Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

The Influence of Organizational Constituent Groups on Rater Attitudes toward Performance Appraisal Compliance

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

The Influence of Organizational Constituent Groups on Rater Attitudes toward Performance Appraisal Compliance

Article excerpt

Anyone who has followed the recent public opinion polls understands the increasing demands of voters for a reduction of "the bureaucracy" at all levels of government. Public mandates for reduced budgets place pressure on virtually all public organizations to scrupulously ensure that all of their resources, especially human resources, are being used as efficiently as possible. The unifying theme of the 1990's may well be efficiency of operations, and this is likely to intensify as the decade progresses.

An important tool by which managers measure individual employee contributions to organizational efficiency is the performance appraisal. As organizations look for more productive raw materials and sources of revenue, so must they look to more productive human resources. In this regard, performance appraisals can provide valuable data for assessing individual employee performance and goal achievement(1) advising employees of work expectations,(2) identifying training and development needs(3) and making critical personnel decisions.(4) However, the expected organizational benefits normally derived from the performance appraisal can be completely subverted if the managers and supervisors responsible for appraisal fail to conduct the evaluation properly.(5) In short, the evaluation will be only as good as the evaluator makes it.

It has long been contended that the success or failure of any performance appraisal, regardless of the specific format used, is dependent upon individual raters and their motivation (or, more accurately, their lack of motivation) to rate accurately.(6) Performance appraisal effectiveness is invariably affected by the cognitive and perceptual setting in which the rarer performs the evaluation, and the level of compliance with appraisal instructions that the rater demonstrates towards the appraisal process.

It would be overly simplistic to contend that these factors account for the total variance in the performance appraisals process. Flaws in the actual appraisal instrument,(7) appraisal criteria that are not tied to actual performance,(8) and goal conflict(9) are examples of structural problems that can alter the effectiveness of a performance appraisal. However, these issues, while important, are beyond the scope of the current study. The research in this study will focus on the effects that three constituencies in the work environment have on rater compliance with instructions to maintain rating accuracy. For the purpose of this study, compliance to appraisal instructions includes a sense of accountability and trust (or confidence) in the appraisal process.(10) Accuracy is defined as the rater's rigid compliance and adherence to the instructions, procedures, and intent of the performance appraisal instrument.

The three constituent groups identified as affecting rater commitment are the rater's superior, the rater's peers, and the rater's subordinates. Previous research has focused on the effects of each of these constituencies separately. For example, Saal and Knight(11) noted that raters may inflate performance ratings because they fear that their peers (other raters) are inflating their evaluations. Additionally, raters may commit leniency effects on their ratings (i.e., inflate their evaluations) based on a desire to be liked(12) or a desire to avoid conflict with the subordinate resulting from negative feedback.(13) In either instance, the subordinate's attitudes or behaviors would impact the rater's behavior. Finally, the lack of top management support or emphasis has often been cited as a reason why performance appraisal programs yield disappointing results. The best conceived programs will achieve desired results in work environments only when the raters are encouraged by their superiors to precisely follow the performance appraisal program.(14)

Realizing that raters do not operate in a vacuum, but rather in an atmosphere of complex organizational cues,(15) it is expected that pressures from these three constituent groups will operate on the rater simultaneously. …

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