Help! How do I respond to a bad review?
First, breathe deep and stay calm. Then follow these tips. Plus: when should you follow up after sending a resume?
By Anne Fisher, FORTUNE senior writer

NEW YORK (FORTUNE) - Dear Annie: Next week I'll be getting my first performance review from a new boss (he got here five months ago) who doesn't like me very much. We have totally different styles and, to make matters worse, I made a pretty bad mistake with a client recently.

Even though I managed to fix it, and the client is still with us, I am sure this is going to come up in my evaluation, and I don't know how to defend myself. I'm really nervous. Do you have any suggestions for responding to a negative review? --Dreading Next Tuesday

Dear DNT: Oh, dear. This is nerve-wracking but rest assured, almost everybody has suffered through at least one lousy evaluation in his or her career, and it isn't usually fatal.

But a red flag in your question is your mention of defending yourself. You may be better off not even trying.

"Don't be defensive," urges Maggie Craddock, president of New York City-based executive coaching firm Workplace Relationships, Inc. "A professional always needs to be focused on what he or she can do better. So, even though you may want to scream, thank your boss for his constructive comments." Eeek.

A tip that might help: Go into this meeting with the goal of coming out with three specific ideas for doing your job better. If you concentrate your attention on figuring out these three things, you'll be less likely to respond to your boss's critique with an emotional outburst.

You might also, "help your reviewer distinguish between an incident and a pattern," says Craddock. "For instance, if he says you're not a team player, does that mean you're habitually self-absorbed under pressure, or that you lost your composure one time when you were at the end of your rope?"

Likewise, was your recent mistake with a client a one-time slip-up? If so, you naturally want to avoid repeating it, but you could respectfully point out that it didn't reflect how you deal with clients in general.

Breathe deep and stay calm. "Professionalism counts most under pressure, and getting a tough review is certainly a high-pressure situation," says Craddock. "So reacting with poise is critical."

Follow-up is crucial, too. After the meeting, take a little time to think calmly about what was said. Then write an e-mail to your boss outlining what you understood to be his main points and briefly tell what you plan to do about them. (This is where the aforementioned three takeaways come in handy.)

None of us likes hearing that we're less than perfect, but who knows? If you go in with the sincere intention of getting along better with this boss in the future than you have so far, you may even learn something.

Dear Annie: A couple of weeks ago, through a mutual friend, I met an executive at a fast-growing local company who told me she was trying to fill a really interesting new position that happens to be in my field. She encouraged me to send her my resume, so I did.

Now, a few days have gone by and I haven't heard from her. Is it okay to call her and make sure she got it? Do employers think it's pushy if people follow up in this way? I'm very interested in the job and don't want to blow it. --Shy Guy in Chicago

Dear Shy Guy: By all means, give her a call -- or, better yet, send her an e-mail. According to a new survey by global staffing firm Robert Half International, only 5% of hiring managers say they don't want you to bug them after sending a resume -- which means of course that an overwhelming 95% do want to hear from you.

Of those, 82% said you should get in touch within two weeks.

When asked how they prefer to be contacted, 38% said e-mail is best; 33% would rather you phone. Many executive coaches recommend sending a handwritten note but, surprisingly, just 23% of these hiring managers agree.

However you choose to contact this person, you want to express your interest in the company and the position, and briefly reiterate your qualifications for the job, says Robert Half CEO Max Messmer: "This extra step can give you a real advantage over less proactive candidates."

Good luck!


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