· 2 min read · News

Performance appraisals benefit self-promoting employees


Performance appraisals favour self-promoting employees and unfairly underrate modest workers, according to Brian Kropp, HR practice leader at practice insight and technology company CEB.

“Based on the research that we have done, we find that this problem is actually rather significant,” Kropp told HR magazine, referring to a recent CEB report on performance appraisals. “In today’s more collaborative, fast-paced, and interconnected world two-thirds of employees that get the highest performance score are not the highest performers in the average company. 

“We also find that only one-third of the highest performers in the company actually get the highest performance score.”

Kropp suggests this could be the result of the average manager having close to 50% more direct reports now than they did in 2008, which can lead to spending less time with their employees and being less likely to know how their team gets work done. In addition, the average employee changes manager about once every year.

“While the manager-employee relationship looks fundamentally different, how work gets done also looks different,” explained Kropp. “It is more collaborative, more knowledge-based, and matrixed. These factors make it harder to determine who the high performers in the company actually are.

“What ends up happening is that managers don’t have the ability to actually determine who their best employees are, so they tend to give the employees that self-promote higher scores. 

“If an employee spends more time telling their manager that they are great, and the manager doesn’t have any insight into if they are right or not, they are more likely to give them a higher score,” Kropp said.

The CEB report coincides with research by The Korn Ferry Institute, which investigated leadership ‘blind spots’, defined as skills that the professional counted among his or her strengths but co-workers cited as one of the professional’s weaknesses.

The researchers found that poorly performing companies’ professionals had 20% more blind spots than those working at strongly performing companies. In addition, poorly performing companies’ professionals were 79% more likely to have low overall self-awareness than those at firms with robust share price growth.

Steve Newhall, managing partner of Korn Ferry Leadership and Talent Consulting, UK, said: “Professionals with self-awareness make better choices for their own career and for their companies. On the other hand, those with low self-awareness tend to interpret constructive criticism as a threat rather than an opportunity to improve, often exhibiting an ‘I am what I am’ mentality and continuing to do things the way they always have.”

Newhall said that a person’s level of self-awareness can be improved through 360-degree performance appraisals paired with effective coaching. “We have always known that feedback was important for personal improvement, but this study shows that it also benefits the organisation’s performance,” he added.