If I’m Bad, Then So Are You!

Topic: Feedback, Job Performance, Performance Appraisal
Publication: International Journal of Selection and Assessment
Article: The influence of a manager’s own performance appraisal on the evaluation of others.
Blogger: Benjamin Granger

Have you ever received a poor performance appraisal from a supervisor?  (Let’s hope not too many!)  If you have, were you surprised?  (Hey, I’m a pretty good employee! What gives!?).  Researchers and managers alike have been interested in uncovering the factors that influence performance appraisals (besides actual performance).

Latham and colleagues were interested in how a supervisor’s own performance appraisal affects the feedback that he or she subsequently gives to his/her employees (Yep, your supervisors get appraised too. There is justice in the world!).

The authors wanted to know: If supervisors get poor performance appraisals, will they be more likely to give poor performance appraisals to their subordinates?  And alternatively, if supervisors receive positive performance appraisals, will they then rate their employees higher?

To find out if this does in fact occur (seems reasonable, right?), Latham et al. conducted four independent studies utilizing different methodologies (e.g., case study, laboratory simulation study, and two field studies). The results of all four studies confirmed that supervisors tend to rate their subordinates lower when they previously received negative performance appraisals.

Moreover, the authors were able to rule out mood as the reason for their findings.  In other words, it is not simply that managers are in a bad mood when they appraise their subordinates’ performance.  They further explained that when managers make judgments or ratings of others, they often use how they were rated as a benchmark.  They also suggested even experienced managers can fall prey to this bias.

This information suggests that organizations should be concerned with educating managers about this potential bias.  As organizations and researchers continue to identify and address the issues surrounding inaccurate performance appraisals, they can better interpret and utilize the information gathered from them.  (And don’t feel too bad about you poor appraisal. Maybe your boss got a bad one too!)

Latham, G. P., Budworth, M-H., Yanar, B., & Whyte, G. (2008). The influence of a manager’s own performance appraisal on the evaluation of others. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 16(3), 220-228.