When an Employee Rejects Their Performance Review

Posted by Dave • August 6, 2019 (Last modified May 26, 2023) • 4 min read

It’s uncommon but when the performance review process is finished, an employee will sometimes raise concerns with their evaluation results. They may challenge their manager in the review meeting, take their complaint to HR, or go as far as to refuse to formally accept their evaluation.

The good news is much can be done to prevent these situations from occurring in the first place. A solid review process leads to accurate ratings and feedback that align with what the employee expected to hear. 

However, in the rare instance an employee disagrees with their evaluation, it’s important to listen to their concerns and resolve the issue before the review process can be considered complete. 

Was the employee’s evaluation fair?

Start by bringing in an unbiased third-party, usually an HR representative, to review the facts and determine if the employee has a valid complaint. They should learn if the employee disagrees with their rating on a certain competency or their evaluation as a whole. If the employee has a minor qualm, reassure them that everyone has areas they can improve in. If they feel their ratings are low across the board, it warrants investigating. Here are some questions the HR representative should consider:

  • How did the manager rate their other direct reports? – The employee may have a reasonable concern if ratings skewed negative for the manager’s entire team.
  • How did other raters evaluate the employee?Multi-rater, or 360-degree feedback, ensures evaluations are fair and accurate since multiple people participate. If the employee received consistent ratings, their concerns are likely off base. 
  • Is there a bigger issue at play? – Many people hope a performance review will result in a raise or promotion. Talk to the employee and find out if they’re upset about more than their evaluation. 

TIP: Conduct a short training session for managers before they complete their team’s performance reviews. Teach them how to give fair ratings and articulate their feedback to direct reports. 

Is your review process objective?

Objective review criteria leads to impartial evaluations. Strive to set measurable goals for every employee so their performance is always clearcut. That way their review can focus on their progress toward goals rather than a rater’s personal opinion. 

That said, it’s fine to include subjective secondary review competencies, like teamwork, initiative, adherence to values, etc. Just make sure raters back up their scores with examples and actionable feedback. Even if these competencies are a bit ambiguous, employees will almost never challenge their ratings in these areas if their job performance evaluation is accurate.

Was the employee caught off guard by their evaluation?

While formal, in-depth performance reviews are important, great managers understand the power of on-going feedback. Meeting with a direct report weekly or even monthly provides the opportunity to discuss their recent performance and how they’re feeling about what they’re working on.

Regular check-ins build toward effective performance reviews and prevent the employee from going into the experience not knowing what to expect. They’ll already have an idea of what sort of feedback they’re going to receive because they’ve had previous conversations with their manager focused on what they’re doing well and where they can improve. 

Is a PIP the answer?

You may need to take action if you can’t get an employee to agree to their performance review and commit to doing better. Placing them on a performance improvement plan (PIP) is an extreme step but can end up being a necessary last resort.

A PIP outlines a series of objectives an employee must complete by a certain date to continue working in their current role. It’s intended to get a struggling employee back on track so only consider this option if they’re failing to meet their role-specific goals. If the problem is with the employee’s attitude, not their performance, you should instead take action based on your organization’s conduct policy. 

Does your performance review process need an overhaul?

A single employee who objects to their performance review is likely an outlier. However, there is a problem if multiple employees say their evaluations aren’t an accurate representation of the effort they’re putting in and the results they’re delivering. If this is a real challenge your organization is facing, it may be time to reinvent how you do employee performance reviews.

A great place to start? Insert some new performance review questions!

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