Performance appraisal in Uganda’s civil service: Does administrative culture matter?
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This study explores administrative culture and examines its impact on the reform of performance appraisal in Uganda’s civil service, an area which has received little attention from researchers. It reveals that Uganda’s bureaucracy is characterized by large power distance, strong uncertainty avoidance, high ethnicity and political neutrality. Evidence for this study gathered from 147 questionnaires, 29 interviews and various documents for eight months indicates that these cultural variables influence the introduction of performance appraisal by sabotaging its actual conduct and undermining its institutionalization. The study supports the use of power distance and uncertainty avoidance by various scholars to analyze the linkage between administrative culture and instruments of management. The additional dimensions of political (neutrality) biasness and ethnicity pursued by this study are a highly relevant addition to the literature on administrative culture, and the linkage between administrative culture and instruments of management. Findings further indicate that administrative culture in Uganda’s bureaucracy is quite unified and integrated. Background variables such as age, type of education, duration of service, studying abroad, birthplace and gender have limited or no influence on administrative culture. It is only the level of education which has a strong negative correlation, i.e. higher levels of education is associated with low power distance, low uncertainty avoidance, low political neutrality, and low ethnicity. The thesis argues that for the successful introduction of performance appraisals, culture matters because the performance appraisal is imposed from abroad and requires a compatible host administrative culture in order to take root. In this case, the host administrative culture was not compatible in many respects with the values underlying the appraisal reforms. Although the Ugandan government successfully introduced the appraisal reforms, the incompatibility between the values embedded in the appraisal and the host administrative culture watered down the reform.