According to ACAS(1997), Performance appraisal (PA) is a western management concept. It regularly records an assessment of an employee’s performance, potential and development needs,Functions as an opportunity to take an overall view of work content, loads and volume, to look back on what has been achieved during the reporting period, and agrees objectives for the next.
This definition clearly shows that PA offers a chance to assess or judge various aspects of an employee’s work performance by checking back how they have performed in the past and then predicting and developing their future performance. However, it is difficult to be translated into a different cultural environment, with the practice of PA in china having brought about a few problems. Easterby smith’s report (1995) shows that Chinese managers often have a different idea about what PA is than do western managers. This essay will firstly critically analyse the two problems discovered in the implementation of PA in china; one being its over-emphasis on the function of measuring reward and punishment for the employee rather than identifying his or her potential ability in the long run, the other being the lack of effective feedback in Chinese PA. Followed are two suggestions: consistency of PA in time, attitude and with organizational culture and the shift of its emphasis. Finally valuable insight into the future trend of PA in China will be examined.
Key words: Chinese performance appraisal, cultural environment, consistency, the shift of emphasis.
Problems of Performance appraisal in China
Since the Chinese economic reform, PA has been widely adopted in its organisations. According to Zhu and Dowling (1998), ‘74.8 percent of firms carry out performance appraisal annually, 14.3 percent twice a year and 11 percent monthly’. However, whether Western management concept works in China or not still remains an issue and several problems caused by its implementation in the country should not be ignored.
The lack of open, clear and objective feedback in Chinese PA has greatly weakened its effectiveness. According to Connie Zheng’s survey (2006), the selected firms from the research are not willing to show their appraisees the results directly if results are not positive. Unless some obvious mistakes are found, the final results of the appraisals are seldom changed even if an appraisee shows his disagreement, which makes the result incapable of acting as a support for the company’s development.
Two main causes can explain why PA, the widely-used western management approach is questionable when applied to Chinese context. Firstly, the concept and the function of PA are quite different between Chinese and Western managers. In west countries, organisations by improving the performance of the employees and developing the capabilities of teams and individual contributors, and it is also regarded as a ‘continuous process involving reviews that focus on the future rather than the past’ (Baron and Armstrong,1998). On the other hand, the results of PA for Chinese organisations often focus on the short-term achievement instead of providing training for the employees or setting strategy and object for the development of the company.
In addition to the above-mentioned, PA in China confronts the issue of cultural applicability. Face (Mianzi) is a well-known Chinese characteristic which exerts a subtle influence on the practice of PA (Paul S. Hempel, 2001). The term not only describes people’s social status, (When we say somebody has Mianzi, we may well mean he is powerful,) but also represents persons' ability to influence others. (When we say ‘give somebody a Mianzi’, we mean that we should change our present decision under somebody’s influence.) The supervisors always avoid negative remarks on the employees to save their face. Consequently, it is not strange that there...