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Performance evaluation inflation and compression

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  • Golman, Russell
  • Bhatia, Sudeep

Abstract

We provide a behavioral account of subjective performance evaluation inflation (i.e., leniency bias) and compression (i.e., centrality bias). When a manager observes noisy signals of employee performance and the manager strives to produce accurate ratings but feels worse about unfavorable errors than about favorable errors, the manager’s selfishly optimal ratings will be biased upwards. Both the uncertainty about performance and the asymmetry in the manager’s utility are necessary conditions for performance evaluation inflation. Moreover, the extent of the bias is increasing in the variance of the performance signal and in the asymmetry in aversion to unfair ratings. Uncertainty about performance also leads to compressed ratings. These results suggest that performance appraisals based on well-defined unambiguous criteria will have less bias. Additionally, we demonstrate that employer and employee can account for biased performance evaluations when they agree to a contract, and thus, to the extent leniency bias and centrality bias persist, these biases hurt employee performance and lower firm productivity.

Suggested Citation

  • Golman, Russell & Bhatia, Sudeep, 2012. "Performance evaluation inflation and compression," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 37(8), pages 534-543.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:aosoci:v:37:y:2012:i:8:p:534-543
    DOI: 10.1016/j.aos.2012.09.001
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    4. Gary E. Bolton & David J. Kusterer & Johannes Mans, 2015. "Inflated reputations: Uncertainty, leniency & moral wiggle room in trader feedback systems," Cologne Graduate School Working Paper Series 06-04, Cologne Graduate School in Management, Economics and Social Sciences, revised 29 Jul 2016.
    5. Bol, Jasmijn C. & Kramer, Stephan & Maas, Victor S., 2016. "How control system design affects performance evaluation compression: The role of information accuracy and outcome transparency," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 64-73.
    6. Gary E. Bolton & David J. Kusterer & Johannes Mans, 2019. "Inflated Reputations: Uncertainty, Leniency, and Moral Wiggle Room in Trader Feedback Systems," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 65(11), pages 5371-5391, November.
    7. B. William Demeré & Karen L. Sedatole & Alexander Woods, 2019. "The Role of Calibration Committees in Subjective Performance Evaluation Systems," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 65(4), pages 1562-1585, April.
    8. Irene Trapp & Rouven Trapp, 2019. "The psychological effects of centrality bias: an experimental analysis," Journal of Business Economics, Springer, vol. 89(2), pages 155-189, March.
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