It has been suggested that appraisals are disliked by managers and employees alike as “an appraisal is an occasion when appraisers and appraises make sense of their organisation experience by creating stories that interpret and justify their actions” (Jacques, 1992, Cited Leopold J, Harris L & Watson T, 2005, page 183). It can be viewed that performance management is similar to appraisals in that sense, as it can be unclear at times what performance management actually measures and the tedious, time consuming nature of both.Although this is the common consensus of appraisals, if they are used effectively, they can allow an employee to feel that they have made a valuable contribution into self-management and have a voice that is heard and recognised within the organisation, thus increasing employee engagement. The differences in characteristics between the two are that performance management measure an individual’s input to an organisation through statistical data.
Although performance management is used to support employees in their day to day activities, it can be viewed as a method of control.Performance management systems allow management to measure in quantative terms and hierarchies in terms of values, the abilities, level and the nature of individuals. The concept of performance related pay although not new, has been adopted into performance management due to measured performance contributing towards reward. Despite target setting being viewed as controlling by individuals; it can identify high performance amongst employees and provide an assessment of their performance.Although performance related pay is by no means perfect; weaknesses in the system can be identified which results in organisations’ reducing the responsibility within performance management.
Instead, well designed performance management systems incorporate other aspects of human resources practice and policy such as job satisfaction, career opportunities, training, improved communication and higher levels of autonomy. Furthermore it is noted “that performance management is a process which contributes to the effective management of individuals and teams to achieve high levels of organisation performance” (Armstrong & Baron, 1998, page 266)One of the characteristics of performance management is that it plays a central role within an organisation in the aligning of strategic goals and the behaviour of employees. Kerr (1991) argues that this can actually lead to certain behaviour being rewarded that the organisation may be wishing to discourage (Leopold J, Harris L & Watson T, 2005, page 236). In addition, performance related pay discourages team working as individuals may be hesitant to assist colleagues as they are concerned that the additional reward will go to their colleague without recognising the support that has been offered to them.With the recent economic downturn in the United Kingdom and low inflation, performance related pay has been reduced, which has resulted in individuals not responding to performance management. Furthermore within a global economy a greater onus has been placed on organisations to be more strategic, so that they achieve competitive advantage over competitors. Although a tangible link cannot be established between performance management and organisation performance it is assumed that employee engagement and motivation will create high performance working which contributes to the organisations performance.In addition to concerns about work related pay, there is a significant worry that appraisals are conducted without bearing in mind the principles of equality which are central to appraisals and performance management.
They can also play a significant part when employees are negotiating pay increases and this can lead to conflict and discrimination in the workplace. Using the appraisal model can inadvertently discriminate against employees and ultimately lead to them being excluded from the wider team.According to Kraiger and Ford (1985), this can occur when “employees receive significantly higher ratings from appraisers of their own race”.
(Cited Mabey C, Salaman G & Story J, 1999, page 136) They go on to say that this is also a reality for female staff who are working in male dominated roles. Although such practices are illegal, it is unfortunately common in some organisations; with performance management becoming more line manager led, legal implications can arise for human resources professionals.Furthermore it is noted that appraisals are conducted with an agreed time-scale normally every 12 months and provide appraisal through feedback.
Performance management also has similar conflicts as to its purpose much like appraisals where conflicts between development and measurement can exist. Recently, 360 degree appraisals have become more popular in organisations as they address various problematic areas of appraisal. 360 degree appraisals encounter the traditional appraisal system, however they can provide a more accurate subjective appraisal of an individual.By having a variety of appraisers from different levels of the organisation, the appraisal can continue to be subjective by limiting any form of ‘rater bias’, even though discriminatory bias may still be present amongst groups. Such type of appraisal is not be suitable to all organisation structures and cultures as individuals may feel uncomfortable from receiving feedback from peers and colleagues. Appraisals in certain cultural contexts may be a political process.
For example in Japanese organisations, employees tend to avoid uncertainty; this differs from the approach taken by western organisations who encounter risk and uncertainty within everyday life. Furthermore, the concept of lifetime employment, although no longer common still exists. This allows individuals to work uninterrupted until retirement. “This job for life can be viewed as a lifetime commitment with staff remaining on the payroll but not necessarily working within the organisation. ” (Beardwell, 1994, page 217).In the case of the job for life attitude, performance management could work in two ways. On one hand performance management can help inspire and motivate staff who may be underperforming or who may in actual fact be stagnant in their role.
Another concept is that of the seniority system within organisations, where line managers may exercise their status and power over an employee. Furthermore Japanese organisations can be viewed as paternalistic with a strong notion of a corporate family. Due to this appraisal can be difficult within a cultural context reducing organisations performance.