Critical Incident Performance Appraisal

Critical Incident Performance  

BUS 375: Employee Training

Kopp (2012) describes critical incidents withing performance appraisals as “The

supervisor’s attention is focused on specific or critical behaviors that separate effective from

ineffective performance.” (sec. 3.4, para. 8)  Using this method, the supervisor observes the

employee and gathers behavioral data to examine the critical incidents throughout the year. The

rating is determined by assessing which behavior, negative or positive, had more of an impact on

their job performance.  There are advantages and disadvantages of using this performance

appraisal method. I chose this performance appraisal method because if it is executed properly,

you can train, motivate and develop your staff effectively. 

There are advantages of using the critical incident approach that include it’s based on

direct observations, time tested and provides more face time.  Basing evaluation is one of the

greatest strengths of the is approach.  By the supervisor observing the employee firsthand, they

can see how the employee is executing on their responsibilities. (Rowe, 2018) This can

also be used if a was observed and the employee was given feedback on how to

address the opportunity.  The supervisor can observe if the employee is implementing the

feedback or not.  Based on the observations the supervisor can identify if it is a will or a skill

issue of the employee which can also assist with what talk track to use that would discuss more

training or possibly corrective action.  The data is gathered by the supervisors throughout the

entire year. 

This allows monthly evaluation and feedback to be given to the employee to address and make

corrections or continue using their current methods.  It also allows the supervisor to review the

employee’s entire performance instead of their most recent performance or a last-minute attempt

to scurry and gather information for review.  Another advantage to the critical incident approach

is the ability for the supervisor to give that real-time feedback and coaching.   Being in the

moment and providing the immediate feedback allow the opportunities to be addressed

immediately so both parties can utilize the momentum while the incident is still fresh.

Some of the disadvantages are rating satisfactory/unsatisfactory behaviors as equals,

possible delayed feedback, and there is a tendency to record only negative incidents.  If an

employees tend to exhibit more good behaviors than bad, or vice versa, one will outweigh the

other.  This might not give an accurate depiction of the employee’s performance.  For instance, if

an employee has five positive incidents and one negative incident it might be natural to measure

the good outweighing the bad.  However, if the negative incident has more bearing like costing

the company money, that one incident could outweigh the positive incident. Feedback is a gift,

however, if not expressed in the right manner or delivered timely it can also be a curse.  Not

giving feedback in real-time or enough feedback can cause confusion and be challenged by the

employee as they both can recall the incident a different way and because too much time has

passed, it can lose impact. (Rowe, 2018) If a supervisor only records negative incidents, it

doesn’t showcase what the employee did right.  One might struggle to recall things that were

done correctly and that wouldn’t be a fair assessment of the employees’ overall performance.

Within the ADDIE training design, the critical incident method can be instrumental.  In

analysis stage, one would witness how the employee performs the job currently.  It is observed

firsthand and you can ask questions in real-time as things occur to get an accurate description of

the events.  This will help you identify your training plan.  Once the analysis is completed, you

would move into the design phase in which you would utilize what you have witnessed firsthand

and strategize delivery methods, structure, duration assessment and feedback. (Flanagan, 1954)  

This would come from your observations and the feedback as to why a certain task was

performed in a way. In the development stage, you would begin to create your courses

making sure they align with the design you structured.  This would include be obtained from

reviewing the timing in which tasks are demonstrated.  Evaluating would be useful in the critical

incident by way of obtaining the employees feedback.  The feedback should answer if all the

goals of the training were met, identify other training requirements that are needed or change the

media type in which the training was executed.

In conclusion, the critical incident method can work if the supervisor is careful to ensure

the employees are evaluated correctly.  By observing the employee on a regular basis, the leader

can make observations and ask questions and review opportunities with the employee.  The

employees could also express their ideas of why the opportunity exists which could help remedy

the issue.  The leader can also train the employee properly.  If they are observing the employee

they can give immediate instruction on how to perform job functions.  Errors can be limited

immediately and the leader can set expectations and follow up dates and times.  Development of

the employee is important as well.  As a leader, you want all your employees to be versed in

their job function and perform to maximum capacity.  


Kopp, D. M. (2014). Human resource development: Performance improvement through learning [Electronic version]. Retrieved from

Flanagan, J. C. (1954). The critical incident technique. Psychological Bulletin, 51(4), 327–358.

Rowe, R. (2018).  Performance evaluations: investigating effective solutions.  University of Wisconsin – Stout Retrieved from:

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