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Emotional After Performance Review

Emotional After Performance Review

Alison Green | Ask A Manager

A reader writes:

Some background: I am in my mid-twenties and I work as an assistant for a small, nationally renowned non-profit. I love a lot about my job: I get to research topics I love, and I get to apply skills that satisfy me. I have a heavy workload that has increased substantially over the past few months. I often work straight through the day without a lunch break, stay late when I need to, bring work home when I need to, and check my work email from home constantly.

I had my first ever annual performance review last month. Before this formal meeting, my boss and I had met sporadically, and our discussions tended to focus on particular projects she had planned for me. The only explicit feedback I received about my work was in November, and it was that I was “doing excellent work.” Since that comment, I had not received any pointed feedback about my performance, negative or positive. Instead she would casually ask, “How’s it going?” and I would say something like “I’m working on a lot right now, but I feel good about everything.” As my review crept closer, I was naturally somewhat anxious, but felt I had reason to believe that I was going to receive generally good feedback.

Boy, was I in for a surprise: my boss told me that there was an issue with follow through, citing a few examples of minor tasks I had failed to execute, and said she was worried a pattern was emerging. She said I needed to participate more at staff meetings, and that I’m not a team player. My grade was “needs improvement.” I felt completely blindsided, and was so shocked and hurt by the feedback that I burst into tears. She also asked me if I’m really serious about working in this field. In my emotionally vulnerable and unstable state, I admitted that, while I do value a lot about my job, I sometimes think about other paths. My boss told me we would meet again in a month to reevaluate my standing.