What Is Contextual Performance?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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Contextual performance is an approach to evaluating the function of an employee within the boundaries of his or her assigned responsibilities. The idea is to assess that performance in terms of not only complying with what is considered an acceptable level of functioning, but also to make note of situations in which that employee demonstrates abilities or other attributes that lead to exemplary behavior on the job. By evaluating the employee’s performance within ht context of his or her role in the company organization, it is often easier to identify people who are ideal fits for their current work, those who could make use of some sort of remedial training, and those who should be considered for lateral moves or promotions to positions that are more in keeping with their gifts and talents.


Unlike some approaches to employee evaluation, contextual performance is not just about education levels, experience, and the proficiency of performing certain tasks. The method also takes into consideration the function of the employee in terms of social and psychological impact on the function of the company as a whole. For example, while an employee may possess the required background and mechanical skills to adequately perform the assigned tasks, the individual may not be equipped to manage the social aspects that help to promote productivity within the work environment. When this is the case, the human resources effort, in relation to the use of contextual performance, may focus more on providing aid in helping employees overcome emotional barriers such as shyness, lack of confidence, or the manifestation of anger in the workplace that is preventing a department from functioning at optimum efficiency.

When assessing this particular aspect of contextual performance, analysts will often consider such factors as the willingness of an employee to stop what he or she is doing in order to help another employee who is experiencing difficulty with an assigned task. General relations between employees within the area are also scrutinized, making note of situations in which interactions tend to be stilted or less civil between individuals, and when the interactions are open and communicative.

Since the creation of a workable social network in the workplace is seen to be a contributing factor to overall productivity, contextual performance can go a long way toward helping a company move forward. Employees who feel a sense of community with one another are much more likely to step in when emergencies arise that negatively impact one of their number from being at work or temporarily hinder the ability to be productive. Strong ties in the workplace ultimately mean employees are happier with their work and the work environment, and tend to exert more effort in carrying out their responsibilities. The outcome is that the company benefits from a higher level of productivity.


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