How to Bounce Back After a Bad Performance Review

By Harvard Business Review
April 2, 2019

Don't let a negative evaluation unravel the story of who you are. Here are suggestions on making the best use of the feedback. 

It can be hard to recover from a negative performance review at work. You might feel angry, embarrassed and confused. How do you regain your professional confidence? And how do you make the best use of the critical feedback?



  • Ask questions and get clarifications — it’s critical to understand the specific ways you can improve.
  • Take the initiative to make a detailed plan of action.
  • Remember to see the value in feedback — it can be a springboard for positive change.


  • Get angry or argue with the feedback — you’ll only make things worse.
  • Turn only to sympathetic friends to vent — you also need honest mirrors to make sense of the review.
  • Consider the review the final word — how you react to the feedback is far more important.

Source: "What to Do After a Bad Performance Review," at

Negative feedback often contradicts the stories that we tell about ourselves — what we’re good at, what we’re capable of — and sometimes confirms our worst fears. But don’t let a negative review unravel the story of who you are.

Here’s how to bounce back:

Reflect before you react. It’s tempting to get angry or defensive, especially if you’re accustomed to positive reviews. But take a few days to let the feedback sink in.

Look for your blind spots. It’s possible that you may not recognize yourself in the feedback. That’s because despite our best intentions, there is often a gap between how we see ourselves and the way that others actually see us. Ask yourself: What might be right about this criticism? Have I heard it before? If after some self-reflection, you still don’t understand the roots of the critique, reach out to colleagues for additional feedback.

Ask questions. Once you’ve cooled off, make sure you fully understand the review. That may involve going back to your boss with questions. Make it clear you want concrete examples of what you should be doing differently.

Make a performance plan. This may involve learning new skills, reprioritizing your tasks or re-evaluating how you come across to colleagues.

Give yourself a second score. Remember that the evaluation may not be fully within your control, but your reaction to it is. Imagine that there is a second assessment, based on how you respond to the review and give yourself a score for your handling of it. Aim for a great second score, and it will remind you that the negative review is not the end of your professional story.

RELATED: What Do You Do Best? How to Identify Your Professional Strengths

Look at the big picture. Once you’ve taken the time for introspection, you may realize that your lagging performance isn’t a result of a blind spot, but rather an indication that you simply aren’t in the right position. Regardless of whether you stay or move on, use the review as a springboard for change – and success.

Copyright 2014 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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