Employee Reactions to Perceived Political Motives in Performance Appraisal



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Supervisors claim to inflate, deflate, or otherwise manipulate performance ratings to achieve personal goals (Longenecker, Sims, & Gioia, 1987). While we know these goals impact performance ratings (e.g., Wang, Wong, & Kwong, 2010), it is unclear how (or if) supervisors’ goals influence employee reactions to performance appraisal. To test this idea, I first grouped supervisors’ goals into two political motives categories based on theory of negative and positive politics (Davis & Gardner, 2004): rater-serving motives and employee-serving motives. Next, framed by attribution theory (Weiner, 1985, 1995), I proposed a process whereby political motives influence employee perceptions of procedural justice, which evoke an emotional response, which impact perceptions of overall fairness. Further, I predicted that outcome favorability would moderate the process, such that the indirect effect holds when ratings are perceived unfavorable rather than favorable. Direct and indirect effects within the model were tested. Results indicated that rater-serving motives decrease perceptions of procedural justice, leading to a negative emotional response, and low perceived fairness. The indirect effect was magnified when appraisal outcomes were more unfavorable. The indirect effect from employee-serving motives to fairness was not significant. Contributions to organizational politics and overall fairness theory are discussed, as well as practical recommendations for approaching political motives in performance appraisal.



Performance appraisal, Organizational politics, Rater motivation, Attribution theory, Overall fairness, Procedural justice, Sensemaking theory, Outcome favorability