Procedural justice in performance evaluation: the role of instrumental and non-instrumental voice in performance appraisal discussions
M. Audrey Korsgaard
This study examined the role of subordinate voice in creating positive attitudes in the performance appraisal context. Two aspects of voice, instrumental and non-instrumental, were assessed. Both aspects of voice were related to satisfaction with the appraisal, while only non-instrumental voice had an impact on attitudes toward the manager. Implications for procedural justice and performance appraisal are discussed
Recent research on justice in organizations has demonstrated that distributive justice, defined as the perceived fairness of the distribution of resources, and procedural justice, defined as the perceived fairness of the procedures used to make allocation decisions, are independently related to attitudes toward the decision and the organization (Folger, 1987). Regardless of the perceived fairness of the decision itself, fair procedures will result in more positive attitudes. That is, procedural justice can engender positive attitudes toward decisions that might be otherwise viewed negatively. Justice theorists have posited a number of aspects of procedures that lead to perceived fairness. One of the most extensively studied procedural variables is process control or “voice”. This refers to the practice of allowing individuals who are affected by a given decision to present information relevant to the decision (Thibaut & Walker, 1975; Folger, 1977). Research has indicated that voice affects perceptions of procedural and distributive justice, as well as subsequent attitudes, in many organizational decision contexts and is particularly relevant to performance evaluation (e.g., Kanfer, Sawyer, Earley & Lind, 1987; Paese, Lind & Kanfer, 1988; Greenberg, 1986).
Voice in the performance evaluation process can take on many forms. In an analysis of critical incidents concerning fairness in evaluation, Greenberg (1986) identified five categories of procedural fairness: rater familiarity with a ratee’s work, consistent application of standards, soliciting input prior to an evaluation and using it, two-way communication during an interview, and the ability to challenge or rebut an evaluation. The last three dimensions concern voice in some stage of the evaluation process. Guided by Greenberg’s (1986) findings, Folger and Konovsky (1989) identified two aspects of voice, labelled Feedback and Recourse, that uniquely predicted satisfaction with pay, organizational commitment, and trust in management, regardless of the perceived fairness of the pay decision itself. These factors contained items tapping different forms of voice, such as seeking subordinate input (Feedback) and subordinate’s ability to rebut supervisor ratings (Recourse). Voice can be introduced not only in different forms but at different times in the evaluation process. Pease et al. (1988) introduced voice early in the process by having subjects help in defining performance criteria. Kanfer et al. (1987) introduced voice at a later stage, by enabling subjects to present their opinions on their performance. Although voice was introduced at different times, both studies demonstrated a positive effect of voice on attitudes.
Despite its consistent effect, there remains ambiguity over what is meant by voice in performance evaluation. This problem is not unique to the justice literature. Voice is a form of subordinate participation, which has long been cited as a means to enhance satisfaction with the appraisal process (Carroll & Schneier, 1982). The construct of participation in the performance appraisal interview has also been linked to a number of outcomes, such as attitudes and perceptions of the appraisal (Burke, & Wilcox, 1969; Dipboye & dePontbriand, 1981; Landy, Barnes & Murphy, 1978; Landy, Barnes-Farrell & Cleveland, 1980; Nemeroff & Wexley, 1979; Prince & Lawler, 1986), motivation to improve (Burke & Wilcox, 1969; Nemeroff & Wexley, 1979), and satisfaction with work and supervisor (Nathan, Mohrman & Milliman, 1991). However, some studies have provided mixed evidence or failed to support an effect of participation. Greller (1975) found that satisfaction was linked to one form of participation, when the manager invites the subordinate to participate, but not to another, the amount of time the subordinate talks. Attempts to manipulate participation in evaluation procedures failed to find a positive effect of participation on performance improvement (DeGregorio, Fisher & Fields, 1985; Hillery & Wexley, 1974).
Further, conclusive statements have been hindered by varying conceptualizations of the participation construct (Fulk, Brief & Ban’, 1985; DeGregorio et al., 1985). Operationalizations of participation in appraisals have included: the opportunity to participate (Fulk et al., 1985; Greller, 1978; Landy et al., 1978; Nathan et al., 1991), amount of subordinate talk (Greller, 1975), and the opportunity to self appraise (DeGregorio et al., 1985). Research on employee participation in general has been plagued by a lack of consensus on the meaning of participation and its underlying mechanism (Greenberg & Folger, 1983; Locke & Schweiger, 1979). This debate has centered around whether influence is necessary for participation effects (Kanfer et al., 1987). The procedural justice literature, particularly research on voice, offers an alternative theoretical perspective for examining and clarifying the effects of subordinate participation. This has significant implications for understanding and improving the performance appraisal feedback process.
Currently, there are two proposed reasons why voice is valued, often referred to as the instrumental and non-instrumental effects (Lind & Tyler, 1988). The instrumental explanation of the voice effect posits that voice provides the perception of indirect control over decisions when direct control is impossible (Shapiro, 1993; Thibaut & Walker, 1975). That is, voice affects people’s attitudes toward a decision because they feel they have had a chance to indirectly influence the decision. The non-instrumental explanation is one in which voice is intrinsically valued regardless of whether the input influences the decision. This type of voice is valued because it is indicative of one’s status in the group or organization (Lind & Tyler, 1988). That is, voice engenders positive attitudes because it is a desired end in itself. The key distinction between these mechanisms of voice is the perceived potential to influence, regardless of whether voice had any impact on the decision (Shapiro, 1993).
Research has failed to demonstrate conclusively the dominance of one mechanism over the other (Shapiro, 1993). For example, Paese (reported in Lind & Tyler, 1988) found a positive effect of voice that persisted across decisions in which subjects received unfavorable outcomes. Although the persistence of a positive effect of voice appears to support a non-instrumental explanation, Paese also found that attitudes toward the decision gradually declined over decision trials, suggesting that instrumental concerns may have been operating as well. In general, research on this issue is so equivocal that proponents of both explanations have used the same pattern of results to support their own positions (Shapiro, 1993).
The confusion over empirically demonstrating support for either interpretation of voice underscores the difficulty in distinguishing between instrumental and non-instrumental voice. From a practical perspective, the distinction between voice effects may have a profound impact on the implementation of fair procedures, particularly in performance appraisal contexts. If, for example, voice is valued only for its instrumental effect, it would be effective only if it is introduced at certain points in the decision process where the potential of influence is clear. In fact, there is evidence that self-appraisal, a common way to increase subordinate voice in the appraisal process, has a stronger impact on perceived fairness if the appraisal is elicited prior to the superior’s evaluation than concurrent with it (Korsgaard & Goodwin, 1992). Conceptually, however, the instrumental and non-instrumental values of voice seem to be linked. Non-instrumental voice–the mere opportunity to be heard, regardless of impact–is a necessary condition for the perception of instrumental voice–the potential to influence by voicing one’s opinion. Thus, in order to distinguish between these effects, it is necessary to demonstrate the effect of non-instrumental voice beyond the effect of the perceived potential to influence (Shapiro, 1993). Similarly, in order to demonstrate an instrumental effect of voice, perceptions of influence must have consequences beyond the effect of simply voicing an opinion.
It is possible that voice operates through both mechanisms (Lind & Tyler, 1988; Shapiro, 1993), which can be more clearly understood by examining the functions of procedural and distributive justice. According to Lind and Tyler (1988), procedural justice should be more strongly related to attitudes toward authority and the organization than should distributive justice. Conversely, distributive justice, which is driven more by serf interest, should be more strongly related to attitudes toward the decision itself. Three studies (Alexander & Ruderman, 1987; Folger & Konovsky, 1989; McFarland & Sweeny, 1992) have demonstrated that procedural and distributive justice have unique effects on satisfaction with the decision and attitudes toward management and the organization. Further, these studies provide evidence that procedural justice has a stronger impact on attitudes toward management and the organization than does distributive justice.
The dual mechanisms of voice may parallel the differential impact of distributive and procedural justice. The non-instrumental effect of voice, which is indicative of one’s status, may be more relevant to long-term relationships with one’s manager or organization than to the immediate decision (Lind & Tyler, 1988). The instrumental effect of voice may be more bound to the specific decision situation. Integrating the mechanisms of voice in this way helps explain why procedural and distributive justice are substantively related to each other, yet uniquely related to attitudes. Research has often demonstrated a significant relationship between procedural and distributive justice, which, according to Folger (1987), suggests that perceptions of fair procedures impact the perceived fairness of outcomes. That is, perceptions of distributive justice are affected by perceptions of procedural justice. The instrumental mechanism of voice provides an explanation of this link: voice in decision procedures provides an indirect way to control or ensure a fair decision. In addition to and independent of its instrumental effect, voice engenders positive attitudes because it is a desired end in itself. Thus, voice may have both direct (non-instrumental voice) and indirect (instrumental voice via distributive justice) effects on attitudes.
The purpose of this paper is to examine and compare these two proposed explanations of voice in performance appraisal. Consistent with previous research (Alexander & Ruderman, 1987; Folger & Konovsky, 1989; McFarland & Sweeny, 1992) the relative influence of these components of procedural justice are examined while controlling for the effects of distributive justice. It is expected that procedural justice, as measured by instrumental and noninstrumental voice perceptions, will be uniquely related to attitudes toward management and toward the appraisal over the effects of distributive justice. It is further hypothesized that instrumental and non-instrumental voice perceptions will each be uniquely related to attitudes toward the appraisal and toward the manager rendering the appraisal. Further, the study examines the differential impact of the dual mechanisms of voice. Instrumental voice should be more strongly related to satisfaction with the appraisal than with attitudes toward the manager; whereas non-instrumental voice perceptions should be more strongly related to positive attitudes toward the manager than satisfaction with the appraisal.
Participants and Setting
The data reported in this paper were collected as part of a larger study on attitudes toward performance appraisals. Participants were 168 management-level employees in three divisions of a nation-wide retail organization. Thirty-eight percent of the respondents were male. The average respondent was 37.6 years old and had worked in this organization for 11.4 years.
The company-wide performance appraisal policy involved annual appraisals of managers by their superiors, using a standard form, and a meeting between the manager and superior to review the appraisal. The standard form consisted of three sections: an evaluation of goal attainment, open-ended comments, and ratings of six dimensions of management. In addition, the form contained an overall performance rating based on these evaluations. Merit raises were determined by the overall performance rating. Annual appraisal interviews were conducted throughout the year. The data were collected from surveys sent to participants shortly after their appraisal was conducted. Of 221 managers surveyed, 168 (76%) responded.
Voice. Two measures of subordinate voice in the appraisal session were used: instrumental and non-instrumental. Instrumental Voice, which refers to managers’ perceived potential influence over the appraisal discussion, was assessed by six items developed for this survey. Non-Instrumental Voice, which refers to managers’ contributions to the appraisal discussion, was assessed by eight items derived from Greller (1978) and Burke, Weitzel & Weir (1978). The assessment of non-instrumental voice presents a special challenge, as participation in the appraisal discussion may constitute a form of indirect influence. Thus, the measurement of non-instrumental voice effects is actually captured by the residualized measure, after controlling for instrumental voice. Similarly, the measure of instrumental voice was examined in terms of its unique contribution beyond the impact of non-instrumental voice. Consequently, voice effects were examined not by the zero-order correlations between voice measures and the criteria, but the partial relationships with the criteria.
Distributive Justice. Previously, researchers have defined and measured distributive justice in performance appraisal as agreement with and perceived fairness of the superior’s performance rating (Folger, 1987; Greenberg, 1986). Based on this definition, four items were written for this study to assess perceptions of distributive justice.
Satisfaction with Appraisal Review. Two items developed for this survey measured satisfaction with the appraisal review. These items addressed managers’ attitudes toward the review in which their performance evaluation was communicated and discussed.
Trust in Manager. Participants’ attitude toward their superior was assessed in terms of the level of trust in their superior, or manager, using four items adapted from Cook and Wall (1980). A similar scale was used in previous research on procedural justice (Folger & Konovsky, 1989) and performance appraisal (Fulk et al., 1985).
Items for all variables are included the Appendix. The coefficient alphas, descriptive statistics and correlations for all variables are listed in Table 1.
Table 1. Means, Standard Deviations, Reliabilities and Intercorrelations(ab)
Variable Mean SD 1 2
1. Tenure 11.49 7.33
2. Gender(c) 0.38 .49 .08
3. Age 38.22 9.95 .64 .08
4. Trust in Manager 3.88 .98 .02 -.03
5. Satisfaction w/Appraisal 3.62 1.01 .03 -.05
6. Distributive Justice 3.76 .92 .04 .03
7. Instrumental Voice 2.94 .71 -.09 -.02
8. Non-instrumental Voice 2.93 .84 -.19 .02
Variable 3 4 5 6
4. Trust in Manager -.06 (.95)
5. Satisfaction w/Appraisal .04 .71 (.90)
6. Distributive Justice -.01 .57 .75 (.93)
7. Instrumental Voice -.06 .49 .65 .54
8. Non-instrumental Voice -.09 .48 .51 .34
Variable 7 8
4. Trust in Manager
5. Satisfaction w/Appraisal
6. Distributive Justice
7. Instrumental Voice (.79)
8. Non-instrumental Voice .51 (.86)
(a.) Complete data existed for 164 of the cases; correlations greater than .13 are significant at p <05.
(b.) Reliabilities (coefficient alpha) are reported in parentheses.
(c.) For gender: 1 = male, 0 = female.
Research involving cross-sectional correlational data, such as collected in this study, is vulnerable to common method variance. One procedure to assess the severity of method variance is to conduct confirmatory factor analyses (CFA) on competing models that increase in complexity (McFarland & Sweeny, 1992; Podsakoff & Organ, 1986). If method variance is a significant problem, a simple model (e.g., single factor model) should fit the data as well as a more complex model. Preliminary to the main analyses in this study, CFA was conducted on all measured variables for five models of increasing complexity (available from the first author). The hypothesized model, containing five factors–satisfaction, trust in manager, instrumental voice, non-instrumental voice, and distributive justice–yielded a better fit of the data than any of the simpler models (GFI=.79; Bender Bonnet=.83). Further, the improved fit of the five factor model over all simpler models was statistically significant; for example, the difference in the chi-square statistic between the single factor model and the five factor model was significant (the change in [chi square] = 414.74, the change in df=5, p [is less than] .05, Loehlin, 1987). While this procedure does not eliminate the threat of method variance, it provides evidence that inter-item correlations are not driven purely by method bias.
As noted earlier, in order to demonstrate either voice effect, instrumental and non-instrumental voice must be significantly related to attitudes independently of each other (Shapiro, 1993). Thus, the effect of noninstrumental voice is represented by the unique contribution of the noninstrumental measure, while the effect of instrumental voice is represented by the unique contribution of the instrumental measure. As a set, the instrumental and non-instrumental measures represent voice. Perceptions of distributive justice were also included in order to assess the effects of voice beyond the perceived fairness of the appraisal decision.
Usefulness analysis (Darlington, 1968) was conducted to assess the unique contribution of each variable to attitudes. The unique contributions are determined by the squared semi-partial correlation ([sr.sup.2]), which indicates the incremental change in [R.sup.2] for a given variable beyond all other variables. This procedure removes the common variance between predictors in assessing their impact on the criterion, thereby providing a more stringent test of relationships in the context of single source data. In addition, demographic variables (age, sex and tenure) were entered first to control for any potential inflation of relationships between predictor and criterion variables (McFarland & Sweeny, 1992).
Table 2 includes the results of usefulness analyses for both satisfaction with the appraisal and trust in manager. Both distributive justice ([sr.sup.2] = .193, p .05) and the set of voice components (s[R.sup.2] =.121, p [is less than] .05) were uniquely related to appraisal satisfaction. The contributions of distributive justice and the set of voice components were also uniquely related to trust (distributive justice: [sr.sup.2] = .105, p [is less than] .05; voice: s[R.sup.2] = .101, p [is less than] .05). To further support the independence of the effect of voice components, the interaction of distributive justice and voice was also tested for satisfaction with the review and trust in manager. For both criteria, neither the interaction of individual voice components and distributive justice nor the set of interactions was significant. Thus, the effect of voice on satisfaction and trust does not depend upon perceptions of distributive justice.
Table 2. Usefulness Analyses of Perceptions of Distributive Justice and Voice on Satisfaction and Trust(a)
Independent Variables Appraisal Review
Distributive Justice Beyond Voice .193(*)
Voice Components Beyond Distributive Justice .121(*)
Instrumental Voice Beyond DJ and
Non-Instrumental Voice .039(*)
Non-instrumental Beyond DJ and
Instrumental Voice .034(*)
Independent Variables Manager
Distributive Justice Beyond Voice .105(*)
Voice Components Beyond Distributive Justice .101(*)
Instrumental Voice Beyond DJ and
Non-Instrumental Voice .011
Non-instrumental Beyond DJ and
Instrumental Voice .057(*)
(a.) Unless otherwise indicated, the statistics reported in the table are squared, semi-partial correlations, indicating the incremental change in [R.sup.2] for a given variable beyond all other variables.
(*) p < .05
The results also indicate that the individual voice components, instrumental and non-instrumental, are uniquely related to satisfaction with the appraisal. These findings suggest that instrumental and non-instrumental voice account for roughly the same amount of variance in satisfaction (instrumental voice: [sr.sup.2] = .039, p [is less than] .05; non-instrumental: [sr.sup.2] = .034, p [is less than] .05). The usefulness analysis on trust in manager provides a different pattern of results. Although, as a set, the voice components are significantly related to trust ([sr.sup.2] = .101, p [is less than] .05), only non-instrumental voice is significantly and uniquely related to trust ([sr.sup.2] = .057, p [is less than] .05). Perceptions of instrumental voice was not significantly related to trust independently of the simple opportunity to voice one’s opinion ([sr.sup.2] = .011, p [is greater than] .05). Thus, while non-instrumental voice accounts for slightly more variance in trust (6%) than satisfaction (3%), instrumental voice accounts for more variance in satisfaction (4%) than in trust (1%).
The differential prediction of satisfaction and trust by voice components may be alternatively explained by the notion of unfair comparisons (Cooper & Richardson, 1986). Comparisons between the effect of one variable and another may be unfair due to differences in the distributions of the variables and/or the procedures used to assess the variables. The standard deviations reported in Table 1 indicate that the measures of instrumental voice, noninstrumental voice, satisfaction, and trust do not differ widely in the degree of variability. However, slight procedural differences may exist, given that the scales were composed of differing numbers of items and somewhat different reliabilities. To address the potential unfairness of comparing effects of variables that are more or less reliable, the analyses were repeated using disattenuated correlations. The results of these analyses produced the same pattern of significant effects.
The findings partially supported the hypothesis that there are dual mechanisms of voice in that both components of voice were uniquely related to satisfaction with the appraisal review. Perceptions of instrumental and noninstrumental voice, as captured by the semi-partial correlations, were independently and comparably predictive of appraisal satisfaction. This pattern of results is consistent with previous research and theory (Leung & Li, 1991; Lind & Tyler, 1988) concerning the dual purposes of voice. However, the same pattern of unique effects was not found for trust in manager. Trust was uniquely related only to non-instrumental voice. The difference in the impact of voice components on satisfaction versus trust supports the notion that instrumental voice is more important to reactions to allocation decisions than to attitudes toward management.
This is consistent with the findings of Leung and Li (1991) in which voice affected perceptions of procedural justice, distributive justice, and agreement with the decision. The authors concluded that voice affects distributive justice only when it is perceived to be influential; while voice merely had to be considered by the decision maker to effect procedural justice perceptions. This study supports and extends these conclusions, by directly assessing these two aspects of voice and linking them to attitudes that are relevant to procedural and distributive fairness. The impact of voice components on these attitudes, satisfaction and trust, was similar to the differential impact of procedural and distributive justice on satisfaction and trust (e.g., Folger & Konovsky, 1989). Thus, voice can serve dual purposes, affecting different fairness perceptions and different attitudes. These results underscore the importance of distinguishing between the various consequences of fairness in order to understand the value of voice to individuals.
There are, however, inconsistencies between the current findings and previous research. Folger and Konovsky (1989) concluded that procedural justice was more strongly related to attitudes toward management than was distributive justice. In the present study, however perceptions of both voice components and of distributive justice were comparably related to trust in manager. One possible reason for this departure is that, in the current study, components of procedural fairness in evaluation other than voice, such as the superior’s opportunity to observe the manager and the consistent application of standards, were not examined (Greenberg, 1986; Folger, Konovsky & Cropanzano, 1992).
Another factor potentially affecting the results is the high degree of intercorrelation. The high intercorrelation between voice components may have contributed to the non-significant relationship between instrumental voice and in trust in manager. Ten percent of the variance in trust was explained by the voice components together, whereas non-instrumental voice accounted for only 5.7%. Thus, a considerable amount of the variance in trust explained by voice is attributable to the overlap between components. A similar pattern of results can be seen in the unique contributions of voice components and distributive justice.(1)
Research on participation in performance appraisal has produced mixed effects, because of failure to recognize the complexity of the phenomenon (Pasmore & Fagans, 1992). The findings of this study help to untangle some of this complexity, for they show that “participation” can encompass instrumental and non-instrumental voice, yet the two are not interchangeable in their effects. Thus, it may be possible that participation interventions can be more effectively designed depending on the desired outcomes. If the procedures are intended to enhance attitudes toward the management and the organization, then participation as non-instrumental, symbolic voice may be appropriate. For example, an effective tool may be to provide for two-way discussion after the supervisor’s decision has been made. If the procedures are designed to enhance the acceptance of the performance appraisal itself, then participation as instrumental voice, with the possibility of influence might be more suitable. For example, an appeals procedure might serve as an instrumental form of voice introduced at the end of the decision process. Such procedures must be structured carefully, for if the expectation of influence is created but never realized, employees may be more resentful than if there were no voice at all (Cohen, 1985; Folger, 1986).
In addition to structuring voice into appraisal procedures, the appraiser’s reaction may be critical to perceptions of procedural justice. Research suggests that an individual’s voiced opinion must be acknowledged or considered by the decision maker in order for voice to have its effect (e.g., Tyler, 1987; Shapiro, 1993). Shapiro (1993) has identified instrumental and non-instrumental managerial actions, such as expressing the employee’s opinion to upper management or verbally acknowledging the subordinate’s views, that contribute to the perception of consideration. Future research should examine what actions managers do and should do in response to subordinate voice in the appraisal process.
Additional research should also examine these processes in a longitudinal framework. Research involving repeated measures has demonstrated that the voice effect persists but weakens over repeated exposure to unfavorable outcomes (e.g., Paese in Lind & Tyler, 1988). Whereas these repeated measures studies have used brief time frames, performance appraisals are typically repeated once every six to 12 months. The reactions to performance evaluations may be moderated by events that occur between evaluations. For example, some organizations incorporate coaching and periodic updates into the performance appraisal process. These activities might serve as voice opportunities for subordinates throughout the performance period.
In conclusion, the findings of this paper indicate that forms of voice have unique and differential relationships to organizational attitudes. While these results are tempered by limits of single source data collection and correlational design, they underscore the importance of considering different expressions of voice to the design of appraisal systems.
Acknowledgment: The authors wish to thank Maurice Cayer, Margaret Diddams, Doug Klein and Steven Torkel for their assistance in data collection. Thanks also to Bruce Meglino and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.
(1) The intercorrelation between dependent variables may also raise questions about the appropriateness of univariate analyses (i.e., separate regression equations for each dependent variable). The data were therefor analyzed in a multivariate multiple regression framework using LISREL-7, which produced the same pattern of significant results.
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I felt I could have introduced new topics during the appraisal. I felt I could have influenced the appraisal discussion. My manager and I share responsibility for the way the appraisal went. I felt I was unable to influence the direction of the discussion. (reverse scored) To what extent did you influence how your manager evaluates your work?
To what extent did you: Make suggestions about how you job might be done differently?. Talk about your major job responsibilities? Discuss what you felt your strengths and weakness are? Tell your manager about problems you were having on the job? State your side of the story? Express your views about what things are most important in your job? Tell your manager how you would evaluate yourself? Use the session as an opportunity to share your ideas and feelings?
The performance appraisal was fair. I agree with my final rating. I agree with the way my manager rated my performance. The performance appraisal fairly represented my past year’s performance.
Satisfaction with the Appraisal Review
From my perspective, the interview was a satisfying experience. In general, I am satisfied with the appraisal interview.
Trust in Manager
Taking all things into consideration, I am satisfied with my manager. My manager is honest in his/her dealing with me. I trust my manager. My manager is sincere in his/her attempt to meet my point of view.
Direct all correspondence to M. Audrey Korsgaard, University of South Carolina, College of Business Administration, Columbia, SC 29208.
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