How to Bounce Back from a Negative Performance Review

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Effective performance reviews are foundational to fostering a culture of continuous improvement and professional growth. Our approach to performance reviews focuses on ensuring that they are constructive, especially when the feedback might be less than positive. In this article, Cedric Rochefolle, Engineering Manager at Agoda shares practical tips on how to bounce back from a negative performance review.

Approach to Performance Reviews

No Surprises Policy: We believe that performance reviews should not bring any surprises. This is achieved through reviewing the status monthly, during a dedicated one-on-one session, with team members, where we discuss role expectations, current performance, and any gaps. This continuous dialogue ensures that all feedback, particularly negative, has already been addressed before the formal review, making the process a recap of what had been discussed over the last few months.

Preparation and Understanding: On the day of the performance review, previous discussion notes are reviewed to ensure both parties are aligned. This step is crucial to avoid misunderstandings and set the stage for a constructive conversation, particularly when the feedback points to areas needing improvement.

Handling Negative Performance Reviews

Extended Time for Discussion: When delivering a negative performance review, extra time is allocated to ensure the conversation is thorough and constructive. The aim is for both parties to leave the discussion with a clear plan and a positive outlook, even in the face of criticism. Preparation includes actionable steps for improvement and realignment of expectations if recent performance was low.

Setting SMART Goals: At Agoda, we provide clear guidelines for each engineering role that outline the expected behaviors and achievements necessary for advancement to the next level. These guidelines serve as a useful tool for discussions with team members about areas where they can improve. Together, we set SMART goals that involve measurable and specific actions. For example, this could involve consistently achieving a certain number of story points or reducing the number of review rounds needed before their code is ready to merge. My aim is to ensure that these improvements extend beyond merely meeting the minimum requirements for the next performance review. It’s essential that these goals are viewed as fair and achievable by all engineers, promoting genuine growth and development.

Managerial Support: I follow up with engineers through weekly or bi-weekly one-on-ones to gauge progress on these goals. It’s a chance for engineers to seek further guidance and show their dedication to personal growth. I ensure these meetings are seen as a platform for open dialogue, where engineers can voice concerns and recalibrate their goals if necessary.

Continuous Feedback and Communication: Effective feedback, whether positive or negative, is based on clear facts and specific instances. Regular updates on progress, discussions about actions taken, and addressing motivational issues are all part of maintaining clear and supportive communication. When an engineer is preparing for a presentation, I help review not only the content but also the form and delivery of the message. It is also essential to balance positive and negative feedback. When success occurs, as little as it may be, I try to celebrate it. On the other hand, when something doesn’t work as expected, or an issue occurs, we keep our ego and blame behind us. At Agoda, we foster a safe and no-blame environment. Moreover, we embrace mistakes and failures. We see them as opportunities to learn and grow.

Utilizing Development Resources: Tailoring development resources to fit each engineer’s preferred learning style is crucial. Whether hands-on projects, theoretical learning, or a blend of both, I help engineers plan and execute a learning path that best suits their goals and current skills.

Encouraging a Growth Mindset: Engineers at Agoda are encouraged to view their career trajectories as dynamic paths. We recognize different motivation levels and provide appropriate support, ensuring that everyone has the tools and encouragement to excel regardless of their initial motivation.

Success Story

One success story involves an engineer who initially found it challenging to contribute to team projects effectively. After identifying the root causes—unfamiliarity with the Linux operating system and discomfort with a new programming language stack—we developed a customized learning plan through a series of one-on-one discussions. This plan began with foundational topics and progressively tackled more complex aspects over a year. Remarkably, within just a few months, we observed a notable improvement in both the quality of their work and their confidence during team meetings. Four years on, this engineer is now a vital contributor to their team, showcasing the power of effective support and tailored development plans.

Conclusion

Our approach at Agoda to managing performance reviews and supporting our engineers combines structured feedback with robust support systems. By fostering an environment of open communication, continuous learning, and precise goal setting, we help our engineers not only bounce back from setbacks but also thrive and advance in their careers.

About the Author

Cedric Rochefolle is an Engineering Manager at Agoda

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