Performance Appraisals and How They Go Wrong


Topic: Performance Appraisals
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (May, 2010)
Article: The roles of rater goals and ratee performance levels in the distortion of performance ratings.
Authors: X. M. Wang, K. F. E. Wong, J. Y. Y. Kwong
Reviewed By: Rachel Marsh

Performance appraisals play a critical role in an employee’s work experience.  But considering that appraisals are performed by supervisors who might have ulterior motives, it’s worth exploring how these motives affect performance appraisals?

The motives addressed in the current article include harmony, fairness, and motivating goals, all of which affect an employee’s performance ratings irrespective of actual performance. The harmony goal states that managers will inflate ratings of low performers to prevent conflict in the workplace.  The fairness goal states that performance ratings will be lowered for high performers and raised for low performers when employees being rated are in the same work group or at the same job grade.  The motivating goal states that
managers will deflate ratings for high performers to motivate them to work harder and managers will inflate ratings for low performers to motivate them to work harder due to the disparity between actual performance and the performance rating.

The study suggests performance appraisals are not only impacted by actual performance, but underlying motives of the rater or manager also impact the appraisal.  Raters asked to focus on a specific rating goal disregarded the previous goal the rater had in

The results of the article suggest that prior to the performance appraisal process managers must receive training regarding possible ulterior motives in the process.  Companies must factor in these underlying motives when considering performance appraisal results.

X. M. Wang, K. F. E. Wong, & J. Y. Y. Kwong. (2010). The roles of rater
goals  and ratee performance levels
in the distortion of performance ratings. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95,