I got an unfair performance appraisal, what should I do?

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I was asked this vey question late last week. The person concerned was visibly shocked and upset openly stating the review was biased, unfair and that whole review process was flawed. They felt their manager wasn’t really interested in the process and was treating it as a check box exercise – which may or may not have been the case.

My first advice is easy for me to say but often difficult for you to enact given the ‘emotional charge’ that is often present in these situations. Your first response is to stay calm and avoid reacting in the moment even though you may feel you were caught “off guard” and perhaps a touch embarrassed. Own your feelings and ask your manager if you can have another meeting in two or three days once you’ve had time to reflect on what has just been shared.

Instead of reacting, reflect on your situation.   Your manager’s view may seem to be clouded, biased and downright wrong, however, they might just be right and it is you that has the blind spot. Start by honestly looking for your blind spots as there can often be a gap between our self-perception and that of others.

As you reflect you might start by asking yourself “what was my role in creating this situation?” because you can be reasonably sure you had a role in creating this outcome.  Reflect on what you have achieved, how you went about it, if you’ve changed anything in your approach and behaviour, and if you’re being challenged by what’s expected of you in your role.

Look at the situation from a global perspective: what is the culture of your organisation, is it demanding, are managers generally hard markers, has anything changed, for example increased competitive pressure on your area of the company and is your manager under more pressure to deliver results? Most of all remember performance appraisals, not matter how good the process is, are subjective.

Before your follow-up meeting invest time to shape and craft questions you want to ask that are designed to clarify, deepen and broaden your understanding, not to challenge or interrogate your manager. Where possible obtain examples of the behaviour or situations that contributed your low rating.

Be honest with yourself. If you accept what is being shared is accurate, be willing to constructively set an action plan with assistance from your manager ensuring that you both agree on the indicators of success and how they are observable to you both. Also, agree a time for your next check-in that allows a sufficient period for you to enact the agreed changes.

On the other hand if, after reflecting on your discussions, you genuinely believe the appraisal you were given is incorrect then request your appraisal be adjusted being clear and constructive with your reasons.

All of the above is based on the assumption your manager is not deliberately misrepresenting the situation, is not incompetent, or just downright disinterested. If any of the latter are true then you may decide to exercise a completely different set of choices.

No matter what happens keep your interactions and discussions professional.


Viventé Australia enables leaders and managers develop the bond between people and performance, creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its best.

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