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Performance evaluations and warnings

Five suggestions about what to do if you get a poor performance review

If you are worried that a poor performance evaluation puts your job at risk, consider the following suggestions as you weigh your options. Just complaining or becoming angry about the review will not get  you anywhere.

  • First of all, you are not obligated to sign the review. On the other hand, signing the performance review is not a concession that you did anything wrong. Many times the signature line says that you are simply confirming receipt of the review, not that you agree to its content.
  • Under the Massachusetts Personnel Records Act, an employee has the right to submit a challenge or rebuttal to a personnel record, including a performance review.  If you disagree with the information in the review, you can ask for the removal or correction of such information. If an agreement is not reached to remove or correct the information, you are allowed to submit a written statement explaining your position. Be sure that your written statement is fact driven and is not an emotional response.  Use objectively measurable accomplishments to make your point. The employer must then include this statement as part of your personnel record.
  • If you accept that some or all of the review is accurate, be proactive.  Come up with a written action plan that reassures your manager that you “get it” and are working to improve. Don’t be passive and wait for more feedback or guidance.  Provide the manager with weekly documentation, and not just in email format. Make it look like a business document. Use PowerPoint if necessary. If the company offers training or on line courses about your subject matter or productivity, ask your manager if you can participate. Ask specific questions so the manager can give you specific guidance. If all else fails and your manager can’t be pleased, buy as much time as you can and work on an exit strategy.
  • Employers are not obligated to put you on a Performance Improvement Plan, give you a written warning, or take any other steps before you are demoted or discharged, unless you have an employment contract with these specific requirements. If you think your job is at risk, don’t wait for the “other shoe to drop.”  Start networking and applying for other positions outside the company.
  • If you think the poor review is the result of illegal discrimination, harassment or retaliation, you should consult with an attorney to come up with a strategy to either protect your job or negotiate a severance agreement.
Pamela A. Smith
Law Office of Pamela A. Smith
233 Needham Street, Suite 540
Newton, MA 02464


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