Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Politicisation of Performance Appraisals

Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Politicisation of Performance Appraisals

Article excerpt


Key focus of the study

Many organisations are aware of the role employees can play as a source of competitive advantage. As a consequence, organisations implement human resource management (HRM) policies and practices that seek to promote employee productivity and efficiency (Brown & Benson, 2005; Linna et al., 2012). One of these practices is performance appraisal (PA). If used effectively, PAs may improve employee productivity and efficiency as well as motivation and performance.


The notion that people at work should be assessed is eminently sensible. This procedure is potentially of enormous benefit to both the individual and the organisation in that the feedback provides people a basis to set goals to both evaluate and improve their performance. Why then are both the provider and recipient of this service frequently dissatisfied with the outcome (Latham, 2008; Shrivastava & Purang, 2011; Spence & Keeping, 2011)?

Organisational politics is simply a fact of life. (Gioia & Longenecker, 1994). For years, personal experiences, hunches and anecdotal evidence have supported a general belief that behaviour in and of organisations is often political in nature. But it is fair to say that there has been a considerable lack of convergence amongst organisational scientists concerning exactly what constitutes political behaviour. Some have defined organisational politics in terms of the behaviour of interest groups to use power to influence decision-making. Others have focused on the self- serving and organisationally non-sanctioned nature of individual behaviour in organisations. Others have characterised organisational politics as a social influence process with potentially functional or dysfunctional organisational consequences or simply the management of influence. Perhaps it is these fragmentations and the differing perspectives that have prompted some scholars to state that 'the meaning of organisational politics remains largely unknown, in spite of the importance of political behaviour to organisational functioning' (Vredenburgh & Maurer, 1984, p. 47; see also Gandz & Murray, 1980; Mayes & Allen, 1977; Shrivastava & Purang, 2011).

However, if PAs are perceived as unfair, they can diminish rather than enhance employee attitudes and performance. Specifically, perceptions of procedural unfairness in effecting PA can adversely affect employees' organisational commitment, job satisfaction, trust in management and performance, as well as their work-related stress, organisational citizenship behaviour, theft and inclination to litigate against their employer (Colquitt, Conlon, Wesson, Porter & Ng, 2001; Fanga & Gerhart, 2012; Greenberg, 1991; Judge & Colquitt, 2004; Kay, Meyer & French, 1965; Werner & Bolino, 1997, cited by Heslin & Vande Walle, 2009).

If employees believe that the appraisal was undertaken lightly or haphazardly, they may take the process less seriously than they should. Possible legal ramifications exist whenever management is not consistent in its PA procedures. A loss of morale or employee productivity may also result from poorly administered PAs (Grobler, Warnich, Carrell, Elbert & Hatfield, 2006; Migiro & Tadera, 2011). It is a well-known axiom that politics often plays a dominant role in important organisational decisions and actions. Although politics is associated with many events in organisational life, the political nature of these events is either too elusive or too cleverly concealed to be discerned easily (Gioia & Longenecker, 1994).

Many organisations either ignore the existence of politics in the appraisal process or assume that its impact can be minimised if they refine their appraisal instruments. Executives admit that, in appraising others, they often intentionally avoid meeting the goal of accuracy in favour of achieving goals that have more to do with exercising discretion and maintaining departmental effectiveness, that is, they view the appraisal process as a way of achieving desired results, and this priority supersedes their concern for accuracy or playing by the rules. …

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