Maximizing Performance Appraisal System Acceptance

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Employee acceptance is a critical component of an effective performance appraisal system.(1) Research in organizational behavior clearly demonstrates that employee attitudes influence behavior,(2) and participant attitudes toward performance appraisal systems are no exception.(3) The attitudes of system participants play a key role in both the short and long term success of a performance appraisal system.(4) The goal of this research is to identify the characteristics of municipal government performance appraisal systems that are associated with perceived employee acceptance as reported by a national sample of municipal government personnel officials. Performance appraisal systems are but one component of an overall system of human resources management that is designed to enhance employee effectiveness. The key is the proper design and administration of the system in order to benefit both employees and management.(5) Performance appraisal systems are employed to serve a host of administrative and developmental purposes from providing specific performance feedback to generating information for merit pay, promotion, demotion and other personnel decisions.(6) Personnel officials were the mandated respondents as stipulated by the grant that partially funded the research. The analysis is only suggestive for the obvious reason that the direct participants in the process, raters and ratees, are not the research subjects. Nevertheless, this effort provides insight and information on both the structural characteristics of appraisal systems and the perceptions of a key actor in the appraisal process. Literature Review

Performance Appraisal System Acceptance
One of the serious weaknesses in existing performance appraisal research is a dearth of attention to performance appraisal system acceptance. The most detailed conceptual discussion of the variables that comprise employee acceptance is by Carroll and Schneier.(7) Ratee acceptance is maximized when the performance measurement process is perceived to be accurate, the system is administered fairly, the appraisal system is congruent or doesn't conflict with the employee's personal goals and values, and when the appraisal process does not exceed the bounds of the "psychological contract" between rater and ratee. There are a number of negative consequences if a system is perceived to be unfair or unacceptable because employees will reject the performance rating and the process that generated it. The consequences include a reduction in the motivation to change behavior based upon appraisal feedback, a rejection of the validity and usefulness of appraisal information,(8) and unwillingness to accept the validity of personnel decisions based upon appraisal information. In terms of expectancy theory, a lack of acceptance will adversely influence employee perceptions. That effort will lead to a designated performance level because performance measurement is viewed as being inaccurate or unfair. To illustrate the positive effects, Roberts found that when personnel officials perceived higher levels of rarer and ratee performance appraisal system acceptance, a number of positive outcomes were produced.(9) These included perceptions that the system exerted a favorable influence on employee motivation and productivity and that acceptance enhanced the ability of the system to reduce absenteeism and retain good employees. Employee attitudes influence the attitudes of raters.(10) If employees are hostile and reject the system, raters may be unwilling or unable to effectively implement performance appraisal due to the costs attached to employee resistance.(11) Raters that lack motivation to effectively implement the process will meet only the minimum requirements, and with performance appraisal, the minimum is rarely sufficient. This lack of motivation will lead to rating errors, general or ambiguous performance feedback, inadequate performance documentation, and a lack of confidence in the...
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