I recently had an annual performance review in my Full Stack Developer, the first review I have gotten in about 11 months after being at the company for around a year and a half. On the self evaluation, I listed that I thought I had done well in the year and over the past 11 months since I had not received any negative feedback and I was completing my tickets, contributing to the platform/team.

The performance review went very poorly, and I received the lowest possible score. When discussing the areas of improvement, looking back I was able to see the points they brought up and they are valid. I thought I had been doing well over the past and making good progress as at the last performance review I was reprimanded for tartiness and had a few informal talks about how well I was improving.

How do I recover from something like this? I feel pretty demoralized and have been second guessing a lot of my recent work wondering if what I am doing is up to par with what is expected, and nervous about my future at the company. I have asked for informal quarterly performance reviews for this year and they have accepted.

I am mostly curious about steps I can take to make sure I can spot this earlier in the future, and other things I can do to try and get back to a good position in the company, as I fear that this performance review will have a lasting effect throughout how ever long I stay here (Constantly being seen as a lower performer, not given opportunities to advance, etc. This is my first full time job after University, and I am quite nervous I am going to further mess it up.

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    Did you express to your manager your desire to improve trouble areas?
    – Dan
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 19:38
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    "I thought I had been doing well over the past and making good progress as at the last performance review I was reprimanded for tartiness and had a few informal talks about how well I was improving." Was this review and feedback only about tardiness? It's important to know if there were other opportunity areas that you were told about but did not improve.
    – ZachTurn
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 20:56
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    Can you clarify (maybe tag the question) what country you’re in? Things like tardiness are very culture-dependent. Based on where you are, the best answer could be anything from addressing your punctuality issues as a top priority to finding a job with any of the thousands of places to work that don’t care about punctuality. Commented Feb 2, 2019 at 0:01
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    We're all assuming you meant "tardiness", not tartiness. If this assumption is incorrect, feel free to PM me.
    – user51273
    Commented Feb 2, 2019 at 6:24
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    The first communication / organizational politics goal I usually have when starting a job is to find out what page my boss is on and get on the same page. I remember one position where I started, and when I tried to sound out where my boss stood, and my boss rhetorically agreed with me 110% on every point I raised, which made me nervous. I was termed not long after, and after the termination was announced, and before I left the building, I was given very direct answers to the matters I raised, and in some cases my boss and I were on problematically different pages. But I was only told then. Commented Feb 2, 2019 at 19:14

4 Answers 4


Update your resume and start putting it out as a defensive move.

Then ask your manager for specific areas to improve, and get cracking.

Germans have a saying: Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unforgivable.

Make that your motto and you won't have any problems with future tardiness.

What concerns me is the gap in how you did and how you think you did. This means that there is very bad communication between you and your manager. Solicit frequent feedback, and make sure you are on course.

That said, back to my original point.

You got the lowest possible scores. That's usually in preparation for building a file for termination. If your boss does not start giving you feedback when solicited, or just gives you vague answers, or seems disinterested, it means you are on the chopping block and you should get out ASAP.

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    ”You got the lowest possible scores. That's usually in preparation for building a file for termination.” Consider the possibility that the score has little correlation to actual performance. They might want to fire you for other reasons - some personal mismatch or upcoming restructuring of the company.
    – frankhond
    Commented Feb 2, 2019 at 13:07
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    @frankhond in the official performance review summary I got, it stated that I am respectful to all employees and pleasant to be around, and that was mentioned in the in person talk. The needs improvement was focused around my work and all of the areas of improvement were strictly work related. Commented Feb 2, 2019 at 13:48
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    @Childishforlife I’m just raising the possibility that other motives may lie behind this. I had a popular high performing colleague get a really bad performance review for reasons nobody could understand. A month later the company restructured and fired some people including this person, citing bad performance. Whether this makes sense in your situation, only you can say.
    – frankhond
    Commented Feb 2, 2019 at 16:22

I see this as a failure on the part of your manager as much as yourself. Your manager should have been discussing this with your long before you got to end of year reviews.

That said, the other advice about being on the defensive is good, but doesn't address your concern 'steps I can take to make sure I can spot this earlier in the future'. You need to be scheduling 1 on 1 sesssions with your manager and/or team lead on a regular basis. I would recommend every two weeks at a minimum until you/they feel you have addressed the concerns. But still keep them going even after you feel you are in a better place, but you might be able to make them less often.

When you come these be ready to discuss how things are going. Ask your manager how you are doing in the key areas they identified as needing improvement and get a candid assessment as to where you are each time. (read Creative INC as to why you don't use honest)

One area this helps is that your manager now has an active engagement with you and you can also head off problems before they have come to this point. It also gives you an opportunity to clarify some things if you are being misrepresented to him/her by others on the team.

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    In addition to asking your manager for feedback, I highly recommend starting with "I think I need improvement on X, and I plan to do Y to address it". By leading with this, you're demonstrating 1) you're actively looking for ways to improve and 2) you're a problem solver. If your idea is good, you get credit for it. If it's not, you avoid wasting time. Most importantly, bring a notebook! Write down your action items, and revisit them in the next meeting. Even if you didn't get to something, or it didn't go well, talk about it - this demonstrate that you're reliable and can see things through.
    – Vlad274
    Commented Feb 2, 2019 at 6:52

A catastrophic performance review after 11 months of no complaints from anywhere is quite a red flag about the company rather than you yourself, especially since you are a junior dev.

The reason for that can be anything ranging from financial issues (they hope you resign) to pure incompetence (inexperienced manager in a field they have no experience with - think factory shift manager switching to software), but the result for you is the same.

I would start looking for a new place ASAP, but don't resign yet. Learn what you can, but don't get depressed.

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    +1 I think you put the finger on it, and it's the most likely reason. This should be the accepted answer. Expecially since the OP is very surprised of the performance review, it makes me think OP's performance has little to do and the company is (cowardly) preparing to fire him for other reasons.
    – Ouroboros
    Commented Feb 2, 2019 at 15:12

Your mention of a formal "Improvement plan" in addition to a review so far below your expectations is a red flag that they are preparing to fire you.

This depends on jurisdiction, but outside the US it's common to have laws that prevent firing employees without cause. The standard way of establishing cause is to put the employee on an improvement plan (ie. give them one last chance) and fire them when they don't meet the targets.

Brush up your resume, save some cash, and prepare for the worst.

To answer the more immediate question, you need to shorten the feedback loop between yourself, your manager and co-workers.

I would start by making a habit of trying to grab your manager once a week to ask for feedback and one specific thing they think you can improve on. Then try to focus on improving that one thing over the next week.

Focusing on one concrete step at a time will quickly transform your work, and hopefully you are never surprised by a bad review again 🙂

This doesn't need to be a formal meeting, though you might benefit from a more formal approach to signal that you're serious. If your manager is too busy or uninterested, then I would suggest a more informal approach just to try and pry some feedback from them.

As a bonus, your manager's reaction will give you a better idea of if this is a genuine performance issue or if they are just trying to fire you.

Long term developing the habit of seeking early feedback will help you in any job

Good luck!

  • They mention the improvement plan in the comments on the question, and I'm not saying it will definitely happen. Just that it's a danger sign. Either way, they should act to both minimise the risk of being fired and prepare to reduce the impact in case they are.
    – coagmano
    Commented Feb 2, 2019 at 6:36

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