Performance Appraisal Tutorial | Rating scales and rating errors

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Rating scales and rating errors

The rating scale method offers a high degree of structure of performance appraisal. Each employee trait or characteristic is rated on a bipolar scale that usually has several points ranging from “poor” to “excellent” (or some similar arrangement).

The traits assessed on these scales include employee attributes such as cooperation, communications ability, initiative, punctuality and technical (work skills) competence. The nature and scope of the traits selected for inclusion is limited only by the imagination of the scale’s designer, or by the organization’s need to know.

The one major provision in selecting traits is that they should be in some way relevant to the appraisee’s job. The traits selected by some organizations have been unwise and have resulted in legal action on the grounds of discrimination.

The rating scale method is used for appraisals. Each employee trait or characteristic is rated on a scale with several points ranging from “poor” to “excellent”. The employee’s attributes such as cooperation, communications ability, initiative, punctuality and technical (work skills) competence are assessed on these scales. The Organization designs the nature and scope of the traits selected for inclusion in the rating. The traits selected for rating should be relevant to the appraisee’s job so that any discrimination will not be noticed.


  • Rating scales are structured and standardized so that ratings will be it easily compared and contrasted.
  • Equal appraisal process and rating criteria will encourage equality in treatment for all appraisees and imposes standard measures of performance.
  • Rating scale methods should be easy to use and understand. Both appraisers and appraisees should appreciate the simple and efficient logic of the bipolar scale.


  • Relevance of the traits
  • A standardized and fixed system of appraisal with certain traits may have a greater relevance in some jobs than in others. The relevance of rating scales is context-sensitive. Job and workplace circumstances must be taken into consideration.

Systemic Disadvantage

  • Rating scales and the traits they assert to measure generally attempt to encapsulate all the relevant indicators of employee performance. The assumptions of the inclusion of relevant indicators are very difficult to prove in practice.  Employee’s performance that depends on the factors that have not been included in the selected traits will have disadvantages.

Perceptual Errors

  • Selective perception is the human tendency to make private and highly subjective assessments to trace human quality and seek evidence to support that view. We always search in others what we expect to see in them. The supervisor who considers an employee good always tries to ignore evidence that might suggest otherwise. Here supervisor covers for him and offer excuses for his declining performance.
  • On the other hand, a supervisor who carries bad impression on an employee becomes unreasonably harsh in the assessment of the employee, and always ready to criticize and undermine him. It will be a significant threat to the effectiveness and credibility of performance appraisal.

Perceived Meaning

When appraisers do not share the same opinion about the meaning of the selected traits and the language used on the rating scales the problems of perceived meaning occur.

An employee who demonstrates the trait of initiative to one supervisor for any problem related to work may be undermined by another supervisor suggesting an excessive dependence on supervisory assistance. The language and terms used to construct a scale may mean different things to different appraisers.

Rating Errors

Busy appraisers may be tempted to too many passive, middle-of-the-road rating regardless of the actual performance of a subordinate. This problem is found when the appraisal process does not enjoy strong management support and the appraisers do not feel confidence with the task of appraisal.

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