Playing God? the performance of appraisal

Tim Newton, Patricia Findlay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


The authors argue here that work on performance appraisal suffers form a narrow theoretical perspective and a variety of methodological limitations. the narrow theoretical base appears as a consequence of the treatment of performance appraisal within a largely neo-human relations perspective. More recently, however, a critical debate on appraisal has emerged. In order to further this debate, we analyse performance appraisal from the contrasting perspectives of labour process theory and the writings of Michel Foucault. This analysis points to a number of limitations of both mainstream work on appraisal and more recent critical studies. From this, we argue that though appraisal can be seen as a means of manufacturing consent among employees, it should not necessarily be seen as a zero-sum game solely benefiting management groups. At the same time, however, appraisal must be viewed within the wider context of other forms of performance management, surveillance and accountability. Finally, we note that while labour process and Foucauldian perspectives help to contextualise and critique work on appraisal, both are limited by a lack of attention to human agency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-58
Number of pages17
JournalHuman Resource Management Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 1996


  • performance appraisal
  • performance management

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