How to Handle a Poor Performance Review

Published: Feb 12, 2024

 Workplace Issues       

When it's time for your formal performance review, it's important to prepare to hear critical feedback. While we all hope to have a glowing performance review, it's not unusual to need improvement in an area or two. Watch this Vault Video to hear how you can handle constructive criticism like a pro.  


Hopefully, you’re receiving regular feedback – informally, formally, or both – about how you’re performing at your job. In addition, most employers have an annual review process that provides even more formal and in depth feedback.


Of course, we all hope to receive glowing performance reviews. But it’s not unusual to experience rough patches during your career where your work has room for improvement. Critical feedback during your performance review is not the end of the world, or the end of your career. Here’s how you can handle a lackluster performance review, and what to do to avoid this next time around.  

Step 1: Listen Instead of Arguing

When your manager explains that your performance has been below their standards, it’s important not to be defensive and cause an argument. It’s perfectly normal to disagree and think that you’ve been excelling, but your manager is viewing your performance from their standpoint, so it’s important to take in what they’re saying and not jump right back at them. 

Instead of saying something like this: 

“I completely disagree with you. I know I have been performing well and don’t see how I can improve.”

You should respond with something like this: 

“Thank you for letting me know where my performance has been lacking over the past year. I want to ensure I’m being the best employee I can be, so I’ll definitely work on being more productive and make sure all deadlines are met.”

You should also avoid placing blame elsewhere. So, instead of saying something like:

“The only reason my performance has declined is because my coworker is leaving and now I have more tasks to manage.”

You could say something like:

Thank you for being honest with me. I think I was afraid to ask for help when my tasks started to pile up. I know that I missed some deadlines as a result. Moving forward I will be better at asking for help when I feel overwhelmed. Do you have any recommendations for ways I can improve in this area?

Performance reviews can be stressful. And receiving critical feedback is never easy. But with these tips, you’ll be able to better deal with whatever happens in your next review. For more career advice, check out