Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Performance Appraisal: An Unnerving Yet Useful Process

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Performance Appraisal: An Unnerving Yet Useful Process

Article excerpt

Performance Appraisal: An Unnerving Yet Useful Process

Employee performance appraisal in both the private and public sectors has been called a "no-win" situation. Managers believe it's their duty to give performance feedback and motivate employees in order to improve individual and organizational performance. Employees see performance appraisal as the means to a bigger paycheck, a better job through development training, or a promotion to a more important position. The main purpose of this article is to discuss a dichotomous situation arising from performance appraisal. First of all, performance appraisal provides the employee with feedback and with developmental information which is intended to motivate and offer a means for job improvement; secondarily, it is used to justify or deny employee salary increases, bonuses, or promotions. In other words, there are two dynamics: (1) communicating how well, or poorly, the job has been carried out and (2) deciding the performance rating or payout. Frequently, all of this is wrapped into one event that is often accomplished reluctantly and with minimal appreciation by both appraisers and appraisees. A secondary purpose of this article is to describe how a Navy experimental personnel system has attempted to deal with this situation and the results of that effort.

Background

For many years, "behaviorally anchored rating scales" were used to rate employee traits, such as cooperation, initiative and reliability. Later these scales were often replaced by "management-by-objectives" approaches whereby performance objectives were identified and appraised, sometimes with extreme, interpretative rigor involving risk, time, and difficulty assessment. Most recently, merit pay and pay-for-performance systems have been implemented with mixed results because of inadequate merit increase funding and small pay variances between the best and average performers. These performers brought to question whether the objectives of having rewards more commensurate with performance in a pay-for-performance environment could be really achieved. All appraisal approaches try to maximize objectivity and minimize uncertainty and subjectivity. However, getting those being appraised to believe in that worthy goal is indeed difficult. In fact, some would just as soon have the entire performance appraisal issue go away and leave them alone.

More frequently heard now is the comment that individual performance evaluation, carried to an extreme, can pit employee against employee, harming overall organizations achievement. W. Edwards Deming, a spokesman on organizational quality and productivity, believes that performance appraisal is valid only for short-term productivity and actually encourages rivalry and politicking. Deming has indicated that performance appraisal is America's number one management problem, leaving people embittered, dejected, and unfit for "productive" work for many weeks after the rating.(1)

Experimental personnel systems currently being touted are focusing more on group appraisal. These systems involve gain sharing and pay for knowledge, which build upon the Japanese management commitment to group performance assessment, in lieu of individual appraisal. The Japanese have stimulated group cohesion by delegating responsibility to the group, using consultative decision making, and emphasizing trust and open communication. However, their appraisal system can be complex, rating "bottom line" performance measures as well as desirable personality traits and behaviors such as creativity, emotional maturity, and cooperation with others.

Definitions

Performance appraisal has a number of meanings depending on whom you ask. Frequently, the connotations are negative. Employees view it with trepidation, and supervisors see it as an imposition on their busy schedules. Theoretically, performance appraisal is an ongoing process of identifying, measuring, and developing human performance in organizations. …

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