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Agency theory and performance appraisal: How bad theory damages learning and contributes to bad management practice

Evans, S.J. (2016) Agency theory and performance appraisal: How bad theory damages learning and contributes to bad management practice. Management Learning, 48 (3). pp. 271-291. ISSN 1350-5076. (doi:10.1177/1350507616672736) (KAR id:58816)

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Performance appraisal interviews remain central to how employees are scrutinised, rewarded and sometimes penalized by managers. But they are also often castigated as ineffective, or even harmful, to both individuals and organizations. Exploring this paradox, we highlight the influence of agency theory on the (mal)practice of performance appraisal. The performative nature of HRM increasingly reflects an economic approach within which its practises are aligned with agency theory. Such theory assumes that actors are motivated mainly or only by economic self-interest. Close surveillance is required to eliminate the risk of shirking and other deviant behaviours. It is a pessimistic mind-set about people that undermines the supportive, co-operative and developmental rhetoric with which appraisal interviews are usually accompanied. Consequently, managers often practice appraisal interviews while holding onto two contradictory mind-sets, a state of Orwellian Doublethink that damages individual learning and organizational performance. We encourage researchers to adopt a more radical critique of appraisal practices that foregrounds issues of power, control and conflicted interests between actors beyond the analyses offered to date.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/1350507616672736
Uncontrolled keywords: Performance appraisal; agency theory; motivation
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Divisions: Divisions > Kent Business School - Division > Department of Leadership and Management
Depositing User: Samantha Evans
Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2016 11:53 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2023 12:40 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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