Almost A Quarter Of Us Break Down In Tears After A Performance Review

According to a new survey from Adobe, almost a quarter of us cry following negative feedback at work and nearly the same number quit their jobs.

Crying at work | ELLE UK

A pinch of the thigh. A bite of the inner cheek. A clenching of teeth.

We'll try just about anything to distract ourselves from crying during a disappointing yearly review from our line managers.

However, according to a new survey, almost a quarter of employees cry following a performance review and almost the same number quit their jobs.


According to new research by software company Adobe, out of 1,500 office workers questioned about their response to annual performance reviews, 22 per cent revealed they'd cried at least once following a harsh review.


Broken down into gender, one in four men admitted to crying compared to one in five women. Take that, stereotypes of emotional women!

However, the research also found that 'millennials were more likely than other generations to have cried after a review, looked for another job, or quit'.

So, why the tears? After all, shouldn't it be a good thing to hear an honest appraisal of our efforts in the workplace?



According to Donna Morris, executive vice president of employee experience at Adobe Systems Inc, traditional performance reviews are 'based on rating and ranking, and there is an element of subjectivity'.

'You're giving it your all, and someone is going to put a label on you. That's very hard for individuals to accept,' she told Bloomberg.

Participants also revealed they believe performance reviews to be pointless, with managers spending approximately 20 hours a year on reviews.The majority admitted they felt reviews resulted in unnecessary stress, competition between the workforce and failed to adequately analyse an employees performance throughout the year in one meeting.


As a result, Deborah Riegel, the director of learning at executive coaching firm the Boda Group, told Bloomberg that managers fail to have the time to provide constructive feedback.

'They speak in monologues and sandwich criticism in between compliments—strategies that don't quite land with employees,' she explained.

In the end, the feedback becomes distorted, with employees coming out of reviews thinking they're awful at their jobs, undervalued or hated.

In order to prevent the waterworks, the survey's participants revealed they wanted more regular and ongoing feedback that was qualitative, rather than assessed on a number scale.


Here are some tips for managers on how to improve performance reviews so the only tears you see are tears of joy and laughter (that might be a long shot).

For managers:

While you might want to get the performance review over and done with as quick as possible, Fortune career columnist Anne Fisher advises:

1. Ask questions

Don't do all the talking.'You need to hear not only how he or she thinks the work is going right now, including any hurdles you might be able to help clear away, but also how this job fits in with a particular team member's long-term career plan,' she says.

2. Talk about how their work fits in with the company

Fisher suggests: 'Even if it seems obvious to you how a person's job relates to the larger organization, it's not necessarily clear to employees, so spell it out.'


3. Explain how you assess someone for a performance review

As a manager, your job it to ensure your employee thoroughly understands what they're being judged on and why, 'including what exactly is being measured, and how improvements in performance are noted (assuming they are).'

For employees:

While crying in work isn't necessarily a bad thing (it shows passion for your job, right), it doesn't exactly scream 'professionalism' and 'responsible'.

First, we need to accept that while we may be perfectionists, striving to meet targets and 'be the best', it's incredibly damaging to put pressure on ourselves to meet unrealistic levels of perfectionism.

When receiving feedback – be it negative or positive – try to remember that they are sharing their assessment in order to help you, as an employee, grow and the company. It's not a criticism of you, it's a critique of your work. Your career is not who you are.

1. Do not get defensive and make excuses

Alexander Kjerulf, an international author and speaker on happiness at work, told Forbes the way to deal with negative feedback in a performance review is to listen carefully to what is being said.

'Instead, you might say what you've learned and what you will do differently from now on,' he suggests.


Listen to the advice and suggestions as you would do from a doctor or dentist commenting on your dietary or exercise habits. You can take it with a pinch of salt (granted it's not horrendous) but remember it's a guide and not a set of rules you have to follow.

2. Use negative performance reviews to clarify what is expected from your role

Rebecca Thorman, a speaker, blogger, and careers writer at told the publication: 'Be proactive about understanding your role.'

Perhaps you didn't know your manager wanted you to do something or you weren't quite sure of your role. This is the time to ask questions and find out exactly what is wanted from you and how you can meet those expectations accordingly.

3. Keep in mind that constructive feedback is in your best interest

Hard to do, yes but as Kjerulf says: 'It would be far worse for people to notice you doing bad work, and not say a word.' Blind ignorance doesn't bode well in the workplace or for your long-term career ambitions.

Whether you're a manager or employee, performance reviews are the perfect opportunity to build a better line of communication between positions, improve coping mechanisms for negative feedback and to talk about a problem, discuss why it's occurring and decide on the best plan of action to fix it.

Stop the water works and focus on the work.

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