The one thing that just may be more nerve-wracking than the time you were in your boss’s office for your initial interview may be when you are back in that very same chair, awaiting a performance review.  Of course, we hope and dream these conversations include a flood of compliments interspersed with a “So we are going to promote you” or “Expect a little more on your paychecks from now on.”

But what happens if your review is less than glowing?  If the list of things to work on extends well beyond the list of praises?  We understand the constructive criticism pill can be tough to swallow, but with the right mentality, you truly can take a negative performance review and use it to excel even further in your career.  Here is some advice on how!

Take notes and ask questions.

Instead of shutting down at the first indication of a negative comment and tuning out the rest of your review while you start the preliminary process of licking your wounds, really take in your feedback, both the good and the bad.  Your employer is essentially telling you the things you must do to excel in (or keep) your job, so bring in your pen and paper so you can jot them down in case you blank on the conversation.  Plus, it will show your employer you are truly committed to becoming better and DOING something with the feedback instead of just receiving it. Make sure you are truly understanding their remarks.  If you do not precisely comprehend the areas they are telling you that are in need of improvement and why, make sure to ask for clarification.

Try not to be defensive.

We know it is natural instinct to defend oneself when you feel you are under attack, but try your best to remain open and optimistic about the feedback.  As outlined previously, it is fine to ask for clarification and make sure that both you and your employer are on the same page with your duties and expectations, but simply telling your employer they are wrong, and firing back excuses on why you come in late or why your sales are below quota will get you nowhere.  A mentor in college once told me, “My students are sometimes disheartened when they receive a paper back covered in red marks and comments.  But they should actually be disheartened by the paper that comes back with no marks.  Feedback means I haven’t given up on the person, and see their potential for improvement.”  If your employer is giving you a laundry list of things to work on, there is potential that they still want to give you a chance and are continuing to mold you for improvement in your career.

Use positivity to fuel your improvement.

After a negative performance review, it may seem like the perfect time to go hide out in the bathroom for a while, or sulk silently behind your computer screen.  Try your hardest to leave your review on a positive note (even if your ego is a little sore) and thank your employer for their time and feedback and assure them you will work on improving those areas.  Then, try and extend the positivity into actually making those improvements.  Try to think of it as a challenge.  A professional has just given you actionable items to better yourself in your career advancement, so try to remain upbeat and confident in your potential.

Schedule temperature checks.

Some organizations have a strict schedule for performance reviews (like on an annual basis), but it is worth checking with your supervisor to see if there is any way that you can circle back with them to monitor your improvement.  See if you can schedule some time with them after the quarter is finished to discuss your progress, or after you’ve completed an important project to get some more feedback.  If your boss doesn’t have time or is unable to give you a more regular temperature check, see if you can find a mentor, superior, or a coworker who really excels in the areas that you need to work on to see if they can review these items with you from time to time.

So don’t tuck your tail between your legs; it isn’t the end of the world!  Just try your hardest to maintain confidence and poise, and you truly can take a negative performance review and use it to propel your career to even greater heights!