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Knowing that You Matter, Matters! The Interplay of Meaning, Monetary Incentives, and Worker Recognition

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Author Info

  • Kosfeld, Michael

    ()
    (Goethe University Frankfurt)

  • Neckermann, Susanne

    ()
    (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

  • Yang, Xiaolan

    ()
    (Zhejiang University)

Abstract

We manipulate workers' perceived meaning of a job in a field experiment. Half of the workers are informed that their job is important, the other half are told that their job is of no relevance. Results show that workers exert more effort when meaning is high, corroborating previous findings on the relationship between meaning and work effort. We then compare the effect of meaning to the effect of monetary incentives and of worker recognition via symbolic awards. We also look at interaction effects. While meaning outperforms monetary incentives, the latter have a robust positive effect on performance that is independent of meaning. In contrast, meaning and recognition have largely similar effects but interact negatively. Our results are in line with image-reward theory (Bénabou and Tirole 2006) and suggest that meaning and worker recognition operate via the same channel, namely image seeking.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 8055.

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Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp8055

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Keywords: meaning; monetary incentives; worker recognition; field experiment;

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  1. Michael Kosfeld & Susanne Neckermann, 2011. "Getting More Work for Nothing? Symbolic Awards and Worker Performance," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 86-99, August.
  2. Ariely, Dan & Kamenica, Emir & Prelec, Drazen, 2008. "Man's search for meaning: The case of Legos," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 67(3-4), pages 671-677, September.
  3. Fehrler, Sebastian & Kosfeld, Michael, 2014. "Pro-social missions and worker motivation: An experimental study," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 99-110.
  4. Christiane Bradler & Robert Dur & Susanne Neckermann & Arjan Non, 2013. "Employee Recognition and Performance: A Field Experiment," CESifo Working Paper Series 4164, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. Ariely, Dan & Bracha, Anat & Meier, Stephan, 2007. "Doing Good or Doing Well? Image Motivation and Monetary Incentives in Behaving Prosocially," IZA Discussion Papers 2968, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Uri Gneezy & Stephan Meier & Pedro Rey-Biel, 2011. "When and Why Incentives (Don't) Work to Modify Behavior," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 191-210, Fall.
  7. Samuel Bowles & Sandra Polania-Reyes, 2012. "Economic Incentives and Social Preferences: Substitutes or Complements?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(2), pages 368-425, June.
  8. Camerer, Colin F. & Hogarth, Robin M., 1999. "The Effects of Financial Incentives in Experiments: A Review and Capital-Labor-Production Framework," Working Papers 1059, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  9. Masella, Paolo & Meier, Stephan & Zahn, Philipp, 2014. "Incentives and group identity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 12-25.
  10. Ashraf, Nava & Bandiera, Oriana & Lee, Scott S., 2014. "Awards unbundled: Evidence from a natural field experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 44-63.
  11. Jordi Blanes i Vidal & Mareike Nossol, 2011. "Tournaments Without Prizes: Evidence from Personnel Records," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(10), pages 1721-1736, October.
  12. repec:dgr:uvatin:2013038 is not listed on IDEAS
  13. Carpenter, Jeffrey P. & Gong, Erick, 2013. "Motivating Agents: How Much Does the Mission Matter?," IZA Discussion Papers 7602, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
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