Memory and Performance Evaluations at Work

Module from SIOP
Process by which employees are given
feedback on job performance
Often annual or semi-annual
The question: How is a boss supposed to
remember what each employee did or didn’t
Performance appraisal can be viewed as a classic
example of how we cognitively process and
remember things
The boss (or other rater)…
…observes relevant behaviors
…encodes information about performance
…stores encoded information in memory
…retrieves information needed for the
…integrates retrieved information with other
available info (e.g., documentation)
…assigns an evaluation to the person being
Many raters use heuristics to create “cognitive
shortcuts” to help make ratings
The problem: Heuristics are based off
general impressions or information and lack
Halo error!
Training (e.g., Frame-of-Reference)
Diary/log keeping
Make performance appraisal a process, not an
Structure the performance appraisal ratings
so that specific information has to be recalled
◦ One tool: Behaviorally-anchored rating scales
Maintains A Good Work Relationship
Discusses work-related issues with supervisor and other work group
members using knowledge gained from work experience to improve
work unit efficiency or quality, or to solve work-related problems.
Typical High Behavior
Exercises tact in bringing up problems when group members are affected.
Takes initiative to see that suggestions get carried out. Uses all available
evidence to convince people that he/she has a better way to do things.
Typical Average Behavior
Develops new work procedures, but doesn’t share them. Takes initiative only
if it is beneficial to himself/herself. Sometimes fails to address problem
directly, but makes some effort to communicate problems and solutions.
Typical Low Behavior
Disrupts meetings by changing topics or by horseplay. Doesn’t ask questions
even if unsure of procedures. Upsets people instead of trying to help.
Complains about work but doesn’t do anything to change it. Leaves area in a
mess so that accidents are more likely to happen.
If you’re receiving a performance evaluation…
◦ Come prepared
 Keep track of what you do
 If you have a “Development Plan,” bring it
 Any specific information you can provide makes the
rater’s job easier
◦ Don’t panic!
 The most common use for performance appraisals is
feedback; accurate feedback can only help you get
better at your job
Balzer, W. K., & Sulsky, L. M. (1992). Halo and
performance appraisal research. Journal of Applied
Psychology, 77, 975-985.
DeNisi, A. S., Cafferty, T. P., & Meglino, B. M. (1984). A
cognitive view of the performance appraisal process:
A model and research propositions. Organizational
Behavior and Human Performance, 33, 360-396.
Uggerslev, K. L., & Sulsky, L. M. (2008). Using frameof-reference training to understand the implications
of rater idiosyncrasy for rating accuracy. Journal of
Applied Psychology, 93, 711-719.

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