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  • #2131157

    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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    • #3569015

      Consider it like a challenge

      by john wm ·

      In reply to Challenging a bad performance review

      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? blow 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.


    • #3568963

      Chanllenging Situations!

      by eudoras ·

      In reply to Challenging a bad performance review

      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.


      • #3559485

        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?


    • #3568862

      It’s all a game…

      by happy dog ·

      In reply to Challenging a bad performance review

      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.

      • #3556458


        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.

    • #3559233

      Live and Learn

      by koratkid ·

      In reply to Challenging a bad performance review

      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).

    • #3559465


      by inochkabb ·

      In reply to Challenging a bad performance review

      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.

    • #3567296

      Prevention May Be The Best Cure

      by tektoad ·

      In reply to Challenging a bad performance review

      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.

    • #3567226

      SOL or All Contractors Must Die

      by jklein ·

      In reply to Challenging a bad performance review

      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.

      • #3567088

        Perception Is Reality

        by grant.casci@teleconsultan ·

        In reply to SOL or All Contractors Must Die

        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…

        • #3557377

          I agree

          by bmcguy ·

          In reply to Perception Is Reality

          Perhaps why I have had very few Bad Performance reviews is because I interact well with clients in general, and keep communication lines open. I cannot boast about my technical skills, but I rely on client input and try to make them part of the project. The more I can get them involved, the more they buy into it, and they won’t want to admit that “their project” is a bad one.

        • #3557210

          Win a Customer

          by industrial controller ·

          In reply to Perception Is Reality

          Amazing as it may seem, the customer who gives a negative review can sometimes be turned into a long-term business relationship. Perception is indeed reality, but it can be changed. Customers who give honestly negative feedback may be waiting for you to ask “what can we do to fix this?” or “how can I make this right with you?” If the grievances seem trivial, they may be easy to rectify. A little effort in trying to repair a relationship can yield a very loyal customer. A customer who is honest about their feelings will be much better than one who gives a good or lukewarm review but never calls you back again.

        • #3441396

          Perception is Perception

          by pioneering ·

          In reply to Perception Is Reality

          Perception is NOT reality. If perception were reality, the earth would really be flat!

          If one gets what he believes is an undeservededly bad “review” there is usually a hidden agenda of which he was unaware. Offer to “make it right”. If you are rebuffed, move on, they really were never interested in your work. If they agree, it may be the continuation of a beautiful relationship.

        • #3420038

          Perception Is Reality… Really

          by grant.casci@teleconsultan ·

          In reply to Perception is Perception

          Climb a mountain and you can see (perceive) the curve of the Earth. The flat Earth myth is simply a case of limited perception, and (all together) Perception Is Reality.

          Your perception is that the review is undeservedly bad, the customers is that you deserved a bad review… WHO PAYS THE BILLS, WHO IS THE CUSTOMER???

          Having said that, you’re very correct in offering to make it right, just don’t go in as though you are doing the Customer a favour. Right or wrong, the Customer is right.

        • #3646904

          Perception is NOT Reality

          by pioneering ·

          In reply to Perception Is Reality… Really

          You’re missing the point. Perception is (everyone say it) NOT REALITY. Simple logic. Again, if perception were reality what we see would be EXACTLY WHAT WOULD BE. But we all know that’s not true. The earth is still round whether we percieve it to be round or flat. The project is completed when it meets the specs (if they exist :-). And the customer is not always right, no matter how much money they have.

          Simply believing a thing (perception) does not make it so (reality).

          Reality exists independently of out limited perception of it and it doesn’t change when our perception changes.

          The understanding of this is the difference between simple logic and marketing BS.

          Not convinced? OK, believe and percieve really, really hard that you can jump off a 50 story building without getting hurt. Reality: you die. Perception: you fly away unharmed. Now, go run the experiment. Let me know how it goes.

          End of story.

        • #3640426

          Client Perception vs. Reasonable LOE

          by jklein ·

          In reply to Perception is NOT Reality

          My point is that a bad review may not reflect the true nature of the work you and or your company have done for the client.

          You could have done the worlds greatest job and given the client everything they asked for and more but you can still get a bad review.

          They don’t want to pay you or they want to cheat you.
          Internal office politics. Someone else had the idea to hire you and they need knocking down a peg, so everything you did sucks.
          Your not providing enough free lunches or tickets to the game.

          A review suits the needs of management at the time regardless of the quality of your work. When they need to save $ your review sucks reflecting your raise. When the CIO wants to hire his brother-in-law your review sucks. When they want to save on headcount and drive people out your review sucks.

    • #3556387

      “Bad Review”

      by cydotbar ·

      In reply to Challenging a bad performance review

      My experience has shown me that people are envious of your technical expertise and the negative review is indicative of their personal impotency technically and they try to shoot you down a peg or two, un-justifiably.

    • #3575102

      Make Sure you document it!

      by chubert ·

      In reply to Challenging a bad performance review

      To safeguard yourself in case this review potentially reappears in the future to haunt you, ensure that you document any responses you may have concerning the negative feedback – and, if you are representing a Consulting Company, ensure that you speak about it with the Sales Manager/VP and that your responses are filed in your personnel folder.

      • #3574048

        Document it is right

        by ·

        In reply to Make Sure you document it!

        If the evaluation is vague and non-specific, ask for concrete examples. When and if they can produce them. Respond with your own criticque and replies. If it’s going to be in writing it better have substance. My last job a boss told me of performance issues that were fixable, then again, he never gave me my performance review. He screwed me out of a 2% raise for 15 months of work, tried to get me to train my successors and the his interns from his collusive arrangement with his alma mater. All while he was buying himself a new Corvette, while he lost out on the VP of Operations promotion. Taking my work to his superiors and taking credit for it.

    • #3576948

      Causes of poor reviews

      by jim ·

      In reply to Challenging a bad performance review

      In my experience, one main cause of negative feedback occurs when there is a discrepancy between the client’s objectives and expectations and what you perceive those two things to be. Sometimes this can happen because the client doesn’t fully explain or express their true expectations, and sometimes this can happen when we as consultants just plain don’t ask the right questions.

      In my experience, negative feedback usually means that I go back to the client and have a candid discussion with them about what happened and where the breakdown in communication occured during the consulting process. This usually leads to either my doing more work for them (so that their expectations are met) or my walking away with a better understanding of what happened and being able to use that experience with future client/consultant relationships. In many cases these conversations can leave a better feeling with the client.

    • #3557382

      Challenge of Bad Performance Review..

      by bmcguy ·

      In reply to Challenging a bad performance review

      As with the other consultants that have posted here, I agree that your best judgement prevails. I’ve been in various situations, one being where the client says, “it’s just what I asked for, but not what I want.” In other instances, the sales representative has had personality conflicts with the client, and I was left “holding-the-bag.” In this situation, the client was gracious enough to expressly state that they were very happy with my work. This is not always the case. Just like any relationship, communication is the key. I now make sure projects are broken up into milestones, and each is discussed in length with the client before signing. Each milestone is reviewed by the client when accomplished. I haven’t had a bad review yet…

    • #3439901

      Lots of reviews

      by software cindy ·

      In reply to Challenging a bad performance review

      In 16 years of Software Experience with large companies (never done any consulting), I’ve had my share of bad performance reviews. It seems like most managers are required to put both positive and negative statements on your review. The negative ones usually come with recommendations on how to improve, and they expect you to prior to the next review.
      But what one manager thinks is good, another may think of as needing improvement. In preparing for this year’s review, I read some from previous years and other companies. I found one where I was sited as a team player who was technically incompetant. (I was terminated within 6 months.) Another implied that I was a techno-wizard, but not a team player.
      Same person, different circumstances: different assignments, different companies, different teams, different management.

    • #3449422

      Reply To: Challenging a bad performance review

      by myrna.kasser ·

      In reply to Challenging a bad performance review

      I have been consulting for over 20 years. The basic requirements in my view for a successful relationship are: create a written contract with the client’s input, including measurable goals with specific dates for each, specific general review dates, specific chain of command. In addition, in the every-day work place, make sure the contract manager knows immediately when something is going wrong; do not get involved with office politics, while at the same time being polite and friendly to everybody; do not make personal telephone calls on the client’s phone or during the client’s time.

      “Talking to the client like children”, noted in a comment from someone else in this discussion, is condescending and can create nothing but distrust and irritation, I believe.

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