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Bad performance review: What to do NOW (step-by-step guide)

Ramit Sethi

Here’s a dirty secret about performance reviews your HR department doesn’t want you to know.

Any performance review, even a bad one, can hand you the ammunition you need to get a significant raise (10%-50%) in as little as 6 months.

Sound crazy? Hear me out. I’ve got the proof to back it up. So if you have five minutes, I can show you precisely how this works.

Imagine your performance review was peppered with negative phrases like:

  • John doesn’t communicate clearly
  • His work has been subpar the last two months
  • He doesn’t speak up during meetings and appears disinterested in the company

What would you do if you saw this?

Many people would get defensive (“If we had fewer meetings maybe I’d talk more!”). Or feel upset your supervisor overlooked all you’ve accomplished (“Who cares about meetings, I saved the company $20,000 last year!”).

Those might be valid reactions, but they’re not going to make you look good. Or get you a raise.

If you’ve gotten negative feedback on your performance review, here’s what to do instead.

Overcome negative feedback with the ARMS technique

My ARMS negotiation technique was originally created for salary negotiation (see one reader who used my techniques to get a $16,000 raise.) But you can also use it to get out of the doghouse and in good standing with your supervisor.

Here are the 4 parts of the ARMS Technique:

Agree – Don’t argue or tell your supervisor he’s wrong. That adds fuel to the fire and won’t help you.

Reframe – Share a different perspective to paint your actions in a more positive light. This doesn’t mean lie, but to look at the situation from a different angle.

Make your case – Propose a plan for how to solve this problem with concrete measurable goals. If possible, set a specific time and date to meet with your supervisor to go over your progress.

Shut up – Let your boss or supervisor respond and see what he thinks of your plan. He’ll likely go along with it, but he may have modifications he’d like to make.

Here’s an example of how this might look: After being told, “You don’t speak up in meetings,” you book a time to talk with your supervisor. Here’s what you might say:

Agree: Yes, I haven’t been as vocal in meetings as other team members.

Reframe: It’s not that I’m disinterested. It’s that I only like to speak in meetings when I’m 100% sure about what I’m saying. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time with half-baked thoughts or ideas.

Make your case: Going forward I’ll make a point to contribute at least 3 new ideas/critiques per meeting. Would that solve this problem?

Shut up: *SILENCE*

Whatever you propose when you “make your case,” be sure to track your progress. In this instance, note the dates for each meeting and write down the ideas you present. Then you’ll have hard evidence that you followed through.

Here’s another example. This time, imagine your supervisor said, “John gets lost in the details and loses track of the bigger picture.”

How could you use the ARMS technique then? Here’s one way:

Agree: That sounds like a valid critique. I do focus on minor details of my projects.

Reframe: The reason behind that is I want to make sure our work is top quality. Any mistake can reflect poorly on me, our department, even our company, and I want to make sure everything we produce is high quality.

Make your case: I’m going to set time limits for how long I’ll spend on each project. This should keep me from getting lost in details. In two weeks, we can check in to see how this new system is working. Does that sound good?

Shut up: *SILENCE*

Next step: Getting a raise

When it’s time to follow up a month or two later, you’ll bring your written record proving you did what you promised.

But that’s not all you’ll bring.

This meeting isn’t about saying, “See, I did what I promised. Isn’t that great? Well, see ya later.” Now that you’re out of the doghouse, you can use this time to lay out another plan. One that will get you a raise.

The techniques in the video I’m about to show you are straight from my Dream Job course that was covered by Forbes magazine. They’ve helped thousands of readers find and land their dream jobs while getting a 10%, 20%, even 50% increase in pay — even from companies that don’t “traditionally” give out significant raises.

All you have to do to get access is enter your name and email in the box below. We’ll send you a link to the video right away.

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