Theses Doctoral

Performance Appraisals: Understanding What Makes Feedback Meaningful for the Recipient

Kushner, Michael S.

The study was designed to explore how nurses at a non-union pediatric hospital make meaning of the feedback they receive during their career from their annual appraisals. The qualitative study design used a survey, and from the survey participants, 21 interviewees were selected. Based on the survey responses and categorizing those responses by standard deviation from the mean, three groups were determined. It was expected that there would be differentiated patterns by group. The study identified seven findings that were consistent with the literature. However, there was one surprise. The recipients’ appraisal rating/score on their most recent appraisal was expected to impact their view of their experience, but this was not found to be the case. In fact, those with the lowest survey response scores (least favorable sentiment about appraisals) had the same or higher appraisal ratings when compared to the other two survey groups. With few exceptions, the interviewees expressed a wide variety of responses to interview questions, which is a sign of the dysfunction and lack of alignment of the appraisal tool, its administration, and recipients’ expectations. As a result, there was a lack of a common experience among the interviewees in total as well as within each of the three groups.

What was confirmed was that appraisal recipients placed different priorities on multiple variables (experiential learning, coaching, process, power, bias, motivation, learning environment, feedback) that can interfere with the feedback between the leader and the recipient. This can limit the effectiveness of the appraisal and the meaning the recipients make from the feedback. The Introduction chapter highlighted that many employers are struggling with appraisals, as evidenced by the number of major companies over the last few years looking for new ways of providing feedback and casting the traditional appraisal aside. Appraisals are widely used, and much of the research has been completed by researchers in Psychology or Human Resources. Most often, the recipient has not been the focus of the research, or an Adult Learning lens was used.

Understanding how an appraisal recipient makes meaning is complex and likely beyond the training and ability of most leaders. As a result, a principal recommendation of this study is that an intermediary who is a highly trained coach be integrated into the appraisal process for all employees. This would allow a personalized approach to be developed for each employee within a standard process.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Yorks, Lyle
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 23, 2022