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Challenging a bad performance review

By paul.baldwin@techrepublic ·
Have you ever come to the end of a contract and received an unexpected negative evaluation from your client? What's the best way to deal with or challenge such unfounded criticism? Were you able to file a grievance with the client? How did you deal with references in subsequent contracts? Was there language in your contract to address such situations?
Tell us about your experience, and give us your advice.
Paul Baldwin
Editor, IT Consultant Republic

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Consider it like a challenge

by John WM In reply to Challenging a bad perform ...

I do. Just a year ago.

Working on a project during 3 years. The company change a $200000 loss into a $75000 profit in that time.
Then the son of the boss came into the company and we couldn?t make a single good thing anymore.

I think there are two things to do :

When you received an unexpected negative evaluation, don?t go into the discussion right away.
Lay back for a while, let the (your) ?anger? **** over, overlook the situation.

1. It?s worth the effort and the discussion, andthen you can go for it.

2. It?s not worth the effort, say thank you and leave, but don?t burn bridges or speak badly (even when other clients ask about it).
Act expediently, your other business acquaintances know what you?re made of.
Use your energy to improve your mind and use this ?incident? to improve your skills and knowledge.
Use it as an enrichment in your daily business.


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Chanllenging Situations!

by eudoras In reply to Challenging a bad perform ...

I too have had that experience. I once worked for a small business and unfortunately they had certain uninformed expectations that the budget did not agree with. When my project was done. There was animocity regarding how much money it took to getdone what they wanted. There was also an unclear expectation of what work was to be done. I thought I had done exactly what they wanted in supporting their network, servers, developing a training center and also overseeing a complete network move and also network ISP vendor package change. For them this was not thier primary focus. I also came to find out that they were not very well funded. I should have inquired more.

Looking back I learned the following:

Always understand the expectations of the client and what thier desired outcome is.

Pay attention to how much your client actually knows about technology so if they have limited understanding of what they are asking from a project, you can provide them with a clear understanding of what the job will entail and how much time and money they will need to invest.

You need to set the expectation and be very clear about what you will and will not do and what can and cannot be done with thier budget.

I learned a lot inthe experience and will never make the same mistakes again.

Keep your head up high, take the situation as a learning experience and continue learning and growing.


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Challenging Situation

by Love Challenges In reply to Chanllenging Situations!

I can't agree more to the sentence "Pay attention to how much your client actually knows about technology" -- Indeed I've the same experience couple of months ago. Obviously the users do not understand what is technology even simple terms like "Server". I've got replies like "so what if the server crashes? no backup ? so ? is it important? Just tell whoever to re-input the data!" & "Why do you need to give access rights? Allow everybody to access all the data in the server! - it saves us the trouble having to request IT to release the certain rights ...etc." This incident really got me into real challenging situation. No matter how I explain to the user, they just don't understand the meaning of security.

Well, there is basically 2 approach I take now :
1) Ignore unreasonable request
2) Just do whatever the user wants (as long as it is still within the security boundary), avoid "head-on" crash, treat them as an IT idiot & explain things to them like talking to little children!3) Don't implement/introduce complicated techology. You know the users will never understand. So why give yourself unneccessary trouble?


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It's all a game...

by Happy Dog In reply to Challenging a bad perform ...

Companies hire consultants for many reasons:
- tell them what they already know, but does't want the "board" to see it coming from them.
- select and implement enterprise software/hardware and do not want to take responsibility for making the decision (push bad choices off on a consultant)
- embarrassed to admit they "don't know what they don't know"
- need a scapegoat when the costs exceed immediate value

There's really no good reason for getting a bad "report card" if:
- the consultant has complied with the scope of work.
- the enterprise sponsor and consultant have level set the expectations and established assumptions.
- the consultant has a realistic and approved project plan in place.

If executive oversight hats have changed, and an unwarranted bad report is received from the client, then take it to the enterprise steering committed and lay the "facts" out on the table and give them the opportunity to retract the bad report.

But, if the shoe fits... wear it, and move on; this is a lessons learned experience and don't repeat it.

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by dhsindy In reply to It's all a game...

I have not seen the word contract, yet.

Besides obligating you it also protects you by spelling out exactly what is required of you and your client. A few hundred dollars spent on a good lawyer on the front end may save you a lot of future grief.

No freebies here, except for myself and my very close friends.

Have a good day.

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Live and Learn

by f-1086633 In reply to Challenging a bad perform ...

The first time it happened I was shocked. Then during the performance review I found out my manager used a customer feedback to "substantiate" the rating. Unfortunately the customer was venting and used my name as I was the customer rep...and was only implementing my manager's directives! Obviously the manager let this one slip to me and slid out from under the feedback by laying it on me.
My recommendation? Do what I did. Get a new boss. I did and got a superior rating the next time around to help "dilute" the previous bad rating. All in all, the one rating in the middle of all good ratings looks suspicious. Let the reviewers figure it out. Besides, you don't have to show your performance reviews to prospective bosses.

The second time it happened I was totally surprised. This was at a different company. But the circumstances were quite the same. So now I really get the feeling the PM is the scapegoat.

What have I learned? Well, I'm much more attuned to the customer. Its the only way to protect yourself. A person has got to protect the manager by doing what's right - regardless of what they tell you to do...keeping the customer happy is top priority - and keeping the manager out of hot water regardless ofhis ineptitude is also top priority.

The customer is always right. So its up to the PM to make it right with his manager and cover his manager's back end (and get the job done on time and within budget).

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by InochkaBB In reply to Challenging a bad perform ...

With every situation also comes an opportunity:
calm down and be honest with yourself. Check, may be there is a grain of truth in a negative evaluation? You may even ask your client for details/clarifications. May be he/she is right (at least, partually) in his/her opinion? If so - you may wish to think over (or even to ask your client) how to work on your shortcomings and how to improve your professional skills. Putting aside other things, such approach guarantees that your client will change his/her opinion about you, to the better.

But if you 100% sure the evaluation is biased - just forget about it. Going into debates with your client would not do any better: chances that you may change your client's opinion of you are close to 0;chances that your reputation would be damaged ("he/she is trouble-maker") are high.

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Prevention May Be The Best Cure

by tektoad In reply to Challenging a bad perform ...

If a consultant does not have a good idea of how the relationship is going, they need to figure out why and quick! Otherwise their days as a consultant will be short. In an ideal situation, the consultant should pick milestones in the project and have a progress review with the client. If it is honest (and sometimes clients are far from that) you should have good idea of what their final impression will be as long as the agreed upon product is delivered. As simple as this sounds, the client's, or indeed your own organization's, culture may not accomodate these reviews. In that case you may be prey to internal politics and personal preferences and with no real recourse.

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SOL or All Contractors Must Die

by jklein In reply to Challenging a bad perform ...

When I worked for a big faceless company my fellow Help Desk worker got a bad, real bad review. Three weeks before this bad review our local help desk was rated #2 in the nation for help desk suport by our clients. This was out of more than 120 offices.

If he was doing soo bad of a job how was his office(there were only 3 of us so he was doing a 1/3 of the work) picked as second best in the nation? When he asked supervisor and her boss this he was threatened with termination.

His solutionto his delema was to find a new job asap. If you have got someone in corporate with an agenda the best thing to do is leave. Your not going to change there minds by being the best you can. This will only bring down greater retribution. Get out whileyou can.

The "all contractors must die" was a banner on a factory wall. Always blame the contractor.

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Perception Is Reality

A couple of months ago I was asked to present a couple of lectures to some 3rd year IT students at University, on the importance of communications and relationship skills in an IT environment.

The first thing I asked these students was "How do you know when a project has been a success???" The answers I got were as expected... "Get a raise", "Customers gets what he asked for", "My boss is happy" etc.

After some interesting discussion, I explained to them that the only measure of a project's success, is whether the Customer(s) THINK it was a success!

If you receive a negative review, the question that should be asked is not what went wrong with the project, but what went wrong with the customer relationship and how the Customer was managed.

Everything comes down to Customer Perception. You can be the best techo in the country, but if you can't communicate and manage the customer relationship, you're making a rod for your own back. Similarly I've seen barely adequate Engineers getting more work than they can handle, simply because they can build and manage customer relationships.

And as a quick answer to the most common argument ("If I meet the scope of the project, they have no right to complain?), that sort of argument is the equivalent of "The operation was a success but the patient died...". If you DIDN'T meet the scope of the project, you would be asked to return and keep working until you got it right...

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