Here's what to do when you find yourself on a different page from your boss when it comes to your performance.

You've been trucking along at work, arriving on time, grabbing your cup of morning joe, working through the morning into the afternoon, and then you heading home after a long day's work. As far as you know, everything is going well. You don't necessarily jump up and down with joy each day about your job, but you still put in the time and effort required and feel you're doing good work. Then, to your surprise, your manager asks to meet with you one afternoon to discuss your performance. After the meeting, you feel defeated and surprised because your manager isn't happy with your current level of performance.

Or maybe it's time for your annual performance review, and your manager's marks don't resemble the same glowing marks you provided about your performance. These scenarios can happen to the best of us. When your workplace expectations differ from those of your bosses, it can cause stress and tension for all.

Obviously, the easiest performance discussions are the ones where the supervisor and employee have similar perspectives on the employee's performance. However, it often happens that this is not the case. If this happens to you, consider the following tips on how to proceed or handle the situation when you might receive a poor performance review.

Mentally prepare yourself before the conversation

Before entering the meeting, tell yourself that regardless of how the meeting goes, it's just a meeting about one individual's perspective of your performance. Performance discussions are simply a way for you to receive information and feedback about how you're performing in a particular position within the company. It isn't an evaluation of your personal worth or how you would perform in a different position or with a different company. Don't take the feedback too personally. Instead, use their comments as you see fit to improve at your job and interacting with colleagues.

Take an honest look in the mirror

It's hard to admit that we might be struggling at work or that our performance isn't what we'd like for it to be. After having a heart to heart with yourself, get clear on whether or not there is validity in your manager's perspective. If there is, and you'd like to remain in your role, take action to improve.

Think before you react

When receiving negative feedback for poor work performance, it can stir some emotions that can quickly surface. If this happens to you, do your best to take a deep breath and count to three before you react with an outburst that might make matters worse. It's best to take the time to listen to your manager's input and allow yourself a few days to process the information before reacting or responding.

Ask your boss for a performance improvement plan

If you believe there is validity to your manager's points, ask for an improvement plan that outlines specific goals and objectives. Make sure you align with your manager on specific ways to improve your work performance. The goals and objectives should be specific and quantitative with a specified time in which to reach them — the more specific, the clearer it will be that you have met the goals as requested.

Keep the communication open

Ask your manager if you could schedule some regular meetings with him or her so you can discuss your progress and the current state of performance. Having regular communications with your manager is beneficial regardless of performance, but especially when performance is a concern.

Related: Professionalism in the Workplace: How and When to Ask for Feedback

Seek training and education

Ask your manager for suggestions or training resources that could help you improve in the work areas that were identified as your problem areas. You might also want to do an online search or ask your peers for suggestions. This type of action demonstrates initiative and shows that you genuinely care about your work performance.

Ask friends or co-workers for an assessment

If you disagree with your manager's assessment of your performance, consider asking some trusted friends and peers for their perspectives. You're looking for honest feedback to assess whether or not others see what your manager sees. Based on their feedback, you might identify areas for improvement or changes you need to make in your current position to get back on track. You might also decide you need to switch to another position or a different company altogether.  

Work with a career or personal coach

If you're struggling at work and genuinely want to improve, consider hiring a career or personal coach to help you. Do an online search for a local career or personal coach in your area or ask your network if they have any suggestions. Many coaches work remotely via phone (this is my preferred method) so you might end up expanding your search beyond your local area to find the right coach to fit your needs and budget.   

Be honest and ask for what you need

You might not be surprised by your manager's frustration because the feeling is mutual. In a recent Interact/Harris Poll of approximately 1,000 U.S. workers, 57 percent reported that lack of clear directions was just one of several communication issues that prevented effective leadership. If you'd like to stay in your current position longer and want to attempt to make it work, be honest with your manager and ask for what you need, including clarification of roles and responsibilities. It's hard to do your work effectively if you're not clear as to what you're supposed to be doing.   

Be open if personal issues are impacting your job

If the performance concerns are relatively recent and they're due to some personal issues you're dealing with, like a divorce, personal or family illness, or some other life-impacting event, consider sharing the highlights of this with your manager. You don't need to go into a lot of detail, but life happens and many managers will give you some space and time to deal with your personal issues, understanding that your performance will return to normal once the issues are under control or have been dealt with.

Wave the white flag and look for another position

Job fit is crucial for career success. If you find that your performance is suffering because you're not happy with your current position or organization, then start getting your resume and marketing materials together so you can apply for open positions and with organizations that are the right fit for you.

Chalk it up to a learning experience

One in two adults leaves their job to get away from their manager at some point in their career, as reported in a Gallup study of approximately 7,200 U.S. adults. In some instances, you might be unfortunate enough to be stuck with a poor manager, and there's not a whole lot you can do about it but move on. If this is the case for you, consider this a learning experience about what not to do if you become a manager one day.

Take the high road

Take the high road — regardless of what happens. People will remember when you deal with situations with as much grace, integrity, and dignity as possible. They also remember when you don't handle things in such a way, which could hurt you in the long run.

Sometimes an employee's perspective of his or her performance will be different than that of a manager's. If this happens to you, be proactive to improve or evaluate your performance to save yourself a lot of headaches and heartache in the long run. You'll be able to decide if it's worth it to take action to improve your performance or if it's better to make the choice to leave your current position on your own accord before the company asks you to leave.  

Photo credit: cea +/Flickr

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