Measuring Job Performance: Maximum Versus Typical

Topic(s): job performance
Publication: Human Performance (2012)
Article: The Relationship Between Typical and Maximum Performance: A Meta-Analytic Examination
Authors: J.M. Beus, D.S. Whitman
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin

Think about how hard you work when nobody is around. Now, think about how hard you work when your boss is looking over your shoulder. Is there a difference? Research suggests that typical performance (how hard you work day-to-day) and maximum performance (your performance when you put in maximum effort) are probably not the same, but findings regarding the extent of that relationship have been mixed. In a recent meta-analysis (or statistical combination of many previous studies), researchers investigated the extent of the typical/maximum performance relationship as well as what other variables might affect that relationship.


The authors found that typical and maximum performance were only moderately correlated, so it does appear that there is an important difference between how people typically perform and how people are able to perform. In addition, individual abilities and openness to experience were more strongly related to maximum performance than they were to typical performance, providing further evidence that typical and maximum performance are different concepts.


So what does this mean for practitioners? If you’re looking to assess job performance, you need to ask yourself two important questions. First, do you want to assess maximum or typical performance? The answer may depend on the job and what you want to use the performance information for (e.g., you may want to assess maximum performance if you will use the information to determine training needs). Second, are you currently assessing maximum or typical performance? If you want to assess typical performance and you’re assessing maximum performance, then that’s a problem you’ll want to address. You want to make sure that you’re assessing the type of performance that is appropriate for the decisions you will make using that information.


Beus, J.M., & Whitman, D. S. (2012). The relationship between typical and maximum performance: A meta-analytic examination. Human Performance, 25(5), 355-376.