Social context of the performance appraisal process: Exploring individual, organizational, job, and social effects on employee reactions to performance appraisal

Date of Completion

January 2006


Psychology, Social|Business Administration, Management|Sociology, Industrial and Labor Relations




This study explores the relative contributions of individual attributes, organizational and job characteristics, and the social context of the organization in explaining variation in employee reactions to performance appraisal. The performance appraisal process has become a powerful institution within the employment relationship, having significant impact upon employees. ^ Building on Murphy and Cleveland's comprehensive analysis (1995), it addresses the theoretical and empirical gaps in the literature through analysis of performance appraisal alongside social context, organizational structure, job-specific factors, individual differences, dyad similarity, and job-related attitudes. A valuable outcome of the study is the development of five reliable scales, measuring two dimensions of organizational-level social context, two dimensions of job-level social context, and one of the satisfaction dependent variable. ^ Results from a survey administered in four nonprofit organizations (N=250) have identified five key independent variables that influence attitudes about performance evaluation, and specifically, how social context operates and where it fits into the equation. Multiple regressions of the data confirm that employees are more satisfied with the appraisal process when they experience a low-control and high-team social context within the organization, high job satisfaction, autonomy in the job, and gender similarity with the supervisor. Team-oriented job-level social context was not directly related to satisfaction with appraisal process but was a strong antecedent to job satisfaction. Employees' satisfaction with their most recent appraisal was directly affected by job satisfaction and control. Major findings include: (1) social context operates uniquely at the organizational and job levels, (2) many dimensions of social context exist and univariate, directional hypotheses do not realistically illustrate its complexity and (3) social context provides the linkage between race, structural characteristics, job satisfaction and appraisal satisfaction and therefore, serves a career-enhancing function. ^