What's important to raters in judging work performance: mapping individual priorities and management team differences

Muir, E 2008, What's important to raters in judging work performance: mapping individual priorities and management team differences, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Graduate School of Business, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title What's important to raters in judging work performance: mapping individual priorities and management team differences
Author(s) Muir, E
Year 2008
Abstract The research reported in this thesis develops and explores a personal construct psychology approach to identifying what is important to raters in making assessments of performance in an organisation. It is based on analysis of data collected as part of an action research project in a consulting organisation, with the results for the organisation being used to illustrate and discuss the approach taken.

Either in their own right, or as part of a more comprehensive performance management process, performance appraisals are a pervasive and important human resource system for many companies. Critical decisions by management such as salary increases and promotion, opportunities for individuals to learn by doing, to show what they can do and so progress through the organisation are impacted by their organisation’s formal and informal performance appraisal processes. Appraisals also play a role in reinforcing action in support of the organisation’s strategy; through performance feedback, raters can reinforce performance that supports the organisation strategy, or discourage performance that does not.

Raters are the critical link in the observation and assessment of performance and in the feedback process. Rater observations and judgments are affected by their personal views on what is important. These views may or may not accord with what the organisation’s strategy demands. Understanding rater views on what is important, and how well these align with what the strategy requires, is a key to ensure that the appraisal process supports, rather than hinders, both individual and oganisational needs.

Despite considerable attention being given to performance appraisal in the literature, there has been only limited research into processes to establish what categories are important in measuring performance, and very little to establish practical methods for an organisation to determine which raters have differing views on the important categories to use in rating performance. This research uses personal construct theory to examine the aspects of performance considered important by raters in the management team of a consulting organisation. Processes suitable for use in this and other organisations were developed to map each manager-rater’s approach, and to identify performance aspects considered important by the management team as a group.

Each manager’s personal constructs relating to appraisal were elicited through a repertory grid interview. The elicited constructs were taken together and content analysed to derive ten broad performance categories summarising the views of the entire management team. Each individual’s personal constructs were then allocated to the relevant common category to develop a view of how 10 each manager related to the group’s overall approach to appraisal. A measure for the importance of each category in making performance judgments (importance score) was derived based on the correlation of the constructs in each category with an overall performance construct. A second measure of a manager’s preparedness to discriminate between levels of performance was also derived (discriminant score) based on the variation in each manager’s construct structure. In keeping with the personal construct psychology approach, the process emphasizes the importance of discussion with the individual concerned to verify the sorting and ranking process. A process to establish the overall management group priorities for judging performance was demonstrated and a charting process was developed to facilitate presentation and discussion of the results.

The results are consistent with an interpretivist view of performance appraisal which suggests that individual raters may see performance in different ways from their peers. The processes developed provide a means to highlight these differences in terms of importance and inclination to discriminate between different levels of performance, and provide a basis on which Frame of Reference or other training can attempt to address them.

The research has demonstrated the strength of the repertory grid process as a means of getting at a rater’s framework for thinking about appraisal and provides a way to identify possible voids or blind spots in a rater’s approach. The research has also developed a systematic way to aggregate importance of the various categories across raters to estimate the most important categories in use by raters in ‘the organisation’ and to identify divergences from that overall perspective by individuals within the management team. Understanding the most important categories of performance as used by raters provides an opportunity for management to determine whether these are likely to achieve the strategic objectives of the company, and if necessary, to introduce and inculcate different approaches.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Graduate School of Business
Keyword(s) Employees -- Rating of
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