How to Respond to an Appraisal Review When You Don't Agree with the Rating

Your annual performance appraisal wasn’t the glowing review you’d expected. In fact, you’re almost wondering if your boss confused you with your slacker colleague.

How to respond to appraisal

What to do next? Here are tips for how to respond to an appraisal review when you don’t agree with the rating.

Take a beat before responding to the review

Your first reaction is going to be emotional, whether it’s anger or dismay. That’s perfectly natural. You won’t help your cause, though, by letting emotion take over.

Let things sit at least overnight. Stew, vent to a friend, go on a long run, dig into the ice-cream carton with a spoon. We all process things differently, but we all need to process. Do that, and then move on.

Review your review

Now that you’re thinking more rationally, go over the performance review again. Where, specifically, do you disagree? If your answer is “with all of it,” you’re not ready for the dispassionate analysis you need to do. Try again later.

It can help to have a trusted friend or colleague look over the review, too. As much as we like to think we’re objective, everyone has blind spots. A somewhat-neutral set of eyes can sometimes see things we miss.

Dig into your performance data

In sales positions in particular, there’s going to be a wealth of quantifiable support for your response. Take a deep dive into the statistics and compare totals with previous years or quarters.

Beware this could yield an “I’m not as good as I thought” moment. If that’s the case, learn from it. What could you have done differently to stop a performance slide or make an increase even greater?

Even in fields that aren’t necessarily data driven, there’s still a possibility for a factual basis for your appeal. Make sure your boss is aware of your accomplishments. Look for projects you led he might have overlooked.

Hopefully, you’ve been tracking on this information all along, because an organized boss starts the next performance review shortly after the previous one has been given. If this isn’t part of your routine, vow to go forth and sin no more.

Schedule a time to meet with the boss

Button-holing your supervisor in the hall can lead to a defensive reaction that’s the opposite of what you want. Bosses are people, too, with the same flight-or-fight instincts underlings have.

Instead, make an appointment so there’s a clear window where you can talk without interruptions. A quick chat at the Keurig to set up a time is OK, but don’t let it become a long conversation that’s awkward when coworkers come along.

In advance of the meeting, share any information you’ve gathered with your supervisor so she can review it when she has time for thoughtful analysis. Include a list of points where you disagree. You’re not trying to ambush your supervisor. You’re trying to change her mind.

Keep the meeting on an even keel

That part’s a challenge, given you’re upset, and your boss knows it. Start by thanking him for taking the time to meet with you and for giving you the opportunity to respond. Setting a civil tone from the start will make him more receptive to what you’re going to say.

Begin by briefly reviewing the data (that, hopefully, you’ve already forwarded.) Give a concise overview of your disagreements. Then, listen closely to what your boss says. Be sure to watch your body language.

Don’t interrupt, and don’t become defensive. If you hear something you adamantly disagree with or that’s clearly wrong, explain your position only after your supervisor has finished. There’s no need for things to turn antagonistic.

Close by saying, “moving forward, what can I do to improve?” Even if nothing changes in the current review, it’s always good to look to the future.

An appraisal review you disagree with is not the end of the world, though it might feel like it. If you want to appeal the decision, make sure you do a thorough self-analysis, counter the review with solid facts and have a civil sit-down with your boss.

You still might not change your supervisor’s mind, but you’ll know a lot more about her thinking and how to improve future appraisals.

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