Performance management ‘divisive and unfair’

Performance management in the civil service is ‘divisive, unfair and demotivating’, an extensive survey by PCS reveals.

Among results that ought to shame the Cabinet Office and employers is the revelation that only 2% felt it was fair to require at least 10% of staff to get a ‘must improve’ marking.

Neither those on the receiving end, nor the line managers who have to use these appraisal systems had any faith in them.

Only 4% of respondents said performance management “generates healthy competition between team members”, with just 6% of line managers agreeing with this statement.

Asked whether it was “a good way to build the team,” only 6% agreed it was and the same percentage of line managers said it “encouraged teamwork”.

More than half of respondents said performance management was “used to bully and harass staff” and only 12% of line managers described is as “a clear and transparent way of managing”.

Our general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “These results are devastatingly clear and show a system that is not only unfair, divisive and demotivating, but also time-consuming and ineffective.

“The kinds of processes that use forced rankings have been abandoned in other industries for these very reasons, and they must be scrapped from the civil service.”

Damning verdict

About 120,000 of our members were invited to take part in the online survey. The 27,000 responses are now being analysed and will be published in full.

With half of the respondents saying they have worked in the civil service for more than 20 years, we believe the views we have collected are robust and compelling. Other findings include:

  • More than 4 in 5 agreed the current performance management system should be replaced with one which was fair
  • Three quarters of line managers said they were “placed in an impossible position” by having to give a certain number of staff a ‘must improve’ or ‘top’ box marking
  • Just 9% thought performance management motivated them to do their best, while 86% selected “doing the best job I can” as their motivating factor
  • Only 13% of staff said the current system was helpful for their personal development
  • Fifty five per cent spent more than two hours “preparing for and undertaking” their performance management review, with 17% spending more than seven hours
  • Almost half said they had “no influence at all” on the objectives they were set for the year, with only 25% saying they had “enough”, “more than enough” or “complete control”
  • In day-to-day work, 76% said they “rarely” or “never” referred to the objectives they had been set.

Download, print out and sign our petition (opens as PDF) to call for the immediate suspension of the current system of performance management operating across central government departments and public bodies. The closing date is 3 June.

Find out more about our campaign.