Last week, Dr. Amy Kaplan, DACVECC reviewed how to deliver a performance review for one of your veterinary colleagues. In this week’s VETgirl online veterinary continuing education blog, she discusses how to handle a negative performance review!

Tools for processing a negative performance review:
No one likes to hear that they are failing at their job, or that their performance is less than stellar. Especially when you don’t agree with the comments of your reviewer, or your reviewer is perhaps not delivering the most professiona, well-executed review. It’s REALLY hard to not react with emotion in this process, but hopefully these tools will help you to face hard-to-hear news and even learn to grow from it.

1. Your reaction matters!
It’s really, really hard not to get angry, upset, sad by negative feedback during a review especially when it takes you by surprise. One tool you may find useful to help curb your emotional response during a review is to enter into the review with the mind set that you are being graded for how well you react to your review. This heightened awareness of your reaction and the perception your reviewer will have of your reaction may help you to take that extra breath before responding, keep things as positive as possible, and this behavior will resonate with your reviewer and only help how your reviewer perceives you and your work in the longrun.

2. Ask for examples
When feedback takes you by surprise and you just can’t see yourself at all in this mold you are being described as, be sure to ask for specific examples to help you understand why you are being perceived the way you are. If your employer can’t provide you with examples, then they are failing you at your review. If they can provide you with examples, then do not attempt to make excuses for the event. You can express that you are surprised by the way you were perceived because your intentions were X,Y,Z, but do not angrily defend your actions as this discredits your professionalism and will detract from the overall grade you get for your reaction to the review!

3. Ask for advice
Sometimes the feedback seems so out of left field that it may be difficult to know how to change the way you are being perceived. If you do identify with the information, try to make a plan for how to correct it and share this with your reviewer either during the review, or schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss your plan. This shows your boss that you are proactive and a problem solver. If you can’t find a shred of yourself in the way you are being described, ask your boss for advice. If your boss is a good leader, she should be able to give you examples of how you can improve or how you can help your interactions with others. You may even be surprised to hear that your boss agrees that you aren’t being portrayed fairly by others, but since we all are a team within the hospital, we still have to find ways to work with one another despite our different personalities. Asking for advice will show your boss that you are professional, that you respect her opinion and experience, and that you care to be a part of the team.

4. Don’t storm out!
If all else fails and you want to quit on the spot or stomp around the room, DON’T! Ok, ok, well, if your boss is being unprofessional and yelling at you or acting in ways that make you uncomfortable, then obviously use your best judgment and don’t stay in a toxic environment. But, if it’s just that the feedback is hard to hear, try with all your might to hold back on reacting, get through the meeting, and go somewhere to decompress. One technique is to tell your boss that he has given you a lot to reflect on and you’d like to have a follow-up meeting with him next week so you can discuss solutions to the problems brought up. Take your leave, then take the night- take a couple nights even- and think about the feedback. Sure, at first, you will be angry. But with time, hopefully you can see that there are good intentions behind the feedback and likely some truth, too.

5. Remember you have friends
One of the difficulties in giving the review, is that good comments are (sadly) from colleagues are not offered up to management as readily as bad comments are. This tends to sway the review into a negative vibe. I hate seeing my colleagues and team members down trodden after a review and try my best to pick up their spirits by reminding them that despite what may have come up in the review as areas of improvement, I value them and am happy that we work together to save lives. Just remember that there are team members who are happy to see you daily and enjoy working with you. Don’t sweat the small stuff. You are likely not the only person receiving constructive criticism- in fact, in some companies the reviewer is even required to deliver at least one constructive criticism during a review. No one is perfect, which means we will all hear bad news at some point- it’s not just you, the hospital isn’t out to get you, this review doesn’t define you. Be sure to spend some quality time with friends and fur babies after a difficult review to surround yourself with positivity.

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