How to avoid Appraisal Problems

It’s probably safe to say that Biased Appraisal problems can make having an appraisal worse than having no appraisal at all. Would an employee not be better of with no appraisal than with a seemingly objective but actually biased one? However, problems like these aren’t inevitable and you minimize them.

Know problems: First, learn and understand the potential problems and their solutions. Understanding the problem can help you avoid it.

Use right Tool: Second, use the right appraisal tool. Each has its own pros and cons. For example, the ranking methods avoids central tendency but can cause bad feelings when employee’s performances are in fact all high. Table below summarizes each tool’s pros and cons.


Important advantages and disadvantages of Appraisal Tools


Graphic rating scale

Advantages Simple to use; provides a quantitative rating for each employee.

Disadvantages: Standards may be unclear halo effect, central tendency, leniency, bias can also be problem.


Advantages: Provides behavioral anchors BARS is very accurate.

Disadvantages: Difficult to develop

Alternation ranking

Advantages: Simple to use (but not as simple as graphic rating scales), Avoids central tendency and other problems of rating scales.

Disadvantages: Can cause disagreements among employees and may by unfair if all employees are, in fact, excellent.

Forced distribution method:

Advantages End up with a predetermined number of % of people in each group.

Disadvantages: Employees appraisal results depend on your choice of cut off points.

Critical incident method:

Advantages: Helps specify what is right and wrong about the employee’s performance; forces supervisor to evaluate subordinates on an ongoing basis.

Disadvantages: Difficult to rate or rank employees relative to one another.


Advantages: Tied to jointly agreed upon performance objectives.

Disadvantages: Time consuming

Train Supervisors to reduce rating errors rating errors as halo, leniency, and central tendency. On one training program, raters watched a video of people at work and then rated the workers. The trainers then placed the supervisors ratings of these workers on a flip chart, and explained and illustrated the various errors such as leniency and halo. But beware; one problem with training raters to avoid rating errors is that, sometimes what appears to be an error such as leniency 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.

Control Outside Influences: It isn’t always enough to overcome the supervisor’s outside distractions. 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 also requires reducing the effects of outside factors such as union pressure and time constraints.

Keep a diary of employees’ performance over the year. 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. There was then a practice session, followed by a feedback and group discussion session aimed at reinforcing the importance of recording positive and negative incidents.

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

Diary keeping is preferred but not fool proof. In on study rater actually seemed to seek out and record incidents that were consistent with how they felt about the ratee. In any case, it’s apparent that as a rater you must always keep the cognitive nature of the appraisal process in mind. Raters bring to the task a bundle of biases, inclinations and decisions making shortcuts (such as stereotyping people based on age) ,so that potentially at least the appraisal is bound to be victim of the rater’s biases and inclinations.

Knowing the employment law that applies to appraisals is also important.