Performance management is ineffective, demotivating and based on inappropriate targets

Performance management is ineffective, demotivating and based on inappropriate targets according to the findings of a Keele University report based upon a survey conducted by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union into the divisive system.The report by Dr Steve French of the university’s centre for employment policy and equalities looked at our survey which 27,000 members took part in and highlights members’ difficulties and issues with the PM systems under which they work.

A week of action, which started on Monday 25 June, called for the scrapping of performance management across the civil service with activities involving political action, lodging grievances and raising awareness. Performance management systems operating in government departments are discriminatory and unfair and give a pre-determined 10% of staff the bottom box marking. In the survey, more than 60% of members described their overall experience of performance management as ‘mainly negative’.

A key issue identified by members’ responses to the survey is that of forced distributions: almost four-fifths (79.7%) do not believe that ‘a fixed 10% of staff will receive a must improve rating’ and three-quarters (74.6%) do not agree that there should be a limit on the number of top (exceed) ratings. Indeed, two-thirds of respondents (66.2%) agree that PM would be fairer if the forced distribution of box markings were removed.

Negative opinion
Dr French said it was “hardly surprising that a clear majority of members have a negative opinion of PM, reinforced by the views of those members within the survey sample who are line managers.”

Over four-fifths of those surveyed do not agree that PM causes ‘healthy competition’ between members of teams (88%), almost two-thirds (65.7%) agree that it places too much pressure on line managers and over half (53.9%) believe that it is used to bully and harass staff.

The report highlights deep levels of resentment towards the system, with many members questioning its relevance to their work. There is also a perception from certain groups of members, notably those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, disabled members, those in more junior grades and older workers, that they are subject to detrimental treatment and outcomes under the PM.

Dr French concluded that “in the light of a system in which members appear to have lost faith and whose relevance is questionable as well as one which is discriminatory it would appear that a fundamental reform or even the termination of PM would be appropriate.”

Read the report in full.

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