How to Respond to Negative Comments in a Performance Appraisal

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A performance appraisal can be a nerve-racking experience, particularly if your boss is highly critical of some areas of your performance. Your manager is likely to rate your performance in a variety of areas, discussing pros and cons related to goals, teamwork and attitude. When he’s done with his assessment, you should have time to respond to his comments.

Be Prepared

Go into your performance evaluation armed with statistics related to your performance and your own measurements of how well you did achieving your goals and objectives. If you received letters of commendation from department managers or clients, bring those along. Consider in advance what criticisms your boss might have about your performance and be prepared to defend yourself in those areas. For example, if your boss has spoken to you about your sales performance on several occasions since your last assessment, prepare for your meeting with sales reports and other information that detail the successes you've had.

Acknowledge Accurate Comments

If your boss makes negative but true comments, don't attempt to make excuses or justify areas where your performance should be better. Instead, acknowledge your manager’s concerns, provide an explanation, if appropriate, and offer suggestions for moving forward in a positive way: “I understand your concerns about my sales performance. I expected more of myself as well. Getting clients adjusted to the new pricing structure has taken more time than I anticipated, but I'm confident that now that everyone is accustomed to the changes that we can move forward and secure longer-term contracts in the coming months.”

Dispute Incorrect Assumptions

While you don't want to get into a war of words with your boss in refuting his negative comments, if he's off-base or has a misconception about some area of your performance, set him straight in a professional manner. For instance, you might say, “You mentioned my sales goals are off by 50 percent, but my calculations show I'm only 10 percent under projections, and it looks like I'm on track to surpass our original goals by the end of the quarter.” Provide backup documents to support your comments, where possible.

Move Forward

Even if your performance evaluation contains a negative assessment, try to stay upbeat and positive when you ask for help to find ways to improve. Work together to create new, attainable goals, troubleshoot problem areas and provide input about what you need to help improve professionally. Thank your boss for bringing problem areas to your attention and reiterate your dedication to your job and your commitment to performing at optimal levels.


If a negative evaluation hits you out of the blue, you probably didn’t think to prepare to defend yourself with sales reports and projections. You might also be emotional, shocked and unsure of how to respond. If your poor assessment catches you off guard, try to remain calm and ask your boss for time to process the information and talk again at a later date.