Employee evaluations are a necessary evil in the workplace. If you performed well and kept your boss apprised of your accomplishments along the way, you should have a generally positive evaluation, so you should keep your response upbeat and positive as well. However, if you evaluation contains more bad news than good, particularly if the negative appraisal is unexpected, you need to do whatever it takes to stay calm and professional. Overreacting and becoming defensive during the evaluation can make the situation worse and might even put your job in jeopardy. Instead, take a deep breath, listen to your boss's comments and choose your words carefully when you respond.
Consider how you might respond to certain areas of the evaluation before you meet with your boss. If you've maintained open lines of communication with him during the year, nothing should come as a really big surprise, as you should have a pretty good idea of how you're doing in most areas. Thinking it through ahead of time can help you keep your cool during the actual evaluation.
Listen carefully to everything your boss says during the evaluation. Let her finish her thoughts before you respond. Try not to fidget or look around while she's talking; stay attentive. If you're afraid you'll forget something she mentions, ask her at the beginning if you can take notes during the evaluation.
Act respectful throughout the evaluation, regardless of whether it's positive or negative. Don't get defensive when hearing things you don't like, even if it means you have to count to 10 -- multiple times -- if necessary. Remember, under most conditions, your boss will still be your boss after the evaluation, so don't react in ways that will diminish his opinion of you.
Thank her for her positive comments. Acknowledge the negative ones and own them, unless they're blatantly unfair. Swallow your pride long enough to process them and recognize they're areas where you need to improve if you want to avoid going through a negative evaluation again next time.
Think about what you're hearing. If you feel strongly that you need to respond to a particular point, do it respectfully and calmly. Don't make excuses or blame others for shortcomings in your performance. If the criticism is warranted, ask for specific recommendations to improve in that area. It's tougher to counter criticism when you don't believe it's justified. Offer specific examples that might support a more positive evaluation of a negative aspect of your performance, as it's possible that your boss might not realize that you were the one who salvaged a particular project or that, even though your division as a whole failed to meet sales goals, you actually exceeded the individual goals he set for you.
Thank your boss for her time and comments. Go back to your own office and don't talk about the evaluation with coworkers. Take time to absorb everything, and then get back to work. If you feel you didn't get a chance to adequately explain something during the evaluation session, write your boss a memo and provide her with your input. Don't write it if you're still upset; wait until you've had a chance to calm down. Keep it professional, unemotional and concise. Review it for errors before you send it and keep a copy for yourself.
Work harder following your evaluation on the areas your boss cited as needing improvement -- and document your efforts carefully. Keep him in the loop about projects on which you're working, as well as your progress and accomplishments. Ensure you're clear on his expectations of you so you don't have to go through a tough evaluation next time.
As a national security analyst for the U.S. government, Molly Thompson wrote extensively for classified USG publications. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis company, is a professional genealogist and participates in numerous community organizations.Thompson holds degrees from Wellesley and Georgetown in psychology, political science and international relations.