In September of 2016 I wrote about what performance reviews are and are not. I have received numerous emails asking me to expand on this subject, especially if you believe that a negative review is untrue.
I have heard many stories about executives receiving untrue negative reviews. This is often the precursor to being let go. Companies actually do this to protect themselves from a lawsuit should they terminate an employee - in essence, they are building a case for termination for cause. Beware of a review which is completely out of line with previous evaluations or your own expectations. However, should this happen to you, here is what you must do. It is imperative to take these steps in order to keep your options open and protect yourself.
To quote my previous post:
"While I am not a lawyer and this should not be construed as legal advice, if one is given a poor review, it should not be signed other than to note that you saw and heard the review but that you do not agree with it; this disagreement should be written right on the review and a copy made and kept. If one disagrees with it, you must write a letter/memo/email and detail your disagreement.
"Beware that otherwise high performing employees are given a perfunctory and negative review in preparation to their being let go. This often happens not for reasons of performance but because the company may be anticipating cut-backs due to poor business or account loss [or, possibly a sale]. This frequently happens with tenured employees who may have contracts, but it is not limited to just them. The company can use poor performance as an excuse for termination and for not providing severance or other benefits. Should you find out that previously positive performance is suddenly in question, you must be prepared for a termination."
Detailing your disagreement is essential for your protection. Among other things, it puts the company on notice that you will not easily accept a termination, should it come. The simple act of disagreeing in writing could save your job since few companies want to be sued or have a legal dispute, despite the fact that they are richer and more capable of defending a suit than you are to actually engage in legal representation. It could also put you in a better position to negotiate.
Should you disagree with the review and sign any document saying so, you should also get the person with whom you expressed your disagreement, to sign a copy. This, so that the company cannot say that they never knew you disagreed with the review. If you send your disagreement via email, you must get a “read” copy (not just delivered) for your files. If you do not receive such a document – sometimes companies just ignore the communication – send another with a different subject. Your paper trail could be very important.
However, if you get an unexpected negative review, no matter how unjustified it may be, take it as a message. You should get your résumé up to date and start the process of looking for a job.