Traditional methods of Performance Appraisal - Rating Scales Method - Confidential report system

1.Rating Scales Method

Rating Scales Method is commonly used method for assessing the performance of the employees and well-known traditional method of performance appraisal of employees. Many corporations and companies example in the country India, telecommunications company likely airtel and US IT companies like Dell Corporation are using this method for evaluating the employees and subsequently take decisions on concerned employee. 

Depending upon the job of employee under this method of appraisal traits like attitude, performance, regularity, accountability and sincerity etc,are rated with scale from 1 to 10. 1 indicates negative feedback and 10 indicates positive feedback as shown below.

Attitude of employee towards his superiors, colleagues and customers

 1 2 410 
Extremely                                                                                                                 Excellent

Regularity in the job

 1 2 410 
Extremely                                                                                                               outstanding

Under this method of performance appraisal, employee may be assessed by his superiors, colleagues, subordinates or sometimes by his customers which all depends on nature of the company or job which is added where the employee. Appraiser is a person who appraises employee will give rating for every trait given by marking or choosing number basing on his observation and satisfaction. ultimately all numbers chosen or marked will be added to determine highest score gained by employee. Employee who scored more points will be treated as top performer following  descending scored employees will be treated as low performer and the least scored employee will be treated as non-performers.
This traditional form of appraisal, also known as “Free Form method” involves a description of the performance of an employee by his superior. The description is an evaluation of the performance of any individual based on the facts and often includes examples and evidences to support the information. A major drawback of the method is the inseparability of the bias of the evaluator.

Under this method, the rater is asked to express the strong as well as weak points of the employee’s behavior. This technique is normally used with a combination of the graphic rating scale because the rater can elaborately present the scale by substantiating an explanation for his rating. While preparing the essay on the employee, the rater considers the following factors:
  • Job knowledge and potential of the employee;
  • Employee’s understanding of the company’s programmes, policies, objectives, etc.;
  • The employee’s relations with co-workers and superiors;
    How is technology helping transform performance appraisal and management?

    The most common cliché is “performance appraisal is dead“. What it means is the annual performance appraisal is dead and most organisations today are adopting regular, realtime, anecdotal and casual feedback. Just as young people do not write e-mails anymore they WhatsApp similarly we don't have to write a long performance appraisal at the end of the year. Companies are moving to real-time performance appraisal and that is why in our system everything is shareable and realtime. And technology plays the most crucial role in providing the platform to have fast and quick and informal communication.
  • The employee’s general planning, organizing and controlling ability;
  • The attitudes and perceptions of the employee, in general.
Essay evaluation is a non-quantitative technique. This method is advantageous in at least one sense, i.e., the essay provides a good deal of information about the employee and also reveals more about the evaluator. The essay evaluation method however, suffers from the following limitations:
  • It is highly subjective; the supervisor may write a biased essay. The employees who are sycophants will be evaluated more favorably then other employees.
  • Some evaluators may be poor in writing essays on employee performance. Others may be superficial in explanation and use flowery language which may not reflect the actual performance of the employee. It is very difficult to find effective writers nowadays.
  • The appraiser is required to find time to prepare the essay. A busy appraiser may write the essay hurriedly without properly assessing the actual performance of the worker. On the other hand, appraiser takes a long time, this becomes uneconomical from the view point of the firm, because the time of the evaluator (supervisor) is costly.


How do we use the ranking method? Under the ranking method, the manager com-pares an employee to other similar employees, rather than to a standard measurement. An offshoot of ranking is the forced distribution method, which is similar to grading on a curve. Predetermined percentages of employees are placed in various performance categories, for example, excellent,above average, average, below average, and poor,. The employees ranked in the top group usually get the rewards (raise, bonus, promotion), those not at the top tend to have the reward withheld, and those at the bottom sometimes get punished. In Self-Assessment and Skill Builder 8-1, you are asked to rank the performance of your peers. 

Why and when do we use the ranking method? Managers have to make evaluative decisions, such as who is the employee of the month, who gets a raise or promotion, and who  gets laid off. So when we have to make evaluative decisions, we generally have to use ranking. However, our ranking can, and when possible should, be based on other methods and forms. Ranking can also be used for developmental purposes by letting employees know where they stand in comparison to their peers—they can be motivated to improve performance. For example, when one of the authors passes back exams, he places the grade distribution on the board. It does not in any way affect the current grades—but it lets students know where they stand, and he does it to motivate improvement. 


A better technique of comparison than the straight ranking method, this method compares each employee with all others in the group, one at a time. After all the comparisons on the basis of the overall comparisons, the employees are given the final rankings.


This technique of performance appraisal was developed by Flanagan and Burns.
The manager prepares lists of statements of very effective and ineffective behavior of an employee. These critical incidents or events represent the outstanding or poor behavior of employees on the job. Th
e manager maintains logs on each employee, whereby he periodically records critical incidents of the workers behavior. At the end of the rating period, these recorded critical incidents are used in the evaluation of the workers’ performance. An example of a good critical incident of a sales assistant is the following:


July 20 – The sales clerk patiently attended to the customers complaint. He is polite, prompt, enthusiastic in solving the customers’ problem.


On the other hand the bad critical incident may appear as under:

July 20 – The sales assistant stayed 45 minutes over on his break during the busiest part of the day. He failed to answer the store manager’s call thrice. He is lazy, negligent, stubborn and uninterested in work.


This method provides an objective basis for conducting a thorough discussion of an employee’s performance. This method avoids recency bias (most recent incidents get too much emphasis). This method suffers however from the following limitations:

  • Negative incidents may be more noticeable than positive incidents.
  • The supervisors have a tendency to unload a series of complaints about incidents during an annual performance review session.
  • It results in very close supervision which may not be liked by the employee.
  • The recording of incidents may be a chore for the manager concerned, who may be too busy or forget to do it.


Confidential report system is well known method of performance appraisal system mostly being used by the the Government organisations. In this method of appraising system,  subordinate is observed by his superiors  regarding his performance in the job and on his duties done. Thereafter Superior writes confidential report on his performance, mainly on his behaviour in the organisation and conduct and remarks if any. confidential reports will be kept confidential and will not be revealed to anyone and finally confidential reports will be forwarded to the top management officials for taking decision against person on whom confidential report has made. Confidential reports are the main criteria for promoting or transferring of any employee mainly in the government sector. All governmental organisations example judiciary, police Department and other government departments in the India are using confidential reports method as a tool to know about the employee and to take any decision connecting to him.

Procedure of confidential report system
The superiors who appraises their subordinates performance, behaviour and other key issues will be kept in the form of writing on paper, which is called as confidential report.  Confidential report should not be sent openly on a paper, it must be kept in a sealed cover to send it to decision-making authorities. Only authorised persons are allowed to open the sealed covers which consists of confidential reports. Confidential reports shall not be handed over in loose sheets to the subordinates.

Key factors assessed in Confidential Report writing
  • Character and conduct of an employee
  • Absenteeism of an employee
  • Knowledge of an employee
  • His nature and quality of work
  • Punctuality of employee
  • Unauthorised absenteeism or leave without permission
  • Behaviour of an employee with colleagues, superiors and with public
  • Ability of supervision and controlling 
  • His/her integrity and honesty
  • If any complaints against employee

The rater is given a checklist of the descriptions of the behaviour of the employees on job. The checklist contains a list of statements on the basis of which the rater describes the on the job performance of the employees.

  Another simple type of individual evaluation method is the checklist. A checklist represents, in its simplest form, a set of objectives or descriptive statements about the employee and his behavior. If the rater believes strongly that the employee possesses a particular listed trait, he checks the item; otherwise, he leaves the item blank. A more recent variation of the checklist method is the weighted list. Under this, the value of each question may be weighted equally or certain questions may be weighted more heavily than others. The following are some of the sample questions in the checklist.

      Is the employee really interested in the task assigned?    Yes/No

      Is he respected by his colleagues (co-workers)              Yes/No

      Does he give respect to his superiors?                          Yes/No     

      Does he follow instructions properly?                            Yes/No

      Does he make mistakes frequently?                              Yes/No

Example of Graphic Rating Scales Method

Performance Trait
 Excellent Good Average
 Fair Poor
 5 4 3 21
Knowledge of Work
 5 4 3 2 1
Managerial Skills
 5 4 3 2 1
Team Work
 5 4 3 2 1
 5 4 3 2 1
 5 4 3 2 1
 5 4 3 2 1
Interpersonal relationships
 5 4 3 2 1
Creativity 5 4 3 2 1
 5 4

This is the very popular, traditional method of performance appraisal. Under this method, core traits of employee pertaining to his job are  carefully defined like Attitude, Knowledge of Work, Managerial Skills, Team Work, Honesty, Regularity, Accountability, Interpersonal relationships, Creativity and Discipline etc. Theses traits are allotted with with numerical scale to tabulate the scores gained by appraisee (employee) in  performance assessment  relating to his job by appraiser (employer) and sum-up to determine the best performer.  Appraiser ticks  rating of particular trait depending upon his endeavor in his job. Score vary form employee to employee depending up on his performance levels and endeavor in his job.

This method is popular because it is simple and does not require any writing ability. The method is easy to understand and use. Comparison among pairs is possible. This is necessary for decision on salary increases, promotion, etc.

Companies like DELL, Maruthi Suzuki India Ltd and airtel are using this graphic rating scale method to appraise performance of their employees in there jobs and to take decisions regarding the matters concerned to employees


The system is 17 to 18 years old, and most big organisations started waking up to this form of performance appraisal in the late '90s. The bell curve is nothing but a graphical representation of the fact that everybody's performance is not the same. Some employees will be outstanding, some average, and others at the bottom.
Irrespective of whether or not the bell curve is the most appropriate representation of performance or human behaviour, some believe that it is the most viable option, especially in services-driven sectors, which have large workforces.

The system requires the managers to evaluate each individual, and rank them typically into one of three categories (excellent, good, poor). The system is thought to be relatively widely-used, but remains somewhat controversial due to the competition it creates, and also the reality that not all employees will fit neatly into one of the categories and might end up in a category that does not reflect their true performance. One of the first companies to use this system was General Electric, in the 1980s.

In India, big Indian employers including Infosys, Wipro, ICICI Bank and Aditya Birla Group evaluate lakhs of employees on the basis of this system.
Back home, big Indian employers including InfosysBSE -0.47 %, WiproBSE 0.63 %, ICICI BankBSE 0.33 % and Aditya Birla Group evaluate lakhs of employees on the basis of this system.
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Forced ranking is a method of performance appraisal to rank employee but in order of forced distribution.

For example, the distribution requested with 10 or 20 percent in the top category, 70 or 80 percent in the middle, and 10 percent in the bottom.

The top-ranked employees are considered “high-potential” employees and are often targeted for a more rapid career and leadership development programs.

In contrast, those ranked at the bottom are denied bonuses and pay increases. They may be given a probationary period to improve their performance.

Facts: many companies have been discarding this age-old appraisal system since it has got few drawbacks like lack of transparency understanding the process of assessment of employee, some people believe that this method treats employees as machines and some feel that this system doesn't fit to present trend of management. Companies which have dropped this method of addressing system are Microsoft, Google and Adobe.

Application of Forced Ranking

General Electric Company, Ford Motor, Wipro, HCL, Sun Microsystems, Cisco Systems, EDS, Enron and a host of other U.S. corporations have adopted similar policies of this method.