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Incentives for Helping on the Job: Theory and Evidence

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  • Robert Drago

    (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

  • Gerald T. Garvey

    (Australian National University)

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    Abstract

    Recent advances in incentive theory stress the multi- dimensional nature of agent effort and particularly the case where workers can improve the performance of others through `helping' efforts. This paper provides a simple model of an agent's incentive to help depending on the compensation package, the cost of monitoring, and the allocation of tasks. We then analyze the determinants of reported helping efforts within workgroups for a sample of Australian workers. As expected, workers are less likely to help one another when promotion incentives are strong. Subsidiary results are consistent with our `contest' interpretation of this finding and not consistent with `gift exchange' or other variants of the efficiency wage hypothesis. Also as predicted, a wide range of job tasks amplifies the negative effect of promotional incentives, while monitoring of help mitigates the negative effect. We find an unexpected positive effect of piece rates on helping effort for long-term employees which we show is consistent with repeated game effects between workers. These considerations do not overturn our findings about the effects of tournaments.(JEL J33)

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Labor and Demography with number 9402002.

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    Length: 32 pages
    Date of creation: 18 Feb 1994
    Date of revision: 29 Mar 1994
    Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpla:9402002

    Note: 32 pages text, 4 pages tables, WordPerfect 5.1 file. VVdecode then Unzip to read. Paper substantially revised, mainly to deal with possibility of efficiency wage effects and to incorporate simulations.
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    Web page: http://128.118.178.162

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    References

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    1. Garvey, Gerald T & Swan, Peter L, 1992. "Managerial Objectives, Capital Structure, and the Provision of Worker Incentives," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 10(4), pages 357-79, October.
    2. Akerlof, George A, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-69, November.
    3. Main, Brian G M & O'Reilly, Charles A, III & Wade, James, 1993. "Top Executive Pay: Tournament or Teamwork?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(4), pages 606-28, October.
    4. Baker, George P & Jensen, Michael C & Murphy, Kevin J, 1988. " Compensation and Incentives: Practice vs. Theory," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 43(3), pages 593-616, July.
    5. Baker, George P, 1992. "Incentive Contracts and Performance Measurement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 598-614, June.
    6. Rebecca S. Demsetz, 1993. "Voting behavior in union representation elections: The influence of skill homogeneity and skill group size," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 47(1), pages 99-113, October.
    7. Ramakrishnan, Ram T S & Thakor, Anjan V, 1991. "Cooperation versus Competition in Agency," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(2), pages 248-83, Fall.
    8. Itoh, Hideshi, 1991. "Incentives to Help in Multi-agent Situations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(3), pages 611-36, May.
    9. Rosen, Sherwin, 1986. "Prizes and Incentives in Elimination Tournaments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 701-15, September.
    10. Ronald G. Ehrenberg & Michael L. Bognanno, 1990. "The incentive effects of tournaments revisited: Evidence from the European PGA tour," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 43(3), pages 74-88, February.
    11. Bengt Holmstrom, 1981. "Moral Hazard in Teams," Discussion Papers 471, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    12. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
    13. Baker, George & Gibbs, Michael & Holmstrom, Bengt, 1993. "Hierarchies and compensation: A case study," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(2-3), pages 366-378, April.
    14. Malcomson, James M, 1984. "Work Incentives, Hierarchy, and Internal Labor Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(3), pages 486-507, June.
    15. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-64, October.
    16. Lazear, Edward P, 1989. "Pay Equality and Industrial Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 561-80, June.
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    Cited by:
    1. Canice Prendergast, 1996. "What Happens Within Firms? A Survey of Empirical Evidence on Compensation Policies," NBER Working Papers 5802, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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