A poor performance evaluation by a new manager

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Q: I recently received a poor performance evaluation from my new manager.  I was stunned.  This manager has only supervised my performance for four months yet the performance review was supposedly for one year.  How can that be?  My former manager is now in another division in another state and is barely reachable by phone or email.

A: I am sorry that you were surprised by your review.  No one likes to be surprised in a negative way.

I am not sure what may have happened but my guess is that your current manager solicited feedback from your former manager.  This may have happened when your current manager stepped into the role.  It is not unusual for there to be a transition plan between an incoming and an outgoing manager of a department.  In short, the former manager identifies key tasks, outcomes and responsibilities for the incoming manager.  Sometimes dates are included to give the new manager a sense of what is expected and when.  If there are employees working under this manager, the former manager will often share notes, feedback and other pieces of relevant information with the new manager.  Some managers even retain a file of all important conversations, performance discussions, goals, concerns and the like.  Perhaps your new manager inherited that information when he or she stepped into the role?

When negative feedback is received, it is smart to take notes and listen.  Rather than respond in an angry or argumentative manner, think about the feedback.  Is there some truth to the feedback?  Employees sometimes don’t realize it is difficult to give negative feedback.  Managers often have some angst before sharing a negative feedback.  Sometimes this anxiety causes the manager to delay the performance review, because the manager would honestly like to avoid it altogether.

My advice – take some time.  Read the review.  Collect your thoughts.  Make some of your own notes.  If you can meet with your manager with a calm demeanor, request a follow-up meeting.  Try not to be defensive.  Instead listen.  You should know at the end of that meeting, whether you should forge ahead in your current role, or not.  Sometimes an employee and a manager disagree so vehemently that the relationship can never move ahead in a positive way.  Then you will have to make a choice: to remain in your current role or look for another role.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.