Solutions for a right Appraisal

Appraisee’s personal characteristics (such as age, race, and sex) can affect their ratings, often quite apart from each ratee’s actual performance. Managers should not underestimate this problem. Appraisals frequently say more about the appraiser than about the appraised. Studies suggest that “rater idiosyncratic biases” account for the largest percentage of the observed variances in performances ratings.

It’s probably safe to say that problems like these can make an appraisal worse than no appraisal at all. Would an employee be better off with no appraisal than with a seemingly objective but actually biased one? Problems like these aren’t inevitable, though and can be minimized.

First, learn and understand the potential problems and the solutions like clarifying standards for each. Understanding the problem can help you avoid it.

Second, use the right appraisal tool. Each tool has its own pros and cons. For example, the ranking method avoids central tendency but can cause bad feelings when employees’ performances are in fact all ‘high’; and the ranking and forced distribution methods both provide relative not absolute ratings.

Third, train supervisors to reduce rating errors such as halo, leniency, and central tendency. In one training program, raters watched a videotape of people at work, and then rated the workers. The trainers then placed the supervisors’ ratings of these workers on a flip chart ad explained and illustrated the various errors such as leniency and halo packaged training programs are available. For example, Harvard Business School Publishing offers Assessing Performance, for about $150. It lists the steps and things to consider in preparing for and conducting the appraisal interview.

Training isn’t always the solution, however. In practice, several factors including the extent to which employees’ pay is tied to performance ratings, union pressure, employee turnover, time constraints, and the need to justify ratings may be more important than training. This means that improving appraisal accuracy calls not just for training, but also for reducing the effect of outside factors as union pressure and time constraints.

A fourth solution diary keeping is worth the effort. One study involved 112 first line supervisors from a large electronics firm. Some attended a special training program on diary keeping. The program explained the role of critical incidents, and how the supervisors could compile these incidents into a diary or incident file to use later as a reference for a subordinate’s appraisal. This was followed by a practice session followed by a feedback and group discussion session aimed at reinforcing the importance of recording both positive and negative incidents.

The conclusion of this and similar studies is that you can reduce the adverse effects of appraisals problems by having raters compile positive and negative critical incidents as they occur during the appraisal period. Maintaining such records instead of relying on memories is definitely the preferred approach.

Diary keeping is preferred but not foolproof. In one study, raters were required to keep a diary, but diary keeping actually undermined the performance appraisal’s objectiveness. What could account for such apparently bizarre findings? One possibility is that managers may develop positive or negative feelings toward rates. The managers may then seek out and record incidents that are consistent with how they feel about the ratees. In any case, it’s apparent that even diary keeping is no guarantee of objectivity, and that as a rater you always keep the cognitive nature of the appraisal process in mind. Raters bring to the task a bundle of biases, inclinations, and decision-making shortcuts such as stereotyping people based on age, so that , potentially at least, the appraisal is bound to be a product or victim, some might argue of the rater’s biases and inclinations.

The managers should also keep in mind the intensely interpersonal nature of the appraisal process. Performance ratings amplify the quality of the personal relationship between boss and employee. Good relationships tend to create good experiences bad relationships bad ones. —

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