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Performance Appraisal Good or Bad

Introduction

Performance appraisal may be defined as a controlled formal interface between subordinates and their supervisors, that takes the form of a periodic interview in which the work performance of the subordinate is evaluated against desired performance, with a view to finding out the weaknesses, strengths, and opportunities for improvement.(Craig, Beatty & Baird 1986).

Most organizations utilize appraisal results to help them in determining reward outcomes, better-performing employees and merit for pay increases, bonuses, and promotions. On the other hand, these results are equally used to identify poor performers who may need coaching, demotion, reduction in pay and even dismissal. The pegging of rewards and penalties on appraisal results is undoubtedly a contentious matter.

Is the appraisal system involving supervisors/managers acceptable?

Not many issues in management stir up as much controversy as performance appraisal and there are two schools of thought with regards to this subject. There are many researchers, management commentators, and psychometricians who have over the years expressed doubts over the legitimacy and trustworthiness of performance appraisal procedures. Several experts have even suggested that the process is so faulty that it may not be possible to have it perfected(Derven, M.G. (1990). On the other side of the coin are appraisal advocates and that is the most crucial aspect of an organizations life (Lawrie J. (1990)

While most endorse the use of performance appraisal, there are several different opinions on how and when it should be applied. There are those that in as much as they believe in the significance of these appraisals, they do strongly disagree with the attempt to match the activity with pay increments and promotions. They believe that matching appraisal to rewards eliminates the growth element in the exercise and rather than the constructive criticism in the review, the process is looked at as judgmental and punitive. No employee would disclose their areas of weakness if that disclosure would stand in the way of a much awaited promotion (Nickel, J. L. 1989). Given that appraisers and appraisees have a subordinate – supervisor relationship and work together daily, issuing a report that denies one a promotion becomes a very difficult act.

Objectivity in these appraisals can be compromised when the two parties had in the past had a difference of opinion in their line of duty and a negative report is produced by the supervisor. It is therefore agreed that appraisal should be undertaken in an organization (Lawrie J. (1990). however the managers should stick to objectivity and keep company interests at heart during the process. The procedure should involve input from an independent party to eliminate any doubt of favoritism or lack of objectivity. Mismanagement of this exercise will result in the reward of undeserving candidates while denying genuine employees a chance to rise in the organization.

An appraisal is usually performed with the use of a balanced scorecard, a tool which among other things compares the set targets against actual performance. This tool, pro appraisers believe, leaves no room for manipulation by supervisors and removes the element of rewarding sycophants while penalizing critics during the exercise. (Nickel, J. L.1989). This is very true given that all organizations put in place targets and the various strategies for their achievement. An appraisal is, therefore, a very important managerial tool that helps organizations to either review their targets or reshuffle implementers.

An institution cannot, therefore, improve growth if employees are not periodically appraised because if the exercise is done at regular intervals, say quarterly, then there will be room for the review of failing strategies and making the relevant changes. Advocates also look at the exercise as a motivational element that makes employees work harder towards the set targets as they keep the linked rewards at the back of their minds during task performance. It does help in promoting a better understanding of the role given, clarity, functions, personal strengths and weaknesses in line with expectations. The exercise equally helps in identifying the development needs of staff as well as getting into to a common ground between employee and supervisor by understanding what is expected of each of them.

With the appraisal, an employee gets the opportunity to self-reflect and set individual goals alongside helping him or her internalize organizational culture, norms, and values. This, experts say, helps in developing an identity and commitment to the institution which is a way of employee preparation to higher levels of management. Nickel, L. J. in his 1989 book "Research Management for Development" put in place; Accomplishments and Activity, Working efficiently and Working effectively, Work and important Work and Working hard and Working smart as some of the parameters that should be taken into account during an appraisal exercise. Nickel believes one should accomplish a task by following the right procedure and in this case, the process of achieving the end results is the most important in an appraisal. Equally, employees should prioritize important work to become efficient and effective in discharging their duties.

An ideal appraisal process should involve the following eight steps processes according to Craig, Beatty & Baird (1986) to ensure quality and fair rating.

  • Establishing standards and quality which entails identification of major performance areas on which employees are to be assessed.
  • Effective communication of job expectations and descriptions to employees.
  • Planning that involves matching of the available resources necessary to achieving set goals; it is where the achievement of these targets is enabled by the organization.
  • Monitoring performance involves regular follow-ups whether within the objectives.
  • Appraising, this is where performance is documented through observation and written communication while strictly following the set parameters.
  • Feedback is when verbal communication, problem-solving, negotiating, conflict resolution and the consensus is reached.
  • Decision making where rewards, demotions and training schedules are arrived at.
  • Development of performance. This can be achieved by allowing employees further their education through scholarship, in hose training from the organization.

The above activities are what according to the writers, must be done for an effective and unbiased appraisal. There are several different thoughts on what an ideal appraisal should look like and that leaves no single procedure as the best.

Conclusion

One thing that the two schools of thought agree on is that appraisals should be undertaken in an organization and the contention that needs to be addressed is the methodology. An organization must know their standings in line with the set objectives periodically; however, there should be clear appraisal structures and parameters which must be strictly followed to the benefit of the organization and its employees. Managers on their part are supposed to separate personal conflicts from organizational objectives during an appraisal exercise and should therefore not be biased, but fair and accurate in the interpretation of the appraisal scores.

It should be understood that an employee's career growth and development rests on this assessment and this has an impact on employee productivity and retention which further helps an organization in keeping at minimum, the training costs which are usually incurred if an organization experiences high employee turnover. It should be understood by all parties involved that appraisal not only determines the future of employees but is also an important tool in keeping an organization on the objective track and professionalism in the whole process should always speak for itself.