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Barriers of Performance Appraisal

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Submitted By pratzhere
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Personnel appraisals, although very widely used, have well-recognised shortcomings and limitations. Even when the process emphasises appraisal rather than counselling, it is far from universally satisfactory. There are certain barriers which work against the effectiveness ol appraisal system. The identification of these barriers is necessary to minimise their impact on the appraisal system. Among the principal barriers to effective appraisal programmes are:

1. Faulty assumptions,

2. Psychological blocks, and

3. Technical pitfalls.

(1) Faulty Assumptions

Because of the faulty assumptions of the parties concerned—superior and his subordinate—in appraisal system, it does not work properly or objectively. These assumptions work against an appraisal system in the following manner:

(i) The assumption I hat managers naturally wish to make fair and accurate appraisals of subordinates is untenable. McFarland feels that both .superiors and subordinates show tendencies to avoid formal appraisal processes, as well as to heed them in their respective work roles. Their organisational roles, and partly in technical deficiencies and the unwise management of appraisal policies and procedures.

(ii) Another faulty assumption is that managers take a particular appraisal system as perfect and feel that once they have launched a programme, that would continue forever. They expect too much from it, and rely too much on it, or blame for their faults. It should be recognised that no system can provide perfect, absolutely defensible appraisals devoid of subjectivity.

(iii) Managers sometimes assume that personal opinion is better than formal appraisal, and they find little use of systematic appraisal and review procedures. However, this 'management by instinct' assumption is not valid and leads to bias, subjectivity and distorted decisions based on partial or inaccurate evidence.

(iv) Managers' assumptions that employees want to know frankly where they do stand and what their superiors think about them are not valid. In fact, subordinates resist lo be appraised and their reaction against appraisal has often been intense. As such they tend to defeat the basic purpose of appraisal by providing camouflaged information as far as possible.

2. Psychological Blocks

The value of any tool, including performance appraisal, lies largely on the skills of the user. Therefore, the utility of performance appraisal depends upon the psychological characteristics of managers, no matter whatever the method is used. However, research tells more about the inhibiting rather than the facilitating characteristics of people. There are several psychological blocks which work against the effectiveness of an appraisal system. These are: managers' feeling of insecurity, appraisal as an extra burden, their being excessively modest or skeptical their feeling to treat their subordinates' failure as their deficiency, disliking of resentment by subordinates, disliking of communicating poor performance to subordinates, and so on. Because of these psychological barriers, managers do not tend to become impartial or objective in evaluating their subordinates, thereby defeating the basic purpose of appraisal.

3. Technical Pitfalls

The design of performance appraisal forms has received detailed attention from psychologists, but the problem of finding adequate criteria still exists there. At best, appraisal methods are subjective, and do not measure performance in any but in the most general sense. The main technical difficulties in appraisal fall into two categories: the criterion problem, and distortions that reduce the validity of results.

(i) Criterion Problem—A criterion is the standard of performance the manager desires of his subordinates and against which he compares their actual performance. This is the weakest point in appraisal procedure. Criteria are hard to define in measurable, or even, objective terms. Ambiguity, vagueness, and generality of criteria are difficult hurdles for any process to overcome. Traits too present ambiguity. A particular trait is hard to define and variations of interpretation easily occur among different managers using them.

(ii) Distortions—Distortion occurs in the form of biases and errors in making the evaluation. Such distortions may be introduced by evaluator consciously or unconsciously. An appraisal system has the following possible distortions:

(a) Halo Effect—This distortion exists where the rater is influenced by ratee's one or two outstandingly good (or bad) performances and he evaluates the entire performance accordingly. Another type of Halo effect occurs where the rater's judgment is influenced by the work team or informal group with which a subordinate associates. If the group is not well liked, this attitude may work the rating of the individuals on it, apart from the actual performance.

(b) Central Tendency—This error occurs when the rater marks all or almost all his personnel as average. He fails to discriminate between superior and inferior persons. This may arise from the rater's lack of knowledge of individuals he is rating, or from haste, indifference, or carelessness.

© Constant Errors—There are easy raters and tough raters in all phases of life. Some raters habitually rate everyone high; others tend to rate low. Some rate on potential rather than oh recently observed performance. In such a situation, the results of two raters are hardly comparable.

(d) Rater's Liking and Disliking-Managers, being human, have strong liking or disliking for people, particularly close associates. The rating is influenced by personal factors and emotions, and rates may weigh personality traits more heavily than they realise. Raters tend to give high rating to persons whom they like and low that they dislike.
Overcoming the Obstacles

Systematic performance appraisal is a measurement process and as such must be reliable, which means that it must be accurate and consistent. Two main obstacles come in the way of reliable appraisal system: technical characteristics of the system itself, and the abilities of the appraiser to exercise objective judgment and apply the tools provided.

Taking appropriate actions in this direction may reduce the impact of these obstacles if not altogether eliminate them. Following measures may be taken:

1. The reliability of a rating system can be obtained by comparing the rating of two individuals for the same person. It can also be obtained by comparing the supervisor's rating given now to another rating in future. Moreover, the degree of reliability in an appraisal system cannot be as high as psychological test; it is essentially an attempt to objectify an estimate and it deals with more intangible subjects. Thus, one should go for satisfactory level of reliability only.

2. The appraisal system can be designed to help in minimising undesirable effects. The system should focus on objective analysis of performance in terms of specific events, accomplishments of failures. The raters may be required their rates through as much continuous and close personal observation as possible.

3. The ratings must be made by the immediate superiors, however, a staff department can assume the responsibility of monitoring the system. Though the staff department cannot change any ratings, it can point out inconsistencies to the rater, such as harshness, leniency, central tendency, and so on.

4. The rating should be reviewed with the ratee. This process helps rather in several ways. It helps him to know where he stands, what he is expected to do, what are his strengths and weaknesses, and what future actions he should take. This not only puts subordinates in a position to improve performance, he also minimises his resistance to appraisal if a proper atmosphere has been created.

5. The most important factor for effective appraisal system is the supportive management philosophy. Without an appropriate basic philosophy to generate the continuous support of all the managers, appraisal system cannot succeed. The philosophy must pervade the organisation with good examples from top management. Goal oriented climate, communications and the conduct of business among employees favours the development of effective performance appraisal methods.

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