Studies in Personnel and Industrial Psychology

By Edwin A. Fleishman | Go to book overview

15. Some New Insights into Performance Appraisal*
Kenneth E. RichardsHARDLY A MONTH goes by without the appearance somewhere of an article on performance appraisal, a subject of controversy for over 40 years. The article, moreover, will fall into one of two distinct categories. Its title will be either something on the order of "How to Establish a Performance Appraisal Program" or else a variant of "An Agonizing Reappraisal of Appraisal."When a topic keeps the center of the stage as long as this, it is evident that the heart of the problem has not yet been reached--let alone the solution!In the past, most of the discussion about performance appraisal centered on the difficulties inherent in the rating process itself--the "halo effect" and the unwillingness or inability of raters to use the extremes of the rating scale. It was to counteract these weaknesses that such methods as group appraisal and forced-choice rating were devised. Similarly, the "critical incident" technique was developed to provide more "objective" ratings than were forthcoming from the use of conventional rating scales.More recently, however, attention has been focused less on the difficulties of the rating procedure than on the problems presented by the way people react to being appraised. Among such problems, for example, are these:
1. Low grades make people angry.
2. Criticism arouses defensiveness and resentment. Hence, far from stimulating the employee to improve, it tends to reinforce his present behavior.
3. There is a steady widening of differences between people who must work together.

In short, the more modern approach to performance appraisal views it as essentially a problem in communications--the establishment of a constructive relationship between the rater and the employee. This approach, which we use at United Air Lines, sees performance appraisal as a supervisory tool, a means of helping the employee maintain satisfactory performance on his present job. Hence, our program is based on the idea that an appraisal system should provide opportunities for

____________________
*
From Personnel, Vol. 37, 1960, pp. 28-38.

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