Employees of Greatness: Signifying Values in Performance Appraisal Criteria

Keywords: Employment, Wages, Unemployment & Rehabilitation, Labor Market Institutions & Social Partners, Organization & Management


The spread of performance-based and variable pay systems has affected expectations on employee contributions and remuneration, which have become increasingly personalized and individualized. Based on a theoretical valuation studies approach, this study of performance-based pay systems in Sweden shows that performance appraisals are (e)valuations of employees’ yearly performance in which they are prized and (ap)praised at the same time. Through a document analysis of performance criteria from four organizations, the study analyzes how values expressed refer to Boltanski and Thévenot’s six orders of worth. The analysis resulted in a theoretical construction of a joint ideal of Employees of Greatness, against which employees are measured and remunerated. The existence of the ideal of employee greatness is explained by the increasing congruence of organizational ideals in private and public sectors, as principles from emotional and cognitive forms of capitalist organization are superimposed on traditional industrial capitalist organizational ideals.

Author Biographies

Ylva Ulfsdotter Eriksson, University of Gothenburg

Associate professor, Department of Sociology and Work Science

Bengt Larsson, University of Gothenburg

Professor, Department of Sociology and Work Science

Petra Adolfsson, University of Gothenburg

Associate professor, Department of Business Administration


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How to Cite
Eriksson, Y., Larsson, B., & Adolfsson, P. (2020). Employees of Greatness: Signifying Values in Performance Appraisal Criteria. Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies. https://doi.org/10.18291/njwls.122589