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FREE online courses on Performance and Potential Appraisal - Methods of Performance Appraisal


The performance appraisal methods may be classified into three categories, as shown in Figure below.


Figure: Performance Appraisal Methods


Individual Evaluation Methods


Under the individual evaluation methods of merit rating, employees are evaluated one at a time without comparing them with other employees in the organization.


(a)      Confidential report: It is mostly used in government organizations. It is a descriptive report prepared, generally at the end of every year, by the employee's immediate superior. The report highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the subordinate. The report is not databased. The impressions of the superior about the subordinate are merely recorded there. It does not offer any feedback to the appraisee. The appraisee is not very sure about why his ratings have fallen despite his best efforts, why others are rated high when compared to him, how to rectify his mistakes, if any; on what basis he is going to be evaluated next year, etc. Since the report is generally not made public and hence no feedback is available, the subjective analysis of the superior is likely to be hotly contested. In recent years, due to pressure from courts and trade unions, the details of a negative confidential report are given to the appraisee.

(b)      Essay evaluation: Under this method, the rater is asked to express the strong as well as weak points of the employee's behavior. This technique is normally used with a combination of the graphic rating scale because the rater can elaborately present the scale by substantiating an explanation for his rating. While preparing the essay on the employee, the rater considers the following factors: (i) Job knowledge and potential of the employee; (ii) Employee's understanding of the company's programmes, policies, objectives, etc.; (iii) The employee's relations with co-workers and superiors; (iv) The employee's general planning, organizing and controlling ability; (v) The attitudes and perceptions of the employee, in general.


Essay evaluation is a non-quantitative technique. This method is advantageous in at least one sense, i.e., the essay provides a good deal of information about the employee and also reveals more about the evaluator. The essay evaluation method however, suffers from the following limitations:

  • It is highly subjective; the supervisor may write a biased essay. The employees who are sycophants will be evaluated more favorably then other employees.
  • Some evaluators may be poor in writing essays on employee performance. Others may be superficial in explanation and use flowery language which may not reflect the actual performance of the employee. It is very difficult to find effective writers nowadays.
  • The appraiser is required to find time to prepare the essay. A busy appraiser may write the essay hurriedly without properly assessing the actual performance of the worker. On the other hand, appraiser takes a long time, this becomes uneconomical from the view point of the firm, because the time of the evaluator (supervisor) is costly.

(c)       Critical incident technique: Under this method, the manager prepares lists of statements of very effective and ineffective behavior of an employee. These critical incidents or events represent the outstanding or poor behavior of employees on the job. The manager maintains logs on each employee, whereby he periodically records critical incidents of the workers behavior. At the end of the rating period, these recorded critical incidents are used in the evaluation of the workers' performance. An example of a good critical incident of a sales assistant is the following:


July 20 – The sales clerk patiently attended to the customers complaint. He is polite, prompt, enthusiastic in solving the customers' problem.


On the other hand the bad critical incident may appear as under:

July 20 – The sales assistant stayed 45 minutes over on his break during the busiest part of the day. He failed to answer the store manager's call thrice. He is lazy, negligent, stubborn and uninterested in work.


This method provides an objective basis for conducting a thorough discussion of an employee's performance. This method avoids recency bias (most recent incidents get too much emphasis). This method suffers however from the following limitations:

  • Negative incidents may be more noticeable than positive incidents.
  • The supervisors have a tendency to unload a series of complaints about incidents during an annual performance review session.
  • It results in very close supervision which may not be liked by the employee.
  • The recording of incidents may be a chore for the manager concerned, who may be too busy or forget to do it.


Most frequently, the critical incidents technique of evaluation is applied to evaluate the performance of superiors rather than of peers of subordinates.

(d)      Checklists and weighted checklists: Another simple type of individual evaluation method is the checklist. A checklist represents, in its simplest form, a set of objectives or descriptive statements about the employee and his behavior. If the rater believes strongly that the employee possesses a particular listed trait, he checks the item; otherwise, he leaves the item blank. A more recent variation of the checklist method is the weighted list. Under this, the value of each question may be weighted equally or certain questions may be weighted more heavily than others. The following are some of the sample questions in the checklist.

l       Is the employee really interested in the task assigned?    Yes/No

l       Is he respected by his colleagues (co-workers)              Yes/No

l       Does he give respect to his superiors?                          Yes/No

l       Does he follow instructions properly?                            Yes/No

l       Does he make mistakes frequently?                              Yes/No


A rating score from the checklist helps the manager in evaluation of the performance of the employee. The checklist method has a serious limitation. The rater may be biased in distinguishing the positive and negative questions. He may assign biased weights to the questions. Another limitation could be that this method is expensive and time consuming. Finally, it becomes difficult for the manager to assemble, analyze and weigh a number of statements about the employee's characteristics, contributions and behaviors. In spite of these limitations, the checklist method is most frequently used in the employee's performance evaluation.

(e)      Graphic rating scale: Perhaps the most commonly used method of performance evaluation is the graphic rating scale. Of course, it is also one of the oldest methods of evaluation in use. Under this method, a printed form, as shown below, is used to evaluate the performance of an employee. A variety of traits may be used in these types of rating devices, the most common being the quantity and quality of work. The rating scales can also be adapted by including traits that the company considers important for effectiveness on the job. A model of a graphic rating scale is given below.

Table: Typical Graphic Rating Scale

Employee Name...................        Job title .................

Department .........................       Rate ...............

Data ..................................



Quantity of work: Volume of work under normal working conditions






Quality of work: Neatness, thoroughness and accuracy of work Knowledge of job






A clear understanding of the factors connected with the job






Attitude: Exhibits enthusiasm and cooperativeness on the job






Dependability: Conscientious, thorough, reliable, accurate, with respect to attendance, reliefs, lunch breaks, etc.






Cooperation: Willingness and ability to work with others to produce desired goals.








From the graphic rating scales, excerpts can be obtained about the performance standards of employees. For instance, if the employee has serious gaps in technical-professional knowledge (knows only rudimentary phases of job); lacks the knowledge to bring about an increase in productivity; is reluctant to make decisions on his own (on even when he makes decisions they are unreliable and substandard); declines to accept responsibility; fails to plan ahead effectively; wastes and misuses resources; etc., then it can safely be inferred that the standards of the performance of the employee are dismal and disappointing.


The rating scale is the most common method of evaluation of an employee's performance today. One positive point in favor of the rating scale is that it is easy to understand, easy to use and permits a statistical tabulation of scores of employees. When ratings are objective in nature they can be effectively used as evaluators. The graphic rating scale may however suffer from a long standing disadvantage, i.e., it may be arbitrary and the rating may be subjective. Another pitfall is that each characteristic is equally important in evaluation of the employee's performance and so on.

(f)       Behaviorally anchored rating scales: Also known as the behavioral expectations scale, this method represents the latest innovation in performance appraisal.  It is a combination of the rating scale and critical incident techniques of employee performance evaluation. The critical incidents serve as anchor statements on a scale and the rating form usually contains six to eight specifically defined performance dimensions. The following chart represents an example of a sales trainee's competence and a behaviorally anchored rating scale.

Table: An Example of Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scale (BARS)





Extremely good


Can expect trainee to make valuable suggestions for increased sales and to have positive relationships with customers all over the country.



Can expect to initiate creative ideas for improved sales.

Above average


Can expect to keep in touch with the customers throughout the year.



Can manage, with difficulty, to deliver the goods in time.

Below average


Can expect to unload the trucks when asked by the supervisor.



Can expect to inform only a part of the customers.

Extremely poor


Can expect to take extended coffee breaks and roam around purposelessly.


How to construct BARS? Developing a BARS follows a general format which combines techniques employed in the critical incident method and weighted checklist ratings scales. Emphasis is pinpointed on pooling the thinking of people who will use the scales as both evaluators and evaluees.


Step 1: Collect critical incidents: People with knowledge of the job to be probed, such as job holders and supervisors, describe specific examples of effective and ineffective behavior related to job performance.


Step 2: Identify performance dimensions: The people assigned the task of developing the instrument cluster the incidents into a small set of key performance dimensions. Generally between five and ten dimensions account  for most of the performance. Examples of performance dimensions include technical competence, relationships with customers, handling of paper work and meeting day-to-day deadlines. While developing varying levels of performance for each dimension (anchors), specific examples of behavior should be used, which could later be scaled in terms of good, average or below average performance.


Step 3: Reclassification of incidents: Another group of participants who are knowledgeable about the job is instructed to retranslate or reclassify the critical incidents generated (in Step II) previously. They are given the definition of job dimension and told to assign each critical incident to the dimension that it best describes. At this stage, incidents for which there is not 75 per cent agreement are discarded as being too subjective.


Step 4: Assigning scale values to the incidents: Each incident is then rated on a one-to-seven or one-to-nine scale with respect of how well it represents performance on the appropriate dimension. A rating of one represents ineffective performance; the top scale value indicates very effective performance. The second group of participants usually assigns the scale values. Means and standard deviations are then calculated for the scale values assigned to each incident. Typically incidents that have standard deviations of 1.50 or less (on a 7-point scale) are retained.


Step 5: Producing the final instrument: About six or seven incidents for each performance dimension – all having met both the retranslating and standard deviation criteria – will be used as behavioral anchors. The final BARS instrument consists of a series of vertical scales (one for each dimension) anchored (or measured) by the final incidents. Each incident is positioned on the scale according to its mean value.


Because the above process typically requires considerable employee participation, its acceptance by both supervisors and their subordinates may be greater. Proponents of BARS also claim that such a system differentiates among behavior, performance and results and consequently is able to provide a basis for setting developmental goals for the employee. Because it is job-specific and identifies observable and measurable behavior, it is a more reliable and valid method for performance appraisal.


Researchers, after surveying several studies on BARS, concluded that “despite the intuitive appeal of BARS, findings from research have not been encouraging”. It has not proved to be superior to other methods in overcoming rater errors or in achieving psychometric soundness. A specific deficiency is that the behaviors used are activity oriented rather than results oriented. This creates a potential problem for supervisors doing the evaluation, who may be forced to deal with employees who are performing the activity but not accomplishing the desired goals. Further, it is time consuming and expensive to create BARS. They also demand several appraisal forms to accommodate different types of jobs in an organization. In a college, lecturers, office clerks, library staff, technical staff and gardening staff all have different jobs; separate BARS forms would need to be developed for each. In view of the lack of compelling evidence demonstrating the superiority of BARS over traditional techniques such as graphic rating scales. Decotis concluded that: “It may be time to quit hedging about the efficacy of behavioral scaling strategies and conclude that this method has no clear-cut advantages over more traditional and easier methods of performance evaluation”.

(g)      Forced choice method: This method was developed to eliminate bias and the preponderance of high ratings that might occur in some organizations. The primary purpose of the forced choice method is to correct the tendency of a rater to give consistently high or low ratings to all the employees. This method makes use of several sets of pair phrases, two of which may be positive and two negative and the rater is asked to indicate which of the four phrases is the most and least descriptive of a particular worker. Actually, the statement items are grounded in such a way that the rater cannot easily judge which statements apply to the most effective employee. The following box is a classic illustration of the forced choice items in organizations.


Table: Forced Choice Items

1.       Least                                                            Most

          A        Does not anticipate difficulties                 A

          B        Grasps explanations easily and quickly       B

          C        Does not waste time                              C

          D        Very easy to talk to                               D

2.       Least                                                            Most

          A        Can be a leader                                     A

          B        Wastes time on unproductive things          B

          C        At all times, cool and calm                       C

          D        Smart worker                                        D


The favorable qualities earn a plus credit and the unfavorable ones earn the reverse. The worker gets over plus when the positive factors override the negative ones or when one of the negative phrases is checked as being insignificantly rated.


They overall objectivity is increased by using this method in evaluation of employee's performance, because the rater does not know how high or low he is evaluating the individual as he has no access to the scoring key. This method, however, has a strong limitation. In the preparation of sets of phrases trained technicians are needed and as such the method becomes very expensive. Further, managers may feel frustrated rating the employees ‘in the dark'. Finally, the results of the forced choice method may not be useful for training employees because the rater himself does not know how he is evaluating the worker. In spite of these limitations, the forced choice techniques is quite popular.

(h)      Management by Objectives (MBO): MBO represents a modern method of evaluating the performance of personnel. Thoughtful managers have become increasingly aware that the traditional performance evaluation systems are characterized by somewhat antagonistic judgments on the part of the rater. There is a growing feeling nowadays that it is better to make the superior work with subordinates in fixing goals. This would inevitably enable subordinates to exercise self-control over their performance behaviors. The concept of management by objectives is actually the outcome of the pioneering works of Drucker, McGregor and Odiorne in management science. Management by objectives can be described as “a process whereby the superior and subordinate managers of an organization jointly identify its common goals, define each individuals' major areas of responsibility in terms of results expected of him and use these measures as guides for operating the unit and assessing the contributions of each of its members”. MBO thus represents more than an evaluation programme and process. Practicing management scientists and pedagogues view it as a philosophy of managerial practice; it is a method by which managers and subordinates plan, organize, control, communicate and debate.

  • MBO emphasizes participatively set goals that are tangible, verifiable and measurable.
  • MBO focuses attention on what must be accomplished (goals) rather than how it is to be accomplished (methods).
  • MBO, by concentrating on key result areas translates the abstract philosophy of management into concrete phraseology. The technique can be put to general use (non-specialist technique). Further it is “a dynamic system which seeks to integrate the company's need to clarify and achieve its profit and growth targets with the manager's need to contribute and develop himself”.
  • MBO is a systematic and rational technique that allows management to attain maximum results from available resources by focusing on achievable goals. It allows the subordinate plenty of room to make creative decisions on his own.



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