I'm applying for a position inside my company which apparently is very hot. The requirements for applying require to include past performance ratings and include an explanation for any rating below the top scores. I've had very good ratings in the past couple years, but I do have one score that requires explaining.

I know I should be honest and I believe I should emphasize things I did wrong and I've learned how to do right over time.

My main issue is that my bad reviews were product of bad management. My past manager didn't care about me, my meetings with him we're always about how I didn't deserve my position, how I wasn't a leader, etc. that changed rapidly once my team was assigned a new manager.

Is there a way I could come up with a good explanation for my bad review without recurring to tell my story? I don't want to tell it because it sounds too much like an excuse. I swear it's true! But everyone does :(


  • Is there anything that you can use to back your story? If you don't have the evidence, the grades will do a lot of the talking. (unfortunately)
    – Onno
    Apr 29, 2013 at 16:15
  • Not really, what I have is the scores that followed, which come from doing the same job, but I don't think will help much.
    – Denisse
    Apr 29, 2013 at 16:18
  • 5
    Consider asking the new manager if he'd go to bat for you.
    – Blrfl
    Apr 29, 2013 at 18:11
  • How did you manage to get the two good reviews after the bad one ? Did you switch jobs ?
    – Raiyan
    Aug 1, 2014 at 18:33
  • FYI, that's not the correct use of "recurring". I think you might've meant to use "resorting to" or "recourse to" there.
    – mathrick
    Oct 30, 2020 at 23:13

2 Answers 2


If the manager was let go for his own bad performance, you may be ok as long as you don't diss him. In some respects just knowing the bad score came from a manager who was not well-thought of can help.

However, you still need to explain it. Above all don't just say that it was the manager's fault. What you had was a personality conflict and you chould have been more pro-active in dealing with it and not letting it get to that point. At the first sign of negative opinion by your boss, you could have sat down in private with him and talked about what you needed to do to improve. Then tried to do what he told you to do to improve. If the conflict was clearly not resolvable after that, you could have tried to move to another part of the company and to another job before getting the poor rating.

What have you learned from this? Well one thing you could have learned is to be pickier about who you want to work for in the future! You could have also learned to pay more attention to the negative messages and to be pro-active in making sure your boss knows what you are doing and how well. You could have learned better ways to deal with a personality conflict. You could have learned that ignoring bad news doesn't make it go away and that you have to pay more attention to what the boss wants vice what you want to do. You could have learned that when the boss tells you that he disagrees with how you do something, then you need to change what you do. You could have learned to gain allies in the corporate world, so that you don't get thrown under the bus at rating time (employees of poorly performing managers rarely get high ratings because their boss doesn't have the political clout to get even when they are doing well).

Luckily for you, this wasn't your last performance rating. You can point to the improvement of your performance ratings as proof that you have better learned to deal with the soft skills as well as the actual technical skills.

  • Sometimes you don't get to be picky.
    – Blrfl
    Apr 29, 2013 at 21:14
  • @Blrfl, yes sometimes you get a new boss and that is out of your control, but you also are free to move on to a new job if he is someone you don't want to work for. Often you can change jobs within an organzation. If not then you can start looking elsewhere rather than work for someone who will actively harm your career prospects. And yes in looking at new jobs, you should be evaluating the person who will be your boss to see if he or she is someone you can work with (You may not always guess right, but you shoudl be trying to figure it out). If you know he hates you, you need to be looking.
    – HLGEM
    Apr 29, 2013 at 21:55
  • Sorry, I actually meant to post more with that and thought I'd bailed out. But I think your comment pretty much sums up what I was going to say.
    – Blrfl
    Apr 29, 2013 at 23:30

I wouldn't worry about it if you've got several good reviews after the bad one(s). In general, whenever you transfer within companies, your new boss will pull your reviews before allowing the transfer. No one is going to have perfect reviews, and it sounds like folks knew your old boss was incompetent.

Unless you are required to, don't include any explanation. A letter of recommendation from your current boss and a co-work will likely carry much more weight than an old performance review. Don't draw attention to the weakest part of your application unless your forced to.

If you HAVE TO explicitly address any bad performance review, talk about what you did to fix it (i.e. "I because more detail oriented as per review X"). Don't dwell on any one review, and whatever you do DON'T blame the old boss.

Its likely you will not be the only person who has bad reviews from your old boss. Other manager will likely realize where the bias is coming from, discount his or her reviews appropriately.

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