole incident and I never had another negative review since.

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Madeline April 23, 2015 at 5:38 pm

For now, let it go. Just think before you say or do anything that might give the impression that you’re a big complainer.
Also, think before you talk and weigh the pros and cons of your actions.
As far as bringing up next time, again, weigh the pros and cons of your actions. Only mention your disapproval if your manager happens to mention something in between the next performance review.

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Megan April 23, 2015 at 5:21 pm

No, in fact I think it’s a great opportunity to professionally shine. Be honest and let your boss know that after your review you took the time to revisit the feedback and how you handled the situation. Explain to your boss in a calm, confident manner that looking back on how the conversation went, you are aware that you might have come off in a bad light. Then explain how that reflection led you to think deeper on the feedback you received and how you could have better responded. Then ask if he/she has a few minutes to further discuss the feedback – what you took it to mean and how you’d like to proceed going forward.

This will show that you are a not only a critical thinker, but that you are also someone who is exercising humility and emotional intelligence. Simply left alone, your boss’s perception of you as it relates to that review/feedback is less than optimal. If you come back in a professional and thoughtful manner, ask to have a discussion about how you can grow and learn from the situation, ask clarifying questions (that show you want to be sure you understood the feedback) and ask for his/her advice on some solutions that you came up with on how to take corrective action, the picture changes completely and allows your boss to view you in a much better light. The delivery and approach is key though. You need to keep it very professional, humble and factual. Focus on the positives and do not allow yourself to put others in a bad light while doing it. If you do this, it will help to naturally erode the negative, untrue comments made about you because your boss will see first hand your professionalism.

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Tesstarosa April 23, 2015 at 5:12 pm

If you have not already done so, I would set up a meeting with your manager and say that you want to work on a plan that will address all the issues that were brought up in your performance review so that they are no longer issues and to create a list of your goals for the next 3-, 6-, and 12-months.

If you are not already doing so, you should be having, at minimum, a monthly meeting to review your performance with your manager. I would also suggest seeking feedback from others who you work with and support at least quarterly. It can be somewhat formal — ask each person what you do well, what you could improve, etc.

You should never go into a performance review and be surprised by negative feedback. I realize that’s my opinion to some degree, but I do think that if you don’t know your work isn’t up to par, the performance review is not where a good manager lets you know that. A good manager tells you immediately if you need to alter your work methods.

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Angela April 23, 2015 at 4:29 pm

I would bring it up in your next check in. Right now, the last impression your manager has of you is a potentially unprofessional one of immaturity or being overly emotional (I could be overstating your reaction). You will appear more professional and confident if you can acknowledge that you reacted poorly, you’ve had time to think about the feedback, and here is your plan going forward. 90% of our jobs are often perceptions others have of us and consider this a learning opportunity to impress your boss. I agree with the spirit of the other comments that you should not re-hash all of the feedback from others – simply focus on your plan moving forward.

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Cathy April 23, 2015 at 4:21 pm

If the things that were said about you were work related…think objectively about them and see if there is anything you can tweak to improve your work. If what was said about you was more along personal lines, chalk it up to personality differences/clashes and move forward. I agree with Mark – Don’t rehash what is already over and done. You ended up with a raise and an overall decent review, so let it go.

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AF April 23, 2015 at 4:00 pm

IF the things you feel were said about you are untrue and are WRITTEN in your performance appraisal, then I would approach your supervisor about them. I would approach your supervisor when you feel he/she has the time to spend with you, and simply state that you have been thinking about the remarks that were made and state your case in a very unemotional, concrete way as to why you feel they are untrue. If your supervisor agrees with what you have said, I would ask to have the remarks removed from any written performance appraisal. Performance appraisals follow you around and, I, personally, would like to keep it as clean as possible.

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Mark April 23, 2015 at 10:49 am

This is one of those cases where I do not think there is an absolute right or wrong choice, just different opinions. My opinion is to let it go regarding talking to your supervisor, but take steps to make sure that whatever was incorrect will not come up again. Often in he said/she said situations, it’s not a case of someone lying or making something up, but rather a case of perceptions and misunderstandings. If that is possibly what happened, just try to be aware of how others can misunderstand things in the future. But to bring it up a week later, it think that will do more harm than good. (I say this, because I’ve been in your supervisor’s position, and I HATE it when someone brings up an old issue from a review, even if it is just a week old.)

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