Rating Errors in Human Resource Performance Management System


B-Tech. MBA.(PhD-Pursuing)
Instructor-College of Business & Economics
United Arab Emirates University

The objective and subjective measurement of workers performance is the bedrock of any progressive and futuristic corporate human resource policy. Performance management and measurement is the foundation on which companies recruit, select, deploy and progressively develop their human capital to attain their strategic objectives and define their competitive advantages. Though the workers performance measurement part has received adequate attention and prolific literature is available to elucidate and detail numerous measurement systems being employed by the human resource professionals the world over.

The rating error part has not attracted comprehensive attention, this trend can genuinely be compared to the example that a person who does not know driving is given the best of car, will necessarily make mistake while driving. So the managers while implementing the performance measurement tools, knowingly and unknowingly fall into the trap of committing rating errors in performance measurement. This is largely due to non-sensitization and absence of rating errors training to the managers and to a lesser extent due to the large volume and complex nature of manager's job. Moreover in today's world of increased globalization and tremendous corporate competitive pressure many a times the manager tends to undertake the performance measurement job in a routine manner without giving it a diligent thought and seriousness.

The purpose of this write-up is to take the attention of the stakeholders, the managers in general and human resource managers in particular towards the diabolic effect of  human errors in performance measurement which can negatively impact the workers motivation and career progression and also damage the human resource policy of the company inviting bad reputation for the company. These rating errors can never be eliminated completely but to a large extent they can be prevented. The reason for their non-elimination flows from the fact that they are largely shaped by the manager's attitude which is a reflection and function of manger's personality traits like nature, nurture, stereotypes, beliefs, tradition, culture and past experiences etc. Nevertheless by sensitization training to managers about the fallout of the following errors happening in the rating the companies can take some extent of guard against such errors happening. The Manager should be very over cautious while awarding ratings because they are dealing with Humans, who are very sensitive and have strong perception. There are immense benefit to both employers and employees, if a rating error free performance management system is implemented.

Benefits for the corporates:

1. Positive word of mouth about the company's policy spreads quite rapidly in the society leading to a situation where the Company is able to attract and choose the best available Human resource talent from the job market.
2. It leads to more accurate idea and skill mapping of workers capability and potential existing inside the company.
3. It helps to maintain comprehensive and actual database of talent competency and associated shortfall related to workers skill and performance.
4. It fosters qualitative upsurge in the workers satisfaction and loyalty towards the company.
5. It builds and institutionalizes an organizational norm, custom and tradition based on fair play and worker friendly HR management style.
6. It helps a company in proficient use and exploitation of competent workers to suitable positions.

Benefits for the workers:

1. The workers are positively motivated to perform well and get both intrinsic as well as extrinsic career reward, because they have the assurance that ratings are free from favoritism, biases and error.
2. Based on accurate performance measurement rating and subsequent comments the workers have a fair chance to develop her or him to full potential.
3. The manager is able to have a correct conclusion of the merits and demerits related to a workers performance.
4. All the workers have equal chance of career progress and career promotions.

Errors committed knowingly or deliberately

Preferential treatment error / Nepotism error:
This type of error is a deliberate error committed by the manager in the award of performance management rating. The manager indulges into this type of error when he illegally wants to provide career benefit to some of the workers who are either related to him or are liked by him. This error can have a very drastic effect on the work group morale.

Compassion effect error: When a manager awards excellent ratings to all the workers working under him then this type of error is noticed. This is a type of intentional error and the manager does it to meet some of his hidden motives. The primary motive is the desire to gain the support of all the workers working under him. Sometimes managers are also generous with rating because they want to make positive impression on their superiors and make themselves look capable in the eyes of the senior management.

Harshness effect error: This is an error committed by managers knowingly to suit some of their operational purposes. Strictness error takes place when manager awards below average performance ratings to all the subordinates working under him. Managers deliberately pull down the ratings of workers to attain personal or organizational objectives. Often strictness error is also committed by manager to settle some personal ego clashes with subordinates. The other probable reasons for this type of error are, firstly to give a loud and clear message to a below average worker to improve himself through training or risk losing his job and secondly to give a warning notice to the workers to improve their performance.

Midpoint inclination effect error: This is again a deliberate error committed to by the manager to play safe. The situation when the manager avoids awarding extreme performance ratings and  mostly awards average rating / midpoint rating to all the workers on performance is called midpoint inclination error. The managers generally commit this type of errors when any extreme performance rating assessment is cross questioned and looked into more detail by the company management.

Errors committed unknowingly or Non deliberately

Wrong meaning Understood effect error:
This type of error manifest itself when there are large numbers of employees and more than one manager is doing the performance management. If the managers do not have similar perception of the performance criteria's then they tend to interpret the same parameter with different meaning. For example if a worker takes initiative and comes out with positive suggestions related to execution of work assignment, this may be understood as a sign of good behavior by one manager but may be the other  manager can take it as a sign of disobedience and insubordination.

Resembling to me effect error: Managers being human often fall into the trap of being positively disposed and inclined to workers who have resemblance to them in attitudes, look, temperament,  performance, personality, race and gender. Most of the times managers end up awarding higher performance rating to such workers.

Overflow effect error: Overflow error is bound to happen when a manager has a pre-conceived mindset that a worker who was an excellent performer in the preceding assessment evaluation period must have performed excellently again. In doing so the manager is trying to negate and cancel out the various external factors, like training and development, progressive learning etc. which have substantial influence on the workers performance improvements.

Typecast effect error: Typecast means to categorize a certain group of workers based upon gender, race, ethnicity, culture or group. This type of error happens when Manager allows his own preconceived belief about these aspects takes precedence over other documentary evidence and his own rational judgment.

Faulty perception by manager about a workers performance: Sometimes the managers are over burdened with most critical aspect of the business and then in that situation they tend to neglect the performance measurement of the worker. To economize on their available time they make judgment about a workers performance either on information collected during the beginning of the review period or on the information collected during the end of the review period. In both the situations they end up making an erroneous judgment about a workers performance. The performance measurement rating should ideally take into account the performance of the whole review period. 

Horn effect error: This type of error comes into play when manager while awarding rating to a worker give overwhelming importance to one negative incident and factor rather than taking the complete picture of a workers performance into account. Manager outweighs one negative incident / information rather than the comprehensive performance related to a workers performance, while awarding performance rating and assessment.

Initial idea effect error: According to a research it is found that in majority of cases the managers construct and make a favorable or unfavorable impression about a worker in the first meeting and then they tend to mostly ignore subsequent information that does not support the initial impression.

Compare effect error: This type of error is visible when the managers start to compare the performance of two workers while awarding rating even though absolute performance measurement parameters are in place. The effect is much more compounded when manager is rating a below average performance group of workers in such a situation even an average worker gets excellent ratings.

Halo effect error: In some cases managers tends to overemphasize one aspect of a worker performance and neglect all other aspect. This increased focus on one parameter gets reflected in overall performance rating and leads to artificially magnifying the ratings known as Halo effect. For example let's take the case of a worker who is very good in oral and written communication and generally takes care of the managers written communications and mail, but he is a very inefficient and lousy worker. But this worker may be given an excellent performance rating because manager is extremely happy with one aspect of his performance.

The Human resource department must take lead and demonstrate to the line managers about the merits and demerits of committing intentional or unintentional errors. There is a pressing need to build the scope of positive and negative reinforcements attached with the expected behavior pattern from the manager while rating workers performance.


Wikipedia.org/wiki/performance appraisal
www.managementstudyguide.com/performanceappraisal biases
www.hronline.com/tryit/appraisal tips

B-Tech. MBA.(PhD-Pursuing)
Instructor-College of Business & Economics
United Arab Emirates University

Source: E-mail August 28, 2012


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