Writing a Rebuttal to a Negative Evaluation

Posted on Tuesday, June 01, 2021 at 12:00AM


Goyette & Associates, Inc.

Performance evaluations are one of the most important records of work performance in your personnel file. They can reveal your amazing work ethic, progression in work experience, respect or trust among peers, and otherwise general good conduct reflective of a good employee. You are overjoyed at your superiors’ acknowledgment of your efforts and encouraged to continue your good work. Your positive evaluation speaks for itself and will likely not require any further attention.
You hope.
But what if you receive a bad performance evaluation? Chances are, it is not what you expected, and naturally, you may find yourself angry or upset and feeling the need to write your boss about it. This is where you need to sit back, subdue your emotions and let calmer heads prevail as you have the opportunity to mitigate or undo its negatives in the form of a rebuttal.
Purpose of a Rebuttal
The purpose of a rebuttal is to permanently attach a record to your negative evaluation, which will serve as a constant reminder or a mitigator to any future review of your personnel file. Despite the truthfulness or correctness of the evaluation, your rebuttal can reveal that you are reasonable, and more importantly, you can take criticism, acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them. For example, the chief may see your name on the promotion list, and despite a negative evaluation, a well-thought-out rebuttal can determine your career advancement.
Do not make the mistake of using the minimal space provided on the evaluation form to write your rebuttal. Instead, write something like the following: “I would like to note for the record that I disagree with the information contained in my performance evaluation, and I am composing a letter of rebuttal to address my disagreement in detail.”
Writing the Rebuttal
You want to appear to be the more reasonable party, and thus, you should almost always try to leave your negative emotions or counteraccusations out of the rebuttal.
Be Professional
Despite your relationship with your superior(s) or the nature of your letter, be mindful that your personnel file is there to stay, and so are your evaluations. Try to use phrases like, “I respectfully disagree,” “it is my understanding,” “with all due respect,” etc.
Be Specific
Remember, you may be disagreeing with part, most or all of the evaluation. Either way, make it clear which parts of the evaluation you disagree with. Your focus is to pick out all statements and facts you believe are incorrect or misstated before you begin writing. This will help you stay on track and provide you with an outline. By quoting specific statements, you appear logical and lose the risk of being vague.
Be Thorough
Although your letter serves as an “attachment,” a person reading it should gain the necessary knowledge required to assess the facts, allegations and explanations solely through your letter, as if it is a “stand-alone” document. Doing this will verify you are not missing any essential issues, and it will provide any reviewer the full picture without having to reference your evaluation repeatedly. If you find it necessary to substantiate your disagreement with documentation, be sure to attach those documents and adequately reference them in your letter.
Be Truthful and Diligent
Only make counterclaims you can back up and only challenge the inaccuracies. Don’t use phrases such as “I would never do/say such a thing” unless you can back it up.  Simply, do not paint yourself into a corner.
Concluding Your Letter
Despite the nature of your evaluation, you want to state that you are grateful for the opportunity to continue serving and hope your rebuttal will provide a bigger picture of your performance.
Ask for Review
If you have any doubts about your work product, reach out to your association legal counsel and see if they will review it prior to your submittal (like we often do here at Goyette & Associates, for example). Also, be aware that there are time frames in place. Government Code § 3306 gives you 30 days in which to write an attachment to an adverse comment, which will be placed in your personnel file.
Follow Up
About 30 days after you have submitted your rebuttal, follow up by requesting a copy of your evaluation from Personnel. Do not specifically ask for the rebuttal, just for the evaluation. When you get the copy, check to see whether the rebuttal is attached. This will be your confirmation that the rebuttal is truly attached to your performance evaluation. Do you have questions or comments regarding responding to a negative evaluation? You can contact Vismaad and the rest of the Goyette & Associates team at and (916) 851-1900.