Human Resource Management Review 18 (2008) 146–163
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Human Resource Management Review j o u r n a l h o m e p a g e : w w w. e l s ev i e r. c o m / l o c a t e / h u m r e s
The performance evaluation context: Social, emotional, cognitive, political, and relationship components Gerald R. Ferris a,⁎, Timothy P. Munyon a, Kevin Basik a, M. Ronald Buckley b a b
Department of Management, College of Business, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1110, USA University of Oklahoma, OK, USA
a r t i c l e
i n f o
Keywords: Performance evaluation Social context Accountability Emotions Work relationships
a b s t r a c t There is perhaps no more central human resources practice than performance evaluation. Scholars have engaged in active research in this area for decades, initially focusing almost exclusively on instrumentation, and, only within the past 25 years or so, considering ‘process issues.’ In this paper, we suggest that performance evaluation is a formal accountability mechanism nested within a complex social, emotional, cognitive, political, and relationship context, which needs careful consideration and comprehension in order to fully sort out performance evaluation challenges and leverage possibilities. Performance evaluation research is critically reviewed, emphasizing this accountability mechanism against the backdrop of the social, emotional, cognitive, political, and relationship contextual components. The status of prior theory development in this area also is considered, and we propose a framework for this area of scientiﬁc inquiry, which is grounded in Affective Events Theory and Emotion Cycle Theory. Implications of this conceptualization for future theory and research regarding the social, emotional, cognitive, political, and relationship context of performance evaluation are discussed. © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction Performance evaluation is one of the most central human resources practices in organizations due to its critical linkages with selection, compensation, training, and other employment practices. Efforts to understand performance ratings have tended to focus on either instrumentation issues, the improvement of rating scales, or on process issues, which embed the evaluation process within the interactions that occur between supervisors and subordinates. Unfortunately, although some efforts have attempted to frame the relevant aspects and features of the context within which performance evaluation takes place (e.g., Levy & Williams, 2004), such efforts have not fully captured the extensiveness of the social, emotional, cognitive, political, and relationship components within the contextual domain. As such, it is important to highlight these feature that operate on, and that require accounting in, the development of a truly informed understanding of this important human resources practice. In addition, previous conceptualizations of performance evaluation have lacked a consistent theoretical foundation on which to ground research. Organizational decisions, actions, and behavior (e.g., performance evaluation) can be completely understood only in situ, or as played out against the contextual backdrop of the day-to-day interactions occurring in work contexts that frame such behavior. Therefore, work contexts, created by social, emotional, cognitive, political, and relationship features or components, can be construed as forming the organizational canvas upon which behavioral brushstrokes take form, are shaped, and interpreted. Therefore, the purpose of the present paper is to propose an integrative social, emotional, cognitive, political, and relationship ⁎ Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 850 644 3548; fax: +1 850 644 7843. E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (G.R. Ferris). 1053-4822/$ – see front matter © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.hrmr.2008.07.006
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contextual backdrop in order to frame and better comprehend the theoretical process dynamics and outcomes of performance evaluation. This paper is structured as follows: First, we brieﬂy review the context of performance evaluation. Next, we introduce accountability theory as a complement to the existing performance evaluation literature. We then consider contextual factors in the performance evaluation process. Our emphasis here is on context that inﬂuences both the antecedents and process of performance evaluation. Finally, we incorporate Affective Events Theory (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996) and Emotion Cycle Theory (Hareli & Rafaeli, in press) to describe outcomes of the performance evaluation process. 1.2. Importance of context in performance evaluation Context is very important in the organizational sciences because it helps frame phenomena in ways that inﬂuence our perceptions and interpretations of them, which in turn, affect decisions and actions (e.g., Johns, 2006). Supervisor–subordinate dyadic interactions and evaluations take place within a work relationship, and this relationship reﬂects social, emotional, political, and cognitive processes that help explain the decision outcomes. Furthermore, it is important to recognize that organizational contexts are changing as ﬁrms embrace the importance of organization redesign and restructuring, with concomitant changes in the very nature of how work is designed and organized (e.g., Bridges, 1994; Cascio, 1995; McLean Parks, Kidder, & Gallagher, 1998). The changing dynamics of organizational contexts include the breaking down of traditional and rigid job boundaries, and the ﬁxed, static sets of duties and responsibilities that we have referred to as “jobs,” and the move toward more ﬂuid, constantly changing sets of work roles (Bridges, 1994; Cascio, 1995). This notion, along with an update to the mechanistic model that acknowledges the importance of social inputs, interactions, and competencies (Stewart & Carson, 1997), suggests that social dimensions of work are becoming increasingly critical to the very deﬁnition and interpretation of job performance. Additionally, it is important to appropriately characterize performance evaluation for what it is: a formal accountability mechanism in organizations that holds employees answerable for their work-related behavior (e.g., Ferris & Treadway, 2008; Ferris, Mitchell, Canavan, Frink, & Hopper, 1995). As such, like other mechanisms of accountability, it is subject to lapses and ineffectiveness, particularly when all of the various inﬂuences that operate on such mechanisms are not fully considered and investigated. In this paper, we propose that performance evaluation systems, as accountability mechanisms, are embedded within complex social, emotional, cognitive, political, and relationship contexts, which need to be understood in order to adequately interpret the results or outcomes derived from such systems. 2. Accountability and performance evaluation Accountability has been referred to as “the adhesive that binds social systems together” (Frink & Klimoski, 1998, p. 3), and it provides a mechanism through which societies and organizations can direct and control the conduct of their members (Beu & Buckley, 2001). The expectation of not only being held answerable for one's actions, but also receiving consequences as a result, has obvious implications regarding behavioral motivation, and in a larger sense, social order (Tetlock, 1985). Frink and Ferris (1998) suggested that evaluation is a major component of accountability. As such, the performance evaluation process provides a unique context for investigating accountability-based phenomena in organizations. Indeed, performance evaluation systems are formal mechanisms of accountability in organizations, and are construed as such for purposes of this paper (see also, Ferris & Treadway, 2008; Ferris et al., 1995). 2.1. Accountability theory and application The relationships present in an accountability context require fundamental assumptions about motives for the parties involved. Early theories of accountability were focused at the ﬁrm-level and based heavily on the positivist branch of agency theory (Jensen & Meckling, 1976). This theory argued that the goals and interests of owners are at odds with the interests of employees, who will act in their own self-interest if not monitored or closely managed (Eisenhardt, 1989). As a result, some form of corporate governance mechanism is needed in order to protect owner interests. Although useful for explaining the development of formal control mechanisms, Tetlock (1985) argued that agency theory and other foundational models of accountability (e.g., the pyramid model and the triangle model of responsibility; Schlenker, Britt, Pennington, Murphy, & Doherty, 1994) ignored the social context in which individuals make decisions. Tetlock's (1985) social contingency model presented the “person-as-intuitive-politician” metaphor, which suggested that individuals in organizations seek to protect their social image and are inherently motivated to seek approval from key constituencies who will be evaluating them. This metaphor also supports the assertions of other researchers that organizations are “political arenas” (Mintzberg, 1983; Ferris & Judge, 1991), and helps frame our understanding of performance evaluation as an accountability context. One of the most universal mechanisms by which an organization holds individuals accountable for their behavior is performance evaluation. Evaluation has been demonstrated to increase performance and effectiveness (Ferris et al., 1995), and represents a critical point at which objective job factors interact with the subjective and social elements of the organization. In the traditional sense, performance evaluation provides supervisor/raters with an opportunity to evaluate subordinate/ratees by comparing their behaviors to established goals or standards. One interesting, but complicating, feature of this phenomenon is the notion that, just as the performance evaluation system is a formal mechanism by which supervisors/raters can hold subordinates/
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ratees accountable, so too can supervisors/raters be held accountable by the organization for the quality of their ratings. For example, Klimoski and Inks (1990) and Mero, Guidice, and Brownlee (2007) demonstrated that differing levels of accountability can inﬂuence supervisors/raters' performance ratings of subordinates, and the accuracy of those ratings. Frink and Klimoski (2004) described the elements of the accountability process that may offer useful insight into the performance evaluation process: (1) employees being held accountable; (2) evaluative others; (3) standards or expectations against which employees' behavior is compared; (4) the belief by employees that their performance will be evaluated; and (5) the expectation by employees of some outcome based on their performance relative to the standard. 2.2. Employees held accountable One fundamental consideration in the accountability literature is that individual differences may explain different interpretations of, and reactions to, the same accountability system. To paraphrase Lewin (1936), individuals respond to their perceptions of accountability, not the formal system of accountability per se. The ﬁlter through which the participant experiences the system obviously inﬂuences the effectiveness of that system. As mentioned earlier, typically two levels of accountability exist in the performance evaluation context: supervisors/raters doing the rating of performance, and subordinates/ratees being rated. Also, subordinates/ratees bring unique personality characteristics and motives, as well as skills, knowledge, and abilities into the rating relationship. Each of these factors is likely to inﬂuence the subordinate's performance, as well as the formal and informal accountability system they perceive. However, the accountability of supervisors/raters should not be forgotten in this context. Decisions and ratings by supervisors/ raters represent actions that may warrant justiﬁcation. For example, Klimoski and Inks (1990) found that accountability inﬂuenced performance appraisal rating accuracy. As such, the biases, skills, abilities, and personality traits of supervisors/raters may inﬂuence the degree to which they are perceived as successful relative to some rating standards. 2.3. Evaluative others Frink et al. (2008) stated, “In many cases, accountability episodes include multiple audiences, and these often with conﬂicting interests” (p. 28). This represents a “web of accountabilities” (Frink & Klimoski, 1998) into which employees often are placed. In the performance evaluation context, supervisors typically represent the most salient audience. However, other rating sources often are considered in more contemporary appraisal systems. Self-appraisal may be included as a formal source for input, although very seldom is that the only source. Schlenker and Weigold (1992) identiﬁed the “self as audience” concept as well, albeit in a more informal capacity. In either situation, the self-evaluation serves as a referent point against which the other formal sources of evaluation are compared. The notion of multiple, simultaneous sources of accountability highlights the potential for role ambiguity or role conﬂict (Katz & Kahn, 1978), and unfavorable outcomes such as increased stress and decision-evasion tactics (Green, Visser, & Tetlock, 2000). Whether the evaluative audience is a single source or involves multiple sources, the evaluated individuals must address the potential conﬂicting expectations for performance. In support of Tetlock's (1985) aforementioned “person-as-intuitive politician” metaphor, the ratee will often attempt to protect their social image by acting in ways that garner the approval of key constituencies. Speciﬁcally, when forced to prioritize the audience to which they will attend, employee/ratees often will conform to the audience with whom they have the strongest relationship (Frink & Klimoski, 1998), or represents the most salient outcome source. In a traditional performance evaluation scenario, the target audience for subordinates/ratees is the immediate supervisors/ raters, assuming the rater is perceived as legitimate and salient with regard to desired outcomes. Depending on the accountability structure in place, supervisors/raters, on the other hand, may be accountable for their ratings decisions to their supervisors, the subordinates/ratees, or both. Mero, Guidice, and Anna (2006) reported that supervisors/raters adjust their ratings depending on the characteristics of the audience to whom they are accountable (i.e., high, mixed, or low status), and the form of accountability used (i.e., face-to-face justiﬁcation of ratings or written justiﬁcation). They demonstrated that, in conditions where justiﬁcation for ratings would be given to high or mixed status audiences, supervisor/rater accuracy was higher than if justiﬁcation was given to subordinates/ratees (i.e., in which case, ratings tended to be inﬂated). Similarly, if the justiﬁcation was to be given face-to-face to high status or mixed audiences, ratings were more accurate than if justiﬁcation was written. 2.4. Standards or expectations against which employees are compared Understanding the performance expectations is a fundamental element of any employment relationship. Lerner and Tetlock (1999) identiﬁed several methods by which evaluated individuals respond to evaluative audience expectations. Although framed around decision justiﬁcation, they argued that individuals conform their attitudes, decisions, or behavior to align with target evaluative audiences if their opinions are known in advance, or can be guessed. The reduced cognitive complexity associated with this process reﬂects an effort to please a valued audience. This mindless conformity to audience preference, as well as decreased accuracy of objective performance evaluations by supervising raters, represent two of what Frink and Klimoski (1998) describe as “dark side” outcomes of increased accountability (Frink & Klimoski, 1998). One key criterion for a performance evaluation system is the speciﬁcity of the process or outcome for which employees are responsible (Ferris & Treadway, 2008). Over the years, organizational scholars have offered a number of dimensions by which job performance may be deﬁned in an attempt to more clearly specify the performance expectations. For example, Borman and
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Motowidlo (1993) proposed the task and contextual performance as two distinct dimensions of overall job performance (we discuss task and contextual performance in greater detail in the next section). From the subordinate/ratee perspective, a clear understanding of the nature of the evaluated job is critical. Obviously, the less objective the measure of that performance, the more likely supervisors/raters and subordinates/ratees will differ regarding standards and actual performance. 2.5. Employees' beliefs their performance will be evaluated A critical motivating element of any accountability system is the awareness that individuals will be evaluated based on their performance. Most research on the effects of accountability has used notiﬁcation of an imminent requirement to justify behaviors or decisions as the manipulation resulting in outcomes of interest. Tetlock (1985) emphasized the importance of the timing of accountability notiﬁcation, stating, “Pre-exposure accountability can affect the actual processing of the evidence; post-evidence accountability can affect only the recall and analysis of already processed evidence” (p. 230). Advanced knowledge of an accountability requirement has been related to improvements in a number of judgment and decision-making outcomes (Frink & Klimoski, 1998). For example, Mero and Motowidlo (1995) found that participants who knew their evaluations of videotaped candidates would need to be justiﬁed were more engaged in tasks, were more attentive, and took more notes than those who did not believe they were accountable. 2.6. Expectation of an outcome The consequences associated with performance evaluation are absolutely critical elements because of their effects on behavior, and must be emphasized in any effective system. Beets and Killough (1990) went so far as to state, “standards without enforcement are window dressing” (p. 116). The awareness and salience of an expected outcome can inﬂuence behavior of supervisors/raters and subordinates/ratees alike, with the outcome serving as a reinforcing or punishing force. If an evaluation process is known to have little impact on pay, promotion, or any other salient outcome, for example, it may do little to inﬂuence behavior of supervisors/raters or the subordinates/ratees. One of the contextual elements through which the accountability system can be described relates to what Hall, Bowen, Ferris, Royle, and Fitzgibbons (2007) describe as “accountability focus.” This dimension of the organizational environment reﬂects the degree to which individuals will be accountable for the outcome of their behaviors and decisions, or the process by which they achieved those results. The literature has demonstrated that outcome-accountability focus has been associated with lower decision quality (Adelberg & Batson, 1978), unfavorable escalation of commitment in poor decisions (Simonson & Staw, 1992), and less truthful behavior (Adelberg & Batson, 1978). Longenecker, Sims, and Gioia (1987) offered a particularly salient example of how outcome-accountability focus in organizations can drive rater behaviors in unintended directions. In this qualitative study, the authors illustrated how the goals of the evaluation process (e.g., accuracy) often are not aligned with the goals of the users of the system, who is more focused on outcomes for which the manager/rater will be held accountable. For example, many managers shared how willing they were to sacriﬁce the accuracy of performance ratings for the promise of a more valuable outcome (i.e., low conﬂict in the work group, strategically positioning someone for promotion or removal, “sending a message” with a low/high rating, giving the impression that all employees in the workgroup are outstanding performers, etc.). In such cases, supervisors/raters may be providing unexpected outcomes to subordinates/ratees in an effort to accomplish outcomes for which they ultimately will be held responsible by their own supervisors or peers. The issues highlighted above reinforce the notion that performance evaluation is, in fact, an accountability mechanism, operating within a complex context. In the remaining sections of this paper, we sort out and review in detail the social, emotional, cognitive, political, and relationship components of this complex context, and discuss their implications for developing a more informed understanding of the performance evaluation process as a formal mechanism of accountability in organizations. 3. Characterization of job performance construct Although the very nature of job performance has drawn the attention of organizational scientists for quite some time, sound theoretical work differentiating the performance construct was lacking until Campbell (1990). He proposed a conceptualization of job performance that included dimensions focusing on the execution of substantive tasks, as well as elements focusing on motivational and interpersonal features. This delineation separated formally prescribed aspects of job performance from those elements that, albeit valued by the organization, are neither explicitly designated nor required. Subsequently, Murphy and Cleveland (1995) suggested that two dimensions or categories of job performance can be distinguished across most all jobs: (1) the explicitly prescribed tasks and duties typically provided in job descriptions (i.e., task performance); and (2) those aspects of performance dictated by the social context of the job and work environment. Therefore, they argued that one prominent feature of social contextual performance is social effectiveness (i.e., the effectiveness with which individuals develop and maintain good interpersonal relations with others in their work environment). This job performance differentiation between formally prescribed duties of a job, and the non-required aspects suggested by the social context received more extensive theoretical grounding with the research by Borman & Motowidlo (1993, 1997a,b). They more formally and substantially established the two categories as ‘task performance’ (i.e., the set of core duties and tasks that are central to a particular job), and ‘contextual performance’ (i.e., behaviors not formally prescribed by any particular job but instead
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informal aspects of all jobs). Borman and Motowidlo (1993) originally conceived of contextual performance to include such behaviors as cooperating, helping, volunteering, following rules, and so forth, which appear quite similar to what to organizational citizenship behaviors. 4. Performance evaluation theory and research A major point of departure occurred in the early 1980s (e.g., Landy & Farr, 1980; Mitchell, 1983, Wexley & Klimoski, 1984), suggesting that performance evaluation is not simply an instrumentation issue, driven by an historically psychometric orientation, but also a “complex process involving social, situational, affective, and cognitive elements” (Ferris, Judge, Rowland, & Fitzgibbons, 1994, p. 101). This highlighted the importance of the broad and multifaceted context as background for better understanding performance evaluation. The ‘context’ is a rather broad term, which encompasses the research examining the cognitive perspective on supervisor rating processes, the social and relationship context, social inﬂuence and politics, the role of affect and emotion in rating processes, and other features of the dyadic context, such as ﬁt, perceived similarity, and distance. In essence, the ‘performance evaluation context’ reﬂects the multifaceted background against which formal and informal appraisals of job performance take place. This is not meant to add confusion regarding the aspects of job performance referred to as ‘contextual’ by Borman and his colleagues (e.g., Borman & Motowidlo, 1993), which denote non-required aspects of job performance behavior, as discussed above. 4.1. Cognitive, social, emotional, political, and relationship context of performance evaluation In the following sections, we separately present research on the cognitive, social and relationship, affective and emotional, and political and relationship context features, and discuss how each informs the nature of performance evaluation processes and outcomes. However, the categorization by component is purely for ease of presentation, and not indicative of how these features of the context operate. Instead, we need to note here that cognitive, social and relationship, affective and emotional, and political and relationship-based components of the work context reﬂect an intricately intertwined and integrative contextual background against which performance evaluation needs to be perceived and interpreted. 4.2. Cognitive context in rating Much research has been conducted in efforts to better understand rater cognition in the performance evaluation process (e.g., DeNisi & Williams, 1988; Landy & Farr, 1980; Motowidlo, 1986). As noted by Wexley and Klimoski (1984), the general cognitive sequence begins with the presentation of social information (i.e., behavior and performance), which is attended to, encoded, stored, retrieved, and integrated, which then results in the action of rating. Because raters are ﬁnite information processors, problems can emerge concerning the observation, integration, or evaluation of behavior as a function of categorization, behavior sampling, encoding of behavior, and precisely how the integration process transpires. Cognitive models have investigated a number of issues and processes, including automatic and controlled modes of information categorization, initial expectations, schemas, and implicit personality theories, the latter of which includes the conﬁguration of individual characteristics and behavioral tendencies (e.g., DeNisi & Williams, 1988). In a somewhat different approach to rater information processing, Motowidlo (1986) argued that there is a true score domain of behaviors, which incorporates a universe of all possible pieces of information about a particular stimulus object (i.e., the ratee). Bits of information sampled from actual observation or experience with the ratee are stored in the rater's memory during the evaluation process, and a sample of such stored impressions is retrieved from memory to render an evaluative judgment. Interestingly, Motowidlo (1986) suggested that the information bits stored in memory do not exist in non-evaluative, descriptive form, but rather tend to be translated into positive or negative evaluative impressions. Of course, this highlights the importance of affect in cognitive information processing models. Affective and evaluative impressions can be formed almost instantaneously after initial exposure to the stimulus (Zajonc, 1980), and cognitive categories reﬂecting stronger affect tend to be associated with greater memory accessibility (Feldman & Lynch, 1988). Although the cognitive information processing perspective in performance evaluation has been enlightening in itself, it is incomplete when viewed alone and in isolation of the larger and more multifaceted work context. Thus, we move next to the investigation of the social, emotional, political, and relationship features of the performance evaluation context. 4.3. Social and relationship context Over the past couple of decades, a number of studies have investigated the social context of performance evaluation in which some aspect(s) of supervisor–subordinate dyadic work relationships were considered (e.g., Mitchell, 1983; Mitchell & Liden, 1982). Cleveland and Murphy (1992, p. 121) characterized performance evaluation as “a social and communication process” where each member of the dyad is pursuing goals that are inﬂuenced by the social context within which the relationship is embedded. They argued that a key proximal variable affecting the performance evaluation process was the supervisor–subordinate work relationship, consistent with Ferris and Judge (1991), and they reviewed research that found the social context to be of considerable importance (e.g., Freeberg, 1969; Kallejian, Brown, & Weschler, 1953; Mitchell & Liden, 1982).
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Nathan, Mohrman, and Millman (1991) conducted a longitudinal investigation of the effects of the interpersonal relations between supervisors and subordinates on the content features of performance evaluation process and outcomes one to two months later. The results demonstrated that supervisor–subordinate interpersonal relations related signiﬁcantly to all three content areas (i.e., evaluation criteria, career discussion, and participation in the review), which, in turn, affected performance and satisfaction. Interpersonal relations between supervisor and subordinate were measured with one item that asked: “At the present time, my relationship with my supervisor is …,” followed by seven bipolar adjective pairs, measured on a 7-point scale. The adjectives were: tense-relaxed, cautious-free, distrusting-trusting, bad-good, productive-destructive, friendly-hostile, and pleasant-unpleasant. Although the relationship variable was merely a one-item measure, which did not explicitly mention underlying dimensions, the bipolar adjectives used in response to the item seem to reﬂect some potentially important dimensions of relationships. Duarte, Goodson, and Klich (1994) studied the potential interactive effects of supervisor–subordinate relationship quality, objective performance, and duration of the work relationship on performance ratings provided by supervisors. The results supported the three-way interaction, essentially demonstrating that objective performance evidence dictates subjective performance ratings for subordinates in short-term, low-quality relationships. However, subordinates in longer-term dyadic work relationships received higher performance ratings regardless of their objective performance, thus suggesting that time is a potentially very important dimension of work relationships. Judge and Ferris (1993) tested a model of the social context of performance evaluation that examined the effects of the supervisor–subordinate work relationship. They measured the work relationship using ﬁve items developed by Graen and his colleagues (e.g., Dansereau, Graen, & Haga, 1975) to assess LMX relationship quality. Although no speciﬁc dimensions were explicitly discussed, the ﬁve items seemed to tap dimensions of distance/closeness, dependability, and support. Judge and Ferris found that the supervisor–subordinate work relationship demonstrated a signiﬁcant path to supervisor's affect toward the subordinate. As noted by Borman and Motowidlo (1993), contextual performance behaviors support the social fabric of the organization, and as such, should play important roles in job performance ratings. Furthermore, Guion (1983) issued appeals to scholars that causal models of job performance ratings should include rater–ratee interpersonal relationship factors. Borman and colleagues investigated these notions, and, not surprisingly, their research demonstrated that these types of behaviors (i.e., contextual performance behaviors) inﬂuenced supervisor evaluations of employee performance (Borman, White, & Dorsey, 1995; Borman, White, Pulakos, & Oppler, 1991). In an initial study, Borman et al. (1991) tested a model that positioned cognitive ability, job knowledge, and task proﬁciency as predictors of supervisor ratings of subordinate performance, in addition to achievement orientation, dependability, awards received by ratee, and disciplinary actions taken against the ratee. The social and motivational constructs of achievement orientation and dependability demonstrated interesting indirect effects on performance ratings through awards and disciplinary action. Continuing with this program of research, Borman et al. (1995) investigated the effects of a broader array of rater–ratee relationship factors and also ratee personal characteristics on peer and supervisor job performance ratings. For both peer and supervisor rating models, dependability emerged as the strongest ‘relationship variable’ predictor of performance, and signiﬁcant in both models. Ratee likability and friendliness exhibited signiﬁcant paths in the peer rating model, but neither variable demonstrated signiﬁcant paths in the supervisor rating model. 4.4. Similarity and distance as other social context features It has been over two decades since Schneider (1987) developed the Attraction–Selection–Attrition (ASA) framework, and in that time, ﬁt has become an increasingly investigated topic in the organizational sciences. The model suggests that organizations attract certain individuals who possess qualities and characteristics reﬂected, or valued, by such ﬁrms, select those individuals who best ﬁt those valued attributes, with the acknowledgement that those who are homogenous with the rest of the organization will tend to stay, and those dissimilar will tend to leave. ‘Fit’ can be viewed in a comparable manner to research on similarity (i.e., or perceived similarity), and we can deﬁne it as the compatibility between subordinates and their supervisors that occurs when at least one of the individuals provides what the other needs, they share similar basic characteristics, or both. Much of this work has focused on demographic similarity (e.g., Tsui & O'Reilly, 1989). These studies examined the supplementary ﬁt between a supervisor and subordinate on such characteristics as age, race, gender, and organizational tenure. Tsui and O'Reilly (1989) found that increased demographic differences between supervisors and subordinates were associated with lower subordinate effectiveness as perceived by supervisors, and decreased personal attraction as rated by supervisors. Consistent with previous research (e.g., Turban & Jones, 1988), perceived similarity is construed as supervisors’ view of how much alike their subordinates are to themselves, which raises theoretical arguments of cognitive limitation and information processing. Unlike the emotional considerations of supervisor affect or liking toward a subordinate, similarity perceptions tend to rely heavily on cognitive evaluations of a subordinate's value to the organization and to the supervisor. Other research has focused on overall personal perceived similarity as well as perceived attitude similarity (e.g., Pulakos & Wexley, 1983; Wexley, Alexander, Greenawalt, & Couch, 1980). Distance between supervisors and subordinates is a potentially important aspect of the context of performance evaluation, and distance can be psychological or physical in nature. Nearly half a century ago, Rothaus, Morton, and Hanson (1965) discussed
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psychological distance as an important factor between supervisors and subordinates. Psychological distance refers to a supervisor's perception of similarity with the subordinate on a number of traits. Wexley and Klimoski (1984) mentioned the length of time supervisors and subordinates have known each other could be construed as a measure of closeness (i.e., psychological distance). More current conceptualizations (e.g., Williams & Bargh, 2008) deﬁne psychological distance as a function of temporal, spatial and social components. Physical distance also is important in supervisor–subordinate interactions and evaluations because it can affect the opportunity to observe behavior and performance (Mitchell, 1983; Wexley & Klimoski, 1984). Judge and Ferris (1993) discussed spatial distance (i.e., between supervisors and subordinates) as a potentially important factor in the performance evaluation process. Additionally, Napier and Ferris (1993) proposed a conceptualization of distance in organizations, which included psychological, physical, and functional components, the latter reﬂective of an optimal degree achieved in high-quality work relationships. Considerations of physical and psychological distance are complemented by the inﬂuence of time in the performance evaluation context. Speciﬁcally, researchers have been primarily concerned with variance in evaluations due to temporal effects (cf. Mitchell & James, 2001). For example, Murphy (1989) developed a framework to distinguish between phases of work. He suggested that employees work in either transition or maintenance stages of work. Transition stages describe phases of work where employees are learning the job or adapting to changes within their work environment. Conversely, the maintenance stage of work describes relative stability once an employee has learned the task and contextual requirements of the job. This distinction is important because it likely inﬂuences rater/supervisor expectations concerning performance. Maintenance stages are likely to manifest relative stability in performance evaluations. However, transition stages may exhibit a great deal of variance in performance evaluations as employees learn, with varying degrees of success, new requirements for the position. 4.5. Social inﬂuence and politics Traditional perspectives generally have assumed that performance evaluation systems and processes operate in rational and systematic fashion. However, other perspectives have argued that performance ratings are susceptible to inﬂuence by such nonperformance factors as politics and active manipulation. Indeed, several studies have found work contexts containing performance evaluation systems to be quite political in nature (e.g., Ferris, Fedor, Chachere, & Pondy, 1989; Longenecker et al., 1987). In their model of political inﬂuence in human resources systems, Ferris and Judge (1991) argued that the performance evaluation process is susceptible to subjective factors and “deliberate manipulations by both evaluators and evaluatees” (p. 461). Furthermore, they suggested that tactics and strategies of inﬂuence demonstrated by subordinates should affect supervisor perceptions of liking of subordinates and perceived similarity, which in turn, affect human resources decisions and actions (e.g., performance evaluations). Several empirical investigations of portions of this model have provided consistent validation (e.g., Kolodinsky, Treadway, & Ferris, 2007; Wayne, Liden, Graf, & Ferris, 1997). Wayne et al. (1997) tested portions of the Ferris and Judge (1991) framework. Essentially, they tested a model that examined subordinate inﬂuence tactics leading to performance evaluations, promotability ratings, and salary through mediating conditions of supervisor perceptions of similarity, affect/liking, and subordinate interpersonal skills. The results demonstrated that both supervisor perceptions of similarity and subordinate interpersonal skills mediated the inﬂuence tactics—outcomes linkages, but affect/liking toward subordinates did not. Ferris et al. (1994) formulated and tested a model of the social context of performance evaluation that included inﬂuence tactics and distance as predictors of supervisor affect toward subordinate, which in turn affected performance ratings provided by supervisors and provision of resources to subordinate. Therefore, this study examined also issues raised in the Ferris and Judge (1991) framework. Results demonstrated that inﬂuence tactics, but not distance, had signiﬁcant paths to supervisor affect toward subordinate, which then signiﬁcantly inﬂuenced both performance ratings and provision of resources to subordinate. Dulebohn and Ferris (1999) argued that inﬂuence tactics, exhibited by subordinates, in supervisor–subordinate dyadic performance evaluation contexts, can assume the role of informal voice, which can lead subordinates to view greater involvement in and control over the evaluation process. Informal voice refers to the provision of input into organizational decision-making processes. Their results demonstrated that inﬂuence tactics as voice demonstrated signiﬁcant relationship with subordinate perceptions of performance evaluation fairness. Other work also has examined social inﬂuence and political processes in performance evaluation (e.g., Frink, Treadway, & Ferris, 2005). 4.6. Affect and emotion The role of affect in performance evaluation has stimulated considerable research, and undergone signiﬁcant evolution (Levy & Williams, 2004). Initially, the role of affect in performance evaluation was seen through an information processing lens, and it was suggested that our affect towards a stimulus (i.e., either positive or negative) preceded and inﬂuenced the cognitive processing of information concerning that stimulus. The way we felt toward people inﬂuenced how we evaluated their performance. Indeed, there are numerous studies that have suggested a signiﬁcant relationship between positive/negative affect and performance ratings (Cardy & Dobbins, 1986; Kingstrom & Mainstone, 1985; Tsui & Barry, 1986; Wayne & Ferris, 1990). However, this relationship is now perceived as more than simply a cognitive information processing issue. An alternative suggestion is that we pay signiﬁcantly more attention to those for whom we have positive affect, and that this results in more observational opportunities (Antonioni & Park, 2001). Furthermore, as Levy and Williams (2004) have noted, we
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may have misperceived the causal arrow in this relationship. Perhaps we like those who perform better because they are higher performers. Our positive affect may well be a result of higher levels of performance, not an antecedent factor in the performance evaluation process. There has been increasing interest in the role of emotions in the workplace, and some research has indicated that the demonstration of positive emotions results not only in higher employee achievement, but also increased allocation of rewards by others. Staw, Sutton, and Pelled (1994) found that positive affect signiﬁcantly predicted employees’ pay, and Staw and Barsade (1993) reported that those exhibiting positive emotions at work tended to receive higher performance evaluations from their supervisors. 4.7. Theoretical foundations Recently, Levy and Williams (2004) helped facilitate the gradual move of the performance evaluation literature away from the cognitive processing/rater training/psychometric issues/scale construction emphasis. Indeed, the move was only gradually accomplished, with many suggesting the need for such a move along the way (e.g., Ilgen, Barnes-Farrell, & McKellin, 1993). Utilizing this research as their justiﬁcation, Levy and Williams (2004, p. 883) concluded that the most important area to investigate is the “performance appraisal context” and the “social milieu or rating environment.” Their work has been instrumental in better characterizing the context in which performance evaluation takes place in organizations. In this, they have been quite successful, and provided an exhaustive organizing framework for subsequent research in this area. However, we see a need to take this issue a step further, and identify the intricate and multifaceted nature of the variables involved in, and the theoretical approaches underlying, the social context of performance evaluation. Levy and Williams (2004) identiﬁed many of the important variables (i.e., proximal, distal, and structural), but they did not provide a clear idea of how and what fashion these various factors operate/interact. Therefore, we believe that even though Levy and Williams gave the ﬁeld a good start in characterizing the context of performance evaluation, more deﬁnition and speciﬁcity is needed. What is necessary in order to continue the forward momentum that they started is an encompassing theoretical approach concerned with the interaction of these previously identiﬁed variables. We suggest that a signiﬁcant next step for performance evaluation research is to evaluate how the outcomes of performance evaluation effect change in the subsequent performance of the ratee and the relational context of the organization. 5. Theory and research directions The foregoing literature review categorizes the various research streams that make up the multifaceted context of performance evaluation. There have been some recent efforts to provide a conceptual framework through which to better understand the mechanisms by which performance evaluation processes are framed, inﬂuenced, and produce reactions (e.g., Arvey & Murphy, 1998; Levy & Williams, 2004). Unfortunately, although useful in some respects, both efforts provided little discussion of the theoretical foundations driving such process dynamics. If the multifaceted context serves as the backdrop for, or frames, performance evaluation processes and outcomes, then it is incumbent upon scholars to identify the key components of that context, as well as the factors that predict the formation of such contexts. Additionally, there needs to be sufﬁcient theoretical grounding to the conceptualization to explain the interactive process dynamics and outcomes. In the following sections, we propose a framework for this area of scientiﬁc inquiry, grounded in Affective Events Theory (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996) and Emotion Cycle Theory (Hareli & Rafaeli, in press), and we discuss the implications of this conceptualization for future theory and research regarding the context of performance evaluation. 5.1. Model of the performance evaluation context and processes Performance evaluation is arguably an emotional experience. During appraisal, employees face a direct evaluation of their work by one or more raters to whom they are held accountable. These evaluations have potentially signiﬁcant ramiﬁcations for employee psychological well-being, social status, and the continuation of employment within the organization (Dorfman, Stephan, & Loveland, 1986). Accordingly, performance evaluations represent a “high-stakes” encounter for employees. Characteristics of this encounter also may inﬂuence the potential for emotional reactions by employees within an organization. For example, in anticipation of the event, employees may exhibit apprehension and fear toward the performance evaluation, and appraisal outcomes may elicit an array of potential emotions (e.g., anger, joy, sadness), with ramiﬁcations for subsequent attitudes and behaviors. We propose that these emotional reactions have signiﬁcant implications for organizations as they directly inﬂuence the relational and social context of work. Our proposed model is presented in Fig. 1. 5.2. Ratee affective responses Individual affective responses can be readily described by Affective Events Theory (AET) (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996). Speciﬁcally, AET predicts that individuals react emotionally, or affectively, to work events that inﬂuence an individual's well-being and goal attainment. AET was intended as a complement, rather than a substitute, to cognitive theories of judgment in organizations, and speciﬁcally proposes that organizational events, rather than system features, are proximal causes of affective
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Fig. 1. Performance evaluation context model.
reactions in individuals. Basic assumptions of the model have been empirically supported, and suggest that the framework provides a useful tool in evaluating individual work behavior (e.g., Wegge, van Dick, Fisher, West, & Dawson, 2006). AET makes a distinction between individual emotion and mood reactions. Speciﬁcally, emotions have a target (e.g., a verbal exchange with a co-worker), are relatively intense, and occur over a short duration. Meanwhile, moods lack a speciﬁc target, are less intense than emotions, and may be maintained for a longer duration (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996). Emotions and moods inﬂuence one another reciprocally. For example, an emotional response to an event (e.g., joy) may inﬂuence subsequent moods (e.g., positive mood). Relatedly, the disruption of a positive mood by a negative event may result in a highly emotional response (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996). In the context of performance evaluation, a distinction can be made between affective responses to appraisal (as an event), and affective responses to a system of performance evaluation. The act of performance evaluation implies an evaluative and discrete judgment of an individual's work. Accordingly, we would anticipate an emotional reaction since the appraisal event is discrete and has signiﬁcant ramiﬁcations for an individual. Conversely, AET suggests that individuals will exhibit a pattern of moods in response to organizational features to the extent that these features are relatively stable. This implies that an accountability system will not evoke an emotional response unless individuals are faced with potential change in their well-being and employment. Thus, we anticipate that the event of a performance evaluation will drive emotional reactions by individuals rather than stable reactions to the system, per se. This is not to suggest that individuals fail to react emotionally to performance evaluation, or accountability, systems. Rather, we suggest that individuals react emotionally to changes in performance evaluation systems that bear on their psychological well-being and goal attainment. This important boundary condition distinguishes emotion and mood reactions for individuals in the context of performance evaluation. 5.3. Ratee affective outcomes Weiss and Cropanzano (1996) have argued that, once activated, emotional reactions play a functional and dominant role in individual performance, because emotional states tend to preoccupy individuals from task performance. In AET, individual consequences of emotional reactions include changes in work attitudes and behaviors through a process of primary and secondary appraisal (cf. Lazarus, 1991). Speciﬁcally, after initial emotional reaction to an event stimulus (i.e., primary appraisal), Weiss and Cropanzano (1996) argued that emotional reactions elicit a cognitive search process-focused on the causes of the event (i.e., secondary appraisal). Although mentioned brieﬂy in the emotion literature as sense-making (e.g., Hareli & Rafaeli, in press), emotion theories generally do not consider the attribution process by which individuals consider causes of positive and negative emotiongenerating events. In particular, Weiner (1985) argued that unexpected or novel events result in a primary emotional response of happiness or sadness. A secondary emotional response then derives from an appraisal concerning attributions made for the unexpected outcome. This attribution component has been previously neglected and may exert an inﬂuence on both the type of affective reaction and the severity of an affective reaction to performance evaluation. Weiner (1985) argued that individuals experience behavioral and attitudinal outcomes based on attributions made for outcomes. His locus of causality (internal or external) and stability (stable or unstable over time) dimensions may be especially useful in explicating outcomes of emotion during a secondary appraisal (cf. Martinko & Thomson, 1998). Further research is needed to understand how attributions inﬂuence emotional reactions in performance evaluation. Nonetheless, the current discussion is concerned with emotional reactions to performance evaluation. Assuming no change in an emotion-evoking event, theory suggests that individuals ruminate, or dwell, on the event in a series of emotional reactions with
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implications for performance and relationships (Beal, Weiss, Barros, & MacDermid, 2005). Speciﬁcally, Beal and his associates have argued that emotional reactions consume cognitive resources contributing to decreased task performance. Furthermore, we suggest that the consumption of cognitive resources also may negatively inﬂuence an individual's ability to effectively contribute to work relationships, especially in settings where others rely on the individual for their own performance. However, these mediated relational effects from task performance must be balanced against the direct effects of emotion on relationships. For example, research has suggested that emotional reactions inﬂuence relationship satisfaction, quality in groups (Barsade, 2002), and service encounters (Pugh, 2001). Emotional reactions may stimulate individual withdrawal and a decrease in relationship satisfaction due to their disruptive nature within a social system. Furthermore, the consumption of cognitive resources and changes in relationship satisfaction should decrease the quality of relationships within a social system, ceteris paribus. Theoretical support for this assertion derives from Sluss and Ashforth (2007), who developed a model of relational identity, deﬁned as “the nature of one's role relationship within an organization” (p. 11). They argued that individuals’ relational identity is based on the function, hierarchy, status, and nature of complementarity of their role compared to a social context. Thus, performance evaluations may enact change in the relational identity beliefs of individuals in a social system. For example, high-performing salespersons may feel less valuable to a group or organization as leaders if their performance is appraised poorly or below that of salient peers. Individuals’ role and relational identity as high-performing leaders could be jeopardized by the outcomes of performance evaluation. Consequently, the performance evaluation has relational ramiﬁcations that can be evaluated cognitively. However, it is the emotional reaction that signals, or communicates, the social status of the individual (Hareli & Rafaeli, in press), and enacts change in relationship satisfaction and subsequent quality for individuals. To summarize, certain organizational events, such as performance evaluation, result in emotional reactions by individuals. These emotional reactions inﬂuence the relational identity of ratees and detract cognitive resources from task performance and relationships, modifying individuals’ subsequent relationship satisfaction and quality. 5.4. Social context impacts Whereas AET readily describes the intra-individual process of emotion formation and outcomes, recent theory has highlighted the inter-individual process of emotion transmission in social systems. An understanding of these processes is important because emotion transmissions have the potential to inﬂuence relationships embedded within the social systems of an organization. In particular, Hareli and Rafaeli (in press) argued that individual affective reactions by actors (i.e., ratees/subordinates) lead to subsequent emotion effects in observers, which serve as feedback in subsequent periods to actors. Their theory conceptualizes emotional reactions as an interpersonal communication salient to direct observation by the target of the emotion, witnesses to the reaction, and third-parties. As noted earlier, Hareli and Rafaeli argued that emotions act as a signal regarding an individual's social standing. In the social context of performance evaluation, an emotional reaction by a ratee would likely be directed at the rater(s), and salient to other employees, supervisors, and, potentially, clients. There are at least two considerations guiding the display and reception of emotion. First, theory suggests that emotions can be used as an impression management tactic (e.g., Grandey, 2000). Second, recent theory suggests that emotions are highly salient to observers who react to the emotion episode (e.g., Hareli & Rafaeli, in press). Taken together, we argue that emotional reactions are likely to be salient to an audience, and will enact a response by that audience with behavioral and social context ramiﬁcations. The use of emotions as impression management was alluded to in work by Grandey (2000), who argued that individuals control their display of emotions (i.e., emotional labor) with the intention of inﬂuencing others’ reactions to those emotions. This so-called surface acting (Hochschild, 1983) may be viewed as an emotion regulation attempt. Consequently, emotions may be displayed with the intention of guiding behavioral and/or attitudinal responses of others. Furthermore, the outcomes of performance evaluation are important to employees and supervisors because they provide additional information on expectancies for their own appraisals, and also may modify individual social status and contributions within a group. Thus, we would anticipate a generally high degree of visibility for emotional reactions due to performance evaluations. These visible emotional reactions elicit responses in others through several potential processes. Speciﬁcally, emotion cycle theory (Hareli & Rafaeli, in press) argues that individual emotion reactions elicit comparable responses in others through three processes: mimicking, emotion interpretation, and drawing inferences. Hatﬁeld, Cacioppo, and Rapson (1994) generally are credited with conceptualizing emotional contagion, which describes a conscious or unconscious mimicked response where the emotions of two or more parties converge. Recent research empirically has highlighted the role of emotional contagion within social systems (e.g., Barger & Grandey, 2006; Barsade, 2002; Pugh, 2001), demonstrating that emotions are transferred from person to person. For example, Barger and Grandey (2006) found that emotions were transferred between strangers in a service encounter. Next, Barsade (2002) found evidence for contagion effects between strangers in an experimental setting. In a performance evaluation context, this evidence suggests that ratee emotional reactions inﬂuence the emotional or affective state of the rater(s), and likely others within a social system. However, it is critical to note that emotional contagion assumes the convergence of similar emotions. Furthermore, susceptibility to emotional contagion varies on the basis of individual differences. For example, Verbeke (1997) found evidence that contagion varies on the basis of empathy and individual charisma. Ilies, Wagner, and Morgeson (2007) found that individuals differed in their susceptibility to contagion. Congruent with AET (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996), we suggest that individual dispositions, such as agreeableness and neuroticism, might be especially important in facilitating or inhibiting emotion contagion. The frequency of exposure to emotional events also may inﬂuence susceptibility to emotion contagion. For example,
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raters in a performance evaluation process may be more or less susceptible to emotion contagion based on the novelty and frequency of the emotion stimulating event (i.e., the performance evaluation). Emotion interpretation is the second process through which others respond to actor (i.e., ratee) emotional reactions. Hareli and Rafaeli (in press) argued that emotion interpretation involves a cognitive evaluation of the actor's emotions, which may result in convergent or divergent responses. They suggested that emotional reactions elicit relational scripts (Lazarus, 1991) that provide interpretation and response. We would add that emotional reactions may upset the social balance of an organization by changing the negotiated structure of individual social exchanges (cf., Blau, 1964). That is, emotional reactions deemed as inappropriate may result in punitive actions by others in a social system. For example, a co-worker viewing a visibly angry ratee may be incited to anger not at the raters, but at the ratee for disrupting the social balance and mood of the group. This effect is likely to be enhanced through the third process of interpersonal emotion response, drawing inferences. Hareli and Rafaeli (in press) suggested that individuals draw inferences regarding the causes and intended effects of emotional reactions by actors (i.e., the ratee). Although the interpretation of emotions is grounded in heuristics or scripts, emotion inferences are grounded in cognitive processes that, we would suggest, involve an attributional component (e.g., Weiner, 1985). Speciﬁcally, individuals have a vested interest in ascertaining the causes of behavior in order to guide appropriate future expectancies. Thus, a co-worker might attribute a visibly happy reaction to a positive performance evaluation. The positive appraisal would potentially have signiﬁcant ramiﬁcations for status, power, and credibility (Hareli & Rafaeli, in press). Positive emotions also might signal higher status and greater power in the organization. However, the highly (perhaps overly) salient display of emotions also might decrease the credibility of the actor (i.e., ratee). Thus, cognitive processes also play an important role in the interpretation and response to emotional displays. In summary, emotional reactions generally are salient within a social system. Individuals respond to actor (i.e., ratee) emotional reactions through mimicking, interpretation, and inferences. These reactions have direct and mediated relational effects. As noted earlier, mimicking is likely to elicit a similar emotional response in observers through contagion processes. Thus, we would expect observers to experience similar emotions that can reinforce actor emotions. Such a response would be characteristic of empathy (Hareli & Rafaeli, in press), and may positively inﬂuence relationship satisfaction for the actor. Speciﬁcally, we would anticipate contagion reactions, even negative emotional contagion, to result in enhanced relationship satisfaction for the actor and observer based on a system of reciprocity found in social exchange theory (e.g., Blau, 1964). That is, relationship satisfaction is likely to be optimized when each party can go to the other and receive similar social resources, or support. Thus, we suggest that emotion contagion and a visible response of empathy is likely to result in enhanced relationship satisfaction. Indirect effects of affective responses are likely to be manifested through the broad categories of avoidance or approach behaviors (Hareli & Rafaeli, in press). Approach refers to a category of behaviors that engage two people toward afﬁliation, whereas avoidance refers to a category of behaviors that uncouple two people from afﬁliation (cf. Russell & Mehrabian, 1978). Approach behaviors should result in a higher degree of relationship satisfaction, whereas avoidance behaviors generally reduce relationship satisfaction (assuming the individuals like each other to begin). Work by Russell and Mehrabian (1978) found that approach and avoidance afﬁliation behaviors were based on the positive arousal potential from others. In short, individuals are motivated to form relationships, or afﬁliate, with those who make them feel better. Thus, positive emotional reactions should result in enhanced relationship satisfaction through approach behaviors, whereas negative emotional reactions may result in decreased relationship satisfaction through avoidance behaviors. Emotion cycle theory (Hareli & Rafaeli, in press) suggests that moderators inﬂuence relational outcomes. For example, positive emotional reactions by one individual may signal a status change due to a positive performance evaluation (e.g., Sluss and Ashforth, 2007). To the extent that this status change results in imbalance with others in the organization, we might expect them to exhibit avoidance behaviors. Furthermore, the frequency of emotional display might, by itself, result in avoidance if constant, even pleasant, emotional reactions detract from an individual's task performance. To summarize, emotional reactions by an actor inﬂuence their relationship satisfaction directly and through approach and avoidance behaviors. These emotional reactions are salient also to observers, and inﬂuence relationship satisfaction directly by the type of observer emotional reaction or through avoidance or approach behaviors that modify relationship satisfaction. As noted earlier, relationship satisfaction drives the type and quality of individual contributions toward relationship quality. Theoretically, individuals gauge the cost of a relationship relative to the beneﬁts they will receive from that relationship (Blau, 1964). Thus, decreases in relationship satisfaction should lead to decreases in relationship quality as individuals modify their social inputs. Conversely, increases in relationship satisfaction should lead to increases in relationship quality as individuals contribute more to the dyadic social exchange. 5.5. Moderators of the performance evaluation–affective reaction relationship With the primary model of performance evaluation outcomes described, we now turn to a discussion of individual, relational, and accountability features that interact with performance evaluation outcomes to inﬂuence emotional reactions. First, AET proposes that individual dispositions inﬂuence affective reactions to events interactively (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996). For example, dispositional affect, should inﬂuence negative and positive reactions to events, because it acts as a perceptual ﬁlter for individuals. Likewise, dispositional optimism inﬂuences individual expectancies of good versus bad outcomes. Thus, low levels of optimism may inﬂuence pessimistic evaluations of future expectancies from performance evaluation, and elicit strong negative emotions. Conversely, high levels of optimism may inﬂuence more optimistic evaluations of future expectancies that elicit positive emotions.
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Emotional intelligence (e.g., Mayer, Caruso, & Salovey, 1999) should also theoretically and logically inﬂuence outcomes of a performance evaluation. Emotional intelligence refers to an individual ability that enables individuals to reﬂectively regulate one's own emotions, understand the emotions of oneself and others, assimilate emotions in thought, and perceive and express emotion (Mayer et al., 1999). In a performance evaluation setting, emotional intelligence may play an important role as a moderator of emotional reactions. In particular, we would expect emotional intelligence of both the rater/supervisor and ratee/subordinate to be inversely related to the type and severity of an affective reaction from performance evaluations. That is, as emotional intelligence increases in the rater/supervisor, the outcomes of a performance evaluation will appear less severe to the ratee/subordinate, leading to a tempered emotional response. In addition, we anticipate a tempered affective reaction to performance evaluations as ratee/subordinate emotional intelligence increases. Individual differences are not the only moderators of interest. As noted earlier, accountability exerts an important inﬂuence in guiding expectations for behavior and framing the context of performance evaluation (e.g., Frink & Klimoski, 1998). As an inﬂuence for outcomes, accountability may act as an important moderator between a performance evaluation and the affective reaction of the actor. In particular, accountability theory informs qualities of the actual evaluation, the relationship between a rater/supervisor and ratee/subordinate, and expectancies of the performance evaluation by both parties. Ratees' relationships with raters also are likely to shape their emotional reactions to performance evaluation. Frink and Klimoski (1998) described this relational context between employees being held accountable and evaluative others, or those holding employees accountable during a performance evaluation. Speciﬁcally, we anticipate a non-linear interaction between the quality of the relationship and the emotional reaction to a performance evaluation. Assuming a poor level of relationship quality with a rater, a ratee may feel the freedom to emotionally respond in a highly salient and negative manner for a poor performance evaluation. Likewise, with a high level of relationship quality with a rater, a ratee may feel betrayed and respond emotionally to a poor performance appraisal. At intermediate levels of relationship quality, we anticipate a less salient emotional response to performance evaluation. Frink and Klimoski (1998) discussed at length the expectations held by employees being evaluated (i.e., ratee/subordinate expectancies) and those holding employees accountable (i.e., rater/supervisor expectancies). In particular, we expect ratee expectancies to moderate the emotional reaction and anticipate the emotional reaction to differ in type and degree based on the level of discrepancy between rater and ratee expectancies. Thus, ratees who are surprised at the performance evaluation outcomes likely will exhibit different emotions than ratees who expect the appraisal outcome. Finally, the qualities of the performance evaluation should inﬂuence the type and degree of emotional reaction by the ratee. In accountability theory (Frink & Klimoski, 1998), these qualities include the likelihood of evaluation and the standards with which employees are held accountable. The structure of a performance evaluation may act as a proxy for these concepts. For example, highly structured performance evaluations may elicit less of an emotional response by the ratee since the rater may have less perceived control. Likewise, frequent performance evaluations may elicit less of an emotional response as they become routinized. 5.6. Accountability system features The fact that the performance evaluation system exists in a political, emotional and relationship-dependent environment does nothing to simplify its execution. Ferris et al. (1995) highlighted several areas of “tension” that arise in any accountability system, offering some insight into the “poison” that often must be picked by the organization. Earlier in this paper, we presented the notion that performance evaluation is an accountability mechanism, and as such, these tension points need to be considered in our discussion. There is no doubt that a performance evaluation system, clearly deﬁned and linked to valued outcomes, offers signiﬁcant behavioral control over the evaluated employees. However, the higher this control, the larger the cost. Reactance represents the employees' attempt to restore the freedom of choice that was lost through the imposition of monitoring and control system. The response may include anything from illegal activity, to simply performing poorly, or tolerating the inappropriate behavior of others. Although the vast majority of the employees will not resort to illegal or dysfunctional behavior, there is the potential for resistance and resentment associated with the organization restricting their freedom and self-control (Ferris et al., 1995). Even with appropriate behavior, another tradeoff for the use of a monitoring and evaluation system is that of compliance versus internalization. Simply said, this is where employees perform because they have to, as opposed to performing because they want to. The compliance versus internalization balance is one that may be overcome if the evaluation system helps instill, in the employees, a sense of appreciation and buy-in for the evaluated behaviors. If this occurs, the organization may respond with a reduced accountability requirement (i.e., which agency theorists would argue simply opens the door again for self-serving behaviors from the agents, which is the reason why the accountability system was imposed in the ﬁrst place!). Other dilemmas include the loss of creativity and pro-social behaviors in exchange for conformity. Although Trevino and Youngblood (1990) demonstrated that accountability may increase ethical behavior through conformity, the same conformity has been shown by others to reduce risk taking (Weigold & Schlenker, 1991), “going the extra mile” (Schnake & Dumler, 1993), and creativity (Staw & Boettger, 1990). In fact, people do respond to the pressures of the context and the system in place, but these forces often may put them at odds with themselves and the intended behaviors of the organization. Performance evaluation systems, like other accountability mechanisms, can pit individual values against organizational values. Similarly, they can intentionally or unintentionally emphasize outcome-focused (i.e., “do whatever you have to do to get the job done”) or process-focused (i.e., “how you get the job done matters”) accountability. Finally, in today's work environment, employees often ﬁnd themselves accountable to multiple audiences
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(e.g., supervisors, peers, others), with potentially different expectations for performance. As much as expectations for performance represent a basis for performance evaluations, employees often are in a dilemma of making signiﬁcant tradeoffs. All this is not to say that such problems are directly associated with increased levels of accountability. However, there is sound rationale to suggest that, “more is not necessarily better.” The consequences, both positive and negative, of increased control resulting from systems like performance evaluation must be intentionally considered. For example, it may be argued that there is a non-linear effect of the level of accountability on outcomes like performance, citizenship, well-being, and unethical behavior; that is, there is an optimal level of accountability, which will produce the correct work behavior. Researchers and practitioners will be well served to continue to explore the proper balance and degree of accountability, as they design and implement systems of performance evaluation. 5.7. Work relationship features As we have characterized in the present paper, the supervisor–subordinate relationship represents a critically important component of the context of performance evaluation that we need to better understand. Interestingly, as important as work relationships are to the organizational sciences, until quite recently, there was very little research on the topic in this ﬁeld beyond what we could garner from the theory and research in LMX. Perhaps that is why the little research that has employed work relationship quality variables in performance evaluation research contained weak theoretical underpinnings about how relationships drive rating processes, and used the current version of the LMX measure to assess ‘work relationship quality’ (e.g., Judge & Ferris, 1993). Fortunately, the ﬁeld is witnessing a ‘relationship revolution’ of sorts, with several pockets of very interesting and innovative work being proposed and conducted on work relationships just within the past few years. Some of this interest has been generated by the very sound scholarship that has been taking place for years in social psychology on “relationship science” (e.g., Berscheid, 1999). Although this work has been focused at interpersonal relationships in everyday life, and without speciﬁc implications for work organization relationships, the relevance of that research has spilled over and generated interest in the organizational sciences. Perhaps that work and the beginnings of the new ‘positive psychology’ movement have stimulated work in ‘positive organizational scholarship’ and “high-quality connections” initially (Dutton & Heaphy, 2003), followed up by an emphasis on ‘positive work relationships’ more recently (Dutton & Ragins, 2007). This work collectively appears to provide much useful thought for building a more informed understanding of work relationships, and their process dynamics and outcomes. Indeed, very recent conceptual work has discussed the favorable effects of high-quality or positive work relationships for health and well-being, which include both psychological and physiological effects (e.g., Heaphy & Dutton, 2008). At present, more excitement and anticipation than conclusive evidence characterizes this new research on positive and high-quality work relationships, but the zeitgeist most deﬁnitely favors continued interest in work relationships today. Furthermore, even though some theory and research has considered what might be the underlying dimensions of work relationships, much more is needed. For example, Liden, Sparrowe, and Wayne (1997) reported four dimensions that comprised the LMX relationship to be affect, loyalty, contribution, and professional respect. Also, Settoon and Mossholder (2002) investigated relationship content and context effects on work outcomes, and identiﬁed the three dimensions of co-worker support, trust, and perspective taking (i.e., which appears to be synonymous with empathy), which they found predictive of interpersonal citizenship behavior. Certainly, this research provides a good beginning, but in order to identify a more extensive set of critical relationship dimensions, such as trust, support, empathy, distance, and so forth, much theory and research is needed to more precisely delineate the speciﬁc dimensions and their interconnections, as well as their speciﬁc and collective implications for performance evaluations. 6. Supervisor and subordinate characteristics and behaviors The characteristics and qualities possessed by both supervisors and subordinates are important to consider in the emergence and materialization of any work context, because such factors help to form or shape the nature of such contexts. Indeed, a number of individual difference characteristics of supervisors and subordinates have been suggested in previous models of dyadic interactions in human resources decisions (e.g., Ferris & Judge, 1991). However, we provide suggestions for some new areas that research should consider in the future, and we highlight qualities and characteristics of dyadic relationship members that can contribute to more effective social and relationship contexts. Here, we particularly focus on political skill (i.e., as an example of the category of social effectiveness constructs), reputation (i.e., also as a framing or context variable), and affect and emotion demonstration and regulation in dyadic interactions. 6.1. Political skill Political skill has been deﬁned as “the ability to effectively understand others at work, and to use such knowledge to inﬂuence others to act in ways that enhance one's personal and/or organizational objectives” (Ferris et al., 2005, p. 127). As such, political skill reﬂects an interpersonal style that combines social astuteness with the capacity to adjust, adapt, and calibrate behavior to different contextual demands, and to do so employing a manner that is genuine and sincere, inspires conﬁdence and trust, and results in effective inﬂuence over others at work. Individuals high in political skill tend to reﬂect a sense of calm self-conﬁdence, control, and
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personal security that attracts others, instills in them feelings of comfort, and also contribute to positive affective reactions and trust (Ferris, Treadway, Perrewé, Brouer, Douglas, & Lux, 2007). Theory and research have argued that politically skilled individuals strategically select the most appropriate methods of inﬂuence for particular contexts, and then effectively execute such inﬂuence tactics using a style that ensures interpersonal goal accomplishment. As such, it has been argued by Ferris and colleagues that political skill should demonstrate effects on such social context outcomes as supervisor ratings of subordinate performance, and some research to date has provided support for these arguments (Ferris et al., 2007). Concerning political skill main effects, Ferris et al. (2005) reported, in two studies, that political skill signiﬁcantly predicted supervisor ratings of subordinate performance and effectiveness. Additionally, Semadar, Robins, and Ferris (2006) found that political skill emerged as the strongest predictor of managerial performance ratings than other social competence constructs, including self-monitoring, leadership self-efﬁcacy, and emotional intelligence. Also, in a two-study constructive replication, Jawahar, Meurs, Ferris, and Hochwarter (2008) found that political skill was a stronger predictor of contextual performance than was self-efﬁcacy. Other evidence of political skill main effects can be found in Liu, Ferris, Zinko, Perrewé, Weitz, and Xu (2007), who reported, in a four-study investigation, that signiﬁcant relationships between employee political skill and supervisor-rated employee job performance were mediated by employee reputation. Also demonstrating mediated effects, Kolodinsky et al. (2007) demonstrated that political skill inﬂuenced job performance ratings through speciﬁc intermediate linkages (i.e., perceived similarity and affect) suggested by the Ferris and Judge (1991) framework. We suggest here that political skill might be a useful characteristic, which has the potential of contributing to a more favorable social, emotional, political, and relationship context within which performance evaluation occurs. The foregoing early evidence, investigating subordinate political skill, seems to be promising. However, the political skill of supervisors in the performance evaluation context has yet to be examined, and could prove enlightening. 6.2. Reputation Characterized as a “complex combination of salient personal characteristics and accomplishments, demonstrated behavior, and intended images presented over some period of time as observed directly and/or as reported from secondary sources” (Ferris, Blass, Douglas, Kolodinsky, & Treadway, 2003, p. 213), the role of personal reputation in organizations recently has been receiving increased research attention. Individuals who have developed, and enjoy, favorable reputations tend to be perceived by others as reﬂecting a persona characterized by greater legitimacy, competency, trustworthiness, and status. Furthermore, such collective perceptions allow for the accumulation of power, inﬂuence, autonomy, and latitude (Ferris et al., 2003), which all are factors that promote inﬂuence effectiveness. Although by no means the only outcome of a favorable reputation, certainly a prominent consequence of reputation favorability is increased job performance, which typically is assessed as the subjective ratings provided by immediate supervisors. As we have seen in recent years, supervisory ratings of employee performance have been predicted by a number of job-relevant variables, but also can be subject to inﬂuence, bias, and distortion. This raises the issue of precisely what role reputation might play as a potential factor that operates within the complex performance evaluation context. Because it has been characterized as a multifaceted collection of different pieces of information aggregated together in some sort of collective whole, it might represent a ‘signal’ (Spence, 1974) sent to raters regarding attributes, experience, expected behavior, and so forth that affects ratings in complex ways. Some initial research has hypothesized and found evidence for both main and interaction effects of reputation within the performance evaluation context. Liu et al. (2007) reported on a four-study research plan to examine the hypothesized chain reﬂecting that personality is antecedent to political skill, which then affects job performance ratings by supervisors through the mediating factor of reputation. Collectively, these studies demonstrated support for recent theoretical developments in both political skill and reputation, suggesting that personality serves as an antecedent of political skill, and that reputation mediates the relationship between political skill and job performance ratings. Subordinate reputation also can serve as a moderator in the process of trying to better understand the performance evaluation context, and Hochwarter, Ferris, Zinko, Arnell, and James (2007) recently reported some interesting results in this regard. They found support for reputation as a moderator of the relationships between political behavior and job performance ratings (in addition to work outcomes of uncertainty and emotional exhaustion). For subordinates with favorable reputations, exhibiting political behavior was associated with increased job performance ratings (and also decreased uncertainty and emotional exhaustion). Alternatively, for subordinates possessing unfavorable reputations, the demonstration of political behavior was associated with decreased job performance ratings (and with increased uncertainty and emotional exhaustion). Future research should investigate the potentially important role of subordinate reputation in the performance evaluation process, both in terms of direct effects on supervisor ratings, and also as a moderator of the relationship between other behaviors and performance ratings. The role of supervisor reputation, in conjunction with subordinate reputation, in future research also might be worthy of investigation in order to shed greater light on the context, processes, and outcomes of performance evaluation. 6.3. Affect and emotion demonstration and regulation Future research on affect and emotion seems warranted to help better understand the role it plays in the performance evaluation context. Although considerable research has been conducted on the effects of liking in the performance evaluation
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process, a much deeper understanding is needed concerning why a supervisor develops like or dislike for a particular subordinate, beyond the work that has used the similarity-attraction theory view, whereby similarity is argued to breed attraction and affect (Byrne, 1971). However, the results of the Kolodinsky et al. (2007) study might help shed some initial light on this. Their results indicated that supervisors may develop positive affect or liking for subordinates who demonstrate situationally appropriate behavior around others in a socially astute manner. One such behavior, for example, is the use of the inﬂuence tactic of rationality, whereby the subordinate attempts to inﬂuence through the use of logical persuasion, factual evidence, and thorough explanations. That is, the political skill x rationality tactic interaction suggested that the skillful presentation of the rationality inﬂuence tactic contributed to greater supervisor liking of subordinates. Thus, Kolodinsky et al. noted that if subordinates demonstrate behavior that is consistent with the supervisory expectations, subordinate politically skilled behavior most likely will be instrumental regarding relational perceptions and, ultimately, in helping supervisors meet their own goals. Additional ideas for future research on the role affect and emotion plays in performance evaluation can be gleaned from the excellent review and conceptualization presented by Arvey et al. (1998). As Arvey et al. suggested, the demonstration of emotion by subordinates tends to trigger emotions in supervisors rating their performance, which in turn may inﬂuence the cognitive processes supervisors use to formulate ratings. Furthermore, Arvey et al. suggested that besides affecting job performance ratings, subordinate emotional display also may inﬂuence the supervisors’ assessments of subordinate ‘ﬁt’ with the job and organization, drawing upon the ASA framework (e.g., Schneider, 1987). Such ‘ﬁt’ assessments based on emotional display might be referenced by any formal or informal expectations or norms regarding emotional behavior in the job and/or organization context. Arvey et al. (1998) suggested future research should investigate the potential effects of different types of emotions on different job performance criteria, with the argument that positive emotional demonstration would most likely be more strongly and positively related to contextual performance dimensions. Also, we recommend research that investigates the distinction between spontaneous emotional displays versus emotion demonstration that is calculated, and strategically presented, as a form of interpersonal inﬂuence (e.g., Grandey, 2000). We also recommend that research examine the range of emotion presented, and its potential non-linear effects on outcomes. In this case, although prior research reviewed earlier in the paper regarding affect and performance ratings demonstrated positive linear effects of the ratings provided by supervisors, it might be the case that a non-linear relationship exists between subordinate demonstration of emotion and actual performance and effectiveness (i.e., not just supervisory subjective ratings), suggesting an optimal level of affect/emotion in such contexts. 7. Theory development and integration As noted by Levy and Williams (2004), contextual factors represent an oft-neglected area of performance evaluation. Prior reviews of performance evaluation (e.g., Arvey & Murphy, 1998; Levy & Williams, 2004) have expounded many of the distal and proximal features inﬂuencing processes and outcomes of interest. However, the utility of these valuable contributions largely is constrained by a lack of unifying theoretical frameworks on which to base speciﬁc assumptions and boundary conditions. Consequently, this paper has focused on two contributions that serve to address the current status of performance evaluation theory and research. First, we argue that accountability theory (Frink & Klimoski, 1998; Frink et al., 2008) represents a viable and extant tool for evaluating performance evaluation processes from a cognitive theoretical perspective. Second, we propose that the social and relational outcomes of performance evaluation are effectively described by theories of intrapersonal (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996) and interpersonal (Hareli & Rafaeli, in press) affect. In this section, we brieﬂy review the four categories of social context proposed by Levy and Williams (2004), and integrate them within accountability and affect theoretical frameworks. These categories include distal variables, process proximal variables, structural proximal variables, and rater and ratee behavior. 7.1. Distal variables Levy and Williams (2004) referred to distal variables as macro-level factors that inﬂuence the performance evaluation system. These are classiﬁed as environmental factors in accountability theory (Frink et al., 2008), and include social norms, regulatory mandates, culture and climate effects, strategy, and network relationships. Environmental factors generally shape performance evaluations as antecedents to formal appraisal systems and informal appraisal norms. Theoretically, environmental factors should inﬂuence affective reactions only when they modify performance evaluation systems or inﬂuence perceptions of change. Congruent with prior research (Frink et al., 2008; Levy & Williams, 2004), we anticipate these effects on individuals to be largely mediated through structural and process proximal variables. 7.2. Process and structural proximal variables Structural proximal variables are performance evaluation features that inﬂuence the nature and content of the performance evaluation (Levy & Williams, 2004). Examples include performance standards, the frequency of evaluation, legitimacy of the evaluation, and evaluation system features. Relatedly, process proximal variables inﬂuence the conduct of a performance evaluation (Levy & Williams, 2004). Examples of process proximal variables include the rater–ratee relationship, performance expectancies, task characteristics, and rater and ratee affect.
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Structural and process proximal variables are comparable to Frink et al.'s (2008) accountability systems and accountability environment, respectively. As discussed earlier, accountability systems describe the informal and formal means of evaluation and the performance target of that evaluation (i.e., the ratee). Meanwhile, the accountability environment includes the purpose (i.e., ratee performance evaluation), source (i.e., raters), salience (i.e., importance of the outcome), and intensity (i.e., perceived level of accountability) as perceived by the ratee. 7.3. Rater and rate behavior Rater and ratee behaviors include the conveyance of a performance evaluation, and the attitudinal, cognitive, and behavioral responses of the ratee (Levy & Williams, 2004). Frink et al. (2008) referred to process proximal variables as the experience of accountability (emphasis added). This process describes the communication of performance perceptions between rater(s) and ratees. The process results in positive or negative outcomes for ratees, which have signiﬁcant affective ramiﬁcations (e.g., Hareli & Rafaeli, in press; Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996). Speciﬁcally, we have argued that positive or negative outcomes of performance evaluation may modify an individual's relationship and role within the organization through an emotional reaction. Frink et al. (2008) also argued that performance evaluations modify resource distributions within an organization, either enhancing or reducing the effectiveness, reputation, and psychological well-being of the worker. Thus, the application of these theories provides the explanatory mechanism through which performance evaluation outcomes may be understood. Levy and Williams (2004) argued that performance evaluation effectiveness functions on the basis of its accuracy, freedom from error and bias, and constructive reaction from both the rater and ratee. Based on the theory reviewed, we would suggest these outcomes are best understood using a theoretical application of accountability and affect frameworks. Furthermore, there are advantages that accrue from application of existing theory to performance evaluation. For example, the Frink et al. (2008) meso-level theory explicitly categorizes features of the performance evaluation process so that replication and extension can be facilitated. For example, a study evaluating an annual formal performance evaluation of one individual by a human resource ofﬁcer would not necessarily compare to a study evaluating weekly informal performance evaluations between supervisors and their subordinates. Thus, additional speciﬁcity logically enhances the progress of research, and allows for more accurate application in practice. It is our hope that the use of these theoretical frameworks will stimulate more compelling research into the social and relationship context of performance evaluation. 8. 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