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I am a M.A. in industrial/organizational psychology. Most of my experience has been in human resources and change management. My passion lies in employee assessment, organizational development and employee opinions. Website: www.IanMondrow.com LinkedIn Profile: http://linkd.in/drBYoC

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Influence of a Manager's Own Performance Appraisal on the Evaluation of Others

 Summary by: Ian B. Mondrow, M.A.

Latham, Budworth, Yanar and Whyte (2008) take a unique approach in conducting research. Instead of just conducting an experiment, the authors review a case study, laboratory simulation and two (2) field studies. The article was set out to determine if a manager's past performance evaluation has any influence of the evaluations of his/her team members. Feedback from performance reviews may also affect mood, which could influence the ratings managers provide their team. Dissatisfaction on the job commonly occurs when an appraisal does not provide an accurate reflection of a person's behavior. Therefore, one must consider factors that may cause a bias on performance appraisals.

The case study did not contribute to the study as the findings were not significant. In short, it did not support the hypothesis.

30 managers from the private sector were invited to participate in a study. They were randomly assigned to two groups. Both groups were provided hypothetical feedback concerning their performance from the previous year; the feedback differed as one was negative and the other was positive. Please refer to Appendix 1 to view the feedback distributed. After reading the feedback, the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) mood assessment scale was administered to each participant. This assessment evaluates mood based on a participants agreement/disagreement with 10 positive terms and 10 negative terms (all terms were emotions). Participants were then provided with a description of the job they will be assessing and watched a videotape demonstrating an employees behavior.

A main effect was present for affectivity based on one's membership in the positive or negative feedback group, F = 18.63, p<.001. Managers who received negative feedback (M = 30.92, SD = 6.65) had higher amounts of negativity (according to PANAS) than managers who were part of the positive feedback condition (M = 15.77, SD = 8.44). Managers who received positive feedback (M = 40.14, SD = 6.98) had a higher level of positivity than managers in the negative feedback condition (M = 23.47, SD = 6.65). When comparing the assessment scores to the performance appraisal completed by participants, no effect was present. Therefore, this study demonstrates that mood does not affect one's ability to evaluate another's performance.

27 participants from a manufacturing company were recruited to participate in the field study. All participants had been at the company for at least five (5) years and were familar with the performance appraisal process. Researchers collected the performance appraisals of these participants and a year later, collected the participant's evaluations for their employee (a total of 74). A Spearman Correlation revealed a level of .25, with a significance of p<.05. This study supports the findings in the laboratory study.

39 managers and 227 manager subordinate dyads in Istanbul, Turkey participated in the study. The HR manager had provided the performance appraisals to the researchers. The performance appraisal of a manager successfully correlated with their evaluation of their subordinate, r = .57, p<.01.

While the case study does not support the initial hypothesis of the researchers, the field studies and laboratory study have demonstrated that a manager's previous performance does indeed influence how they rate their subordinates. It is possible that a manager's performance appraisal sets their standards of performance and managers may have the expectations that their subordinates cannot outperform them. Although its a cynical notion, the stats of the study could support that this bias exist.

However, take this study with a grain of salt. The publication provides limited statistical information and provides no tables to expand on their findings. There is a possibility that the researchers are only presenting the information they would like to show.

If this research is true, what can HR professionals do to prevent this bias from occurring? I have 3 recommendations:
  • Training -- Inform managers that this bias does exist. Managers who are aware of this bias may be more cautious in their ratings. Some may argue that training managers on biases only causes an individual to label their behaviors instead of improving it. I have a belief that it can do no harm and therefore conducting training would not be counterproductive. 
  • Provide In-Depth Tools -- Put detail into your organization's performance appraisal. Define each attribute that is being assessed. Then anchor the rating scale to create consistency among evaluators. Once these tools are developed, provide workshops for managers that allow them to test the system and create interrater reliability. 
  • Examine - Quickly review a managers' rating for their team. Examine the managers score from the previous year to determine if they used their previous scores to set the bar. This is not an ideal method for a large organization with large teams and many managers.
Further research is required on this topic and one should not assume that the results are trustworthy.


Negative Feedback
"Your boss is disappointed with your progress and needs to see significant improvement in your performance in the near future. There is widespread agreement that you have poor management skills. Moreover, your interpersonal skills are lacking. Your peers find your abilities to be mediocre at best. They complain that they are constantly ‘cleaning up your mess'. our subordinates do not respect you and find it difficult to take your direction seriously. They always double check your instructions with your boss. In summary, you need to improve significantly in order to ensure a future with the company. Your overall rating is 1 on a seven-point scale."

Positive Feedback

"You have exceeded your boss’s expectations and everyone is extremely pleased with your progress. You have outstanding management skills that are only surpassed by your interpersonal skills. Your peers find your performance to be highly effective. They look to you for direction, and they respect your opinion greatly. Your subordinates think of you as a mentor, and look to you for direction on matters beyond the scope of your portfolio. In summary, you are performing well above average. You have a strong and secure future with the company. Your overall rating is 7 on a seven-point scale."

Source: 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.

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