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Thursday, 1 November 2018

Overcoming subjectivity when appraising employee performance

by Dr Praversh Sukram 

Performance management has become an integral management tool that measures individual and organisational performance and ensures that the organisation and individual meet their overall objectives.

The objectives of performance management are defined as:
  1. To align organisational and individual goals
  2. To foster organisational-wide commitment to performance-oriented culture
  3. To develop and manage the human resources needed to achieve organisational results
  4. To identify and address performance inefficiencies
  5. To create a culture of accountability and a focus on customer service
  6. To link rewards to performance (Bussin: 2017).

These objectives will have a positive influence on an individual’s and organisation’s output. So why is it that performance appraisals become stressful for some employees and managers. One of the reasons is that mangers can be influenced by certain subjective factors when assessing their subordinate’s performance and that could lead to disagreements between them which could result in ongoing stressful relations between them. 

Some subjective problems that both managers and employees must be aware of are:

The halo effect

This occurs when a manager’s assessment of the subordinate is influenced by one incident that affects the assessment for the entire assessment period. For example, if a subordinate performs one aspect of their job poorly, their overall performance is assessed as poor. The reverse can also apply, where the manager’s assessment of their subordinate is influenced by one incident of good performance and the overall performance is assessed as good. 

      Personal standards

Some managers are strict in their ratings and tend to give subordinates low ratings whereas other managers are lenient and tend to give their subordinates high ratings. This is a problem because it means that employees reporting to different managers are not being assessed on the same basis, which is basically unfair.

There are other subjectivity issues such as personal biases and prejudices that managers need to be aware of.

One way of overcoming subjectivity problems is to provide ongoing feedback to employees. Two-way communication should be at the heart of the performance management process. Giving feedback once or twice a year is not helpful. Performance management should become a standing item on the agenda for a manager’s monthly meeting with their subordinate. Issues discussed should be recorded which can be referred to during the performance appraisal meeting.

Providing feedback close to the time of the activity is more effective than that provided once or twice a year.

Employees should also be responsible for monitoring their own performance. This promotes employee ownership of their work.

Bussin, M. 2017. The Philosophy of performance – part 1. www.humancapitalreview.org. (15.3.18).
Hunter C.R. 2016. Managing People in South Africa: Human Resource Management as a Competitive Advantage. Sherwood Books, Durban. 3rd ed.