Performance review nightmare: When the boss’s facts are wrong

Miscommunication is part of life, but when someone at the office gets the facts wrong about you and your work, you want to set the rec­­ord straight. Is there a way to do so without making the situation worse?

That’s what one reader asked recently on the Admin Pro Forum:

“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

We reached out to a couple of ex­­perts to get their advice. Ron Culp, the director of the master’s program in public relations and advertising at the College of Communication at DePaul Uni­­­versity, recommends not overreacting. “Don’t attempt an on-the-spot, point-by-point rebuttal,” he says. Instead, acknowledge you can see how this misunderstanding happened and suggest that you follow up soon to clarify your side of the story. Stay calm and don’t be aggressive, Culp says.

Nihar K. Chhaya, executive coach and principal at Partner Exec, says a face-to-face discussion is best. “If it was enough of a wrong impression to warrant correcting it, chances are an email or a phone call would not have the same impact or resolution that the employee needs,” he says.

Performance Review D

Simply saying you believe there was a misunderstanding and that you want to ensure you’re on the same page is a good way to start, Chhaya says.

“Also, it can help to use ‘I’ statements, so you don’t come across as if you are attacking the boss or implying that he made a mistake,” he says. So say something like “I believe I may have given you the wrong impression” instead of “You’re wrong about what I meant.”

Read what May’s fellow admins advised her to do.