“Will submitting a Performance Review rebuttal backfire?”

Question: Dear Alan: I am considering writing a rebuttal to Human Resources to a vague, unfair comment made in my last performance review. I feel it was used to keep me from getting a raise.

When I asked my manager to explain the comment he could not do so, or even supply details. But, at the same time, he also said he would not change the comment.

What are the possible and most likely outcomes to writing a rebuttal? Will it damage my relationship with my manager? Will l look bad to future employers. Thanks in advance!

Concerned
Detroit, Michigan

Answer: Dear Concerned: To one degree or another, your question is undoubtedly on the minds of every employee who considers standing up for himself or herself at work. It is a threshold issue, and it needs to be addressed, one way or the other.

1. There are innumerable possible outcomes to any step you take – or don’t take. I know that you know that, but it is something that I must mention to all of my clients because it sometimes gets forgotten in difficult and anxious times: people are to some degree – and different people to different degrees – unpredictable, even to themselves. And, too, more than one thing can happen in response to a given action taken, or not taken.

2. Most likely – and I have seen this often in my experience – is that your manager will say to himself or herself: “I had better be more careful the next time,” and for this reason will be more objective in your next review. Every living thing on this earth is aware of its own interests, and sensitive to those things that pose a risk to its interests. For this reason, we know that in most cases, an effective rebuttal to a poor Performance Review will be seen by a manager as something that, if repeated, could cast a negative light on his or her own career. Don’t forget the old saying, “Once burned, twice shy.”

3. While retaliation against you for “pushing back” at your Performance Review is always possible, if you expressly request that there be no retaliation – right in your rebuttal – that will likely prevent retaliation from happening. Retaliation, revenge or retribution – no matter what you call it – in response to Performance Review rebuttals made in honesty and good faith are against the policies of almost every company and organization. Retaliation, revenge or retribution – no matter what you call it – for honesty and good faith in anything you do is something that simply bothers people, including juries and Judges. After all, what good are the rights to be honest and act in good faith if you will be punished for them? It really bothers people, as it should, and for that reason constitutes “risky behavior” for a manager. Reminding a manager of that, in a Performance Review rebuttal, is almost always like getting a vaccination to prevent a disease.

Feel you’ve been retaliated against? Use our “Model Memo Objecting to Retaliation on the Job” to stop it and have it reversed. What to Say, and How to Say It™, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

4. In fact, if you do not file a rebuttal to an unfair and incorrect Performance Review, it is likely to be seen as you are admitting the Performance Review is fair and correct. This is one thing that employees in your circumstances often fail to understand and appreciate. Thus, failing to file a Performance Review rebuttal makes it more likely that you will later experience either one or more of (a) Performance Improvement Plan, (b) being chosen for position elimination when the next workforce reduction takes place, and/or (c) being denied a raise, promotion or bonus you deserve. This is your best time and best circumstance to proactively prevent those things from taking place.

5. Of course, any Performance Review rebuttal needs to be respectfully and professionally written. Keep it calm, respectful, fact-oriented, and objective, and you surely decrease the chances of a negative reaction from your manager, from HR, or from anyone else in management who may view it. Nasty tone, personal attacks and/or threats of any kind will get you nowhere except, perhaps, fired or set up for later firing. Remember: “What goes around, comes around.”

We offer a Model Memo entitled “Model Performance Review Rebuttal,” to respond to an unfair or dishonest Performance Review. It shows What to Say, and How to Say It™. To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

6. It is next to impossible for future employers ever to see a Performance Review. In over 30 years of my law practice I have not once – yes, not once – heard of a future employer seeing a Performance Review in the Human Resources files of a former employer. The reason for this is that those files are never shared, because employers fear lawsuits from employees. This fear, perhaps more than any other fear, is not based in fact. I can assure you of that.

Dealing with incorrect, misleading and dishonest Performance Reviews is one of the most vexing problems employees face. But often quite necessary. See it as a challenge and a learning experience, rather than as a problem and a necessarily bad experience.

Hope this helps, and at the least lowers your anxiety level a bit. That never hurts.

My Best,
Al Sklover 

P.S.: Don’t forget a thing. . . we offer a “141-Point Master Guide and Checklist for Performance Reviews.” It’s got everything you should know, understand and remember. To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

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