Individual Work Performance

{Koopmans et al., 2013. Development of an individual work performance questionnaire. International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management Vol. 62 No.1}


Individual work performance (IWP) is employee behaviors or actions relevant to the organization’s goals. The focus is on employee behaviors and actions under their control rather than the results of these actions and excludes environmentally constrained behaviors. IWP is a multidimensional construct with underlying structures of task performance, defined as the proficiency with which individuals perform the core substantive or technical tasks central to their job, described by behaviors contributing to work quantity and quality and include job skills and job knowledge; contextual performance, defined as behaviors that support the organizational, social, and psychological environment in which the technical core must function, described by behaviors including demonstrating effort, facilitating peer and team performance, cooperating, and communicating; and counterproductive work behavior (CWB), defined as behavior that harms the organization’s wellbeing, including behaviors such as absenteeism, off-task behavior, theft, and substance abuse. A newly identified dimension of IWP is adaptive performance, defined as the extent to which an individual adapts to changes in the work role or environment and is concerned with the interdependency and uncertainty of work systems and the corresponding change in IWP.

Examples of scale items to measure dimensions of IWP

Task performance includes adequately completing assigned duties, fulfilling prescribed responsibilities, and performing scheduled tasks.

Contextual performance involves altruism, conscientiousness, sportsmanship, courtesy, civic duty, interpersonal facilitation, and job dedication.

CWB involves organizational or interpersonal deviance, sabotage, withdrawal, production deviance (e.g., doing work incorrectly), theft, and abuse (e.g., making fun of someone at work).

Adaptive performance is the ability to solve problems creatively, deal with uncertainty or unpredictable work situations, and learn new tasks, technologies, and procedures.

The individual work performance questionnaire (IWPQ) – Discussion

All items have a recall period of three months and a five-point rating scale.

Participants rate the frequency of their behavior. Frequency ratings require individuals to recall and mentally calculate how often they have engaged in each behavior. In contrast, agreement ratings generally require individuals to rate whether they are likely to engage in each behavior and may assess attitude toward the behavior rather than actual behavior.

A problem with performance self-ratings is that people judge their performance favorably (the leniency effect), producing ceiling effects in the scales. As a result, detecting improvement or distinguishing among high performance levels is almost impossible. One method to counteract this effect is to shift the center of the scale so that the average point is not in the middle but rather to the left of the scale. For this reason, the task and contextual behaviors are rated from “seldom,” “sometimes,” “frequently,” and “often” to “always.” Likewise, counterproductive behaviors are expected to produce floor rather than ceiling effects, so the center of this scale is shifted to the right, ranging from “never,” “seldom,” “sometimes,” “frequently,” to “often.”

The IWPQ is a generic scale not recommended for individual evaluations, assessments, or feedback.

Work quality and quantity indicators do not fit with the other task performance indicators since they reflect the effectiveness of employee behaviors rather than employee behaviors themselves. Therefore, conceptually these should be considered separate and not be part of IWPQs measuring employee behaviors. Effectiveness measures reflect individual differences in abilities and skills. They are frequently influenced by factors outside the individual’s control (e.g., technical problems and economic influences).

Adaptive performance (reactive behaviors) is not a separate dimension but an aspect of contextual performance (proactive behaviors). Both are extra-role behaviors that do not directly contribute to the central job tasks but make it easier for employees to perform their central job tasks.

Some behaviors that are considered to belong to contextual performance (showing responsibility, communicating effectively, and cooperating with others) appear to belong to task performance, reflecting the changing nature of today’s work, in which the distinction between task and contextual performance behaviors becomes more blurred. As a result, behaviors previously regarded as contextual behaviors are now implicitly or explicitly seen as central to the job.

Items for measuring individual work performance effectiveness (Rating scale: 0-4)

How do you rate the quality of your work in the past three months? 

“Insufficient” 0-1-2-3-4 “very good.”

Compared to last year, I judge the quality of my work in the past three months to be 

“Much worse” 0-1-2-3-4 “much better”

How often was the quality of your work below what it should have been in the past three months? 

“Never” 0-1-2-3-4 “often.”

How do you rate the quantity of your work in the past three months? 

“Insufficient” 0-1-2-3-4 “very good.”

Compared to last year, I judge the quantity of my work in the past three months to be 

“Much worse” 0-1-2-3-4 “much better”

How often was the quantity of your work less than it should have been in the past three months? 

“Never” 0-1-2-3-4 “often.”

Items of the Individual Work Performance Questionnaire (IWPQ)

Task performance scale 

(Rating scale: 0-4; “Seldom” 0-1-2-3-4 “always”)

In the past three months…

I planned my work so that I did it on time.

My planning was optimal.

I kept in mind the results I had to achieve in my work.

I was able to separate main issues from side issues at work.

I performed my work well with minimal time and effort.

Collaboration with others was very productive.

Contextual performance scale 

(Rating scale: 0-4; “Seldom” 0-1-2-3-4 “always”)

In the past three months…

I took on extra responsibilities.

I started new tasks myself when I finished my old ones.

I took on challenging work tasks when available.

I worked at keeping my job knowledge up-to-date.

I worked at keeping my job skills up-to-date.

I came up with creative solutions to new problems.

I kept looking for new challenges in my job.

I actively participated in work meetings.

Counterproductive work behavior scale 

(Rating scale: 0-4; “Never” 0-1-2-3-4 “often”)

In the past three months…

I complained about unimportant matters at work.

I made problems greater than they were at work.

I focused on the negative aspects of a work situation instead of the positive ones.

I spoke with colleagues about the negative aspects of my work.

I spoke with people from outside the organization about the negative aspects of my work.