What is employee performance?

Lodewijk Noordzij

There is no general, overarching theory about employee performance. The effectiveness with which organisations manage, develop and stimulate their employees is an important cornerstone for how organisations perform. Because of this, people management has a significant impact on performance.1

Performance can be traced back to the behaviour of people on the shop floor. Employees work in a certain way or behave in a way that contributes to (the goals of) the organisation.2

Employees' behaviour in relation to organisational performance can manifest itself in three different ways.3

per-form-ance (n.)
1 act, process or manner of performing or functioning
2 execution (of a duty etc.)
3 any accomplishment

Task performance

Behaviour focused on carrying out the task. Task performance is often regarded as the most important aspect of work-related behaviour and is regularly used as a synonym for overall job performance.

Organisational Citizenship Behaviour

This behaviour is also called 'soft performance'. In short, this is when employees also carry out tasks that fall outside of their direct area or job description, thereby contributing to the organisation's objectives.

Workplace Deviant Behaviour

This is behaviour whereby an employee violates the organisation's norms, as a result of which he puts the organisation or his colleagues in danger. Spreading rumours, insulting colleagues, theft and sabotage are a few examples. Actively disengaged employees display this behaviour. It is important for employees to receive feedback on their behaviour and their performance. If that is lacking, they will use the perception of their prior performance as a frame of reference to determine:

  • which tasks they are going to carry out4
  • how much effort they will make5
  • how much drive they have6
  • to what extent they identify and correct mistakes

The importance of performance

If it does not add value, your organisation or organisational unit has no reason to exist. This could be value for customers, society and shareholders or for colleagues within the organisation. 

Every employee makes an individual contribution to the performance of the organisational unit and thus to your entire organisation. If the performance of an organisational unit or individual employee falls behind for too long, as a rule this will lead to reorganisation or redundancy. Particularly in an environment in which competition is fiercer than ever, the importance of continuously performing is increasing.

  1. Patterson, M.G. et al (1998), Impact of People Management Practices on Business Performance, Institute of Personnel and Development, London, 1-27 
  2. Viswesvaran, C. and Ones, D.S. (2000), Perspectives on Models of Job Performance, International Journal of Selection and Assesment, 8, 216-226
  3. Dunlop, P.D. and Lee, K. (2004), Workplace Deviance, Organizational Citizenship Behavior and Business Unit Performance: the Bad Apples do spoil the whole Barrel, Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25, 67-80
  4. Greenwald, A.G. (1980), The Totalitarian Ego: Fabrication and Revision of Personal History, American Psychologist, 35, 603-618
  5. Felson, R.B. (1984), The Effect of Self-Appraisals of Ability, on Academic Performance, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 944-952 
  6. McFarlin, D.B. and Blascovich, J. (1981), Effects of Self-Esteem and Performance Feedback on Future Affective Preferences and Cognitive Expectations, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40, 521-531

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Lodewijk Noordzij Lodewijk Noordzij Project Assistant LinkedIn