Performance appraisal has been a controversial topic in the federal government for decades.
Those who work in the private sector often find it inconceivable that federal employees do not work under a pay-for-performance system and often make this comment when complaining about federal salary levels.
Federal employees often complain that performance appraisal in the government is not fair for a variety of reasons. Some supervisors, perhaps many, do not like performance appraisal and know that a poor appraisal can lead to multiple appeals, grievances and third party hearings that can take months or years for a resolution. The result is that many employees get the same ratings and performance appraisal can be meaningless in some organizations.
There has been an effort, at least since the Carter administration, to put into place some type of pay-for-performance system. The most recent form was the National Security Personnel System (NSPS). No doubt, there were some good aspects of NSPB but to read comments from readers here and elsewhere on the internet and in reports on the system. many employees hate the NSPS system for a variety of reasons–as is often the case with a federal pay for performance system.
The current administration is not adverse to a pay-for-performance system either but what form, if any, such a system will take remains to be seen.
Robbie Kunreuther is a frequent author of articles on this site pertaining to performance appraisal and has conducted training seminars for federal employees on this topic for agencies throughout the government for a number of years. You can see a complete list of Robbie’s articles on this site, including those he has written on the subject of performance appraisal. His most recent article is The Persistence of Pay-For-Performance in Government. (You can also check out and join Robbie’s performance appraisal group on the FedSmith social networking site where you can post comments or ask questions on the topic.)
Now is your chance to comment on the federal pay for performance system. Robbie Kunreuther has developed a list of questions that reflect the most common issues in discussing pay for performance. We invite all readers to take this survey and we hope you will take the time to answer these questions and share your views on this issue.
This survey closed several days after the article was posted. Here are results from this survey.