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How to Handle a Bad Performance Review

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Even if you tried your best to impress your managers and meet your quotas last year, nobody's perfect. If a less-than-stellar performance review is in your future -- or sitting on your desk -- resist the urge to tell management where to get off. Instead, handle it like a professional and you can walk away from the conversation with big brownie points from the boss. Our experts weigh in on the top five ways to handle a negative review.

1. Stay calm.

The first thing for an employee to remember before a performance review is to remain calm and collected, says Scott Fitch, division president of Insperity Performance and Organizational Management.

"No one benefits from getting upset or losing his or her temper," Fitch says. "Like any meeting, an employee should prepare before the performance review by making a list of accomplishments. Be ready to discuss areas of success and opportunities for improvement. If an employee takes an honest, critical look at the year's performance, a lot of surprises may be eliminated during the meeting."

Regardless of how you really feel about your review, the only answer when getting feedback is to say 'Thank you' and to take some time to digest it before responding further," explains Suzanne Peterson, associate professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

"The minute you argue with the feedback or appear defensive, you gain the labels uncoachable, un-self-aware or too emotional. These labels can damage your overall reputation," Peterson says. "You must become known as someone who is perceived as taking feedback well, regardless of its validity."

2. Have an open dialogue.

Long gone are the days a supervisor spoke and the employee simply listened, Fitch explains. Both individuals have a responsibility during the review process to address concerns candidly and help build a more productive work environment.

"Employees should appreciate feedback. It's a way to grow and improve. If they misread criticism or become defensive, it's a wasted opportunity," he says. "With any communication, transparency is key."

To get the dialogue off on the right foot, employees shouldn't act surprised if they know they didn't hit the mark, says Morag Barrett, CEO of SkyeTeam, an international HR and leadership development firm. It's best just to own up to it.

"You should always come to a performance discussion prepared to participate in the conversation. Bring examples of your accomplishments, and expect to be asked about things that didn't go so well," she says.

Also, don't forget that your review is a great time to ask for help if you need it. Now is not the time to be a victim, Barrett says.

"Leave the conversation with a clear understanding of what your boss expects from you, and what you can expect from your boss," she says. 

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