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Performance appraisal — a motivational tool


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By M. Shafiq Associate Professor,
Asian Management Institute - IQRA University
Apr 24 - 30, 2000

The main dimensions of managerial role are informational, decisional and interpersonal. While all these are important, the interpersonal dimension assumes a special significance when dealing with subordinates. All managers are required to supervise, motivate, train, develop and look after the welfare of their subordinates. They are required to make continuous efforts to strike a balance between motivating for productivity and evaluating and judging that very productivity. A manager is therefore a judge and a helper at the same time. This situation often gives rise to conflict. All the same, the manager has to fulfil his/her responsibilities to the organization by formally appraising work performance i.e. the quantity and quality of the work performed and behaviour of subordinates. In addition to assessment of individual employee's workload and quality of performance, performance appraisal (PA) provides useful input for career development plans, pay and promotion decisions, training and placement etc.

Performance feedback

Although modern organizations generate piles of various data, yet its members hardly get any feedback on their performance. It may be appreciated that employees generally have an intense desire to be told as to how they are performing. Such feedback is generally considered a reward by them. PA therefore can be used as a powerful tool to enhance motivation of employees by providing:

— clear knowledge of what's expected of them

— feeling of participation in decisions that affect them

— recognition of their efforts

— realistic idea of their strengths and weaknesses

— specific training and tips on how they should improve

— However, employees will be motivated only if they are convinced that they are being appraised in a frank and fair manner.

Effectiveness of PA

The main factors, which impact the effectiveness of PA, are the organizational climate, its system and procedures and the attitude of the manager towards it. Basically, there are two PA systems — confidential and open. The rest swing one way or the other between the two extremes. The former mostly operates in organizations with defencive climate. The thrust in confidential performance appraisal system is on employee control and discipline. However, in organizations where supportive climate prevails and the emphasis is on developing human resources to the fullest, the appraisal system is often open. The degree of openness in a performance appraisal system is, therefore, directly proportional to the nature of organizational climate. The criteria, forms and procedures used for PA are all integral part of system. Any weaknesses in these such as unclear appraisal parameters, disregard of specific requirements of a particular functional area and procedural complications, will result not only in faulty performance appraisal but also damage the human resource development in the organization.

Manager's Attitude

Most of the problems confronted in practical performance appraisal stem from the manager's psychological make-up, perceptions and attitudes. Some managers find it difficult to combine the role of judge and helper in them, others find the very idea of evaluating people distasteful. Some others stay away from providing feedback because they do not want to face emotionally laden interpersonal situations. Still others are so result oriented that they have no time for such 'personnel stuff'.

Manager's attitude towards performance appraisal is of critical importance. A great deal will depend on seriousness and importance given to PA e.g. its timely completion, correct understanding of various appraisal parameters and general appreciation of its implications for human resource development. The delayed, hurried or careless completion of performance appraisal of subordinates under pressure from the personnel departments indicates indifference to PA. In such cases, various stock phrases and terms are used to describe the strengths and weaknesses of the subordinates solely to fill in the forms and/or avoid real meanings. Some humorous examples of such a phenomenon are provided in a booklet on Performance Management written by Professor Marshall Sashkin and published by American Management Association. Few of these are reproduced below:


Real meanings

A keen analyst

Thoroughly confused

A very fine employee of great

Gets to work on time

value to the organization


Indifferent to instructlions

Knows more than superiors

Keen sense of humour

Has vast repertoire of dirty jokes

Often works overtime

Miserable home life

Quick thinking

Offers plausible excuses

Tactful in dealing with superiors

Knows when to keep mouth shut

Stern disciplinarian


Conscientious and careful


Career minded

Back stabber

Demonstrates qualities of leadership

Has a loud voice

Improving PA systems

In order to make formal performance appraisal system more effective and efficient tool of motivation, following measures may be adopted:

— PA should be treated as an extremely serious and moral managerial obligation.

— the appraisal system should be improved to make it valid and reliable.

— PA should be gradually made more open.

— Even if the system is confidential, performance should be discussed through a performance appraisal interview.

— the non-work related subjective items in it should be minimized.

— the system should address itself to the current professional worth of the employee and also aim to evaluate his/her future potential for development.

Lastly, it is also important that in order to motivate the subordinates, the managers use informal PA by giving attention, recognition and praise for every bit of their good performance.

This article is based on a presentation made by the author at the fourth conference of the Association of Asian Airlines Human Resource Development (AAAHRD) held at Manila, Philippines