What To Do With A Bad Performance Review

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 2.12.58 PM

Working for a public accounting firm can be one of the most rewarding yet difficult career choices to make as you come out of college. Beginning from the first day you step into the office, you will be thrown into a whirlwind of tasks, clients, engagements, software, and sometimes even thrown on an airplane during your first week like I was.

It’s quite overwhelming to new hires and unfortunately, causes enough stress for employees to quit just as they finish their first busy season. On top of everything else, you will receive reviews from the seniors and managers you have worked with hopefully detailing out the pros and cons of your performance.

But what happens when your review comes back and it doesn’t say one good thing about your performance or even worse, depicts you as a horrible accountant?

This is when things can get pretty harsh. Instead of trying to fight back your position at the firm with your senior, there are 3 things you can do to overcome your bad review and hopefully put yourself back on track to becoming a successful accountant.

  1. Be Honest With Yourself

This is probably going to be the hardest part of overcoming a bad performance review. You are going to need to be completely honest with yourself on your own performance and exactly how you could have done things better.

You will not get anywhere if you consider yourself the victim. Take out a piece of paper and write “10 Things I Could Have Done To Get A Better Performance Review”.

Then, begin to list out a list of 10 ways you think you could have done things better during that engagement or period of time. Be completely honest with yourself and remember that you are not showing this list to anyone except yourself.

If you cannot come up with 10 things, you are not trying hard enough. There is always room for improvement, even for the individuals who received a glowing review. Through self-evaluation, you will be able to analyze where you went wrong and hopefully give yourself some insight as to how you can improve in the future.

  1. Ask To Speak With Your Reviewer, In Person

This is going to be awkward and uncomfortable. But I don’t care and neither should you. If you are serious about your accounting career and want to be successful in it, you are going to need to face up to the bad performance review, in person, with optimism.

You’re going to want to come prepared to the meeting with questions on how to improve your performance, exactly where you could have performed better and the recommendations from the reviewer on how to improve your performance going forward.

Use the list you created to give you some pointers on where the conversation could go. Start off the conversation with saying the following:

“Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today. I would really like to go over the performance review with you and develop a plan as to how I can utilize this feedback to succeed in this next year.”

Then, continue to inform your manager that you are thankful for their honest review and would love to continue to receive feedback in the future as you progress into the next year.

You want to get across to your manager that you are not upset about their bad review, just interested in utilizing this information to better your career and success in accounting.

Never, and I repeat NEVER start fighting with the person. You can politely inquire about specific areas but this is no time to get bitchy.

  1. Put Your Seniors/Managers In A Position Where They Have To Give You A Glowing Future Performance Review

After having a sit-down meeting with your manager, write down every piece of feedback they gave you (good and bad). Create a list of the things you did right and the things you could have improved upon. Refer back to this list as you proceed into your next year at the firm.

Now it’s time to get excited. You have the next year to prove to your managers that you are able to not only bounce back from a bad performance review, but you are the type of person to take hold of the constructive criticism and use it as a way to excel.

Here is where to start:

  1. Show up 1-2 hours earlier each day
  2. Request informal performance feedback weekly
  3. Become organized with your work and provide status updates on where you are at with your senior each day/week
  4. Attend firm planned events and interact with your peers and managers

Bouncing back from a bad performance review does not have to be as painful as it sounds. Instead, utilize this as a learning opportunity and promise yourself that you will work twice as hard as your peers to obtain a glowing review in the future.

I also wrote a more extensive post on how to get promoted in public accounting where you can use this information to also help you bounce back from a bad review. You can check it out here: 10 Essential Steps To Guarantee Your Public Accounting Promotion.

And, as always, feel free to reach out to me at andrew@thebeancounter.com with any questions you might have!