someone who barely managed me put negative feedback in my annual review — Ask a Manager

here are the 10 best questions to ask your job interviewer — Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I just received my annual review.

I’ve been passed between four managers over the past 12 months – one of whom was fired, one who was very hands-off for the majority of their time with me, one who worked with me for three months, and one who became my manager relatively recently.

All my managers other than the fired one contributed to my annual review. Each of their comments show up separately, in one place. The majority of the feedback was positive: I am intelligent, hard-working, and thorough. The critical feedback was mostly that I should not jump to speak too quickly in meetings, be more structured in my approach to work, and ask for help more often. It was “you’re doing well, we requested a promotion for you, here are some things to focus on next year, watch out for this area for improvement.”

Except for one manager’s feedback – the person who was my manager for three months. That person wrote that I am ultra-controlling, I am condescending, I berate my colleagues, and people avoid working with me. Essentially, she took each of my flaws and exaggerated them so it appears I am a monster to work with, who is verbally abusive and alienates her colleagues. She never shared this feedback with me when I reported to her, and nobody has ever come to me with something like this before. Outspoken and candid, sure. Maybe a bit critical or visibly frustrated when things go wrong. But berating and alienating people? It feels like a really serious accusation to deliver for the first time, in writing, in an annual review.

This individual was taken off the project (possibly due to her own performance issues, but I’m not sure) and the other two managers delivered my review, not her. They didn’t agree with her statements, but didn’t explicitly disagree with them either. There was a lot of “maybe this is her perception.” Maybe I am this person in her mind! I think that’s possible. But it seems insane to put in my review without even a warning or prior conversation. She provided no concrete examples.

Our HR system requires “confirming” you received your annual review to finalize it. I do not want to “confirm” I received this feedback. I am not the way this person describes, and I want to become a manager myself – I don’t want this on my “record.” What do I do? I want to write a rebuttal of sorts, or have them taken out, but I don’t want to open a giant HR can of worms either. (We are both women, so there isn’t really a gender dynamic at play. She is significantly senior to me.)

First, talk to HR and ask to have the feedback removed. Point out that this person managed you for a very brief period, didn’t even hint at any of this feedback while you reported to her, and it’s at odds with the assessment of the other managers who contributed to your evaluation. They may or may not remove it, but it’s reasonable to ask for.

If they won’t remove it, ask to add a written response to the evaluation that will be kept in your file along with it. They’ll probably let you do that.

If you do a written response, keep it as objective and factual as possible. You’re right to be pissed off, but you don’t want an emotional response sitting in your file forever. Instead, stick to the facts: this person only managed you for three months, didn’t allude to any of this feedback previously, and provided no examples, and the feedback isn’t echoed by anyone else familiar with your work, as the rest of the review shows. Say that you dispute its accuracy and you ask that it be discounted in favor of the feedback by managers familiar with your work.

I wouldn’t get into a big battle over refusing to confirm you received the review. That really is just to acknowledge receipt; you’re not saying you agree with or accept the feedback. You’re literally just saying that the review itself was provided to you.

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