How to Prove Yourself Again After Your First Performance Review

Your first performance review with a new company can be one of the most stressful times in your first year. Maybe you feel like you didn’t pull your weight on the last project, you were frequently late, you took too many sick days or had a family emergency that required travel.

Finally, the door closes behind you as you and your boss sit down to talk about your performance. More often than not, this is a six month review that looks for insight into how well you’re picking up your responsibilities and how well you fit into the company culture. If there was a project you were assigned to, the first performance review will often talk in detail about things you could have done better and areas where you really shined. But you end up walking out of your boss’s office feeling down and embarrassed—your performance wasn’t the best, and he wants you to really work on it to prove you were the right hire.

Don’t panic or feel embarrassed—instead, make a list

It can be tough to feel confident when a performance review goes bad or isn’t as positive as you would have hoped. But feeling embarrassed or down on yourself can actively prevent you from delivering on promises to improve. Rather than take initiative, you’re afraid of the risk and don’t want to embarrass yourself again. Maybe you’re less friendly with co-workers because the review put you in a bad mood. Or, you may even be panicking about your job security.

None of these feelings are conducive to improving your behavior or productivity. Instead, after your review, send your boss a follow-up email thanking him for the feedback and outlining the things you plan to improve. Creating a physical list of things you need to work on is the best way to show your boss you’re serious about working harder and also acts as a constant reminder when you’re feeling lost on what to do or like you’re slipping back into old habits. Keep this list at your desk and actively work on improving its contents.

Deliver on promises and keep your word

If your boss gave you specific feedback on a behavior or work habit, fix it. Don’t slump back in to old behaviors or forget about the feedback—chances are, if it comes up again in your next review, your boss won’t be nearly as pleasant about delivering the same feedback twice.

Ask for feedback intermittently

Asking co-workers for honest feedback on the work you do or the effort you put in is never a bad idea. Just remember not to take this feedback personally, especially if it isn’t the most positive thing you’ve heard all day. Chances are, if your co-workers have beef with the way you work or your effort on a project, they’ll open up at the chance to tell you; just make sure to keep the conversation professional.

You can always ask your boss for feedback, too. Don’t feel as though the only time you can get feedback from your boss is during a performance review. Asking for feedback after a project is complete is a great way to gauge whether your boss thinks you’re moving in the right direction.

Your first performance review may not have been the gleaming hour of praise you wanted, but the important thing to remember is that every professional, at one time or another, has received a bad performance review. The key is to move on and work actively on improvements rather than sulk or become overwhelmed by embarrassment.


Creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by Dwonderwall.




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