our everyday life

How to Reply to a Bad Evaluation

by Ruth Mayhew, studioD

Poor job performance can jeopardize your employment status, as well as diminish confidence in your skills and capabilities. When your supervisor gives you a bad performance evaluation, accept constructive feedback graciously and make the best of the assessment. Making the best of a bad situation doesn't always mean accepting the rating and stewing about it. You may need to adopt better work habits if the evaluation is a fair one. But if you feel the evaluation wasn't fair, you should prepare a written reply to discuss with your boss and human resources.

Strictly Business

Performance evaluations are intended to be fair, unbiased assessments of your job performance -- not your personality traits or how popular you are among your co-workers. Unless you feel your supervisor's evaluation is biased and unfair, look at it as a business practice designed to improve employees' work quality. On the other hand, if you sense that you received a bad evaluation based on supervisory bias or unfair employment practices, gather examples that support this assertion. For example, if your supervisor's evaluation contains inaccuracies about your attendance, obtain copies of your work records to substantiate your rebuttal.

Two-Way Feedback

During the meeting with your supervisor to discuss your performance appraisal, don't be afraid to speak up. Supervisors should encourage open, honest and two-way feedback instead of just handing you an evaluation as if it's a report card. If your supervisor doesn't explain the portions of your evaluation that suggest your work performance isn't up to par, ask for examples. Refrain from letting your emotions dictate how you respond to poor performance ratings, though. Calmly discuss your concerns with your boss so you can correct your deficiencies.

Written Rebuttal

Check your company's policies on performance appraisals to determine if there's a formal rebuttal process. Even if there isn't, ask an HR staff member how to respond to what you believe is an unfair evaluation or an evaluation that you're concerned will affect your job status, suggests employment lawyer M. William O'Brien. O'Brien is a founding partner of the Minneapolis-based firm Miller O'Brien Jensen. Reread your copy of the evaluation you received, and highlight the areas of your job performance you believe are a poor assessment of your work quality. Draft a memo that addresses each point, line by line, and provide examples of your work that rebut your supervisor's evaluation.

Guidance and Counsel

Don't let a bad evaluation cause the relationship with your boss to become strained. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, and ask your supervisor for guidance or training on how to improve your performance. If your company doesn't have a formal performance improvement plan, tell your boss that you're interested in developing a plan that will demonstrate your interest in improvement. This is a proactive and effective way to reply to a bad evaluation -- performance turnaround can ensure that you restore your supervisor's faith in your ability to meet the company's expectations for productive employees.


If you write a formal rebuttal, ask your HR department to meet with you and your supervisor to discuss your concerns. Following the meeting, ask that your rebuttal become an official entry in your personnel file. Also, don't believe that refusing to sign your evaluation means that you disagree with it -- your signature on the evaluation from your supervisor means you acknowledge its receipt. An indignant response, such as refusing to acknowledge receipt, may cast a negative light on your professionalism more than simply discussing your evaluation and working to resolve performance issues that may exist.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images