Spillover Effects in Subjective Performance Evaluation: Bias and the Asymmetric Influence of Controllability

The Accounting Review, Forthcoming

Posted: 1 Jul 2009 Last revised: 12 Mar 2011

See all articles by Jasmijn C. Bol

Jasmijn C. Bol

Tulane University - A.B. Freeman School of Business

Steven D. Smith

Brigham Young University

Date Written: July 1, 2010

Abstract

We examine how subjective performance evaluations are influenced by the level and controllability of an accompanying measure of a separate performance dimension. In our experiment, supervisor participants evaluate the office administration performance of a hypothetical subordinate. We find that supervisors’ subjective evaluations are directionally influenced by an accompanying objective measure of sales performance, even after excluding participants who perceive informativeness across measures. Consistent with supervisors’ concerns for fairness and employee motivation, we also find an asymmetric uncontrollability effect – supervisors’ evaluations are higher when an uncontrollable factor causes the subordinate’s sales to be low (i.e., they compensate for bad luck), but are no lower when the uncontrollable factor causes sales to be high (i.e., they do not punish for good luck). Our evidence suggests that supervisors use discretion provided to evaluate performance on one task to adjust for perceived deficiencies in the evaluation of performance on other tasks. Our study integrates theories of cognitive bias and fairness, and highlights the need to consider the potentially interactive effects of different performance measures in multi-task settings.

Keywords: Subjective performance evaluation, performance measurement, cognitive bias, controllability, fairness

JEL Classification: M46

Suggested Citation

Bol, Jasmijn C. and Smith, Steven D., Spillover Effects in Subjective Performance Evaluation: Bias and the Asymmetric Influence of Controllability (July 1, 2010). The Accounting Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1427584

Jasmijn C. Bol (Contact Author)

Tulane University - A.B. Freeman School of Business ( email )

7 McAlister Drive
New Orleans, LA 70118
United States

Steven D. Smith

Brigham Young University ( email )

531 TNRB
Provo, UT 84602
United States
801-422-1969 (Phone)

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