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Employers: How to Respond When an Employee Rejects Their Performance Review

A yearly performance review is used as a common business practice in several industries. They allow for an overall assessment for an employee to hear feedback on their work performance.  The employee will know where their strengths and weaknesses lie, as well as where they should focus their development efforts in the future. Performance reviews can also allow for merit increases, promotions, and bonuses if applicable. For those reasons, it makes sense that an employee wants an above-average review. So what happens when the employee receives a poor performance review and doesn’t agree with it?

Throughout the year, managers should provide feedback to ensure performance discussions are timely. If an employee is shocked by their review, their manager more than likely missed opportunities to provide continuous feedback during the year. When a manager provides continuous feedback, it makes the yearly performance conversations easier, and if the manager does this, they will be able to sit back and look at the employee’s performance with a documented history. If an employee’s performance isn’t where it is supposed to be, it likely didn’t happen overnight. So keep the feedback coming year-round.

Additionally, managers should be provided with performance management training to help develop the skills they need to deliver the right feedback at the right time. Most managers feel uncomfortable delivering direct negative feedback about an employee. Providing training will help them deliver constructive criticism or help them navigate difficult conversations.

Before the Performance Review

When a manager suspects an employee will not like their performance review, managers are encouraged to talk to HR before having the meeting. HR can provide guidance on the best way to deliver the review. The same tactic is true for an employee who suspects they will receive a bad review. Employees should talk with HR about their concerns and get suggestions on how to best respond to the review.

As a manager, being prepared means being ready to deliver the feedback but also the possibility that the employee might push back on the comments and not acknowledge their review. An employee isn’t required to sign the review, and the employee might be refusing to sign because they fear that by signing, they are agreeing to the review. If an employee refuses to sign, that should be documented.

A good way to help prepare employees for their review is to have them complete self-evaluations. This gives employees an opportunity to talk about their accomplishments and their weaknesses.

During the Performance Review

If an employee isn’t going to sign their review, there are two options. One option is allowing them to complete a rebuttal form. This way the employee can go on the record and explain why they don’t agree with their review, with examples if possible. The other option if you don’t want to do a rebuttal form, is to just have an open conversation with HR present. Ask the employee for specific examples, and find out if any discussions occurred during the year. Make note of this conversation. Overall, the goal of a performance review is to improve employee performance. Having open conversations with your employee can help improve that performance.

After the Performance Review

Following the review, the manager should debrief with HR. Be sure to include what happened, how the employee responded, and what the employee decided to do (if they filled out a rebuttal form or didn’t sign their review). If the employee chooses to write a rebuttal, the employer should accept it.

Once a rebuttal is received, it is a good idea to have a follow-up meeting to address the employee’s concerns. It is important to note if the employee raises a legal concern, the employer must investigate unless it has already been done.

As we mentioned earlier, the goal of a performance review is not only to improve employee performance but to discuss the trajectory of employees’ careers. As a manager, it is your job to help employees achieve their career goals and milestones. Keeping your employees engaged in the performance review process throughout the year can improve dialogue and remove any shock the employee expresses about their review.


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