Help my performance appraisal: Organizational citizenship behaviour

performance appraisal copyright Tokyo JapanTimes Creative Commons

How are your employee performance reviews conducted? What gets looked at, and what gets left out?

Many people assume that if they keep their head down, do what’s asked of them, and don’t get into trouble, then they’ll receive an excellent employee evaluation. The truth, as it always seems to be, is much more complex.

While task performance is an important for employee appraisals, research is showing that managers also look at organizational citizenship behaviour. 

helping software

Helping your co-workers has been shown to positively influence ratings on performance appraisals. Flickr/John Lobel

Organizational citizenship behaviours are important day-to-day actions that often lie outside of your job description. Steven Whiting at Georgia State University, along with Philip Podsakoff and Jason Pierce, at Indiana University Bloomington, studied how helping, voice, and loyalty behaviours impact performance appraisals in an organization.

We’ve known for decades that there was a relationship between citizenship behaviours and performance appraisals, but until this 2008 study, no one was able to prove causality. Do employees who receive good appraisals become more loyal? Or do loyal employees receive good appraisals? The evidence points strongly to the latter.

In two separate experiments, Whiting and his colleagues created distinct employee profiles, and had research participants evaluate them. The experimental manipulation was that each profile showed uniquely high or low task (getting the job done), helping (assisting your colleagues), voice (discussing the organization), and loyalty (dedication and trust towards the organization) behaviours.

They found that while task completion is indeed the most important factor for successful performance appraisals, employees who are helpful and loyal universally receive better ratings than those who aren’t.

This finding makes sense. Business success is nearly impossible without staff who can work as a team, and are dedicated to the job.

What caught the researchers a bit off guard was that voice behaviours—like making suggestions for organizational improvements—don’t always improve appraisals. For employees whose task, helping, and loyalty performances are weak, strong voice performance actually makes their appraisals worse.

While perhaps unexpected, this also makes sense. People who constantly criticize, but never contribute, are rarely seen to be helpful. But when people who work hard make suggestions, we listen to and appreciate their feedback. Whiting and his team proved that.

Since your culture can affect your bottom line, these findings are important because they show that human performance appraisals catch a larger picture that purely “objective” employee evaluations miss. An effective performance appraisal system should consider more than just sales figures. It should be flexible, and seek input from across the organization and from far back in time.

Especially for small businesses, success in the 21st century requires recruiting and retaining good people. Proper performance appraisals are a key part of that.

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Source: Whiting, S.W., Podsakoff, P.M., & Pierce, J.R. (2008). “Effects of Task Performance, Helping, Voice, and Organizational Loyalty on Performance Appraisal Ratings.” Journal of Applied Psychology 93(1). 125–139.

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