Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Does Research in Performance Appraisal Influence the Practice of Performance Appraisal: Regretfully Not!

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Does Research in Performance Appraisal Influence the Practice of Performance Appraisal: Regretfully Not!

Article excerpt

Thousands of studies of performance appraisal (PA) exist in both the academic and practitioner literatures. The intended purpose of many of these works is to somehow rink PA to performance; i.e., to utilize the process as a performance-enhancing instrument. Employee perceptions of PA are vital to the acceptance of PA validity, and must be examined prior to any further extension of the process; yet few studies have shown credence to this premise. This paper examines employee perceptions and their implicit consequences, following such aspects of PA as perceived accuracy, feedback, participation, rarer training, rewards, and others. The working market's utilization of many proven PA components is dismal; we discuss rater training and diary-keeping as two plausible factors for improving PA accuracy, fairness, and the perceptions of same. Further, we suggest that practitioners must fully sponsor the results of the vast PA research efforts to improve the process as a prerequisite to improving performance.

The paths of performance appraisal are well-traveled in the behavioral literature. Over the past fifty years literally hundreds of academicians have published thousands of works in search of the perfect appraisal. Yet practitioners still experience a great deal of dissatisfaction with the process. Employees distrust many, if not all, aspects, aspirations, and purposes of performance appraisal. Locher and Teel (1988), in a study of current appraisal trends, found that most organizations apply formal performance appraisal (PA) programs (94% of 324 respondents). The situation is one where everyone uses performance appraisal, but few are satisfied with either its process or outcomes.

PA In The Literature

Perceptions (including attitudes, beliefs, and attributes) of both the appraisee (subordinate) and appraiser (supervisor) have been linked to all aspects of PA. The process itself has been dissected to afford the study of aspects of structure (Dorfman, Stephan, & Loveland, 1986; Finn & Fontaine, 1984; Schneier, Beatty, & Baird, 1986; Silverman & Wexley, 1984); feedback (Ilgen, Mitchell, & Fredrickson, 1981; Stone & Stone, 1984); goal-setting, including objectives (Dorfman et al., 1986; Rathjen, 1984) and many others. Virtually everyone favors an organic process which involves both parties in PA development and implementation. This will result in mutual trust and success in the desired goals of the PA: to evaluate the subordinate, to exchange reactions to past performance and set future performance objectives, to establish organizational support for the subordinate, and to develop a plan of action for the subordinate to follow for both the short-term and, in some cases, his/her career (Burnside, 1982; Silverman & Wexley, 1984).

The Consequences of Perceptions

The effects of participant perceptions is perhaps most salient in its role in feedback; that segment of the PA that details the past performance of the employee. Negative perceptions of the accuracy of the feedback have been related to distrust in the PA process (Burnside, 1982; Stone, Gueutal, & Mclntosh, 1984; Stone & Stone, 1984), the rater or appraiser, who iS usually a direct supervisor (Bannister, 1986; Burnside, 1982; Dipboye, 1985; Fulk, Brief, & Barr, 1985; Martin & Bartol, 1986; Stone et al, 1984), and of the organization as a whole (Gibb, 1985; Nystrom & Starbuck, 1984).

With regard to the process, Dipboye & de Pontbriand (1981) posited that the long-term effectiveness of the PA system is as subject to employee opinions of the process as it is to the validity and reliability of performance appraisal measures. They further assert that positive attitudes toward appraisal are dependent upon participation in the process, orientation toward setting goals, and validity - i.e., the relevance they attach to the PA measures as factors of their actual jobs or tasks. …

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