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The overall purpose of performance appraisal is to provide an accurate and objective measure of how well a person is performing…. on the bases of this information, decisions will be made about the employee’s future with the organization… in addition, performance evaluations are often used to validate specific selection techniques” (Schultz & Schultz 2010, p. 107)
The history of performance appraisal can be traced to the beginning of the 20th century. Its real use began in the United States during the 1950s by organizations after it was proven successful during World War II. As Derven says in his book of 1989, “… a basic human tendency to make judgments about that one is working with, as well as about oneself.” (Derven 1990) This makes appraisal to be inevitable and common among people. If there is a lack of a carefully and structured method of appraisal, human beings will have a tendency to judge the work performance of others, be they subordinates or informally.
The tendency of people to judge others can cause serious motivational, moral, and at times legal problems in the office. In lack of a proper appraisal system, there is no way of making sure the judgments imposed are lawful, just, sound, and accurate. When performance appraisal was begun, it started as a way of justifying an employee’s income. This was to be used to make decisions on whether the amount of salary or wage awarded to workers was justified (Derven 1990, p.65). The process was rather simple; if an employee performed dismally, then his or her pay would be cut and vice versa. The problem with this system was that they were less concerned with the potential that lay with development in the appraisal. This made the traditional importance of using the only reward be rejected. Globally the potential that lay in using appraisal as a tool of motivating and developing workers was being adopted and implemented in the workplaces (Derven
In the modern world, performance appraisal has come to be defined as a structured formal relationship between a subordinate and the supervisor. This takes place in the form of periodic interviews, which may be annually or semi-annually. It involves examination work performance of the subordinate as well as discussing ways of improving. It also involves the identification of subordinate weaknesses, strengths, and the opportunities that lie for improving and developing skills. According to Moorhead and Griffin, they describe it as “the process of evaluating work behaviors by measurement and comparison to previously established standards, recording the results, and communicating them back to the employee. It is an activity held between a manager and an employee.” (Moorhead & Griffin 1992, p.58).
In most corporations and organizations, the results of the appraisals are used either in whole or partially in helping formulate reward outcomes. Simply put, the appraisal results help in the identification of better-performing workers and lousy workers; in doing so, it is used to formulate pay increases, additional benefits, and promotions. Using the same application, the appraisal results can be used in helping identify workers who may need counseling or, in a worst-case scenario, demotion or dismissal. In doing so, an organization should seek laws that might hinder their capability of dismissing or decreasing a worker’s pay (Lawrie 1990, p.69).
Controversy on performance appraisal
Reputable researcher and management gurus have in the past cast doubt on the usefulness and reliability of undertaking performance appraisal to both the organization and the employee. Some have made claims of the process being flawed and next to impossible to perfect. According to Derven, he says that if the process is implemented in an organization, there is the possibility of workers being demoralized (Derven 1990, p.95). Another researcher, Daniels, claims: “The research on performance appraisals has never shown that they improve performance.” in addition, he claims that the reason why performance appraisals are so common in the office is that “they are a way to document poor performance – in other words, a step in the firing process.” (Daniels 2001). He further asserts that a good performance appraisal should be carried out every day.
On the other hand, there are those notable researchers and management gurus who have praised the adoption of performance appraisal in organizations. Lawrie states that it is “… the most crucial aspect of organizational life” (Lawrie 1990, p. 87). They claim it important to know and gauge the performance of a worker to formulate ways to improve the organization.
Effect of performance appraisal on employees
Gabris and Mitchell took a quarterly performance appraisal in an organization in their quest to investigate the Mathew effect on performance appraisal. They wrote, “Matthew effect is said to occur where employees tend to keep receiving the same appraisal results, year in and year out. That is, their appraisal results tend to become self-fulfilling: if they have done well, they will continue to do well; if they have done poorly, they will continue to do poorly” (Gabris & Mitchell 1989). They further looked into the frustration caused by biased performance appraisal results. “The workforce was divided into two groups: those who had been given high appraisal results consistently, and those who had low results consistently. When the groups were asked if the appraisal system was fair and equitable, 63 percent of the high performers agreed, compared to only 5 percent of the lower performers. The groups were asked if their supervisors listened to them. Of the high performers, 69 percent said yes, while among the low performers, 95 percent said no. Finally, when asked if their supervisors were supportive, nearly half of the high performers agreed that they were, while none of the low performers agreed.” (Gabris & Mitchell 1989).
Archer North notes in his writing that recognizing individuals in an organization, that is appraising performance, leads to the individuals having higher job satisfaction and their performance improves “In fact, there is evidence that human beings will even prefer negative recognition in preference to no recognition at all” (Archer 1998).
It is, therefore, important that performance appraisal workers should give them the chance to improve on the weaknesses noted, which the principle of the appraisal is. It would be wrong if the performance appraisal denied the workers this chance (Kreitner & Kinicki 1992).
Heathfield proposed that when employees have their performance under review, they mostly tend to be defensive and may feel like they are being targeted by their supervisors. He writes, “Whenever his performance is rated as less than the best, or less than the level at which he personally perceives his contribution, the manager is viewed as punitive. Disagreement about contribution and performance ratings can create a conflict-ridden situation that festers for months” (Heathfield 2002).
In his writing, a great writer warns that negative feedback from performance appraisal will mostly fail to motivate the average employee and may contribute to the worker performing worse. In most cases, only workers who have who possess a high degree of self-esteem will be motivated by this criticism and improve their performance (Heathfield 2002, p.64). A study carried by Baron about destructive criticism that is vague, unreasonable, or presented in an unsympathetic way leads to the worker showing signs of anger, resentment, denial and ultimately causes poor performance (Baron1988, p.22).
It is, therefore, important that the person carrying out the assessment should be non-biased and offer an explanation of how the worker could improve on noted things. This would help improve the company (Nemoroff & Wexley 1979).
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In his study, Bannister notes that it is important for the appraiser to be credible so that the workers whose performance is being reviewed view the appraisal process as unbiased, fair, and accurate. He further says that if this is done, then the workers will be ready to accept the feedback they get and will be willing to change on noted issues (Bannister 1986, p.22).
Performance appraisal techniques
There are various ways of conducting appraisals, and one of them is the narrative or essay evaluation, which our form falls. In this method, the person conducting the evaluation looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the worker in relation to performing their work (Daniels 2001).
The assessor begins by inputting the name of the employee and their position in the organization. The assessor will also write their names and the date they conduct the assessment on the form. The performance appraisal form covers some of the major things that are important. Several sections of the form have been made to capture the strengths of the employee, areas for growth and development, and the goals that are expected to be met by the employee.
In the section of strength, the appraiser will be able to review the various projects or work done by the employee that has shown his strengths. The appraiser will ask this, and the employee will respond by citing the most appropriate undertakings that have proved his competency. The appraiser will, at their own discretion, assess to see if truly the employee is justified to make a claim and also in past reviews or assessments of the said projects whether the employee really demonstrates the strengths. This is an important section because it tracks how an employee has performed over the period and how this performance has benefited or affected the company (Bannister & Balkin 1990).
In the section of areas for growth and development, it captures the various fallings that the employee might have shown or posses while performing their work. In this section, the appraiser will be able to capture the various projects or work assignments the employee has failed for various reasons, either owing to lack of knowledge, expertise, or gross misconduct of the employee. It is important because it sets to see the progress of the employee in the period being assessed and how the employee has contributed to the company. It will also look at the various areas that the employee might seek to explore and thus grow and develop their skills. According to this, the appraiser will gauge and note on the form its importance and implication on the organization (Bacal 2001).
The other section of goals is designed to capture the various things expected of the employee. This will be in regard to improvement on the fallings that have been identified in the areas for growth and development. This section details the goals set and the milestones that need to be met as well as how the progress will be measured. It also captures if there is a need for training, and if need be, it details how the training will be conducted and tracked through milestones accomplished.
Barrie and Sow have proposed the need to have a standard for comparison. They say that people need information on how their performance is and the areas that they should improve- this is covered in the form in the section of growth and development and strengths. They state that it is important to remember that appraisals are not equal to criticism (Barrie & Sow 2001). It is, therefore, important to explain the need to complete tasks before deadlines or the need to improve on the techniques used in completing a task (Larson 1989). Sadly, they note that many performance appraisals end up frustrating the employee because they tend to add more work to an already overloaded employee’s agenda. (Barrie & Sow 2001).
An appraiser should be aware of people who are “feedback-seekers.” This situation is described well by Larson, who see it especially in a poor performing employee who seeks feedback from the supervisor, mostly in very inappropriate times. Larson states that, in such a case, the supervisor will often find himself or herself giving encouraging words (Barrie & Sow 200, p.59). This poses the problem during appraisal time when the employee recalls this and the supervisor is at crossroads when conducting the appraisal. The supervisor will mostly feel “caught in a trap” and may end up upgrading the results of the appraisal (Larson 1989). Larson suggests that in such a case, the supervisor should tell the “feedback-seeker” he does not have the time and should inquire about the performance appraisal at a later date, maybe after it has been conducted (Larson 1989 p, 47).
Perhaps the most important thing about performance appraisal is that it offers a rare chance for the supervisors and the employees to have a one on one discussion about work-related issues that may not be addressed in everyday life of an office. Almost every place that has undertaken a performance appraisal properly, both the employee and the employee and supervisor have reported the whole process being beneficial and a learning experience about individual performance. The process offers a valuable opportunity to identify and rectify existing problems as well as helping in encouraging workers to perform well. For many workers, an official performance appraisal process may be the only chance they may have of meeting and having exclusive time with their supervisors. One employee of a large company once said, “In the 25 years I have been in the company, this was the only time I got to know my contribution in it while discussing with my supervisor.” This goes to show how important the employees would like to have this meaningful interaction with their superiors.
Performance appraisals have a profound impact on the level of motivation an employee has, which may be good or bad. The appraisal provides the employees a chance to have their contribution to the company recognized. It has long been noted that social recognition of an individual’s contribution acts as a great motivator than having no recognition. This performance appraisal also helps the employee appreciate the effort the organization is putting in recognizing their individual contribution to it. The strength of this need to be recognized as an individual should not be overlooked. If the process of performance appraisal is undertaken properly, then the numerous cases of absenteeism as well as turnover rates will be greatly reduced in companies. Performance appraisal offers the employee a great opportunity for a supervisor to recognize his or her need for training and development needs. When undertaking the appraisal, a supervisor is able to identify the presence or absence of work-related skills, and this would help in identifying the employees who need further training. It also helps in identifying the specific training that an individual employee needs and thus prevent putting an employee through a program they are well known for and wasting company money. For an organization, it can use the data collected to formulate training needs requirement and its implementation.
Data gotten after a performance appraisal can be used to help an organization in its recruitment and initiation practices. An example is when an organization would want to know how well do the employees hired two years ago performing relative to the ones hired a year ago. This data can be used in changing or improving the recruiting process of a company as well as gauge the quality of workforce they possess (Daniels 2001 p, 45). Though many people, at times, challenge the need for performance appraisal, it is a legitimate process the company requires to take in formulating the way forward in terms of recruitment, promotion, bonuses, and many more. To many people, the process of having someone judge them can be dehumanizing and demoralizing. It can also be a major source of anxiety and discomfort in the office. Some people argue that performance appraisal should not be used as an evaluation and development tool at the same time. Rather, it should be used to one or the other. In this view, there is a need to create a performance appraisal that can evaluate employees objectively and at the same time encourage as well as develop them (Moorhead & Griffin 1992, p.118).
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