Author Topic: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?  (Read 2148 times)

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4150
  • Location: Orange County, CA
How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« on: September 25, 2020, 09:32:39 AM »
Hey all,

Our company is changing up the way we're doing performance reviews and some of the questions are ones that I haven't seen before. Maybe I'm just lucky to have never seen these kinds of questions, let alone answer so many in detail about my accomplishments, but it feels like we're on trial almost. The company has gotten heavy-handed mentioning lay-offs, budget cuts, etc so I'm wondering if they're trying to dig for reasons to give people lower scores (and let them go ultimately). Anyway, I'm not sure what the real intent is of this question but it feels like they're trying to get us to 'self-incriminate'. Here's the gist of it:

"What goals or deliverables are you *least* proud of? How will you improve on those moving forward?"


I dunno, maybe that's a normal performance review question for all I know. I just haven't had to answer many of those before... how would you guys answer? Honestly, I can't really think of something I'm the "least proud of"

former player

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6664
  • Location: Avalon
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2020, 09:37:29 AM »
Two options, I think -

1) I'm proud of everything I achieved in this period, meeting all my objectives, but I am particularly proud of over-performing on X, Y and Z

2) I was concerned at the start of this period that the [company/team] performance on X, Y or Z might not meet needs but by doing A, B C I contributed to D, E F success in this area.

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14900
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2020, 09:45:21 AM »
Sounds like a varient on the clichéd interview question: What do you think your biggest weakness is?

The trick (I think) is to give actionable items without seeming inept or a doof.  You also need to walk the line between taking some responsibility while not saying its all your fault.  Since this is a performance review, the company already knows where it's falling short -- what they are really asking is whether or not you are aware of these problems and, given the chance, can improve on the situation.

For example:  "Well, while we've done well retaining our core client base, our team hasn't met our goals of increasing new clients by 20%. I think we'll have a much better chance of meeting and even exceeding that target if we do X, Y and Z. "

Frankies Girl

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3573
  • Age: 83
  • Location: The oubliette.
  • Ghouls Just Wanna Have Funds!
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2020, 09:58:28 AM »
what former player said.

It's a really dumb/poor question (I read Ask A Manager and I see this type of thing come up often and she always says this type of thing is terrible). Asking an employee to pick out something that is low performance/denigrate their work is a lazy, dumb thing to do.

It's a trap. Don't fall for it. Mention something either challenging, or a problem you solved to a satisfactory conclusion. Paint it in whatever positive/learning experience type of light necessary. Remain positive and at most admit that you were concerned about challenges but overcame them and are quite proud of yourself for doing so.

I was concerned about the changeover for the new system and how well my team would work on X with the challenges we expected to face learning new Y, but I dedicated myself to the task and I actually feel quite pleased with the implementation and my role in achieving a smooth transition to new Z.

If directly pushed to supply a negative answer, you state something like: I really don't know how else to answer that question. I put great effort into doing my best on every assignment I'm given. While there is always room for improvement, I don't feel I am lacking in any area enough to state I wasn't proud of my efforts so far. All I can tell you is I'll continue to put my best into every job I'm given.

This is all assuming you're doing a decent job and not on a PIP or anything. Not recognizing/acknowledging when you actually have serious performance issues is a different type of animal. But if you have done a good job overall, never had any major issues at work - you do not run down anything performance/product wise.



Car Jack

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1853
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2020, 10:13:01 AM »
You answer the question like a politician and not answer the question.

"I had a goal of reducing the extra time I've been putting in to insure customers are beyond satisfied and unfortunately, have prioritized customers over my time".

There's a really good chance that managers will either not look at what you write or not really pay attention.  We have these "self assessments" we do every year.  I literally copy/paste last year's, then go in and make some minor wording changes, remove a goal and add a different one and send it in.  Managers seem to copy/paste a lot themselves.

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4150
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2020, 10:24:40 AM »
You answer the question like a politician and not answer the question.

"I had a goal of reducing the extra time I've been putting in to insure customers are beyond satisfied and unfortunately, have prioritized customers over my time".

There's a really good chance that managers will either not look at what you write or not really pay attention.  We have these "self assessments" we do every year.  I literally copy/paste last year's, then go in and make some minor wording changes, remove a goal and add a different one and send it in.  Managers seem to copy/paste a lot themselves.

Agreed. My current/new manager I haven't got a full read on but she sort of wears her heart on her sleeve (which isn't a good thing in a lot of cases) and can really get into micromanagement/the weeds with things without having a lot of direction, which can quickly turn ugly.
She has sort of backed off in past weeks I think but she comes off as the type who likes to dig in and read into everything you say or type. It seems like this can be a good thing but I think it can also not be such a great thing either when it starts sounding like she's criticizing and nitpicking.

My prior manager was way different, super hands-off, and knew how to 'work the system' I'd imagine similarly to how you describe. The current one concerns me because she is the "pioneering" type who likes to "rewrite history" and "reinvent the wheel" even when there are clearly defined processes in place. If things don't go her way, she let's everybody know. And the worst part is that if she has to define a new process, she has no clue what to do (hence the earlier comment about lacking direction) and heavily leans on her team to direct her even though we should be the last people to give her full direction. At least, that's how she comes off to me :(

Anyway, this is less about the manager and more about the wording of the review. The problem is that she just adds another layer of abstraction, so I feel like I do have to be careful how I answer because she could totally spin it out of control.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2020, 10:27:51 AM by jeromedawg »

never give up

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4965
  • Location: UK
  • Kindness is free to give and priceless to receive
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2020, 10:25:20 AM »
Ah performance management. Corporate fluff like this is a great motivator to achieve FIRE isn't it! I can't wait to be rid of this nonsense.

If I was feeling full of mischief I may be inclined to say "Any goal where corporate politics and/or senior meddling took away my autonomy or left me with an unrealistic deadline, thus preventing me from doing a good job."

If I wasn't feeling so full of mischief I hope I would come out with something like the others have posted. You've received some good answers already.

MaybeBabyMustache

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3411
    • My Wild Ride to FI
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2020, 10:28:35 AM »
At the company where i work, we are required to provide growth areas. Not quite framed as your question is, but it would be appropriate to answer in the way @nereo outlined in our company culture.

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4150
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2020, 10:51:30 AM »
At the company where i work, we are required to provide growth areas. Not quite framed as your question is, but it would be appropriate to answer in the way @nereo outlined in our company culture.
Sounds like a varient on the clichéd interview question: What do you think your biggest weakness is?

The trick (I think) is to give actionable items without seeming inept or a doof.  You also need to walk the line between taking some responsibility while not saying its all your fault.  Since this is a performance review, the company already knows where it's falling short -- what they are really asking is whether or not you are aware of these problems and, given the chance, can improve on the situation.

For example:  "Well, while we've done well retaining our core client base, our team hasn't met our goals of increasing new clients by 20%. I think we'll have a much better chance of meeting and even exceeding that target if we do X, Y and Z. "


Thanks! Thinking through it more, I recalled a 'weak link' in the chain (not us but our business partner who "owns" the application and ultimately drives the requirements for it) in that they are re-known for being indecisive and making last minute change/requests late into the game (even after a BRD has been written up). This obviously impacts our schedule/timeline and makes a bit of a mess, and while we've "gotten used to it" it's definitely an area that can be improved on. So A) Timelines sometimes may be impacted (or not) but it's not our fault B) we still deliver and C) this "business partner" needs to get their act together so as to not cause further delays

MaybeBabyMustache

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3411
    • My Wild Ride to FI
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2020, 10:54:05 AM »
And the way I think about that answer is, how will you adjust your working model to account for that lack of predictability? Because, you may or may not have control over the third party (if external), but you can potentially adjust your own approach to working with them that will better support the challenges.

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4150
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2020, 10:58:02 AM »
And the way I think about that answer is, how will you adjust your working model to account for that lack of predictability? Because, you may or may not have control over the third party (if external), but you can potentially adjust your own approach to working with them that will better support the challenges.

That's tough to answer because we don't work directly with them. We are sort of 'buffered' by our business systems analyst/consultant who drives the BRD as well as our manager who works out the 'logistics'
We just sort of have to 'go with the flow' of whatever we're given. Fortunately, the BSC and our manager are good about managing that group and their expectations while shielding us and allowing us to work within reason. But still, overall the timelines can be impacted and make things more stressful, so really it's more a matter of us not feeling so rushed when we have to test and deliver something. 

Lucky13

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 131
  • Age: 46
  • Location: Seattle, WA
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2020, 03:45:33 PM »
As a manager, I was frequently making decisions that in hindsight turned out to be not the best. One way to answer is to pick something you would have done differently, knowing what you know now, and you will try to avoid by getting more info up front, or trying to better anticipate problems, etc.

Malcat

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6878
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2020, 05:45:01 AM »
Ugh, I hate stupid questions.

Yeah, as everyone else has said, respond like a politician. No one who would use such a dumb question is going to use the responses intelligently, so just answer in benign as way as possible.

I was sitting in on interviews of young women recently and the interviewer's questions included the "biggest weakness" question, and I asked the interviewing manager who had been doing this for over a decade "do they all say 'perfectionism'?" and the manager said "yeah, pretty much" so I asked "then why bother asking the question??".

So, just give the equivalently vanilla answer of "perfectionism" and your answer will be skimmed and ignored, which is probably what you want in this scenario.

nessness

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 729
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2020, 09:21:26 PM »
Hmm, I kinda disagree with PPs. I think this is different from the "biggest weakness" interview question, because the interviewer doesn't know your weaknesses, whereas your manager probably does know what mistakes you've made (and no one gets through a full year without making ANY mistakes.

As a manager, I'd much rather have my employees acknowledging their mistakes than pretending they didn't make them. Don't throw yourself under the bus, but come up with a deadline you missed, or a conflict you didn't handle as well as you could have, or a meeting that you weren't sufficiently prepared for, or maybe just a training/advancement opportunity you didn't take advantage of, and explain how you will handle similar situations in the future.

former player

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6664
  • Location: Avalon
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2020, 02:07:52 AM »
Hmm, I kinda disagree with PPs. I think this is different from the "biggest weakness" interview question, because the interviewer doesn't know your weaknesses, whereas your manager probably does know what mistakes you've made (and no one gets through a full year without making ANY mistakes.

As a manager, I'd much rather have my employees acknowledging their mistakes than pretending they didn't make them. Don't throw yourself under the bus, but come up with a deadline you missed, or a conflict you didn't handle as well as you could have, or a meeting that you weren't sufficiently prepared for, or maybe just a training/advancement opportunity you didn't take advantage of, and explain how you will handle similar situations in the future.
If you are going to acknowledge a mistake it should be -
1) this thing went wrong
2) I did this to put it right and there were no adverse consequences
3) I have put X procedure in place to make sure it never happens again.

norajean

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 603
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #15 on: September 28, 2020, 06:16:30 AM »
I always ask employees if they could re-do one thing over the course of the year what it would be and why and what have they learned from it.  We both know what went well and what went wrong.  I am looking for an honest answer and to know if they feel it was a one-time thing or a gap in their skills/behavior that they need to work on.     Everyone has gaps and issues - mature people can express them openly and chart paths to mitigate them.

Whatever you do, don't try to BS on this question.  Do not say "my biggest issue was I work too hard because I love my job so much" or similar nonsense.

Sayyadina

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 31
  • Location: Victoria, BC
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #16 on: September 29, 2020, 12:39:56 PM »
This question definitely feels like it's worded like a trap, but we have a similar one where I work that I find is probably the most important question for gauging the growth of my reports. It's basically "over the past period, what could you have done differently for bigger impact?".

As a manager, part of my responsibility is helping people to become better. Sometimes that means helping them to learn new technical skills. Sometimes that means helping them through tricky inter-personal situations. And sometimes that means helping them past some block that they have that's become a big problem. I use this question and I ask my reports to use this question as a time to reflect and see where they have opportunities to become better. It's not that they were bad before. But everyone can improve somewhere.

If I get a non-answer, especially the more senior someone is, I usually take it to mean one of two things. Either you're unable to reflect which is a problem, because honest reflection is the basis of growth. Or you don't trust me. And that's also a problem. Usually I already know which is which, but either way we need to talk about it. I can't help you fix something that you refuse to acknowledge is broken.

So the short version is this question is important, even if it's phrased badly. And if you do some reflection and you decide not to answer it, you've learned something very critical about your workplace.

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 18418
  • Age: 40
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #17 on: September 29, 2020, 01:23:57 PM »
I'm least proud of the way that I increased productivity on XYZ by 15% this year.  I was really aiming for 16%, and am beating myself up about it.  As a serial overachiever, this will really bother me.

Suck on that shitty answer, shitty questioner.

DeedlesSci

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 14
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #18 on: September 29, 2020, 05:44:41 PM »
What helps me answer these sort of performance review questions is to think about answering my manager rather than answering the question per se.

So, essentially I think about how my manager may use the information from that question. For my manager, I think she is looking for what @Sayyadina was talking about. She is looking for me to reflect on my skills and to look for areas of growth. I often will look back on something that was done well by the standards of the day, but then compare that with how new training or a new skill could apply to a similar situations in the future and make it better. Or, I might have had a realization recently that I could use a refresher or new training on something. Other times, I might look at something I see as a greater need for the company in terms of training or communication gaps.

Since I think my manager would be looking for that kind of reflection, that is the kind of answer I would give.

MayDay

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4716
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #19 on: September 30, 2020, 05:57:48 AM »
I'm least proud of the way that I increased productivity on XYZ by 15% this year.  I was really aiming for 16%, and am beating myself up about it.  As a serial overachiever, this will really bother me.

Suck on that shitty answer, shitty questioner.

If a mid career professional answered this way it would reflect quite poorly on them.

Your boss knows what you've done all year. There's no way you are perfect. You aren't fooling anyone by answering with a disingenuous answer. It shows a lack of awareness and a lack of a growth mindset.

Malcat

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6878
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #20 on: September 30, 2020, 06:05:27 AM »
I always ask employees if they could re-do one thing over the course of the year what it would be and why and what have they learned from it.  We both know what went well and what went wrong.  I am looking for an honest answer and to know if they feel it was a one-time thing or a gap in their skills/behavior that they need to work on.     Everyone has gaps and issues - mature people can express them openly and chart paths to mitigate them.

Whatever you do, don't try to BS on this question.  Do not say "my biggest issue was I work too hard because I love my job so much" or similar nonsense.

That's the thing, the way you've phrased it is very very different.

These types of questions can be extremely valuable, but how they are presented is as critical as the question itself.

I'll never ask the "weaknesses" question in an interview, but I always ask a question with a similar purpose: "tell me about what a really terrible day of work looks like for you?"

No one will answer the first question in any kind of meaningful way, but answers to the second question reveal A LOT about what job factors a person struggles with.

The question in the OP is a bad question not because of what it's trying to do, but because of how clumsily it's trying to do it.

It's a bad question because it's phrased in a way that's guaranteed to set off defensive reflexes. Your question on the other hand is phrased in such an inviting way.

These things matter.

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 18418
  • Age: 40
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #21 on: September 30, 2020, 06:49:26 AM »
I'm least proud of the way that I increased productivity on XYZ by 15% this year.  I was really aiming for 16%, and am beating myself up about it.  As a serial overachiever, this will really bother me.

Suck on that shitty answer, shitty questioner.

If a mid career professional answered this way it would reflect quite poorly on them.

Your boss knows what you've done all year. There's no way you are perfect. You aren't fooling anyone by answering with a disingenuous answer. It shows a lack of awareness and a lack of a growth mindset.

A supervisor asking the question reflects quite poorly on them.

It implies that they're unaware of the work you've done all year.  They aren't fooling anyone by asking disingenuous questions.  It shows a lack of awareness and an awful mindset.

:P


In all seriousness . . . I've worked at places where the supervisor had very little idea what his employees were doing on a day to day basis.  Answering stupid questions like that given in the original post in correspondingly stupid ways benefitted you a fair amount in that position.

use2betrix

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2268
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #22 on: October 01, 2020, 09:33:39 AM »
I like to point out that the people who occasionally make mistakes are usually the ones doing the most work. Tons of people perform minimal work because they’re too scared to make mistakes.

Some of my favorite employees have made big mistakes, but that’s because they’re also making big decisions and doing a lot of work.

I know several employee’s who don’t contribute hardly at all to the projects, and in turn they stay under the radar.

The same goes with people that ask a lot of questions. Not everyone knows everything, so I hate to think anything is a “stupid” question. The people that ask questions are at least digging in and finding ways to contribute.

Sayyadina

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 31
  • Location: Victoria, BC
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #23 on: October 01, 2020, 01:43:54 PM »
People not asking questions is a thing that drives me nuts. I feel like we have to deprogram our college hires. Seriously, if you're making the tech salary we are paying you, I would rather you ask a question and get an answer and go back to work than figure it out yourself and waste a couple days on it.

If you keep asking the same or similar questions over and over and over then we might need to talk about that, because it shows something isn't getting through. But getting to the point where you are comfortable being vulnerable and saying you don't know something is the best way to speed up your onboarding.

BlueHouse

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3639
  • Location: WDC
Re: How to answer this 'negative' performance review question?
« Reply #24 on: October 01, 2020, 05:00:41 PM »
I used to answer the "weakness" interview question by telling them that I was really not good at interviewing.  It made me nervous and I was uncomfortable bragging about accomplishments. 

The second part of that question is meant to be what actionable steps are you taking to improve?  So I would add that I don't really intend to try to improve that weakness.  They can call references or check my work.  both of which will have been exemplary. 

That's it!