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A forum for students and alumni of the Asian American UVA Community

I feel like my supervisor is particularly harder on me than my non-Asian American coworkers.  What should I do? 

I got my first job performance review and I was surprised I got a below average rating.  I feel like my supervisor is particularly harder on me than my non-Asian American coworkers.  What should I do?  – Anonymous 

Dear Anonymous,

When you receive any negative job performance review, especially your first review, the first thing to do is to understand fully your supervisor’s views. I recommend that you set up a second conversation and here are a few points that you might raise:

Do you understand your performance objectives and are they stated in a way that comports with your supervisor’s expectations?

What are the gaps between your objectives and your actual performance?

What specific steps can you take to improve your performance?

Use the second conversation to create an action plan with your supervisor about how you can do better. Work to incorporate that action plan into your work and communicate regularly with your supervisor to ensure that you are on track.

Unfortunately, it is sometimes the case that a supervisor’s evaluation of an employee’s performance can be motivated by untoward reasons, such as the employee’s ethnicity. There is no one playbook for handling such situations, but here a couple of guidelines:

As noted above, take steps to ensure that you have fully documented your discussions with your supervisor about your performance, including steps you’ve taken to improve.

Most companies have a process for reporting such concerns, which typically involve contacting the HR department. If you continue to believe that your supervisor’s performance is unfair, consider contacting the HR department.

Deciding whether to escalate such concerns is never an easy decision and may have other negative ramifications on your job. Bottom line: if you think that a supervisor is being unfair, first ensure yourself that your own performance is up to par. However, if you are satisfied that you are performing well, then you should give serious thought to escalating your concerns with your employer.