Antecedents and Consequences of Performance Appraisal Rater Discomfort

Date of Completion

January 2011


Psychology, Industrial




A laboratory study and a field study were conducted to investigate performance appraisal (PA) climate and rater expectations antecedents of rater PA discomfort when anticipating delivery of PA feedback to their poorest performers and different coping responses as a consequence of the rater's discomfort. The model hypothesizes that performance appraisal climate measures (climate for challenging PA ratings, comparative performance information, explanations provided, and control over performance) would be related to rater expectations of ratee's challenge of PA feedback and/or rater expectations of ratee's acceptance of PA feedback. The remaining hypotheses were developed using Lazarus and Folkman's (1984) stress theory. Rater expectations of ratee's challenge of feedback was predicted to be positively related to rater discomfort, while rater expectations of ratee's acceptance of feedback was expected to be negatively related to rater discomfort. In turn, rater discomfort was hypothesized to be positively related to coping responses. PA leniency was the only coping strategy investigated in the laboratory study, while the field study examined getting ready (preparing) for PA feedback and avoidance coping as general coping strategies (measured by more specific coping indicators). 348 students were involved in the laboratory study, and 658 supervisors with experience conducting PA evaluations participated in the field study. In both studies support was found for some of the paths hypothesized between PA climate and rater expectations, but not all such paths. All of the remaining hypotheses were fully supported. However, rater discomfort partially mediates between rater expectations and coping responses. Other omitted paths that were found are also discussed. The final revised model in the field study was successfully cross-validated. The set of studies is the first to empirically investigate antecedents and consequences of PA rater discomfort using Lazarus and Folkman's (1984) stress theory. The model has implications for places where additional interventions can be designed to make the PA process run more smoothly, which is of interest to academics and practitioners. More specific implications and suggestions for future research are discussed. ^