Performance Appraisal

A Management Tool

What's the most important resource?

Actually the most important resource to any organisation at the moment (given the state of the world today) is our environment. If we destroy that part of life, we would not exist and neither would the organisation too.

But if our environment is well looked after, then the next important resource is the people. They are considered valuable to any organisation, just as much as the products and services they provide. It is the people who will provide the personal touch to certain services, to make products better, and to be motivated, trained and cooperative in performing his/her duties in a positive manner.

Encouragement of such people to perform well when working in an organisation is therefore paramount for all managers.

Ways to promote and encourage good behaviour

This is achieved through better communication between supervisor and employees, goal-setting, positive motivation, performance measures (to quantify and compare the work performed by people), performance appraisal (to give feedback on performance measures), and rewards (to encourage people to take intiative and improve performance ie. financial or otherwise).

One of the most popular methods of encouraging higher standards of performance is the use of a performance appraisal evaluation report.

There are risks in applying performance evaluation. As early as 1957, US management expert Douglas McGregor pointed out how evaluation of a subordinate can put the supervisor into a "playing God" position. As Dimity S. Berkner writes in Library Staff Development through Performance Appraisal:

"The evaluation of a subordinate can force the supervisor into "playing God," judging performance on personality rather than on results, employing subjective standards, demanding that one employee be measured against another in a win-lose situation, and requiring an uncomfortable face-to-face interview in which neither manager nor subordinate is prepared to give or receive criticism." (1)

But there are methods of avoiding these risks when evaluating an employee.

Whatever form of performance evaluation we implement, keep in mind the following results from a study conducted at the General Electric Company:

"Criticism has a negative effect on achievement of goals.

'Praise [relating to general performance characteristics] has little effect one way or another.

'Performance improves most when specific goals are established.

'Defensiveness resulting from critical appraisal produces inferior performance.

'Coaching should be a day-to-day, not a once-a-year, activity.

'Mutual goal setting, not criticism, improves performance.

'Interviews designed primarily to improve a man's [sic] performance should not at the same time weigh his salary or promotion in the balance.

'Participation by the employee in the goal-setting procedure helps produce favorable results." (Person 1983, p.329)

In other words, the current psychological approach to performance appraisal when modifying behaviour is to encourage and regularly reinforce positive behaviour while at the same time diminishing unwanted or negative behaviour simply by ignoring it (and definitely not by punishing people).

This, together with a well-conceived staff development program to expand the specific service skills and general managerial skills of library workers, is expected to bring self-appraisal and self-management skills to everyone working in a library.

In the end, it should be the aim of managers to turn employees into self-managers, self-appraisers and so on with little external input required. Because this will ultimately lower costs, both in dollars and time, reduce size of the top management level, and allow the few remaining managers to concentrate on the long-term issues that may affect the library and its employees and users.

How to make a performance appraisal of someone

Until people have the confidence to become self-appraisers, there are steps a supervisor can take to making a performance appraisal on someone.

The steps are:

  1. Conducting a performance appraisal of someone should be done on neutral territory (i.e. not anyone's office).
  2. Ask questions and listen to the answers by the person. Talk generally and then ask the person for specific examples of what he/she does. This lets the employee make his own self-evaluation.
  3. To help improve people's performance, give them certain responsibilities as a way of developing appropriate skills.
  4. But most importantly, the supervisor should leave his/her office door open for the person to come back for further assistance.

How much responsibilities should I give to someone?

To improve behaviour, sometimes it is necessary to give certain responsibilities. But it is not always necessary to create more work for the individual to do. It is more useful to make sure the individual can develop his own work and find ways to make his work more enjoyable, challenging and interesting.

Let the individual decide what "value-added" or extra responsibilities to do in the organisation.