Receiving a Disappointing Performance Evaluation

Scenario: “I just received my second performance evaluation since joining this department. I was scored as “meets” my first year and I understood that because I was new. But this year I was expecting “exceeds”. I have done everything my supervisor asked me to do. I’ve taken initiative, received many compliments from clients, and contributed overall to the team. I am very disappointed. And, to make matters worse, my co-worker, who does not do as much work as I do but has been around forever, received an “exceeds” rating. How do I get my manager to change my rating?”

Preparation: Does your supervisor know your accomplishments for the year or do you think s/he may not be aware? The answer to this will guide the approach to your discussion.

If the evaluation has captured your accomplishments and/or your supervisor’s feedback throughout the year indicates that s/he grasps your contributions, then the primary issue to address is how your supervisor defines “meets” and “exceeds.” What performance and behaviors illustrate “meets”? “Exceeds”? In this circumstance, it is unlikely that your supervisor will change the overall rating. But, even if the change you want does not occur, having a discussion now will position you much better for next year’s performance evaluation as you’ll have a clearer vision of what s/he sees as warranting an “exceeds.” This conversation also may shed some light on why your supervisor assesses your co-worker differently than you do.

On the other hand, if you aren’t confident that your supervisor is aware of some of your accomplishments, and that may be why you did not receive an “exceeds,” the discussion will focus much more on sharing that information. And, in this circumstance, there is a better chance that your supervisor might reconsider his/her scoring. At a minimum, you should include your additional accomplishments or comments in the employee response section of the appraisal.

Initiation: After setting up a time in advance to meet with your supervisor and letting him/her know that it is to discuss your evaluation, one approach to begin a discussion on what characterizes “exceeds” versus “meets” might be along the lines of: “Thanks for meeting with me. I know that we have already discussed my annual appraisal and I feel as if you have recognized a lot of what I have accomplished during the year. I want to be considered a top performer and contribute to the department and I know you would like that for me as well. I’ve learned a lot over this past year and challenged myself to do the best job that I could do. So when I saw that my overall evaluation score was “meets” rather than “exceeds,” I felt disappointed. I would like to better understand what I need to demonstrate in my position to be considered as “exceeding” expectations. Is that something that we can talk about now?”

A discussion to share accomplishments that you think your supervisor might not have considered when evaluating your performance could start off with something like: “Thanks for meeting with me. I’ve been giving further thought to my evaluation and while I realize that not every accomplishment or project can be addressed in the document, I wanted a chance to share some information with you about a few accomplishments I had during the year that I may not have made you aware of. To be honest, I put a lot of effort into my job this last year and felt disappointed that my overall score was “meets.” My hope is that by having this discussion, I will get a better idea of what you consider “exceeding” my job expectations as that is what I want to do for myself and for the department. I am also hoping that if I am presenting you with some new information during this discussion, we might be able to adjust the evaluation to reflect it. If this sounds acceptable to you, I’d like to start off by highlighting (Project X) and get some feedback from you about where my performance was strong and where it could have been stronger. How does that sound?”

Discussion: STATE: Share your facts; Tell your story; Ask for their view; Talk tentatively; Encourage testing.

For this scenario, be advised that it is generally not a good practice to bring up other employees and their evaluation scores during a conversation about you and your score. It puts a supervisor in an awkward position. Supervisors should not be discussing one employee’s performance with another employee. Additionally, it moves the conversation spotlight from being on you and your strengths to someone else. Finally, it can trigger defensiveness in a supervisor.

While you may be tempted to cover a long list of accomplishments, be selective for purposes of time. You can always choose to attach a document to the evaluation that provides information on your accomplishments and will be included along with the evaluation in your personnel file.

As you seek to understand what your supervisor considers to be “exceeds” versus “meets,” use a past project, task or objective with which you are both familiar and ask your supervisor to use real examples to illustrate what exceeded and what did not exceed expectations. Or, it may be easier to ask your supervisor to describe preferred performance in your role that would constitute “exceeding” expectations.

Conclusion: Examples of conclusions for this scenario: “I think I have a better idea of my focus in order to be considered as exceeding the expectations for my job. (Perhaps summarize what that focus looks like). Thank you for the information. Please know that I will welcome your feedback throughout the year and if you see improvement opportunities for me, please do let me know. My goal is that this time next year, my performance warrants an “exceeds”. Is there any additional training or learning that you would recommend?” {OR}

“Thank you for meeting with me. I’m glad I had a chance to tell you more specifics about my work. What I’m hearing from you is that the work I have done is fine and has contributed, and you see it as meeting the expectations for my position. Is that right? I would like to attach a short document to my evaluation noting some of the accomplishments I shared with you today. May I get that to you next week? Right now I am not certain that I understand what exactly I’ll do differently in order to exceed expectations, but I am going to think more about our conversation. Given that you know I want to contribute as much as I can to the department in this role, please give me feedback if I can be doing something better. May I check back with you in a few months to see how I’m doing?” {OR}

“Thanks so much for listening to my information and I am encouraged that you are willing to reconsider my overall score on the evaluation. Is there any additional information I can provide that would help you make your decision? When may I check back with you on status?”