someone who barely managed me put negative feedback in my annual review

A reader writes:

I just received my annual review.

I’ve been passed between four managers over the past 12 months – one of whom was fired, one who was very hands-off for the majority of their time with me, one who worked with me for three months, and one who became my manager relatively recently.

All my managers other than the fired one contributed to my annual review. Each of their comments show up separately, in one place. The majority of the feedback was positive: I am intelligent, hard-working, and thorough. The critical feedback was mostly that I should not jump to speak too quickly in meetings, be more structured in my approach to work, and ask for help more often. It was “you’re doing well, we requested a promotion for you, here are some things to focus on next year, watch out for this area for improvement.”

Except for one manager’s feedback – the person who was my manager for three months. That person wrote that I am ultra-controlling, I am condescending, I berate my colleagues, and people avoid working with me. Essentially, she took each of my flaws and exaggerated them so it appears I am a monster to work with, who is verbally abusive and alienates her colleagues. She never shared this feedback with me when I reported to her, and nobody has ever come to me with something like this before. Outspoken and candid, sure. Maybe a bit critical or visibly frustrated when things go wrong. But berating and alienating people? It feels like a really serious accusation to deliver for the first time, in writing, in an annual review.

This individual was taken off the project (possibly due to her own performance issues, but I’m not sure) and the other two managers delivered my review, not her. They didn’t agree with her statements, but didn’t explicitly disagree with them either. There was a lot of “maybe this is her perception.” Maybe I am this person in her mind! I think that’s possible. But it seems insane to put in my review without even a warning or prior conversation. She provided no concrete examples.

Our HR system requires “confirming” you received your annual review to finalize it. I do not want to “confirm” I received this feedback. I am not the way this person describes, and I want to become a manager myself – I don’t want this on my “record.” What do I do? I want to write a rebuttal of sorts, or have them taken out, but I don’t want to open a giant HR can of worms either. (We are both women, so there isn’t really a gender dynamic at play. She is significantly senior to me.)

First, talk to HR and ask to have the feedback removed. Point out that this person managed you for a very brief period, didn’t even hint at any of this feedback while you reported to her, and it’s at odds with the assessment of the other managers who contributed to your evaluation. They may or may not remove it, but it’s reasonable to ask for.

If they won’t remove it, ask to add a written response to the evaluation that will be kept in your file along with it. They’ll probably let you do that.

If you do a written response, keep it as objective and factual as possible. You’re right to be pissed off, but you don’t want an emotional response sitting in your file forever. Instead, stick to the facts: this person only managed you for three months, didn’t allude to any of this feedback previously, and provided no examples, and the feedback isn’t echoed by anyone else familiar with your work, as the rest of the review shows. Say that you dispute its accuracy and you ask that it be discounted in favor of the feedback by managers familiar with your work.

I wouldn’t get into a big battle over refusing to confirm you received the review. That really is just to acknowledge receipt; you’re not saying you agree with or accept the feedback. You’re literally just saying that the review itself was provided to you.

{ 243 comments… read them below }

  1. Ben*

    “Maybe that’s her perception and we put you in for a promotion” is corporate-ese for “she’s a f-ing moron but we have to leave her comments in, disregard.”

    Every HR system I’ve worked with had space to leave comments or a response when confirming receipt. Assuming your company does the same I think this is an appropriate response (and I’ll agree with the comment that acknowledging receipt is not the same as agreeing).

    1. Clisby*

      I wondered about that, too. I always signed my annual review, but there was a place to comment on the review as well. Signing didn’t mean I agreed; it just meant I had seen the review.

      1. Phryne*

        Our system even has two buttons: you can agree and sign, or sign for receiving it without accepting the contents of the evaluation. You don’t have to agree, but you have to sign you saw it.

    2. The Bimmer Guy*

      Right. It’s just like that old myth that if you receive a traffic ticket/moving violation and you sign it, you’re acknowledging its validity and can’t contest it later…which isn’t true. You’re just acknowledging that the officer presented it to you and that you received a copy of it.

    3. Rose*

      Hard disagree. It’s not at all difficult to express that you don’t agree with a review using work appropriate language. I’ve had this experience with with one of my direct reports, and I actually engaged with her about what went wrong, and then was very clear in saying “ I don’t agree with this assessment at all, and I was surprised to read it. I didn’t hear this kind of thing from anyone else you worked with, so I don’t think you need to worry about it beyond your relationship with Jane.” I also spoke to the reviewer and told her I thought it was really inappropriate feedback to come as a surprise on a year end review (after hearing her side of the story).

      OP’s bosses are recommending them for a promotion, but don’t seem interested in standing up for or protecting OP from this attack on their character. These are really strong statements and it’s hard to imagine a manager not taking any stance on them what so ever.

      I would take it as a big yellow flag. They probably either agree to some degree but value OPs work over any potential personality problems, or they disagree but they’re not going to be willing to go to any for OP if shit hits the fan.

  2. Taylor Swift*

    Three months isn’t nothing and I get the sense from this letter that OP is really downplaying the other feedback she’s gotten! “Outspoken and candid, sure. Maybe a bit critical or visibly frustrated when things go wrong.” — those are really not things you should be at work.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Eh I can see myself getting that feedback and it wouldn’t really bother me. None of us are perfect and if I’m going to be imperfect those are flaws I can live with.

      1. dot*

        Agreed, I can relate to those flaws while also being a highly effectual worker and someone that the vast majority of my team enjoys working with. I continually work to be better at reigning in any annoyances, frustrations, and being overly critical, but I also don’t beat myself up over these things that are often pretty human responses. I’m not a constantly perfectly emotionally-controlled robot at work.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Exactly. The only one right now calling me visibly frustrated is me, because I know managing stress is one of my personal goals, and I don’t think being candid is bad but you can know when it goes too far. These are very human things. We can work on them but we rarely perfect every facet of our jobs.

        1. Annie*

          Wow, that’s presuming a lot. I think a lot of people get frustrated if things aren’t going well, that doesn’t mean they are controlling and berates her colleagues!

      2. fidget spinner*

        Yeah everyone is going to have some flaws, and those aren’t that bad. They may not be my favorite person to work with but that’s also because of my own flaws of getting defensive easily.

        1. fidget spinner*

          Getting defensive easily when criticized, I mean, not just in general. I’m probably more sensitive to visible annoyance than most people are.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      The 3 month manager might have been over the top, but I don’t think the OP is realizing how they appear to others. You should not be visibly frustrated when things go wrong. Internally, scream in frustration all you want. Outwardly, you should appear calm. Even if the building is on fire. Not calm is not a state of mind in which to objectively figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. If you can’t avoid being visibly frustrated, remove yourself from the situation professionally until you can.

      Also candid and outspoken is often used to cover – I’m rude as all get out, but hey, its the truth so its okay. No its not. Again, there is a professional way to handle things.

      All in all, OP, I don’t think this is you are doing well, its more — you get your work done but your soft skills need a lot of work. If you want to be a manager, you need to get a handle on the soft skills more than the technical.

      1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

        It is not reasonable to expect that everyone has perfect control over their face when feeling strong emotions like frustration. It’s great for people that have that, but when humans are given information that causes a reaction, it’s fine for people to have a visible reaction as long as the actions that follow it are reasonable. We are not robots.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I very much agree with this. I will also say I show more emotion with my direct manager than say – a teammate or a direct report. I need them to get that/how things are affecting me, and if they then see me handle it professionally outside of their office they’ll see I can handle that stress. But three months might not be enough time for them to see that.

          1. Czhorat*

            Part of professional success is knowing how far to let the mask slip with whom.

            I’ve had bosses with whom I could show frustration and even anger, others with whom I’d be a bit more cool. Same with peers, same with clients for that matter.

            1. Software Engineer*

              Completely agree with this.

              In addition, what frequency do the negative situations occur? It would be easy to forgive someone for losing their cool if management has been putting them through the wringer for some time, compared to lets say, someone freaking out over an atypical one-off event in an otherwise positive working environment.

              Also, “difficult to work with” can be code for “they won’t let me violate their personal and professional boundaries”.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                Very good point! And if someone only manages a person for three months, that could be a period that includes more negativity for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with their relationship or a person’s performance. Getting passed around this much in a year is in-and-of-itself a stressful situation.

            2. Phryne*

              When my previous manager recently left, she told me she would miss my facial expressions when I get annoyed. I thought I had a perfect poker face, but she said she could always see it when I thought someone was being an idiot, because she would be feeling the same and look at me and see the little telltale signs and be glad she was not the only one who thought so, lol. She assured me probably no one else could tell. I’m gonna miss her.

        2. MassMatt*

          There’s “having perfect control of your face” and then there’s eye rolling, looks of disgust and/or rage, loud sighing, sulking, pouting, etc. without details we don’t know where LW falls in the spectrum. But the latter behaviors are things parents try to train young children away from.

          1. Managing While Female*

            I agree — there’s a spectrum there and we can’t be sure where exactly OP is falling.

            1. ferrina*

              This. There’s a wide spectrum of showing frustration, from being a bit quieter than usual (on the mild end) to actively yelling (on the inappropriate end). I’ve been berated for a “bad attitude” which amounted to “you didn’t act as excited as I wanted- you were neutral, and I didn’t like that!” I’ve also seen people brush off rude comments or raised voices with “I was just a bit frustrated”.

              It’s impossible to know where OP falls on this.

              1. Mianaai*

                Can we perhaps take the OP at their word that they don’t have a wildly inaccurate assessment of their problem areas, especially considering that they have two other reviews from the same year that seem in alignment with their self-assessment?

                None of us is perfect 100% of the time, and as someone who has much the same problem areas as OP and works very hard to *not* be controlling, terse, snarky, etc…. the assumption that there’s a high probability that OP actually behaves horribly and there’s no way for us to tell… does not feel great.

                Would people have jumped to “well maybe it’s actually you who’s the problem” if the OP hadn’t provided us with a self-assessment of their flaws? It seems like they’re being punished by the commentariat for assessing themselves as less than perfect, and that really doesn’t feel fair or reasonable under the spirit of the commenting rules.

          2. Ellis Bell*

            I agree there’s a big spectrum; it’s such an incredibly nuanced part of work life that it’s ridiculous to expect OP to take it seriously when it’s presented in such a biased and over-the-top way. Should OP try and self reflect anyway, in spite of the poor delivery? Sure, which it sounds like OP is doing. But I wouldn’t get too paranoid about it.

        3. Portia*

          But perfect control should really be the goal, especially with reports. Even if it’s not always achievable.

          I had a boss who’d do this impatient head toss (a distinctive gesture, very close to an open eyeroll) the instant someone spoke one word more to him than he felt like hearing. And he hit that limit very quickly.

          He was otherwise a pretty decent manager — not a yeller or micromanager or anything like that. But that habit alone was enough to make him very difficult to approach. I don’t know if he was even aware he did it.

          1. fidget spinner*

            I mean, yeah, I guess perfection in every single area should be the goal, but that’s unrealistic.

          2. Mizzle*

            That must be a matter of taste, then, because for me, people who do not show their feelings are more difficult to deal with than those who do give an indication of how they are feeling. (I like to know where I stand.)

            1. amoeba*

              Yup. I mean, no, I don’t get angry *at* my reports (although I also think depending on the situation, showing a bit of frustration would be fine, honestly! But luckily enough I’ve never been in this situation, either with my reports or with my current boss). But letting them see my frustration *at a situation* (for instance one that also affects them) is just human and I’m also happy my boss does the same. Remaining inhumanly calm without emotion no matter how shitty the situation is not a trait I’d appreciate in my manager!

          3. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

            I don’t know if “spend the majority of your waking hours for your entire adult life masking perfectly and showing no outward reaction to emotions” is a particularly healthy place to go as a society.

          4. MCMonkeyBean*

            I don’t remotely agree that “perfect control” should be a goal at work. I think that’s an extremely unreasonable standard to hold *anyone* to. You can be polite and professional while also being frustrated or annoyed. No one should have to try to look like a robot at the office.

            Personally, I *prefer* when my managers are obviously annoyed about annoying things. My grandboss seems to aim to never show that anything bothers her and frankly it makes it come across as thought she isn’t taking the things that impact our team negatively seriously.

        4. Jellybeans*

          “ It is not reasonable to expect that everyone has perfect control over their face when feeling strong emotions like frustration.”

          Yes, it is. Having control over your emotions in the workplace is the absolute bare minimum.

          1. amoeba*

            Yes, they should be controlled. They should, however, not be nonexistent. Not yelling at people, insulting anybody, whatever – absolutely. Not even having a facial expression as a reaction to frustrations or bad news or whatever would not be something I’d aim for or want in a manager.

          2. Uranus Wars*

            I am so glad I have never worked somewhere that would expect this. If I had to have robot face or conversations that showed no emotion.

            Do I think people should yell or throw things, absolutely not.

            Do I want to know when they are exceeding excited about something. Absolutely yes. Do I want to know when they are upset or annoyed at something I did or a company process – also absolutely yes.

            Emotions are not always negative.

            Even taking into account the $20 gift card required you to spend money. I would want to know if someone found that ridiculous, and if enough people did I (as a manager) might bring it forward to someone who could do something about.

          3. Albatross*

            For what it’s worth, I actually found I had an easier time with emotional management once I admitted that sometimes I was going to get frustrated and sometimes people might be aware that I was frustrated. Achieving perfect flat affect becomes its own goal that you can never accomplish, and an increasingly long list of goals you can never accomplish is frustrating in its own way.

      2. Seashell*

        Yeah, I think it’s worth OP considering how she is coming across. Even the ones who like her seem to find her too outspoken, based on the recommendation not to jump to speak too quickly in meetings.

        1. Socks*

          Right, especially since they “didn’t explicitly disagree” with the other manager’s feedback.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          yeah, this gave me pause.

          I don’t think she’s as outrageous as the one manager reported, but I do wonder if what’s really going on and how she seems to her coworkers is somewhere in the middle. If the other managers had been forthcoming with reassurance that that one manager was out of line, I’d assume it was one person with a chip on their shoulder, but . . . they didn’t.

          1. Dexter Narcisse*

            “They didn’t agree with her statements, but didn’t explicitly disagree with them either. There was a lot of “maybe this is her perception.””

            This said a lot to me! The combination of “I show visible frustration” with “I want to be management” and “I will not even acknowledge other people’s negative perceptions of me by clicking a legal form that’s helping me get promoted” feels like someone who’s going to have some stiff learning curves.

      3. Managing While Female*

        Yeah, I saw a few red flags in this letter. First, the critical feedback that OP mentioned seems like it’s actually just a softer version of of the harsher feedback that she’s addressing: “The critical feedback was mostly that I should not jump to speak too quickly in meetings, be more structured in my approach to work, and ask for help more often. ” Jumping in all the time in meetings and not asking for help with things can certainly come off as controlling. I know I’ve had colleagues before who answer questions meant for others in the meeting, interrupt, or talk overlong without giving others space to speak and it can be really obnoxious.

        OP also seems to brush aside the ‘softer’ critical feedback. “It was “you’re doing well, we requested a promotion for you, here are some things to focus on next year, watch out for this area for improvement.”

        Given that one of these managers is ‘hands off’ and the other just started managing OP fairly recently, they may just be phoning this review in or are afraid of giving such direct, critical feedback. “They didn’t agree with her statements, but didn’t explicitly disagree with them either.” Also, if someone does have a reputation for being critical and visibly frustrated (which OP admits that she sometimes is), then it’s very possible that even managers are hesitant to approach her about it. It’s a tough conversation to have, and not every manager has the guts to bring it up.

        The feedback may also not be true at all, but in this letter the OP comes off as a bit defensive which may be justified but also often can mean that she just doesn’t take feedback well. I think it’s valuable to take a step back and assess whether the harsher feedback might be true of how she comes off. Again, it may not resonate at all! If that’s the case, OP is free to dismiss it as being something weird with that manager, but I hope she can observe the feedback neutrally for a second and see if it might be a valid takeaway before dismissing it entirely.

        1. Elle by the sea*

          This is exactly the impression I got. I have often received very harsh feed and lower scores on performance reviews and even contradictory opinions. I’m not saying I wasn’t upset at times, but I always got over it very quickly. People have different perceptions of your performance and if one manager sees you that way, that’s something he/she is entitled to. Asking HR to remove it is a bit of on overkill – you can get a feel of someone’s performance and personality if you have worked with them for three months.

        2. Orora*

          I also found it concerning that OP had 4 managers in the course of 12 months. It is absolutely possible that because of firings and restructurings, OP could be a stellar employee who just happened to have 4 managers in a year. It’s also possible that OP is getting shuffled around because managers find OP difficult to manage. (We have all been at places where this happens.)

          We don’t know OP and can’t really say what is true and what isn’t. But I would urge OP to do some self-reflection about how they are perceived by their co-workers and managers.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Actually, pilots and other people involved in dangerous operations are trained to be calm under pressure, particularly in emergencies — just look at any documentary involving such disasters and . Being able to control yourself while dealing with that kind of dangerous situation means you have a better chance of getting out of it alive. Sometimes it might be difficult or impossible, but losing your cool in that kind of situation can be deadly.

          Just like the standard advice when evacuating a building is to walk rather than run (because running lessens your control over your body, particularly when navigating obstacles, and can lead to someone falling over and injuring themselves or worse, creating an obstacle for others who also fall over them), being known to be calm under pressure is a good thing, not a bad one. It means you can take more control over the situation than you can if you get angry at it.

      4. HB*

        That is not the feedback OP is taking issue with. That’s OP’s SELF ASSESSMENT of her flaws.

        “That person wrote that I am ultra-controlling, I am condescending, I berate my colleagues, and people avoid working with me. Essentially, she took each of my flaws and exaggerated them so it appears I am a monster to work with, who is verbally abusive and alienates her colleagues. ”

        And they *didn’t* get this feedback while they were working with this person, nor did they get this feedback from anyone else.

      5. GrumpyPenguin*

        The feedback from the three-month manager is how OP might be seen from people who don’t know her yet, basically the first impression the manager got. Had she worked with OP longer, this could have changed. I don’t doubt OP’s strength and skills, but maybe take it as a hint how she might be perceived by strangers.

        1. Cicely*

          And maybe manager should have done their job and discussed those first impressions prior to them landing on a performance review.

          1. Allonge*


            That does not mean that when you see serious flaws in someone’s behavior, you don’t address it at all. It’s not a speak now or hold your peace forever thing.

            1. Phryne*

              It is incredibly bad managing to have anything in an performance report being the first time an employee hears of negative feedback. Manager should have addressed this in person first or kept her opinion to herself and let the next manager deal with it. It is not like it is any of her business anymore once she is gone, it is just petty sabotage.

              1. Allonge*

                Sorry, but no. As a manager, in the yearly evaluation you get asked for feedback and do your job in that, whether or not you mentioned the criticism to the employee before.

            1. Yorick*

              We do know that, it’s in the letter. LW is very clear that this manager did not give them any of this feedback before.

        2. Jellybeans*

          I don’t know why people are acting like 3 months is the blink of an eye. 3 months is a pretty long time, and it’s longer than any of LW’s other managers.

          There are plenty of letters where an LW has a problem with a new person or in a new job, no one ever says “but these people are total strangers so you can’t judge”. 3 months is obviously not total strangers.

          There are clearly substantial issues with LW’s behaviour which he or she refuses to accept.

          1. Expelliarmus*

            Agreed. When people have summer interns, they are often there for 3 months! But no one thinks that’s too short of a time to assess someone’s work in that situation!

      6. SJ Coffee Adict*

        Candid and outspoken would be an attribute in a male employee. I’ll bet dollars to donuts this is a woman writing in. I ( a woman), got “too assertive” in an informal feedback once, I asked the manager whether we would be having this conversation if I was a man. The look on his face as he tried to backpedal was priceless.

        1. unpleased*

          That’s true in some circumstances. In my work, consulting, it’s a very delicate balance even for men. “Outspoken” and “candid” can be two very different things.

        2. GrumpyPenguin*

          Internalized mysoginy, a rough first impression, the manager being incompetent or just a a jerk, all is possible. I think the criticism is exaggerated, since nobody else judged her that hard. Just saying it might be an example of the first impression OP gives to some people. She should ask around how her coworkers perceive her her communication to get more opinions on that.

              1. Jellybeans*

                It’s really not appropriate to make those kinds of allegations about people with zero evidence.

                1. MCMonkeyBean*

                  Cool, my favorite type of comment on the internet–people acting like accusing someone of sexism or racism or discrimination is worse than the actual discrimination.

            1. She of Many Hats*

              Women are often held to the same double standard (proactive/leader vs bossy/witchy, etc.) by other women as they are by men. It’s the deeply ingrained societal constraints that are misogynistic.

            2. Name-Required*

              Hence the use of the phrase “internalized misogyny” which applies to misogystic behavior by women to other women.

        3. Elle by the sea*

          Or a man of colour, especially an Asian man. Corporate culture seems to have a problem with confident and knowledgeable Asian men, even if they are pleasant and polite.

      7. Turquoisecow*

        OP doesn’t have to be a robot. Visibly frustrated could mean: “shouts and has a tantrum when she doesn’t get her way,” “grumbles maybe a bit too much when her proposals are denied,” or “frowns throughout the meeting where the bad news is announced.”

        While obviously a tantrum isn’t appropriate, a bit of grumbling or frowning, while still “visible” can be appropriate or not depending on the culture and situation. It’s too vague a phrase for me to say “unacceptable at work!”

      8. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        I internalized feedback like this for the longest time, and it was actively harmful to my career. Sometimes frustration is warranted. Sometimes remaining excessively calm creates the impression that everything is fine, regardless of the words coming out of your mouth. It’s ok – and often desirable – to let the polite smile slip a bit when you’re telling your boss that you still haven’t gotten that widget from the whatsits department after multiple reminders, and if you don’t have it by the end of the week you can’t hit your deadline on the moneybags project.

      9. Also-ADHD*

        Visibly enraged might be a problem, but visibly frustrated isn’t really a big deal. The toxic positivity of some workplaces is bizarre to me—how is expressing any negative feeling or emotion still a problem in this day and age? The rest is as assumption. While 3 months isn’t that short necessarily (not that long either), the manager never giving any feedback prior and writing this in a review in such an incendiary manner AND LW being recommended for a promotion by the others shows at least a good portion of this is the manager’s own deal, not LW’s. Everyone has flaws, of course, but there is a big contrast and if LW was berating coworkers on the regular, what was that manager doing not bringing it up then?

        1. Alianora*

          I think it partly depends where the frustration is aimed. Frustrated at the printer? Probably okay. Frustrated at your coworker? Depending on how you express it, that can be really detrimental.

          On the extreme end, I have a coworker who I could see writing a letter like this. She thinks of herself as candid and outspoken. I and many of our coworkers find her extremely abrasive, controlling, and quick to make negative assumptions that are often not true. Even though she’s good at the work, I think she really is a net negative to the company because of how badly she impacts morale.

      10. Beth*

        This is a really strange view of professional behavior. Sure, remaining constantly calm and positive would be great! But workers are humans, not robots–there are going to be days where you’re stressed or frustrated or tired or overwhelmed, and it’s going to show on your face sometimes. Being noticeably frustrated in a high-stress moment is a forgivable sin.

        Same goes for being candid and outspoken. If it was always possible to communicate softly and positively, sure, that would be ideal. In reality, sometimes cutting through the BS requires a little bluntness. (I say this as a pretty soft-spoken person! I’m working on getting more comfortable with exactly this communication style, because it’s a useful tool to pull out when something is urgent or someone’s getting off track.) Yes, there is such a thing as going too far. You shouldn’t be biting people’s heads off with your ‘blunt honesty’. But having a reputation for speaking up when something needs to be said isn’t a bad thing.

        OP’s performance is good enough overall to warrant a promotion. We know this because the managers they met with recommended them for a promotion. Sure, they agree that OP has room for growth–but it’s normal in a review to highlight areas for potential growth, it would be weird to not have any constructive feedback. I don’t see any signs here that OP has a serious problem on their hands.

        1. Jellybeans*

          That’s massively downplaying the issue.

          LW hasn’t had proper management. That’s the serious problem. The person who gave her bad feedback managed her longer and more directly than anyone else. 4 managers in 12 months is A LOT!

          LW is not only dismissing all negative feedback with “but it was only three months” while simultaneously latching onto positive feedback from managers who were around less than three months, she’s also ignoring negative feedback from the other managers.

          And the negative feedback is very very serious – it’s really alarming how people are twisting what the manager actually said into “doesn’t keep a perfectly neutral face when the building is on fire.”

          That’s a really big problem on this site – people making stuff up out of thin air that support the idea all LWs are the “goodies” and anyone an LW has a problem with is the “baddie.”

      11. londonedit*

        I mean…I’ve been visibly frustrated at work when things have gone wrong. So has my boss. Not in an important meeting, no, but in general? At my desk? Yep, absolutely. You don’t have to be a robot just because you’re at work.

      12. Nameless*

        I don’t think we have enough information to assess how the LW appears, at all. If they’re crossing their arms & visibly pouting in a meeting, sure! That’s a problem! If we’re talking about “I am having a frustrating conversation, and my face and tone reflect that,” – that’s normal human behavior. (And not for nothing, but if my office was on fire and one of my colleagues was acting totally calm and normal, I would think there was something wrong with them. There’s a happy medium between freaking out and being a robot.)

      13. Nina*

        People are not robots, though. When the object under test has exploded for the sixth time and you know the build team will have to go make it again, yes, it’s 100% reasonable to go ‘man, that’s really annoying and frustrating that we’ve got this sequence wrong in six different ways now; everyone take five to get some coffee and fresh air, then the techs can start the teardown and the engineers can start the data analysis’.
        Often acknowledging the frustration and taking a minute to deal with it is more productive than trying to push through it.

        1. Nina*

          This is, for clarity, not an assumption about the kind of situations LW is in; it’s an example drawn from my own job.

    3. Heidi*

      Yeah, 3 months is definitely enough time to form an accurate impression of someone’s work. Check my math: if there have been 4 managers in 12 months, and 3 months were with negative feedback manager and 1 manager is new (let’s give them zero months), then there were only 9 months split between the other 2 managers. If both worked with OP at least 3 months, then the longest any one manager worked with OP was 6 months. Also, since one of these managers was fired and the other was “very hands-off,” it’s possible that the review from negative feedback manager is going to come across as more credible than the other 3.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        That’s true, but there’s also the math of consensus over that time period. If only one manager saw these flaws as this extreme and the other two don’t agree over a combined 9 months – disagree so much as to recommend a promotion – that also holds a lot of weight.

        I think OP is being way too dismissive of the criticism. I don’t necessarily agree with the strength of the top level “not things you should be at work” comment, because critical and frustrated are very human things that may be appropriate at times, but there is still room, once OP is able to distance themselves emotionally, to analyze where this may be coming from and if there are lessons to take.

        I also have to wonder if this feedback was given in ways OP just didn’t hear. Three months is a short time and it may be a time where feedback is given in the moment, or more gently as you try to build rapport as opposed to big sit-down talks.

        1. Ruby Soho*

          I’ve gotta think that having 4 managers in 12 months would be super frustrating, so maybe OP has had reactions caused by the constant changes. I know I would have a hard time not being visibly frustrated or annoyed in I were in that situation.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Absolutely. I’ve managed people in similar situations, and I’ve given them a lot of grace regarding the occasional overdramatic sigh or somewhat terse tone. To an extent there are large parts of your job you have to relearn every time you change managers – it’s stressful!

        2. Also-ADHD*

          Berating other coworkers always requires some pretty direct address though. I think the nature of what was written is what seems so at odds with not mentioning it pretty directly at the time.

    4. Gustavo*

      This was my thought as well. Maybe this manager was off base but there is probably some merit here and her refusal to sign something simply acknowledging receipt tells me a lot.

      1. Artemis*

        not necessarily. I used to think not signing was the way to indicate that you disagreed with the comments. it may be something as benign as that.

        1. Devo Forevo*

          When you get egregious feedback like that, it’s not a “red flag” to question how you’re supposed to indicate disagreement when responding. A lot of people, myself included, have to be told that signing this is not the same as signing off on it.

          Let’s not jump down the throat of the person looking for ADVICE here.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            I’ve seen a variation of this all the time on North Woods Law and the other game warden tv shows “Signing this is not an admission of guilt, you’re just acknowledging that you received this ticket”

            But in the moment, in a review where you feel like you were blindsided with feedback you’ve never had brought up before and by someone who is not there to explain it, I’d imagine that could have put LW on edge and have them be like “wait, hang on, what does it mean if I sign it? what if I don’t agree with it?”

            I’ve usually seen review forms that have a section near the signature for Employee Comments, which probably would have been useful on the form LW’s employer uses.

      2. Once too Often*

        I have been explicitly told by HR that acknowledging receipt is the same as agreeing with the entire review. It’s not a novel concept, if not as common as it used to be.

    5. I'm just here for the cats!*

      But if it was a problem in those 3 months why is the OP just hearing about it now? It doesn’t sound like there was any feedback in that 3 months. Also, if this behavior was as problematic as this manager makes it sound like, there would be other info from the other managers.

      1. Olive*

        Yes, one of the qualities I’ve most appreciated in past managers has been “no surprises” – both positive and negative. If something was that big a problem, it should have been addressed directly to the LW while managing her.

        1. Beka Rosselin-Metadi*

          Exactly. There should never be any surprises in a performance review-so if these things were an issue, why were they not discussed earlier?

      2. Lizzo*

        ^^This. If OP was behaving as badly as this manager says, why didn’t the manager raise those issues immediately and forcefully (to get OP’s attention)?
        I’ve had this same feedback experience and the root cause was poor management. I also pushed back on signing off on an inaccurate review in those same circumstances. Alison’s suggestion for a rebuttal for the files is a good one.
        (The outcome of that situation is that I resigned when it was clear that boss was trying to get me fired…and then she promoted her favorite employee into my role three months later.)

      3. Got the T-Shirt*


        Before I say anything else, let me be clear, I 100% believe that the letter is how OP perceives events.

        But, as a long time reader, I swear I’ve seen multiple letters from managers that are like, “Employee has such and such problem & we’ve discussed it multiple times but they haven’t changed. When I brought it up at [time], they claimed they had never discussed it, even though I have the paper trail. how do I handle this?”

        OP has the self-awareness to email AaM. I commend them for that. It may also be worth taking a deep look & seeing if they have received similar feedback, but they disregarded it for [insert reason here].

        Maybe they don’t, maybe this is genuinely the first time; but they know their flaws & acknowledge that there is a base of truth, so it may be worth at least contemplating that.

        1. Elizabeth*

          They also have the self awareness to say that there can be kernels of truth however this is someone looking at their reactions in the most negative light possible especially during an incredibly stressful year. I remember I worked at a place that had 5 managers in 5 months (sometimes with overlap) and they were frustrated with how we did our paperwork…well having 5 managers in that amount of time did not help with consistency or catching mistakes especially at an overly dysfunctional location. Context matters, people aren’t robots.

          1. Got the T-Shirt*

            “[h]owever this is someone looking at their reactions in the most negative light possible[…]” per OP, and again, I do genuinely believe OP when they say that’s how it felt to them.

            I’m just saying, considering OP wrote into AaM to see if they could safely ignore feedback based on who/how it was presented, it may be worth it for OP to look at themself and see if that’s a habit they have; I’m not saying that it is! But I think it’s worth acknowledging the possibility, and I don’t think OP is helped in the long run if that possibility isn’t raised.

        2. Orange Line Avenger*

          Seconding. I was fired from my first job out of college and I felt like I’d been completely blind-sided. Looking back now, my manager had several conversations with me raising big performance issues, but I just didn’t recognize the severity of the situation.

          If I was blindsided, it was because I wasn’t checking my mirrors.

          1. Got the T-Shirt*

            Yup. I got fired from a job where it felt blind-sided, but in hindsight, the clues were there, I had just been ignoring them.

            Now I can say it was a blessing in disguise, but at the time I was flabbergasted.

        3. T*

          Sure, but how many times have we also encountered letter writers that swear up and down that they talked to their employees about an issue multiple times and when Alison asks them what, precisely, they said it will be the most non-direct possible way to discuss it?

          The “My employees dresses inappropriately, but I asked her once if she was cold!” letter comes to mind.

          1. Just look at the women in the GOP*

            Yeah that’s fair.

            What’s giving me pause is that:

            1. The other managers didn’t explicitly disagree.

            2. The OP’s first reaction was to find a reason why the comment was invalid, even though that same reason could apply to anything good said about her (i.e. the double standards – how long did any of the other managers manage her?)

            3. The fact that the OP is refusing to sign the form & emailed in to ask about it.

            Are they red flags? No, but they may be yellow at the least.

      4. Laura*

        Yeah, OP didn’t get any feedback about behaviors that are extremely serious if true. So either the manager is exaggerating or the manager is a bad manager for not bringing this up at the time.

      5. froodle*

        Yeah, I’m also raising an eyebrow at the idea that OP berates her colleagues (multiple colleagues? multiple times?) but this doesn’t get brought up at the time(s?) that it happened? If LW really is going all in on her co-workers on a repeated basis, it seems like that would warrant a conversation way earlier than her annual review.

        If it’s not true, it’s an awful thing to say and 3 Month Manager is a bad manager.

        If it is true, it’s an awful thing to let OP do and 3 Month Manager is still a bad manager.

    6. Peanut Hamper*

      I would never consider “candid” to be a bad thing. “Outspoken” can sometimes be a good thing, sometimes a bad thing, and it’s largely a judgment call.

      Three months isn’t nothing, but it’s an awfully short amount of time in which to form such a negative impression of a person. The fact that all of this feedback came out of the blue means that this manager may not even be remembering this correctly; this could have been feedback directed at another coworker whom she also managed for only three months or less.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I’ll take candid and critical over cryptic and passive-aggressive any day

        1. AF Vet*


          I have a similar personality to OP. I don’t sugarcoat, but I have gotten somewhat more tactful as I age. But only because it’s been beaten through my thick skull that tact can smooth over a multitude of facts. :)

      2. AD*

        Yeah, parsing OP’s letter to pick out those words doesn’t seem helpful. Without knowing more, we can’t say for certain (and OP is certainly not objective enough to be able to tell us) if “candid and outspoken” mean simply being forthright and honest, or if they mean disagreeable and hypercritical. We just don’t know.

        And the point is being missed by some of the comments. Getting feedback like this out of the blue does not inspire confidence that it’s an accurate assessment, imho.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, without some objective arbitrator of truth, it’s hard to know whether there was a kernel of truth in the critical manager’s feedback, but the bizarre method of delivery (not mentioned at the time, no examples, not explicitly endorsed by other managers) does not make it particularly trustworthy in my opinion.

          I also know from personal experience that it’s very difficult to navigate frequently-gendered feedback like tone and communication style. Am I too brusque with colleagues, or am I not performing femininity enough for them? If the former, why can’t anyone give me an example? Did I get better at professional communication over the years, or did adding “Thanks!” as my signature line just make me seem nicer?

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, my mother describes herself as “candid and outspoken” and either those are not the words I’d use, or they are but then they don’t have entirely positive connotations.

      3. Emmy*

        “Candid” can be a bad thing and passive-aggressive if the person being written about is a female. Unfortunately, we still live in a biased society where this type of behavior is praised for one gender and disparaged for the other.

      4. Turquoisecow*

        I think it very much depends on company culture. I’ve worked places where me candidly telling my boss my concerns about a specific policy or procedure would be met with “it is what it is, deal with,” and others where the boss would appreciate it greatly. I’m sure there are bosses where you have to be quite diplomatic and cautious about how you word critiques like that; thankfully I have not worked under one of them.

    7. meowmeowmeow*

      Yeah, especially considering if her “managers over the last year” count is accurate, that means the other two also only managed her for 3-4 months or less, so why is their feedback “more valid”…?

      1. ferrina*

        Yeah, I was confused about the math too. She had 4 managers over 12 months. The manager that gave harsh feedback managed OP for 3 months…so 25% of the year. Which would be the average for having 4 managers over 12 months?

        I wouldn’t be using the time range to invalidate that manager’s feedback.

      2. sparkle emoji*

        Yes, but it doesn’t sound like this is a brand new job for LW, so presumably one of the 4 managers worked with her before this 12-month span. If that manager is one of the other 2 still around for the review(ie not the fired one), their feedback would be more valid.

      3. downtown*

        because in the letter the OP mentions that the manager with the egregious feedback was removed from the project. this manager apparently had performance problems such that they had to be taken off the project so the feedback is going to feel like retaliation. it also sounds like the manager was removed not that long before review season so it especially reads like flipping off the OP on the way out the door. the assessment of a manager who had to be removed should absolutely be considered with a hefty handful of salt

    8. RogueTrainer*

      Regarding visible frustration: I have been told I need to watch my facial expressions when possibly talking about one supervisor at my company because it was “clear I don’t have a fondness” for his management style. My visible frustration, that I know of, were occasions when I found out: 1) one of his recent hires had been federally indicted for insurance fraud specific to our industry, and 2) when he was reported as making comments that violate federal law regarding a recently hired, pregnant employee. To me, these feel like reasonable times to be frustrated or show a visible reaction. However, trying to control how my face reacts to egregious corporate missteps is not really something I want to get better at, so I am looking for another job.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Agreed. You want me to check my reaction? Make sure you’re not, oh, I dunno, not breaking corporate ethics rules, the law, and endangering the state issued license for someone?

        Similar, plus the fact that at OldJob, one gender was allowed to throw screaming temper tantrums, whereas the other gender was “b!tchy” and “needed to control their temper” if they so much as raised their voices. I’ll give you one guess…

      2. Hannah Lee*

        At one old job, they actually decided to sound proof one manager’s office, so as to cut down the disturbance to the tax, accounting and sales admin staff who worked nearby.

        Instead of, you know, giving him feedback that he needed to maintain a more professional demeanor, not display his anger and frustration, and stop with his so emotional and candid that it would ** turn the air blue for hours every day** communication style.

        Gender absolutely plays into this many many times.

    9. Chris*

      That’s what gives me pause about this. Both the feedback from other managers and the LW’s on self-evaluation in this letter point to issues along the same lines as the manager’s criticism. While the one manager’s feedback may be over the top, that shouldn’t obscure that the underlying issue here may well be a real one. I’d encourage the LW to think about how they’re coming across to others, and perhaps talk to some colleagues who they trust to provide candid, discreet feedback.

      1. Czhorat*

        To LW’s credit, they said that the offending manager exaggerated their flaws; they seem to at least know that they HAVE flaws in this area. Their biggest disagreement appears to be degree

    10. Anecdata*

      What stands out to me is that the feedback from 3-month manager is actually pretty similar in type as from your other managers – just different in degree (2 managers see it as something minor-to-moderate to work on; 1 sees it as a real dealbreaker). Even if you do ask HR to remove it, try to make sure your frustration at feeling blindsided in the review doesn’t stand in the way of letting you take this feedback to heart – it’s actually really valuable info to know that multiple people all pretty much agree on where your weaknesses lie (it would be way harder for you to know what to do differently if eg. 1 manager told you to speak up a lot more; and the other said to speak a lot less!)

    11. Choggy*

      Those terms would also apply to me, but I know my stuff and am a leader on my team. I speak my mind about the work, how well things are going or not, and ensure we are sharing the workload fairly. If I was not that way, work would grind to a halt, or I would be picking up all the slack. My peers respect my opinion and seek it out often because they know I will be honest and candid.

    12. Pizza Rat*

      Three months isn’t nothing, but it is a very short time. I think it’s also wise to note that the LW is a woman. Women who are candid, assertive, confident often get feedback like LW did when the are not meek, submissive workmice. Take it from someone who was called abrasive when she had the colossal nerve to advocate for her clients.

      The critical is definitely something to work on, and it looks like that was noted, as is showing visible frustration in most settings (I vent my frustration to my boss in private, and my direct reports do the same with me).

    13. Artemesia*

      yes the tip off was that the OP describes this as an exaggeration of other feedback — so they agree that the feedback was sort of accurate, just exaggerated. The reluctance of other managers to contest it may be because they agree with it to some extent although they value the OP’s work and still want to see them get ahead.

      I’d try to remove. If that doesn’t work add a simple factual unemotional statement. Seriously think about the feedback, where it might have a basis and how they could improve their professional demeanor.

      1. Jellybeans*

        “ The reluctance of other managers to contest it may be because they agree with it to some extent although they value the OP’s work and still want to see them get ahead.”

        Or the reluctance could just be because they were very hands off and not around.

    14. kiki*

      Being visibly frustrated when things go wrong is not always ideal, but it’s also not necessarily egregious either, depending on the scale of frustration. Like, if a project fails and LW can be seen on zoom punching a wall, that’s obviously very bad. But if they look a little frustrated in the call where they’re discussing a catastrophic failure of something they’ve been working hard on, that’s extremely human. I’d actually be pretty unnerved if I worked with somebody who seemed completely fine with that and relayed no sign of disappointment or frustration.

    15. Also-ADHD*

      You shouldn’t be outspoken and candid at work? Or ever critical of legitimate issues in the workplace? I think ideally we minimize being visibly frustrated, but “that’s not something you should be at work!” seems an overreach. The other qualities CAN actually be positive (critical, outspoken, candid employees are often the ones who find solutions, innovations, and address pain points).

    16. JSPA*

      If outspoken and candid really mean only that, as opposed to being euphemisms for “abrasive and in your face,” there are many work places where a bit more of that would be very good for the company’s product quality and long term bottom line.

      (I suppose it matters whether you’re talking about mission-critical engineering or the color palette of a video game, so opinions on this will vary.)

      I was however left wondering if this might be silent retaliation, if the three month boss mistakenly thinks that the letter writer is the person who got her fired from the project. I’m not quite sure how that would be actionable, But the letter writer might come up with some options, with that scenario in mind?

    17. nodramalama*

      People aren’t perfect. Sometimes people on this forum act like they are the perfect employees who have never done anything but the optimal response. People get frustrated and sometimes they are critical. It happens

    18. Ellis Bell*

      You’re using the OP’s own self-reflective words, which she would have accepted as criticism IF it had been offered. The actual feedback from the manager was not only delivered out of the blue, but in the form of insults. Nobody would take that seriously.

    19. chewingle*

      That’s entirely possible, but my problem with the manager’s feedback is that three months is a long time to let what she perceives as abuse from an employee run rampant without ever addressing it.

  3. Eldritch Office Worker*

    I understand how frustrating this is, I really do – but this isn’t a hill I would die on. Asking to add a note to your file is an excellent idea, but if they don’t let you then let it go. It sounds like you’re getting a promotion and a good review. Don’t jeopardize that by digging your heels in on this one point.

    I know having that feedback in your file feels awful, but in light of everything else it reflects more on her than it does on you. If for any reason you’d be put under her in the future, or you have other run-ins, this is documentation that her views of you are wildly out of sync with everyone else’s. If it comes up as a question in the future, use it to highlight your ability to thrive in your company despite an interpersonal rift with a manager. Do not let this thing be what defines you.

    And…reflect on the feedback. You seem ready to dismiss it out of hand, but what happened here? You’re right about the way the feedback was delivered, and it seems wildly overblown, but if you can cool down and be objective there may still be some insights to take away.

    But don’t refuse to sign. That’s going to make it seem like you’re being petty and that you don’t understand the purpose of what you’re signing, which is going to cost you some of the high ground everyone else clearly thinks you hold.

    1. Annie*

      I was in a similar situation several years ago. In my written response, I focused on the lack of examples and guidance.. I was able to get into a role I was more suited to and away from the manager who gave that feedback.

    2. ferrina*

      Exactly this. Don’t die on this hill.

      In reality, reviews are rarely re-read after they are given. And anyone that is re-reading your review will see that 2 managers thought you were good and 1 was grumpy. A reasonable reader will read between the lines.

      Honestly, I’d be surprised if HR agreed to remove the bad feedback. Employees get feedback that they disagree with all the time. If HR removed all feedback that someone disagreed with, there would be very little left and no way to identify problem employees.

      If this impacts your promotion or raise, I might ask your manager to see if there is any way to note their objections. But otherwise, sign the form to say you’ve received the feedback and move on.

    3. Commentbot*

      Agreed. Also, LW, since you want to become a manager consider which qualities would be valuable to cultivate and display here. Such as:

      -a cool head under fire
      -objectivity, and the ability to spot the wheat in the chaff

      Consider how to present yourself as manager material, particularly on anything that you’ll be putting in your permanent file.

  4. ostentia*

    I don’t know…this sounds like it might be a little more serious than you think, OP. It’s strange that you feel so strongly that the feedback is 100% inaccurate, but that neither of the other two managers delivering the feedback were willing to go farther than “maybe this is her perception” and refused to actually disagree with the feedback. One manager I can see maybe just being kind of a coward or something, but neither of them went to bat for you and disagreed?

    I think it’s possible that your tendencies to be “outspoken and candid” or “a bit critical or visibly frustrated” are hurting you more than you may think.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      That’s possible. It’s also possible there are dynamics in the organization that mean you don’t undercut another manager. It’s hard to know. But regardless OP needs to take it all in and not dismiss the feedback they don’t like.

    2. fidget spinner*

      I don’t know, I’ve definitely worked places where saying anything harsher than “maybe this is her perception” would be considered out-of-line. To me, that sounds like a way of saying they disagree without actually throwing their fellow manager under the bus to a subordinate.

    3. Lizzianna*

      This may also be worth considering that OP needs to work on adjusting based on who she’s talking to.

      A couple years ago, I was considering a person who I’d worked with previously for a job in my organization. I called a person who had managed both of us for a reference. I’d worked with this person, but figured her manager might have a different perspective. This one manager felt this person was blunt to the point of unprofessional, and could have written the same assessment that OP’s 3-month manager did (except had managed this employee for several years). Other references (and my own experience) were that this person was direct and sometimes a did let her irritation show through, but the irritation was usually warranted, and she could pull it back if gently reminded, and the coaching needed to help her maintain relationships was more than worth the effort when compared to the quality of work she and her team produced.

      The thing is, I trust this manager’s judgment. She just had a different perception because she picks up on things differently, and some of the others on her team were more sensitive to blunt, direct communication than other teams. That team was a lot more relationship-based, based on the work they were doing. And this colleague (who I did end up hiring) was more successful on a team that was made up of “doers” (vs planners).

      I’ll take OP at their word that this wasn’t raised at the time, but she may want to look back and see if there were more subtle or non-verbal cues and understand that she may need to adjust a direct style based on who she’s working with. I would take the other managers’ feedback as “we can see her perspective, that behavior just doesn’t bother us the way it bothers her.”

    4. Ray Gillette*

      Strengths and weaknesses can be two sides of the same coin. I have a coworker whose strength is that he’s very diligent and his weakness is he never knows when to let go.

  5. Charlotte Lucas*

    Sounds like a former manager of mine. Best thing to do is be as factual as possible. And try to avoid her in future.

      1. pally*

        Especially on things like the condescension, berating colleagues and people avoiding working with OP. These things need to be called out when they happen, and instruction given to modify one’s behavior. And flagging should they happen again. Waiting until annual review to cite these things would make me wonder if that manager was making things up out of whole cloth.

  6. LawDog*

    I see this A LOT in employment law.
    Women, in particular, when dealing with woman-supervisors, immediately believe there’s no “gender issue” because they’re both women. As if women can’t discriminate against women for being women.

    I see it every day.

    Everything bad that happens in the workplace is NOT discrimination, but some things are. Don’t dismiss it as a possibility.

    1. not nice, don't care*

      I know someone who has two (female-presenting cis/het/xtian/baby-rabid)women supervisors who absolutely discriminate against other women who do not present or perform female enough.

    2. Daisy*

      Came here to echo this:
      “We are both women, so there isn’t really a gender dynamic at play.” – this is a COMPLETELY false assumption. Internalized misogyny runs deep, and everyone can have it (it’s not because we’re women, it’s because we’re human!)

    3. Elevator Elevator*

      Yeah, I was coming to the comments to point this out. The worst workplace misogyny I’ve ever dealt with came from a female manager. It was widely understood in the department that she favored the men and barely tolerated the women. It’s a possibility with any manager, regardless of their gender.

      1. anonymous anteater*

        I also came here to point this out! Assuming women will never discriminate against other women ignores all the unconscious parts of bias, and the systemic issues at play.

    4. Wendy Darling*

      I learned that one the hard way.

      The most misogynist leader I’ve ever worked for was a female startup founder and CEO. She was a nightmare to work for in general, but twice as nightmarish to other women.

      Because I am a naive and uncompetitive person with no particular will to power, I foolishly assumed that women who got to the top in my quite sexist field would empathize with other women and want them to succeed also. In reality, it turns out that one of the few ways to get really high up as a woman in this field is to lean super hard into the misogyny and cutthroat-ness, and prove yourself to the men by doing the Not Like Other Girls misogyny thing. As far as I could tell, she saw other women as threats rather than comrades, so she specifically worked to tear them down.

      In a less extreme example, I’ve also had female managers police my face/mood/affect in a way they didn’t do to male employees because they were in fact trying to protect me. They knew how male leadership would respond and were trying to coach me to behave in a way that would benefit me. Unfortunately this is much easier than getting the field in general to fix their stupid-ass double standard.

      1. DG*

        The face policing comment reminds me of a professor I had during my graduate program, who pulled me aside to let me know that I didn’t smile enough and that she couldn’t tell if I liked her or not. It was the third day of my program and I was there on a big generous scholarship so I kept my mouth shut, but I wish I had asked her if she would say that to a man.

    5. downtown*

      the best and most inclusive and productive team I ever worked with was majority white men and all of us “diverse” teammates agreed that we were well supported and listened to. the worst teams I’ve worked with at current company and past jobs all have managers that feel that their dimension of diversity protects them from being biased even as they break the law. having more privileges is a pink flag for sure to keep an eye on, but it’s always the actions who bear out which coworkers are and are not safe to be around.

    6. Raging Iron Thunder*

      Oh for sure, and it works with men to men as well.

      Woman manager I took over for during COVID (she was seconded to another unit, so very amicable process) let me know about problem employee Nicodemus. Nicodemus showed over a long period of time a bit of the issues she told me about, but nothing on the scale of the examples she told me about. I chalked this up to (1) the guy improved his behavior as he did receive warnings in his recent review before I came on, and (2) I’m a dude so he interacted with me differently.

      The same manager described a highly adversarial relationship with multiple (female) managers in another unit. The same “adversarial” managers were all super nice to me- and I literally got the direct sensation that they liked interacting with me because I’m male.

      It was rather surreal.

      For context, I’m very stereotypical white dude with british isles/scandinavian background I’ve been told I have a handsome face and pretty eyes, which maybe over COVID played better over zoom. As otherwise I’m a balding and on the shorter side I do work out, but am not swole), I don’t think I’m particularly attractive to women. I say this part for context, as again, I quite distinctly felt these woman just wanted to interact with a man rather than another woman. Never noticed this phenomena at any other time in my career.

      1. NaoNao*

        I suspect part of the desire to interact with a man might come from the experience that some men are more easily…manipulated by actions or behaviors that another woman can see right through. I used to work in a non-US country and saw women blatantly manipulating men by using what I called “sexy baby” voice, something that made my skin crawl and I thought was putting feminism back 100 years, but darned it if didn’t work 90% of the time! It certainly wouldn’t work on me, another woman, though. I can guess that voice is one of a large bag of tricks some women have when dealing with men–partly developed as a coping with sexism strategy for sure, but there nonetheless.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      I appreciated that note from OP because when women are criticised for being too aggressive, it’s often misogyny. I don’t necessarily agree that misogyny can’t come from another woman though. Comments I’ve heard from other women at work range from “She’s a total bitch, I thought a female manager would be more easy going” to “I think it’s selfish to have a baby when we’re so short staffed” to “I think men just get on with things, don’t you?” to “Makeup today? I see you’re finally making an effort, ha ha”. I want to stress this is weird and uncommon; the vast, vast majority of women I’ve worked with support each other and judge those sorts of comments harshly, but they happen. It’s inexplicable when you meet a female misogynist in the wild, but once you’ve acknowledge the possibility it’s always very obvious within a short timescale. It’s not necessarily the case; OP’s manager may just be generally unpleasant or ham fisted about providing feedback though.

  7. L-squared*

    To play devils advocate here, the fact that it seems the other people didn’t exactly disagree with it may be telling.

    There are people I’ve worked with, who I liked. And if I had to peer review them, I wouldn’t say certain things. But if some else said them, I’d have more of an “I can see where they are coming from” perspective.

    Its possible that they have a more different picture of you. And maybe to them, that picture means that, despite those negative things, there are a lot of positive things that outweigh them, even if it takes a while to get there. If one of them was, in your own words, very hands off, and one is very recent, I’m not sure that we can surmise that the 2 who gave positive things are the only valid responses. I don’t know what “very recently” means, but it seems that it has been less than 3 months for that one.

    Also, unfortunately, as annoying as it is, I don’t know that you will always get this type of feedback right away.

    Finally I’ll ask, lets say this person brought it up 6 weeks into their 3 months of managing you. Would you have taken it seriously?

    1. Seeeeeee*

      I think they should have brought it up. A person’s review is NOT the place where you bring things up for the first time, ESPECIALLY if they are critiques that the person could have course-corrected, apologized if need be, etc. Even positive things should be brought up before a review (ie: you kicked butt on X and Y projects, etc.) AND also put in the review. Specifics are ALWAYS needed. A review should not be a surprise.

      1. L-squared*

        I mean, I think it possibly depends on if they know it would be temporary.

        I just got to the 90 day mark at my job. In my experience, with new jobs and new managers, having a 90 day check in isn’t unheard of. And sometimes things get brought up then. I just had one with my manager. Were there things that probably could’ve been brought up earlier? Sure. But I also don’t think him waiting a while

        So for all we know, the manager intended to mention it in a meeting/feedback session, but it just never happened because they were taken off the project. If asked for feedback later about the person, I don’t think its unfair to give it.

        1. Catwhisperer*

          It sounds like your example is a bit difference than the OPs, since they were not a new employee with a 90 day check in, they were an ongoing employee who just happened to have management changes throughout the year. In general, it’s reasonable to expect that if something is serious enough to impact someone’s annual review it’s something that should be addressed in real-time. And even in your example, if your 90-day performance review was tied to a probationary period it would be reasonable to assume feedback that impacted the probationary period results would be given in real-time.

  8. Tracy*

    Oof, I’m sorry. I had this happen during a college class that was very intensive and required working closely with many of my classmates for a year. We had to write evaluations for each other which was probably not a great idea. Our supervisor reamed me during my evaluation and said my classmates thought I was “a b-word, rude, selfish, etc etc” while I cried. We all got copies of our evals and the weird thing is that NO ONE had anything mean or negative to say about me. It was entirely fabricated. It did ruin my memory of the whole experience, however, even after I found out the supervisor died 6 months later from a brain tumor and the cancer was probably talking. Unfortunately it did take my grade down a letter and no one would adjust it.

    1. H*

      I once was having a meeting with a professor at the end of the semester to determine my grade and when she got into discussing peer evaluations from a semester long group project I was told that one member of the group thought I spoke too much, and another wished I had spoken up more… with no other context. Great, thanks, that is utterly useless feedback.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        A lot of times when people say feedback is useless they aren’t thinking about it critically enough. You have provided an example of truly useless feedback.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        I once got feedback from two people about an interview. One said the way I talked about stuff was too technical so they were worried about my ability to communicate with stakeholders, and the other said it wasn’t technical enough so they were worried about my ability to communicate with stakeholders.

        Kind of glad they didn’t hire me, if that’s how it was gonna be!

  9. Database Developer Dude*

    Not a whole lot of people trust or even know that signing stuff is only acknowledging receipt. The Army is like that with evaluations as well…the rated NCO or officer’s signature is just saying he or she has seen it, and the administrative information is correct. That’s it.

    Maybe they’re afraid because of the common misconception that signing something is agreeing with it. Traffic tickets are like that too. Signing it isn’t an admission of guilt, but many think it is. I had to argue with my passenger the last time I got a traffic ticket. She was ready to get me arrested, the fool.

    1. Czhorat*

      When I had a union job my shop steward would always say that nobody should sign anything except their paycheck.

      It may not be rational, but it’s a not uncommon way of thinking.

      1. Union Rep*

        I find this very funny, because “should I sign the evaluation I disagree with” is one of my FAQs and I say ‘yes!’ Especially in a union job where you’d normally have a contractual right to contest false information in your personnel file and to write up your own statement, you really are just signing to indicate receipt. Fighting about it just makes HR remember you as annoying, which doesn’t help you – annoying HR is great fun, but ideally we do it on purpose to get something out of them.

        (I can think of a lot of documents my members shouldn’t sign without calling me first, but the bad performance evaluation isn’t on the list.)

  10. Czhorat*

    I agree with Allison and TOTALLY grok the LW’s anger and frustration, but also think that they can see this as a chance to take a long, hard, uncomfortable look in the mirror.

    The constructive criticism and scorched-earth attacks feel to me like a picture of the same person, and this jumped out at me: “”Essentially, she took each of my flaws and exaggerated them “”

    It appears that the LW knows that they have weaknesses in these areas, and that the bigger disagreement is in degree. Maybe they aren’t as bad as their worst enemy sees them, but not as good as their closest allies see.

    1. DataGirl*

      agreed, LW acknowledged she has issues, it may be this manager took them more personally. but they are definitely things to fix if she wants to move into management.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Gross exaggeration of minor faults is lying.
      A manager should address the actual fault, not blow it up x 100

      1. Orange Line Avenger*

        But we don’t actually know that this is a “gross exaggeration” or that these are “minor faults” blown up “x 100.” We know that the LW feels that way, but we also know that two other managers raised the same concerns (phrased more mildly) and didn’t say, “so-and-so took these things out of proportion.”

        I don’t think it serves the LW at all to completely dismiss the idea that these might be real problems which are negatively impacting their reputation and ability to get things done.

        1. EJ*

          If the other two managers actually agree with the first manager in every particular but have some misguided idea that they need to be so tactful in a performance review as to severely downplay how bad the issues are, they’re incredibly bad managers for doing that downplaying, for not raising this with OP sooner, and for recommending their toxic nightmare employee for a promotion instead of addressing her seriously bad behavior.

          So either Manager #1 is being totally unreasonable or everyone around her is being totally unreasonable – and of course it’s not impossible for Manager #1 to be the only sane person in a deeply messed-up workplace that thinks publicly excoriating your coworkers on the regular is normal and fine, but people do tend to lean towards the simplest explanation, or at least the one that requires making the fewest assumptions about stuff that isn’t in the letter.

  11. Generic Name*

    I’m curious, is feedback like “sometimes speaks up too quickly in meetings” something that belongs in an annual evaluation? Various years at my last job, I’d get feedback on seemingly small things that seemed like a one-off or vague, and it always annoyed me. Now that I have a direct report, I’m very cognizant of not peppering her with small items of feedback in an annual review, because I found that very demoralizing. I absolutely dreaded annual reviews at my last company because I always came away feeling like I sucked.

    1. lost academic*

      It definitely can be. Off the top of my head, one, it is something that is actionable. Two, it can definitely be something that impacts a larger group of people and the perception of the OP in a way they may not be aware of and it speaks to being sufficiently self aware in a group to understand one’s role in the larger picture.

      1. Seeeeeee*

        Then SAY it just after the meeting so they have a concrete example and can address. DO NOT wait till a review.

        1. mli0531*

          This 10000%. I have had things stated in annual reviews that would have been helpful 3-6 months, when I was actively working on the project/with those specific folks. Particularly if something could have/was taken out of context/I am came across to harsh/etc. At minimum, it would have made me more aware and potentially allowed for an apology or an attempt to reset things. 3-6 months later, not terribly helpful

        2. Allonge*

          If it happens consistently, it belongs on the annual review regardless of addresing it in hte moment.

    2. Managing While Female*

      I think it certainly can be. I have one colleague in particular who is lovely outside of work, but is incredible obnoxious in meetings – not because she’s incompetent or anything like that, but because she interrupts, answers questions meant for other people, and generally ‘hogs’ the floor so that no one else can get a word in edgewise. Also if you’re speaking up too quickly in meetings, it sounds like you may not have put too much thought into the actual response, which, when it’s a pattern, can certainly be an issue.

    3. Coffee Protein Drink*

      I would want to know more about the content and the reason for speaking up. Is the LW just enthusiastic? Asking questions before the designated time? Or is this a time where she’s being critical? There are all kinds of reasons.

      One of those reasons is that women are perceived to talk more than men in meetings even though they don’t.

    4. Lizzianna*

      If I’d brought it up before and had not seen improvement and it’s impacting the team dynamic, I can see putting that in an annual review. One of my direct reports’ performance elements is how well they work as part of the bigger team. That wouldn’t be the first place I brought it up, and I’d think about whether it needed to be in the written review or just shared verbally, but there are definitely some situations where I’d put it in there.

  12. subaru outback driver*

    I have this happen twice in my career. Both times the managers had three things in common.

    1. They were above me, one was even two levels removed.
    2. They were not well informed or well read into what I did.
    3. They tended to be non-confrontational people.

    I would just confirm the review and did the write in statement like Alison suggested. It sounds like the other two managers know you are good at your job and talented.

    1. ferrina*

      For item 3- I’ve seen this happen. The person doesn’t like correcting performance in the moment because it’s “too confrontational” but is perfectly happy being harsh behind a keyboard on a formal eval. It does the employee a grave disservice.

      It sounds like this manager might also be a known element. There are certain managers whose evaluations mean nothing to me because they are known to have poor judgement.

  13. Fikly*

    On a different note, you both being women absolutely does NOT mean there cannot be a gender dynamic in play.

    Unfortunately, many women have internalized misogyny, both toward themselves and other women, as a result of living in such a hate filled world toward their own gender. So they apply all of the bad things toward the women around them, including in the workplace, often without realizing it.

    1. Amanda*

      Came here to say same. As a woman, the worst reviews I’ve ever received were from antagonistic women who did not like to see other women being confident, assertive, and kind to others.

      1. Pizza Rat*

        It drives me nuts that some people have an extremely rigid idea of how women should behave in the workplace and it usually means not self-advocating, showing confidence, or addressing problems head on.

  14. Hydrangea*

    I wonder if it’s a case of, 3 months was long enough to witness some patterns but not long enough to create a performance plan. Maybe she knew she wouldn’t be managing OP much longer and decided the next manager could deal with it.

    1. Pizza Rat*

      I would think a decnt manager would have at least one discussion with an employee before deciding a PIP was needed.

    2. Also-ADHD*

      But you don’t wait to create a performance plan for things like berating coworkers. I think that could be true with some feedback, but the content here doesn’t fit that.

  15. learnedthehardway*

    Hmmm…. Allison’s advice is good and you’ll likely be able to have a response filed with the review.

    That said, while the one manager may have been over the top in their criticism, you yourself have recognized the kernel of truth in their report. You know you’re critical and get visibly frustrated. Parlay that into a manager role, and abusive, condescending, berating people – that’s the logical outcome of someone who is not respectful of colleagues.

    Focus on being constructive, rather than critical – someone’s bad idea may have a bits of value in it, junior people are learning, provide objective facts to refute bad suggestions (not just your opinion). Focus on being respectful of colleagues’ opinions and efforts. Develop your empathy – how would you want to be treated in their shoes? Recognize that you don’t know everything and that other people have thing to teach you (even if you think they are mostly useless at their jobs). Be supportive rather than condescending – assume people know things, don’t assume they don’t.

    Take the truth that is in that bad review, learn the lessons, and apply them. They will make you a better person, a better colleague, and a better manager.

    1. TeaCoziesRUs*

      This reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite teachers, in the realm of the spiritual journey. (He was talking about ways our ego tried to remain in power, learning how to see it, and then relax the self-defensiveness driving it.)

      “Keep the Lotus flower of compassion in one hand… and the sword of cutting through the bulls* in the other. You must use both.” – Russ Hudson

  16. Hendry*

    I don’t have any specific advice, but four bosses in one year is absurd – hopefully you get some stability soon.

    1. mli0531*

      I had 5 bosses in just under 2 years (23 months). It really sucked. Just as we got into the groove of working together/communicating, I got a new boss. Oh, and the core of what I did, didn’t really change at all.

  17. MassMatt*

    Unless there are really unusual circumstances with your job, department, or group, your company’s overall management system seems seriously suspect. Someone shuffled between four managers in 12 months sounds pretty dysfunctional.

    And while three months is not a lot of time, it’s terrible practice to be ambushed by negative feedback at an annual review. If that manager thought you were so terrible, why did she keep her mouth shut about it for months? It’s like she was a nasty squirrel saving that poison nut for the winter. That the other managers are just shrugging their shoulders and saying “maybe that’s how she feels” isn’t a good sign either.

    I’m also not so sure we should dismiss the idea that there might be a gender element at play just because both the LW and the manager are women. IME sometimes women can be extremely (and unfairly) critical of other women in the workplace.

    Sexist attitudes are pervasive, possibly even more so than racist ones, and it makes sense that these attitudes would affect both men and women.

  18. Spacewoman Spiff*

    Ignoring the feedback itself (which I think other commenters have already made some good points about), I really don’t see anything to gain from refusing to acknowledge the review–it’ll only reflect poorly on you. Years ago I got a negative performance review from one of my colleagues…he had a lot of problems with his position, had been on a PIP pretty much the whole time I knew him, and a couple months before this review cycle HR actually brought me in for a convo (pretty obviously gathering evidence to let him go). By the time performance reviews rolled around the colleague seemed to have gotten wind that I’d been brought in to HR, gave me a poor review that was out of step with all my other feedback that cycle, and there was just nothing I could do about it, even when I pointed out the dynamics at play and that he really shouldn’t have been allowed to review me given the situation. (I’d declined to review him because I didn’t think it was appropriate since I couldn’t really be objective at that point.) It was super frustrating to have that on my record, but before the next review cycle six months later, he’d been let go, my review ratings miraculously shot up, and I had many conversations about how dramatically my performance had improved and I was now on track for promotion. If this really is an isolated piece of negative feedback, it will probably be quickly forgotten, and digging in will only ensure more people remember this review.

    1. DataGirl*

      Agreed, at my work the two managers who met with the person being evaluated would simply attest that the evaluation was reviewed in person. Someone refusing to sign would likely be seen as someone who really did have issues, but refuse to acknowledge them. it just makes the person look bad.

    2. ferrina*

      Exactly this.

      If you come in ranting about this unfair review, people will remember your big reaction.

      If you come in with grace and confusion, people will remember that. Ask questions. Seek to understand the process. Getting unfair reviews is an inherent danger in the review process- there really isn’t a way to avoid it entirely. Some supervisors will always downgrade people (I had a supervisor refuse to give me the top grade in anything because “we all have something to work on”….even though the grading system explicitly had criteria and I should have had top grades in several areas).

  19. LKW*

    I had something similar happen earlier in my career. I worked on a project with two other analysts at my level and our supervisor loved to take credit for our work and point the finger at us when he made mistakes. Unknowingly I had pissed him off when I challenged him (very professionally, along the lines of “do you think this is the best approach?” in front of the other two team members. From that point forward he had it out for me but I had no clue.

    He was scheduled to take a 3 week holiday (marriage, honeymoon) and I was scheduled to roll off the project. His last afternoon he sent me an invite to a performance review and provided access to his review.

    To say it was bad was an understatement. The best word I could come up with was “venomous”. I wrote a very polite note that said in short “thanks for the feedback, I’d like some time to think about this. Let’s discuss when you’re back in the office.” He demanded that I accept the review and was pissed that I made it clear that I wasn’t rolling over and was willing to go to the top to address his sneak approach and inflammatory language.

    He left on vacation and I spoke to his supervisor who said “Oh yeah, I knew that was going to be an interesting conversation.” I acknowledged that he made some good points about areas for development, but the way they were stated made it sound like I was a walking disaster. Again… venomous. So we worked on ensuring the message was there, but the language was more nuanced.

    During the three weeks, the client came back and said “We noticed the work you’ve been doing and we’d like you to stay longer on the project.” I said I would as long as I no longer reported to jerk-face. I was able to close the project out successfully and pointed out to my leadership that three of us started with him, two left the company after being fed up with his nonsense and they knew my story. I was praised by client and company for remaining professional through the entire saga.

    I don’t know what happened to jerk-face – it’s a very big company and I’ve completely forgotten his name so I can’t even look up to see if he’s still around.

  20. Educator*

    Do reviews even matter unless there is a sustained pattern of negative feedback that ultimately needs to be actioned? I mean this seriously–routine feedback is critically important, but in all my years as a manager, I have never once looked at or thought about a review more than a year or so after filing it with HR. Even during reorganizations, giving references, overseeing layoffs–historical reviews have never been a part of the conversation, just current/recent work. Even on tenure committees, where we look at so many data points, no one is pulling out an archive of reviews! How do people actually use reviews that are more than a year old? Or do we only worry about them because it feels like some kind of permanent record?

    1. ferrina*

      Depends on the company, but yeah, generally reviews quietly slip away into the void. The only time I’ve seen them pulled up is occasionally when a new manager takes over. Weirdly, they don’t seem to be reviewed even during promotions at some companies (at least the last couple I’ve been at).

      For reviews over a year old- I’ve only seen them reviewed when there is an issue with the employee or occasionally when there is an issue with the supervisor (like looking for discriminatory patterns)

    2. mli0531*

      Depends on the company, for sure. I had one company that would review people at the same level, review people in the same division, etc. The review rating itself can also determine bonus eligibility (or not). The details of the review could be used to justify lowering or raising your overall review rating against your various peer groups (essentially rank stacking or language to that effect).

    3. Union Rep*

      They get used to justify discipline and (in my unit, which has a lot of full-time non-tenure-track faculty) contract non-renewals. It’s not that personnel committees ever read the reviews – they get pulled out to justify the decision to axe somebody whether or not there was an actual connection between the review and the cut. And sometimes the “sustained pattern of negative feedback” is there because the boss didn’t like somebody and not because they’re a bad employee. (Reasons I’ve seen include: got pregnant, didn’t get pregnant, got long COVID, asked for a raise, took a sabbatical, said “I can’t start an entire degree program by myself,” said “I can’t start that degree program because I know nothing about that field, asked for a contractually-required performance evaluation, asked to see the contents of their personnel file…) I really cannot stress enough how little it takes to get some people to start fabricating reasons to fire you, even in a unionized workplace where the employer has to show just cause for termination.

      Anyway, once there’s already some amount of history, it’s much harder to save people’s jobs even if they deserve it. You want to start fighting every smear attempt as early as possible. Some managers get the message that firing this person will be more trouble than it’s worth and back off. For the ones who don’t, fighting every little piece of the review process at least drags out the forcing-out long enough for the employee to find another job without having to explain a firing and a resume gap.

  21. Lacey*

    Been there OP. I would say it’s probably not worth raising a fuss.

    I had a manager who gave everyone in the department a terrible review right before he turned in his notice. When he left, people started realizing that he’d lied about a LOT of things, including what he was doing at work all day.

    But HR still wouldn’t remove his bad reviews, even though we’d all had much better reviews from our previous manager less than a year before.

    None of it mattered. I left for a better job, everyone else in that department still works there and two of them have even been promoted to management since then.


  22. TrixieD*

    Our HR department reminds us each year during review time that the review is never the first time someone should be given negative feedback. This was poorly contrived on the part of that manager, and I agree that the employee should ask that it be removed from their record.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yep I tell people that constantly. And yet, some people can’t get their heads around it.

    2. Hey Ms!*


      As a teacher, we are told that the progress report and report card should not be the first time a parent is informed their child is in risk of failing.

      Same goes for adults in the working world.

  23. DataGirl*

    Something may have already addressed this, but refusing to confirm in the system doesn’t really do anything. At least where I work, two managers can attest that a person receives an evaluation, even if they refuse to sign it. The two managers who meet with you to review the evaluation can attest you did get the feedback.

    1. Pizza Rat*

      It wasn’t clear to me whether the LW was to sign off as having received the review or that she was signing off that she’d received feedback over the course of the review period, which she didn’t.

    2. ferrina*

      Yeah, it doesn’t do anything at my work either. It just gets written off as “I guess this person can’t be bothered to do admin”

  24. Coffee Protein Drink*

    I’ve had reviews with feedback that wasn’t addressed and/or I disagreed with. My boss refused to remove it, so when I signed off on it, I added comments, giving clear examples of why I felt the ratings were undeserved.

  25. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

    My first point – the absolute worst, most demeaning boss I ever had was a woman and I’m a woman. Women can be awful to other women.

    My second point – I got a terrible review from that boss that was so out of touch with reality.

    My third point – I’ve worked at the same place for 25 years since awful woman boss. My terrible review probably lives in a dusty file somewhere, but it didn’t have a material impact on my career because it wasn’t a pattern of behavior.

    (Awful woman boss did eventually get asked to leave the company though, which felt pretty darn good.)

  26. Cruciatus*

    I remember 2 jobs ago when I worked for a school within a university. For some reason the director of the school let the faculty give their opinions on us office staff. Most of them were like “Cruciatus is great!”. One person, ONE PERSON! said they “did not like my tone” when I answered the phone one time. And that got put into my annual review. But none of the other 99% “Cruciatus is great!” comments did! Oh, it still smarts!

    And worse is…A) maybe it wasn’t me who answered the phone B) maybe I ran to the phone and was out of breath getting to it or any other millions of reasons why my tone was off (or the caller expects waaaay too much for someone answering a phone).

  27. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    I don’t understand why 3 months out of an annual review is considered a short time. That’s a quarter of the year! If there are 4 managers in the year, seems like this manager’s feedback covers exactly as much as the other managers, time wise.

    1. Procedure Publisher*

      Based on the letter, it is not clear how long each of the other managers was LW’s manager. I don’t believe LW was under each of the four managers for the same amount of time. LW referred to their current manager as being somewhat recent. That make me think LW has not been under this manager for very long. Also, we don’t know when the other three manager’s mentioned had managed LW. That information could add a whole another detail that is important to be able to fully judge.

      If I were in LW’s shoes, I would want HR to include how long each manager had managed me.

  28. EA*

    I had this happen to me. A former manager gave me a terrible annual review once. It focused a lot on my attitude. For context, this was an extremely conflict-averse manager who avoided speaking to me for weeks after we disagreed on something, and I also felt very overloaded with work. The manager would let things bottleneck, and then I would have to stay until 8 or 9pm to cover and finish up projects. Despite all of this, with some distance, I can now recognize that my attitude was not great at times. I still think the manager was very unprofessional and needed to address his concerns with me directly rather than waiting to have HR force me to sign a bad review.

    I was also asked to confirm receipt and was given a small box for my comments. I wrote something to the effect of not being in full agreement but accepting that we had a difference of opinion, and I signed it. I’m glad I did not make a big deal out of signing the review. It has not had any negative effects on my career. Again… I think the manager had a point. I was earlier in my career, and I DID have a bad attitude sometimes because I felt overworked and overwhelmed. But it should be have been handled much more directly and proactively.

    All this to say… I think you should just sign it and write a short message about your perspective, but not try to have it removed or argue that 3 months is too short (like other commenters I disagree on that point – and I bet if it were positive feedback you wouldn’t be trying to have it removed). I don’t think it will hurt your career, especially because it’s accompanied by good feedback in the same review.

  29. Middle Name Jane*

    Years ago, I had a manager who was a known bully. I was one of her targets the first year she became my manager (she was an internal transfer from another department). On one of my performance reviews, she wrote negative things about my behavior and attitude but cited no examples. When I asked her to give me examples, she ducked and dodged and refused to provide any. Because she was lying. I was required to electronically acknowledge the review, but our company allowed us to submit a written rebuttal. Never before or since have I needed to do one, but that year I did. I stayed calm but called out the fact that she was evasive and refused to give any examples of the things she wrote in my review. I chose not to file a formal complaint with HR, but I followed up that rebuttal with a conversation with my HR rep and let her know what was going on. After that–surprise, surprise–this manager never pulled that stunt with me again.

  30. MaxPower*

    Having worked in HR I can tell you that there are decent number of people who get difficult feedback in a review or disciplinary action who SWEAR this is the first time they’re hearing that this thing is a problem. Except, in many, many of those cases the manager has had the receipts of all the times they’d mentioned it prior. In a couple of those cases I’d actually been in the room as the issue was brought up to the employee in the past.

    I think that denying anybody mentioned it previously is a common defense mechanism. Better to externalize the feedback as someone else failing them than internalize it as them failing themself.

    That said, there are absolutely managers who don’t bring up issues until the review, and that is just bad management.

    1. Miss Lemon*

      I have sat in on a LOT of parent teacher meetings, and we get that exact response at the majority of the time when academic or behavior issues are brought up—“I had no idea!” I rarely bother to mention all the many emails sent, phone calls, and previous meetings, because I think it’s a knee-jerk reaction/automatic defense mechanism when the parents are feeling ashamed & defensive. It’s much more comfortable to try to shift blame.

      Not saying that’s what the OP is doing, just found the similarity between teaching and HR interesting.

  31. Sparkles McFadden*

    I know you won’t believe this LW, but this one negative review from someone who managed you for three months doesn’t actually matter. Think of the people in high school who were terrified of what was on their “permanent record.” Nobody reads those records.

    I do agree you should ask HR if you can add a comment. That comment should be a simple statement that the person managed you for three months and gave you no feedback whatsoever during that time period. If HR says you can’t add a comment…ah well. You tried.

    As others have said here, acknowledging receipt of the review just means “Yes, I received it.” If you refuse to acknowledge receiving the review, that just makes you look like a difficult person. Pushing back really hard on the “controlling” statements will make you look controlling! The best way to disprove the statements made about you is to do your job well going forward.

  32. anon_sighing*

    LW, I am not saying you are or are not. Maybe you are those things to them; maybe some co-workers did express hesitation in working with you. The issue is that it doesn’t matter because even if you were, you never got the chance to know and correct whatever they thought the issue was or your approach.

    The fact that this person didn’t ONCE speak to you about this — especially since it involved your coworkers — is enough to get it stricken from the books. An annual review is not a place to *finally* air your grievances as a manager; it’s a review of your work and your response to ongoing feedback, as well as a platform to map out where you can grow and what good work you’re doing already.

  33. Raida*


    I mean, anyone dropping bombshells like that in an annual review is, simply, a bad manager.

    If there’s a significant issue, then the manager didn’t address it at the time. They haven’t gone through what needs attention, they didn’t deal with complaints, they didn’t support their staff in either dealing with an horrendous coworker nor in coaching a staff member on their interpersonal skills.

  34. Academic Librarian Too*

    Taking OP at her word.
    Sign it. It just means that the news was delivered.
    IF you write a comment. And I suggest you do not.
    In the 3 months that this manager supervised you were there positive accomplishments that were achieved or forwarded down the road due to your efforts?
    State those.
    DO not attack the manager.
    Take a deep breath. Your file is an accumulation of observations. If anyone in “power” reviews your record this is a blip.
    If anyone asks about it, keep it simple. The record shows exemplary performance and reasonable interpersonal relationships.
    It is too bad this person did not express herself about your performance before the review when you could reflect on the criticism and demonstrate change as needed.
    And yes I do agree with the other commentators.
    As a manager when I am frustrated, annoyed, angry or in any way feeling negative about a work situation, I DO NOT show it. I take a breath. I count to ten. I suggest we continue the conversation later.

    1. anon_sighing*

      > Take a deep breath. Your file is an accumulation of observations. If anyone in “power” reviews your record this is a blip.

      I am only concerned about LW because (no offense to them) their other feedback is the essentially same but watered-down corporate talk. There is no one putting in an amendment to defend LW or putting their foot down and saying “how untrue” — their response is essentially, “yeah you’re like that, kinda harsh but guess that’s how she perceived it.” Being entirely honest, I would see this strong feedback in this context and think, “Ah, someone got fed up and didn’t mince words, huh.”

      If no one actually looks at this, it’s ok. But LW wants to be a manager and I would (personally and that really doesn’t matter) not want someone with bad soft skills, no matter how productive they are, to be a manager. I’d keep them at the individual contributor level, where they excel and their personality can be kept under watch.

      1. Andromeda*

        I wouldn’t jump from “easily frustrated” to “berates colleagues”. That’s a huge leap (and also a leap from “general demeanour talk” to “specific actions that I think we can take OP at her word never happened”).

        1. anon_sighing*

          LW themselves admits the 3-month boss took things she knows she needs to work on and “exaggerated” them. I think we have a pretty self-aware LW here in terms of the flaws; the issue seems to be that they aren’t willing to admit their soft skills may need more work than originally thought. Also LW saying this woman was taken off the project for her own performance issues but then telling us the woman is significantly more senior than her, personally, made me think of LW as incredibly immature — she was probably off the project because she was only on it temporarily to begin with (and also I roll my eyes because you’ve had multiple managers through the year but only the one you don’t like got removed for performance issues? The rest had valid reasons, but only her? No explanations on why you think that?)

          (I am not sure if you’re responding to me but I never said I’d jump from “easily frustrated” to “berates colleagues,” but it wouldn’t be hard to believe that someone who’s easily frustrated and by LW’s admission “a bit critical” would berate a colleague. It’s looking at the whole picture of behavior.)

    2. Rosacolleti*

      But surely this 2 way feedback is important to the process. Wouldn’t it be better for her to write in her feedback section that she was unaware of these issues?

  35. Karma is My Boyfriend*

    If this is a federal government system, you CAN refuse to click the button. I did it on my last appraisal before I left. Similarly, my boss brought up wild issues that he had never ever even mentioned to me, nor could he come up with concrete examples when I asked. So I didn’t click the button. Shrug.

    1. Karma is My Boyfriend*

      To clarify, in the system I am speaking about, the actual verbiage when clicking the button is something along the lines of you were given this in person, a chance to respond…and other verbiage that essentially means you approve of this assessment.

  36. TheBunny*

    Here’s the thing…it could be her opinion of LW and she was planning to give the feedback the next day but was moved to a different team. Or it’s her perception. Or it’s unfair.

    It’s one person. Yes it stings but occasionally people won’t like you for reasons that have to do with them and not you. My current boss doesn’t think I’m doing that great a job. I told my former boss about her feedback and their response was that she’s absolutely bonkers (I actually sent the former boss the work product that was in question). It sounds like her feedback is mostly being ignored so I would do my best to also ignore it.

    Yes add a factual and objective note to the review, but that’s all the thought I would give.

  37. Rosacolleti*

    #1 surely this is a 2 way review and you get to provide your own feedback eg self evaluation, where you’d like your role to go, support you’d like along with comments about the actual review??

    I think the fact that none of these points have been raised before hold you in good stead to have her at least check she has the right person, her notes if shen she has raised them before. Hopefully that leads to them being removed.

    My managers know that there should never be surprises in an annual appraisal.

  38. Govt Dweeb*

    Ahhhhh so many red flags in Letter #1. The manager I think was typically out of line with how they worded things, but the flaws the LW self-describes are in line with the feedback, “jumping in too quickly” at meetings is super interesting feedback, the new managers didn’t come to her defense at all really, the description of the old manager insinuating she “might” have gotten taken off the project due to her incompetence, and finally your complete unwillingness to simply acknowledge you received a review. And I say all this as someone who, if I left myself unchecked, would gravitate towards the same type of negative traits. Luckily, I also have high EQ so I can easily adjust my interactions to my audience (and I’m now quite senior in my career and have learned how to work situations— when bringing the big, bad b out can be helpful or harmful). This is definitely something the LW should think about. And those people saying that it’s because the LW is female and not male…..Yeah, it totally might be true. But also; women can be inappropriate with their unacceptable behavior, too. To always used gender as a cop out is absolute BS in my opinion. LW needs to take a step back to think about all the criticisms in that review and the reaction of the other managers (“perception of you”) and genuinely think of ways to work on adjusting interactions with colleagues. Don’t totally use the fact the other manager never addressed it as a cop out, either, since they managed you for such a short time. That could have been something they were waiting to address after making sure what they were seeing was consistent over several months.

  39. Thomas*

    “Point out that this person managed you for a very brief period”

    Contrary to Alison, I would say drop this angle. Yes three months isn’t long, but NONE of your recent managers had you for long.

    The most significant thing is that the manager never said anything about this before. Which is an objective and testable statement by you. Just do take a step back and think, did this manager really never indicate you should change the way you interact with colleagues?

  40. Claire*

    On the gaming question, most online games have rules against IRL monetary transactions for in-game objects. (Because it encourages cheating and bug-manipulation and damages the experience for other players.) So what he’s doing might be legal, but it’s likely against the TOS and not something to brag about.

  41. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    OP it sounds like your ex-boss was my ex. I would sometimes show frustration at a situation, and he would start getting all defensive, saying “but it’s not my fault” or “but I can’t do anything about that”, as if I were angry with him rather than the situation. It was exhausting to have to manage his emotions on top of the frustration I was already going through. And any time he heard me talking about him he assumed it was negative. Once I was showing a friend a bag that he got me, which I love because there are loads of compartments. But he came over saying “what’s wrong with that bag? I got exactly what you asked for!”
    He also told me, every time we argued, just how many people dislike me (people whose opinion does not count AFAIC because they are rude to me, deliberately speaking in a language they know I don’t speak, to exclude me and possibly badmouth me). He trashed my self-confidence. Yet then when I told him I was done, he started telling me he still loved me and wanted us to stay together. He actually didn’t want his big sister to know that we were separating, because she would have judged him and told him he could have been nicer to me. In short, he was toxic and I’m wondering whether that overly critical manager was too?

    Since the other two managers appear to agree in their assessment, I don’t think this one manager’s much more negative assessment will necessarily be considered relevant. Especially if they were taken off your project because of their own performance issues as you seemed to think. Any chance of finding out more on that? Because she may have been criticising you in order to cover her own butt: her performance was poor but just look at the people she was delegating to! No wonder she couldn’t get anything done with people as bad as she says you are!

    It’s maybe worth trying to think whether there were or are people who avoid you, but if this manager was like my ex, I wouldn’t spend too much time on dwelling on that. Also, why have you had so many different managers? Are you that hard to manage? Again, I’m asking, but I doubt that that’s the case. Although there’s obviously something wrong with the role if nobody stays all that long in the position, do you have any idea what the problem is?

  42. Liz*

    It’s entirely possible that 3 month boss was awful.

    It’s also entirely possible that OP lacks the skills necessary to manage a terrible boss.

    If you are going to succeed in corporate life, managing terrible bosses is a necessary skill. And OP doesn’t have it.

  43. Mmm.*

    I really wish places would be more cognizant of who is allowed to review whom. I had a colleague–not a direct superior, but someone higher ranking–write a negative review about me being “rude” because…

    I don’t use emojis in business messages. That’s it.

    1. Student*

      Are you me? I have a co-worker who absolutely needs people to react to every instant message with an emoji so that she knows whether we read her message.

      Our system has read receipts built in, mind you. This feature does EXACTLY what she says she wants, in that it has a little icon next to the message that indicates whether it has been read or not. But she has this feature disabled and absolutely will not use it and gets incensed if you suggest it to her.

      Only emojis will do.

      Fries my brain.

  44. Manglement Survivor*

    Where I’ve worked always had the option to write a statement or rebuttal to attach to the performance appraisal. Tell HR that’s what you want to do.

  45. See Too Much*

    This is one of the reasons we are, finally, getting rid of annual reviews. You should never be blindsided at a review. You should be getting regular feedback through 1:1s and having clear, accessible goals.

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