Why performance appraisal does not lead to performance improvement: Excellent performance as a function of uniqueness instead of uniformity

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Dissatisfaction with performance appraisal is at an all-time high (Adler et al., 2016). In this commentary we argue that one of the reasons why performance appraisal is unable to get the most out of employees is the way in which employees are evaluated against a uniform set of criteria, leading to a focus on deficits and little attention for unique individual qualities and strengths. By comparing the performance of an employee with a set of predetermined criteria, and by expecting the employee to perform well across all these criteria, the performance appraisal tends to focus on those areas where employees perform below the norm, irrespective of how excellently they may perform in other areas. For many employees, this leads to the frustrating experience that there is more attention for their weaknesses than for the areas in which they excel. By focusing on employee strengths and on how to make optimal use of those strengths, and by allowing for diversity in the way that employees execute their jobs, the performance review can be replaced by a dialogue about development that may truly stimulate the motivation for performance improvement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-281
JournalIndustrial and Organizational Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


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