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Int. J. of Human Resource Management 16:7 July 2005 1176-1194

i) Routledge

Performance appraisal, employee development and organizational justice:

exploring the linkages

Lawrence Nurse

Abstract Much has been written about performance appraisal (PA) in such a manner as to suggest that the process is politically driven, even though one of its primary purposes is said to be the development of the individual employee. Our examination of a cross-section of workers' perceptions of this process was therefore motivated by the need to determine whether they believed that they experienced fair outcomes from PA, and whether its usage was seen to contribute toward their career advancement. Given the role unions are expected to play in shaping human resource outcomes, we hypothesized that workers in the non-union environment would experience lower levels of procedural and interactional justice than their trade-union counterparts. We also hypothesized that, since unions might be asked to walk a tightrope in contesting PA decisions affecting different persons who were union members, employers would be able to exercise much discretion in making those decisions, with the result that there would not be any appreciable difference in justice perceptions between union member and non-union member. A third hypothesis that informed the research was that workers' perceptions about the treatment received from performance appraisal were likely to influence their expectations regarding career advancement, as expressed through opportunities for training and development, pay for performance and promotions. No significant differences in perception were found among union and non-union respondents' perceptions about the vast majority of procedural elements used in this study. Contrary to our hypothesis, non-union respondents expressed less unfavourable perceptions about the interactional elements than their trade-union counterparts. The results confirmed the hypothesis that workers who believed that performers were not treated fairly as a result of performance appraisal would also agree that their expectations regarding development and advancement were not being met. We found significant, but relatively moderate relationships between perceptions about treatment of performers and their expectations about career advancement.

Keywords Organisational justice; organizational politics; due process; career development; trade unions; employment relationship.


This paper explores workers' perceptions about the contribution performance appraisal makes to organizational justice in a cross-section of organizations in Barbados. Its

Lawrence Nurse, Senior Lecturer, Department of Management Studies, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Bridgetown, Barbados (tei: +246 417 4300; fax: +246 438 9167; e-mail: lawrence.nurse@uwichill.edu.bb).

The Imemational Journal of Human Resource Management ISSN 0958-5192 print/ISSN 1466-4399 online © 2005 Taylor & Francis http://www.tandf.co.uk/joumals DOI: 10.1080/09585190500144012

Nurse: Performance appraisal, employee development and organizational justice


principal concerns are whether workers believe that the process and its outcomes are fair. The paper highlights the importance of justice as an important human resource management outcome. The point of departure is that, even as contemporary human resource strategy is being driven by a concern with cost-discipline, cost-containment and the creation of value-added through productivity-enhancing initiatives, there is an equally important need for management to ensure that organizational justice is served. In this connection, it is timely to recall that

Atttiough HRM practices are often guided by tectinicat,financiat,tegat, and strategic concerns, most emptoyees do not have ttie information or expertise to evaluate practices from these perspectives. Employees evaluate HRM practices from ttie users' perspective that is largely driven by desires for fair and equitable treatment.

(Bowen et al., t999: 3)

Performance appraisal activity can be shaped by different

also lead to justice outcomes. The organizational justice literature addresses three principal types of justice - procedural, interactional and distributive justice. The study of distributive justice deals with the perceived fairness of the outcomes or allocations that individuals in organizations receive (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998: xxii). The study of procedural justice focuses on the fairness of methods that are used in organizations to arrive at distributive justice. It addresses 'fairness issues concerning the methods, mechanisms, and processes used to determine outcomes' (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998:

26). Perceptions of procedural justice reflect an appraisal of the process by which an allocation decision is (or was) made (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998: xxii). In conceptual and practical terms, it is different from distributive justice, yet the attainment of the latter may depend on the existence of the former. Indeed, the presence or absence of justice as a feature of human resources management may influence employees' behaviour towards organizational outcomes (Folger and Greenberg, 1985; McFarlin and Sweeney, 1992; Lind, 1995).

Interactional justice refers to 'justice appraisals based on the quality of the interpersonal treatment [people] receive' (Bies and Moag, 1986, as quoted in Cropanzano and Randall, t993: 12). A concern with interactional justice therefore involves raising questions about the type of 'interpersonal sensitivity' and other aspects of social conduct that characterize social exchange between parties, including the explanation offered for certain decisions made about the individual (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998). It focuses on 'how formal agents of the organization treat those who are subject to their authority, decisions and actions' (Cobb et al., 1995). Such a distinction allows us 'to include nonprocedurally dictated aspects of interaction such as explanation content and the persuasive features of communication efforts'(Folger and Cropanzano, 1998: 29). The first part of the paper reviews the conventional wisdom about performance appraisal. This review is followed by a discussion of some of the political realities that constitute part of the context for understanding the dilemma that appraisers face. Thereafter, we outline the methods used in conducting the study, present the findings and suggest areas for future research.

orientations to justice and can

Performance appraisal: the conventional view

Conventional thought about performance appraisal (PA) has addressed it as a process intended to provide a 'rational' basis for managerial decision-making about people's

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performance. Accordingly, PA is seen as a measurement tool for evaluating individual performance, and, depending on the purpose(s) the system is ultimately intended to serve, management is then able to use its results to determine, inter alia, how effective employees are in the performance of their jobs; whether they require further training and exposure; whether they qualify for additional pay, promotion or some other related benefit and so on. Viewed in this fashion, PA then becomes an element of managerial control and has certain linkages with other human resource management practices. However, it is also commonly felt that the effectiveness of a PA system and the strength of those linkages depend, inter alia, on a number of factors. These include: the existence of relevant dimensions of job performance that are used for the purpose; the development and communication of appropriately determined performance standards and expectations; the availability of trained and knowledgeable appraisers such that appraiser bias and emotional contamination are minimized; a high level of system credibility; the use of timely, specific, accurate, understandable and non-threatening feedback; the fair application of the appraisal results and opportunities for appeal against the results if employees deem them unfair (Ivancevich, 1995; Mondy and Noe, 1996; Schermerhorn et al., 1997). If, in addition to the above, managers can effectively use 'social accounts' as justification for or explanation of PA decisions that are not in the employee's favour, then it is felt that employees will be more inclined to accept the results of performance appraisal (Cobb et al., 1995; Bowen et al., 1999; Folger and Cropanzano, 1998). The reality, however, is that, in spite of the widespread practice of performance appraisal and the extensive academic research that has been done on this subject, these systems constitute 'a human resource management paradox and their effectiveness an elusive goal' (Taylor et al., 1995). For example, in referring to performance review as 'the job nobody likes'. Rice claims that there is general dissatisfaction within organizations largely because there is no consensus about their purpose, and that 'confusion about conflicting purposes often undermines attempts at evaluation' (1996:

242). He identifies some of the flaws of the forms and procedures used that lead to unfair evaluations in performance appraisal - the use of vague qualities and irrelevant measurement criteria, superficial checklists that do not provide for individual evaluation and monologues as opposed to dialogues. Baron and Kreps (1999), too, observe that the different purposes and different constituents with a stake in PA outcomes cannot be well served by the same evaluation methods. Other obstacles stand In the way of PA effectiveness. Lawler observes that most appraisers are uncomfortable doing appraisals and that '[e]ven in the best-managed organizations, employees sometimes are treated unfairly by unreasonable or misguided supervisors' (1992: 196). Some supervisors may be reluctant to offer feedback, and, even when they do, the desired effects are not realized because the process is psychologically complex (Fedor and Parsons, 1996). Folger and Lewis (1993) regard performance appraisal as being stressful for both manager and employee, and liken reactions to the practice to the way people feel about paying taxes, notwithstanding the important links between performance appraisal and other aspects of human resources management. The extent to which those links can be strengthened in both the employee's and employer's interests may in some respects depend on how politicized the PA process becomes or is allowed to become.

Performance appraisal and organizational politics

Longnecker et al. found that 'behind a mask of objectivity and rationality, executives engage in much manipulation in an intentional and systematic manner' (1996: 183). They

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suggest that objectivity and rationality suffer because the performance appraisal process is an emotional one. Moreover, one of their principal findings is that 'the formal appraisal process is indeed a political process, and that few ratings are determined without some political consideration'. Their study also concluded that 'accuracy [was] not the primary concern of the practising executive in appraising subordinates. The main concern [was] how best to use the appraisal process to motivate and reward subordinates. Hence managerial discretion and effectiveness, not accuracy, are the real watchwords' (1996:

258, 259, emphasis added), Longnecker et al. point to one of the realities of organizational life that most traditional approaches to performance appraisal ignore, but which becomes relevant in discussions about the connection between justice and performance appraisal. That reality is that the employment relationship is managed within a political environment in organizations. Organizations are arenas in which negotiations, networking, the formation of alliances and power blocs as well as the development of political strategies are commonplace events that play an important role in determining who gets what, what gets done and within what context. If we accept that organizations as presently constituted and managed are 'political arenas', 'political tools' for use by 'whoever is able to master them' and political systems with finite resources, then we should be able to appreciate the circumstances that give rise to the practice of different forms of political behaviours (Dubrin, 1990; Bolman and Deal, 1991; Culbert and McDonough, 1989), That acceptance makes it easier to appreciate how administrative activity, including human resource practice, takes place within and is influenced by a political environment within organizations. Given the reality of organizational politics and organizational politicking, one of the myths about life in organizations is that hard work, per se leads to success, Dubrin would argue that we have been misled into thinking that 'hard work is its own reward', that if one 'keep[s] plugging away at [one's] job,,,[one]) will be noticed by the company' (1990: 3), Sometimes there is a tendency to forget that there are no universally agreed-upon standards of measurement, that 'subjective measures,,.con- tribute to politicking' (Dubrin, 1990: 4), and that hard work is situational. Pursuing this line of argument would lead to the conclusion that what matters might very well turn out to be not what one knows or how well one performs, but whom one knows. The reality might very well be that hard work is defined by the person with the most power, and the hard work equation might not be that hard work equates with success, but that hard work is equal to style plus results, both of which are defined by the boss (Kennedy, 1980), It should therefore not be a surprise that some organizational members understand the PA system as a mask for the boss's 'hidden agenda', or that individuals will play politics to counteract the effects of the system and to advance their own interests. One of the questions that follows logically from the above discussion is whether PA is or can be an effective medium for the dispensation of fair outcomes in organizations.

Performance appraisat and organizationat justice

Academics with an interest in the employment relationship and organizational behaviour have begun to address issues that are connected to the broad theme of developing fair working environments. As such, there has been a growing body of research that looks at procedural, interactional and distributive justice in organizations, Examplars of this trend include Greenberg (1987, 1988, 1993a, 1996), Alexander and Ruderman (1987), Lind

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(1995), Lind and Tyler (1988), Fryxell and Gordon (1989), Folger and Konovsky (1989), Sheppard et al., (1992), Cropanzano and Randall (1993), Gordon and Fryxell (1993), Hartley (1995), Alexander ef a/., (1995), Taylor ef a/., (1995), Cropanzano and Kackmar (1995), Beugre (1998) and Folger and Cropanzano (1998). Following the early generation of interest in distributive justice that was sparked by Homans (1961) and Adams (1965), researchers turned their attention to other dimensions of justice that were considered just as important in influencing individual behaviour in organizations. Thibaut and Walker (1975), Leventhal (1980) and Lind and Tyler (1988) set the stage for what has since become a justifiable academic concern with individuals' responses to perceptions of procedural injustice. It soon became evident from the work of Greenberg (1993b, 1993c), Bies and Moag (1986), Bies and Shapiro (1987), Bies et al., (1998) and Tyler and Bies (1990) that, in addition to the role that formal procedures played in the justice equation, it was also important to focus on the 'enactment of procedures', the social context within which they were applied, and individuals' perceptions of the type of treatment they received in applying those procedures. Scholars and practising managers who are concerned about the existence of organizational justice cannot afford to ignore the potential contribution that performance appraisal and human resources management on the whole can make to such an outcome, as well to other outcomes of interest to management (Fryxell and Gordon, 1989; Folger and Konovsky, 1989; Cobb and Frey, 1991; Moorman, 1991; McFarlin and Sweeney, 1992; Robinson, 1995; Lind, 1995; Bowen et al., 1999). Recent work by Folger et al.,{\992) and Folger and Cropanzano (1998) has widened our perspectives in thinking about performance appraisal, insofar as it employs three metaphors for understanding the relationship between performance evaluation and organizational justice - the test, political and trial metaphors. Neither the 'test', nor the 'political' metaphor, in their view, best captures the essence of performance appraisal. In the former case, performance appraisal is seen as 'a special type of psychological assessment', and performance appraisal 'is "fair" to the extent that it accurately assesses performance' (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998: 109). The use of the political metaphor is intended to expose and transcend the limitations inherent in the assumptions behind the use of the test metaphor. Accordingly, accurate evaluations and 'cold but balanced scientific activity', become hostage to the 'rough-and-tumble organizational context in which these evaluations occur' (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998: 113). The use of the political lens draws attention to the poor management of the performance appraisal process, including lack of rater training, low levels of supervisory motivation for doing a good job and manipulation of the process for personal reasons, with the result that performance appraisal is seen as a non-event, characterized by 'corrosive sloppiness' (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998). This view of the process and its results is similar to that expressed by Longnecker et al., (1996). However, Folger and Cropanzano (1998) suggest that the 'trial' metaphor offers more hope as an approach for understanding performance appraisal in ways that accept the reality of the other metaphors, transcend their limitations and facilitate a better appreciation of the interpersonal dynamics that are central to the process. In essence, the trial or 'due process' metaphor 'distinguishes between the goals of accuracy and justice in PA and highlights the importance of fairness as a legitimate PA goal' (Folger et al., 1992). Further, it assumes that accuracy does not guarantee fairness, human dignity or personal worth, outcomes that performance appraisal should deliver (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998). The due process metaphor, too, recognizes the inevitability of conflicting interests, the corresponding need for procedures appropriate to the 'management of disagreement', and the importance of trying to be fair if there is

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uncertainty about being correct (Folger et al., 1992). Folger and Cropanzano conclude that '[jjustice is a way of building the close interpersonal bonds of effective working relationships, because just treatment affirms the dignity and worth of the individual. This affirmation helps to build the kind of positive working relationships that produce successful organisations' (1998: 131). It seems almost axiomatic that the nature of praxis implied in the due process metaphor would be embraced by trade unions, given the perceived relationships between due process and trade-union practice, the role trade unions play in the management of disagreement and the emphasis they place on different rules of justice enshrined in collective agreements as compared to the arrangements that exist in and govern non- union establishments (Alexander et al., 1995). Reference is made to these rules of justice because 'their usage is likely to produce outcomes in unionised workplaces that reflect the operation of justice principles that may not even be considered in non- union workplaces' (Nurse, in preparation). When note is also taken of the fact that workers have historically joined trade unions because of their attractiveness as organizations for promoting and strengthening job security and for protecting them against unfair treatment (HoUey et al, 2001; Brett, 1980), it seems plausible that the management of performance appraisal might result in higher levels of perceived procedural and interactional justice in the unionized environment than in the non-union environment. By insisting on certain rules of justice, trade unions also ensure that certain principles apply with respect to the design of performance appraisal systems, one of which is union oversight of and agreement to the use of the performance appraisal form itself. Unions insist on this in an attempt, inter alia, to ensure that workers are not required to discharge obligations under the system that are not in keeping with their job descriptions, to shape decision-making regarding the allocation of weights for different performance dimensions and to have a say over any appeals procedure that may be contemplated by management. Management may also approach the management of the process in ways that suggest a concern for the use of fair procedures in an attempt to avoid undue union 'interference'.

The first hypothesis that this study tests is therefore as follows:

Hypothesis 1: Given the nature of trade-union activity and the role trade unions play or are expected to play in shaping the employment relationship, workers in the non-union sector will experience lower levels of procedural and interactional justice than their trade-union counterparts.

If there is any truth in the statements that PA is 'a mask for the boss' hidden agenda', that the process is highly politicized and can be easily manipulated by management, and that employees are at times treated unfairly by unreasonable or misguided supervisors, then it is easy to understand why the PA process is seen as being problematic. It is also easy to understand the academic and practical interest in the presumed links between PA and justice outcomes. Under such circumstances, the question that can be legitimately posed is: what options are available to workers in unionized environments in securing justice from the process? Trade unions can and do raise questions about some of the substantive FA decisions made by management. Contesting such decisions, however, might constitute politically dangerous behaviour, especially since such a course of action

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may pit the interests of one union member against those of another. Unions, however have an obligation to raise such matters with management when they arise, even if only for 'political' purposes. And it is under such circumstances that trade- union leaders may engage in 'social accounting' in an effort to have the complainant accept the decision made by management. Complainants may therefore benefit only from the comfort of dicta. The second hypothesis tested is that there will be no appreciable difference in justice perceptions between unionized and non-unionized respondents about the treatment of performers, given the nature of the tightrope that trade-union leaders may be forced to walk in dealing with contested PA decisions involving union members, and the corresponding 'freedom' management has in making PA decisions. It was acknowledged earlier that there are important links between performance appraisal and other aspects of human resources management. It was also implied in an earlier statement that the politicization of the PA process might serve to weaken, rather than strengthen those linkages. If the practice is politicized and does not reflect the principles of due process, then PA results will not serve to validate the effectiveness of other human resource practices, including training, career pathing and compensation strategy (Baron and Kreps, 1999). If management cannot rely on the results of performance evaluation as an indicator of how effective practice is in any of these areas, then it will hardly be able to assess the contribution human resource strategy is making to the accomplishment of business purpose. Much more to the point, if employees consistently meet and exceed performance standards and requirements but are not appropriately rewarded, through increased pay or promotion or other appropriate forms of recognition, the linkage between PA and employee career advancement is weakened. If the results of PA suggest the need for employee training, counselling, transfer or some other course of action for the improvement of behaviour and performance, but no recommendations are made to that effect or they are made but ignored for political reasons, again PA cannot be said to have any forward linkages with employee training and development in organizations where such occurrences are commonplace. Answers to questions such as those posed above can assist in an attempt to determine whether PA produces fair outcomes in organizations. If management is interested in the promotion of fair outcomes, there are certain obligations it would be expected to discharge to the individual. One such obligation would be to assist individuals with career management. Based on information generated through PA, management develops a good sense of employee training and development needs, against the background of its own strategic human resource strategies and objectives, and taking into account the structure of opportunity within the organization. The final hypothesis tested is that workers who perceive that they are not treated fairly from performance appraisal are also likely to agree that their expectations regarding training, development and promotions have not been met.

Design of the study, research and data collection methods

Our principal focus is to examine how a cross-section of workers in Barbados perceive the performance appraisal process as a mechanism for delivering justice. First, we outline the procedures used for conducting this study. Next, we present information that highlights the characteristics of the respondents in the sample. Thereafter, we analyse and discuss the results of the study and draw some implications from the findings.

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Measures and procedure

From a sample frame of 400 establishments, we randomly chose 120 organizations from the private and public sectors in Barbados. Forty of the organizations were large and eighty were small. We targeted 1000 employees for interviews - five from each of the small organizations and fifteen each from the relatively larger ones. In order to ensure gender balance among the respondents, we chose a ratio of three males to two females in the small organizations and eight males to seven females from the larger ones. We used this approach to ensure that our results would fairly reflect the views of the working population. The data were collected by the use of a semi-structured questionnaire containing seventy-nine questions, with sixteen multi-part questions. The questionnaire also included several multidimensional questions intended to generate measures of a variety of respondent attitudes toward the trade union. In particular, the instrument was designed to enable us to test respondents' perceptions about grievance management, performance appraisal and promotions practice, compensation and benefits management and the effectiveness of collective bargaining. The analysis in this paper is restricted to the workers' perceptions about performance appraisal and promotions practice. The issue of grievance management is addressed in another paper (Nurse, in preparation). The results are based on the questionnaire responses of 660 employees, a response rate of 66 per cent. Over the period April to June 2000, university students administered to the respondents a semi-structured questionnaire addressing a range of issues dealing with different aspects of organizational justice. We included a cover letter with the questionnaire stating the purpose of the research. We also indicated to the respondents that participation in the study was voluntary. Table 1 provides some basic background information about the respondents.

Characteristics of the respondents

Table 1 summarizes the background information about the respondents. Fifty-three per cent were females and 47 per cent were males; 36 per cent were members of a trade union; 56 per cent were not and 6 per cent did not reveal their trade-union status. A large proportion were graduates of the secondary school system. Note also that the number graduating with certificates was almost double those graduating without. Forty-one per cent were in the 25-35 age group and 42 per cent in the 35-55 age group. Thirty-six per cent of the respondents had been employed in their organizations for under five years, 34 per cent for over ten years and 28 per cent between five and ten years. The sectors are widely representative of the economy. The largest number of respondents were drawn from commerce (26 per cent) and the smallest number from government (10 per cent) and construction (8 per cent). In addition, there was a relatively even distribution of respondents across the other four sectors, ranging from 11.7 per cent to 15 per cent.

Factor analysis

Using varimax rotation, a principal-components factor analysis of the items' that we used to constitute the practice of performance appraisal loaded the performance appraisal items on three separate factors. There is an nine-item procedural justice factor that includes items such as 'awareness of performance standards', 'performance issues discussed freely' and 'interview used to improve performance'. There is a two-item interactional justice factor - 'supervisor knows how to appraise' and 'I have opportunity to express my views freely', as well as a three-item factor that we label 'treatment of

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Table 1 Selected background

Selected dimension







Primary only

Secondary without certificates Secondary with certificates University Other Union status In trade union Not in trade union Won't say/don't know



Under 5 years 5-10 years Over 10 years Won't say Age Under 25 years 25-35 years

Over 35 years-55 years Over 55 years Won't say





Other services





of the































































performers'. Two of the items in the last-mentioned factor are 'good performers are rewarded by management' and 'poor performers receive same rewards as good performers'. Cronbach's alpha for the procedural justice factor was .90. It was .88 and .90 for the interactional justice and treatment of performers factors respectively. The procedural justice factor explained 53 per cent of the variance, the interactional justice factor explained 8 per cent while the treatment of performers factor explained 5 per cent. Using this information, we present the results for procedural justice perceptions of our respondents first, followed by those for interactional justice and 'treatment of performers' respectively.

Procedural justice and performance appraisal

tn the background to this paper, the different forms of justice that are applied to performance appraisal were discussed. Following Cobb et al.'s approach towards the application of forms of justice to organizational development, we begin this section by

Nurse: Performance appraisal, employee development and organizational justice


exploring the particular respects in which procedural justice is relevant to the issue of appraising performance. The activities and outcomes represented by the items under procedural justice constitute some of the critical points of contact between procedural fairness concerns and performance appraisal and the intermediate results that are expected from engaging in

performance appraisal. Reference to them helps answer the questions - 'what are the mechanisms available to supervisors to ensure PA procedural justice?' and 'what are some of the practices in which they must engage effectively to create the pathways to procedural justice?' These contact points also suggest the need for certain types of ground rules and skill that supervisors are expected to bring to the process, as well as the wider obligations that management has for establishing the system itself and communicating its objectives to employees. The use of the f-test showed that significant differences in perception existed between union and non-union respondents regarding one procedural element only - the existence

of formal performance appraisal systems (p :£,05), The means were 2,66 for union

member and 3,05 for non-union member respectively, indicating that union members were more likely to say that formal performance appraisal systems existed in the

organizations where they worked. The results for the remainder of the procedural elements were not statistically

significant. The relatively high means ior get regular feedback (3,16 for union and 3,03 for non-union respectively, p > ,05) and get regular formal interviews (3,15 for union and 3,23 for non-union respectively, p > ,05) reflect respondents' uncertainty about such outcomes. Respondents tended to lean more towards uncertainty than agreement with respect to get useful feedback (2,87 for union and 2,82 for non-union respectively,

p > ,05), interview used to improve performance (2,73 for union and 2,80 for non-union

respectively, p > ,05), performance issues freely discussed (2,75 for union and 2,63 for non-union respectively) and feedback related to job performance (2,60 for union and 2,67 for non-union respectively,/? > ,05), However, the means for awareness of required performance standards (2,18 for both union and non-union respectively, p > ,05) suggest that respondents in both union and non-union environments agreed that they were aware of those standards. These results suggest general uncertainty or ambivalence among union and non-union respondents about the procedural environment as it applies to performance appraisal. If such uncertainty existed about important procedural elements that constitute integral aspects of performance appraisal, it is open to speculation whether respondents were able to determine from formal communication received how management felt about their performance. The general level of uncertainty may be an expression of the absence of formal systems in many organizations. It may also reflect poor management of the process, with managers and supervisors engaging in PA activities in an ad hoc fashion, not paying attention to important process issues. Our own experience consulting to several organizations in the private sector tends to bear this out, as a number of organizations have only recently considered the introduction of formal appraisal schemes. Teachers' unions in the public sector have for some time now been engaged in an ongoing debate with the Ministry of Education over an as-yet unimplemented decision by the latter to introduce a formal appraisal system for teachers.

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Other perceptions about performance appraisal

Several opportunities exist for interaction between supervisor and employee at different stages of the performance appraisal process. It is from these experiences that workers are able to judge the type of interpersonal treatment they receive from their supervisors, and assess the character of interpersonal relations between them. Table 2 presents information that shows how respondents feel about opportunities for promoting interactional justice, using the results of factor analysis and f-test results. Interactional justice as applied to PA would involve a consideration of the tone and tenor of the interaction between appraiser and appraised. If supervisors know how to appraise, they will ensure that certain conditions exist for the development of meaningful exchanges and a meaningful, productive, helping relationship between themselves and workers. They must know how to create a climate in which employees are willing to share their views about performance issues and to receive critical comment about those issues from supervisors. The results in Table 2 show differences in the means by union status for supervisors know how to appraise and opportunities exist to express views freely (p < .05). The means for these items for union members are 2.99 and 2.45 respectively, and 2.73 and 2.24 respectively for non-union members. The inference that we draw from these data is that, while both groups tended to doubt whether supervisors know how to appraise, union members were more inclined to that view than non-union members. Non-union members were also more inclined to say that opportunities existed for them to express their views freely during the interview. We hypothesized that, given the nature of trade-union activity and the role trade unions play or are expected to play in shaping the employment relationship, workers in the non-union sector would experience fewer opportunities for procedural and interactional justice than their trade-union counterparts. The results of our analysis in the two preceding sections disconfirm our hypothesis. Workers in both sectors experienced generally low levels of procedural justice from performance appraisal. While interactional justice perceptions, too, were generally negative, they were more so for union members than non-union members, thereby raising important questions about the role the trade union plays or can play in shaping workers' experiences with performance appraisal.

Performance appraisal and the reward for performance (treatment of performers)

In discussing the 'due process' metaphor of performance appraisal, Folger and Cropanzano (1998) argue that performance appraisal should deliver outcomes such as fairness, human dignity and personal worth. According to equity theory, employees'

Table 2


Selected dimension

general perceptions

Performance appraisal effective Perfomiance issues freely di.scussed Performance appraisals are fair Supervisors know how to appraise Have opportunity to express views freely

about PA interactional


































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satisfaction with outcomes is likely to be influenced by comparing expected outcomes with actual outcomes, as well as by making comparisons between their outcomes and those of other significant referent sources, including their colleagues within their organization (Adams, 1963). Referent cognitions theory suggests, too, that, even if distributive justice is low, there will be minimal resentment if people believe that the procedures used are fair (McFarlin and Sweeney, 1992). It seems plausible that one of the circumstances under which this 'fair process effect' can be realized is when the performance appraisal data are used fairly. A concern for relevance requires us to establish how poor performers are treated relative to the treatment of good performers. We therefore asked respondents whether they thought that good performers were rewarded by management; poor petformers were disciplined by management and poor performers received the same rewards as good performers. r-test results for the items in this 'treatment of performers' factor indicate no statistically significant differences in perceptions, by union status, of the way either good or poor performers were treated. Respondents in both union and non-union organizations were uncertain whether poor petformers received the same rewards as good performers (means 3.09 and 3.04). They were almost equally uncertain whether good petformers were rewarded by management (means 2.98 and 2.83) and whether poor performers were disciplined by management (means 2.87 and 2.85). Our results therefore suggest that union status may not have an effect on respondents' perceptions about the treatment of either poor or good performers.

Employee development and advancement

One of the criteria for determining the potential effectiveness of human resource practice is the extent to which forward and backward linkages exist between the different elements of human resource management and how they are managed. Effective and fair performance appraisals should therefore inform the development of managerial strategies for training and development. They should also influence an organization's practice governing promotions. Given these presumed relationships, organizational justice research can play an important role in determining the faimess of career development (CD) programmes and practices in organizations. Wooten and Cobb propose that 'a justice framework can be used to link CD concepts and constructs to related aspects of organizational phenomena and subsequently provide greater explanatory power and practical application' (1999: 178). While procedural and interactional justice are important concerns in attempting to understand the relevance of justice research to career development issues, this paper is restricted to a consideration of distributive justice and career development, focusing primarily on employee perceptions of the links between performance appraisal and training, development and promotions. This approach is in keeping with Wooten and Cobb's notion that 'the rewards and opportunities that come with promotions, highly desired development opportunities, select training programs, and specialized counseling

examples of how CD outcomes would be relevant to [distributive] justice' (1999:

174). Accordingly, we examine below employee perceptions about promotions practice


and promotional opportunities in their organizations.

Perceptions of promotions practice and promotional opportunities

Employees' career development and mobility depend not only on the effectiveness of performance appraisal activity and its results, but also on the policy and practice governing promotions. Some companies have open systems for managing promotions,

1188 The International Journal of Human Resource


while in others supervisors and managers identify persons whom they consider worthy of such rewards. Organizations may also use variants of this approach, depending on whether or not their employees are members of a trade union. A principal-components analysis using varimax rotation loaded six promotions practice items on two factors^ - a three-item promotions fairness factor and a two-item promotions information availability factor."* The former factor included items such as 'adequate promotional opportunities exist' and 'will be fairly considered for vacancy for which I am qualified'. The two items in the second factor were 'receive information about vacancies' and 'vacancies advertised internally'. There was good correlation between the factors and the items in the scale. Cronbach's alpha for the promotions fairness factor was .82 and .90 for the promotion information availability factor. The promotions fairness factor explained 57 per cent of the variance and the information availability factor explained approximately 18 per cent. T-test results indicate no statistically significant differences in perceptions between union and non-union respondents about the existence of adequate promotional opportunities in their organisations, expectations about being fairly considered for vacancy for which they were qualified, whether they received information about vacancies and whether vacancies were advertised internally. Union and non-union respondents were uncertain about the existence of adequate promotional opportunities (means 3.21 and 3.02 for union and non-union respectively, p > .05). Regarding their expectations about being fairly considered for vacancies (means 2.22 and 2.60 respectively, p > .05); whether they received information about vacancies (means 2.63 and 2.61 respectively, p > .05); and whether vacancies were advenised internally (means 2.58 and 2.55 respectively, p > .05), both categories of respondents tended to waver between agreement and uncertainty. However, r-test results revealed statistically significant differences in perceptions between union and non-union respondents about the fairness of promotions practice. Union members expressed higher levels of uncertainty than non-union members about this outcome (means 3.10 and 2.91 respectively, p < .05). The results in this section suggest that, for the most part, both union members and non-union respondents tended to be equally uncertain or ambivalent about the existence of promotions fairness or promotions information availability as a result of organizational practice governing performance appraisal.

Workers' perceptions of development and advancement

Respondents were asked whether their expectations were met regarding pay for performance, advancement, training and development and security. T-tcst results reported in Table 3 reveal statistically significant differences in perception between union and non-union respondents for pay for performance (means 3.30 and 3.07 for

Table 3

Mobility and advancement perceptions

by union status


met in following


Pay for performance Advancement Development Security





























Nurse: Petformance appraisal, employee development and organizational justice 1189

union and non union respectively, p > .05) and for security (means 2.97 and 2.64 for union and non union respectively, p > 05). Union members, more so than non-union members, tended to doubt whether their expectations were met in these areas. A comparison of the means for advancement and training and development respectively shows that workers from both the union and non-union sectors were not sure that their expectations were being met in these areas.

Performance appraisal, promotions practice and employee advancement: testing the relationship

We hypothesized that workers who perceived that they were not treated fairly as a result of performance appraisal were also likely to agree that their expectations regarding promotions, training and development were not met. To test this hypothesis, we applied bivariate analysis to determine the nature and strength of the relationship between the independent variables treatment of performers and promotions practice and the dependent variables of interest - expectations regarding training development, pay for performance, promotion/advancement and security respectively. We report the results below. There were significant, but relatively moderate relationships between respondents' perceptions about treatment of performers and their expectations about pay for performance {r= .43, p = .01), promotion and advancement (r = .40, p = .01) and training and development (r = .32, p = .01). The relationships between respondents' perceptions of promotions practice and their expectations regarding pay for performance (r= .47, p = .01), training and development (r = .50, p= .01) and promotion and advancement (r = .57, p = .01) respectively were also significant but of moderate strength.


The intention in this paper was to ascertain whether workers in a cross-section of organizations in Barbados perceived that performance appraisal activity resulted in fairness. A related purpose was to determine whether they felt that performance appraisal outcomes helped them realize their expectations regarding development and advancement. Union membership was used as the primary basis for establishing differences in perceptions. Our results suggest that respondents expressed much uncertainty about a majority of the performance appraisal items measured in this study. The results do not paint a favourable picture of this practice. Notwithstanding the generally high reported level of awareness of the standards respondents were expected to meet, formal performance appraisal systems, according to their responses, did not exist in many organizations. It is therefore plausible to argue that, where established guidelines governing performance appraisal did not exist, supervisors were not necessarily bound to engage in the process in ways that reflect genuine concerns about procedural and interactional justice or due process. It seems legitimate to speculate about a number of factors that shaped the outcomes identified by respondents, especially in those organizations that did not have formal systems. Here reference is made to some of the factors identified by Folger and Cropanzano (1998) that could account for some of the negative perceptions held by respondents - 'poor management of the process', 'low levels of supervisory motivation' and poor supervisory preparation for engaging in the process. If supervisors are not well trained and they do not possess high levels of interpersonal competence, then they will

1190 The International Journal of Human Resource


not be able effectively to manage the procedural environment or shape the type of interaction between themselves and appraisees that makes the latter feel respected or well treated, based on the way supervisors engage in the process. If there is no formal system in many of the sampled organizations, appraisal outcomes may also benefit those who do not deserve the benefit and disadvantage others who may be entitled to it. Such ad hoc allocation of rewards creates a sense of perceived injustice. It also affects individuals' development and advancement opportunities. The research was guided by the argument that workers in non-union organizations will experience fewer opportunities for procedural and interactional justice than their counterparts in the unionised environment, but that they will both share similar perceptions about the treatment of performers. This argument is based on the presumption that the trade-union concern about due process will serve to shape some of the procedures in use in the unionized environment. Accordingly, management will be forced to pay more careful attention to the process than it does in the non-union environment. The results do not support the above argument. Our results did not reveal any significant differences in perception among union and non-union respondents about the vast majority of procedural elements used in this study. Moreover, and contrary to our hypothesis, non-union respondents expressed more favourable perceptions about the interactional elements than their trade-union counterparts, even though their responses were not favourable in each case, but less unfavourable than that of union members. It can be inferred from the results that, while non-union respondents, like their trade- union counterparts, might not receive regular or useful feedback through regular formal interviews, they might have benefited from more effective informal interaction with their supervisors on the occasions that it occurred. It is also possible that management practices in their organizations reflect more paternalism than in those with trade-union membership, perhaps in an attempt to keep their organizations non-union. In light of the above, how can the finding about the treatment of performers be explained? Speculation about this outcome is difficult. If formal systems are not widespread, it is possible that respondents do not have a fair or rational basis on which to base their perceptions, since they would not be aware of the yardsticks used by management. The informality that presumably characterizes most of the systems in use may also be a factor worth considering here. The argument does not assume that workers are unaware of the contributions made by their colleagues. The concern is that they do not have an objective meter by which to assess that contribution. Supervisors may dispense justice based on favouritism, bias or other criteria that have nothing to do with individual performance. In any event, the generally negative perceptions about the treatment of performers might be partially explained in reference to what respondents perceive as limited promotional opportunities in their organizations. Such a conclusion may, however, be open to question if we interpret rewards for good performance to include more than promotion. The results confirmed the hypothesis that workers who believed that performers were not treated fairly as a result of performance appraisal would also agree that their expectations regarding development and advancement were not being met. Training and development, promotions and salary progression are some of the visible steps towards and means of individual advancement in an organization. Apart from the perception that promotional opportunities were inadequate, one wonders whether employers assisted the respondents with the management of their careers, thereby better enabling them to envisage their future in the organization.

Nurse: Performance




and organizational



Direction of future research

The writer is not aware of any study that has been undenaken on this subject in Barbados. Virgin territory therefore awaits the researcher with an interest in this phenomenon. Research on the way supervisors perceive performance appraisal, how they understand their role and engage in the process and the nature of the training they receive as raters would fill some of the gaps in our knowledge about this phenomenon. It would also be useful to determine what rules exist in both union and non-union environments for the promotion of due process in performance appraisal. In a related connection, this line of research should, following Longnecker et al, (1996), also focus on the extent of intentional and systematic manipulation that characterizes performance appraisal, and the roles played by politics, objectivity and rationality. Given the speculative comment that we made earlier about the structure of rewards available to management for influencing or rewarding performance in organizations in Barbados, research is required that sheds light on the structure and practice of rewards management. Hardly any published work exists about compensation practice in the country. It would also be useful, following McFarlin and Sweeney (1992), to undenake research to determine the mitigating effect of fair procedures if workers believe that low levels of distributive justice resulted from performance appraisal. The results of this research also suggest the need to study contemporary career development (CD) practice, and its links to the different forms of justice explored in this paper. Some of the issues for examination would include 'the allocation of CD resources, the policies and procedures used to decide who receive them and the interaction between those who provide them and those who not only receive CD rewards but also experience its losses' (Wooten and Cobb, 1999: 173). This line of research would serve to enrich our understanding about the programme, process and people focus of career development initiatives in organizations in Barbados.


I am grateful assistance.

to Joseann Small and Grace-Ann Jackman for their generous research


1 We threw out five of the items that did not seem to be captured by or fit the definitions of procedural, interactional or distributive justice. Information regarding the items used in the factor analysis may be obtained through correspondence with the author.

2 We discarded the item 'can apply for vacancy at higher level' since it did not appear to load clearly on either factor. Information regarding the items used in the factor analysis may be obtained through correspondence with the author.

3 This label is used since the items reflect more a measure of the extent to which information is made available than a measure of justice.






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