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Getting More Work for Nothing? Symbolic Awards and Worker Performance

  • Michael Kosfeld
  • Susanne Neckermann

We study the impact of status and social recognition on worker performance in a field experiment. In collaboration with an international non-governmental organization, we hired students to work on a database project. Students in the award treatment were offered a congratulatory card honoring the best performance. The award was purely symbolic to ensure that any behavioral effect is driven by non-material benefits. Our results show that the award increases performance by about 12 percent on average. The results provide strong evidence for the motivating power of status and social recognition in labor relations. (JEL C93, J33, M12, M52)

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Microeconomics.

Volume (Year): 3 (2011)
Issue (Month): 3 (August)
Pages: 86-99

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aejmic:v:3:y:2011:i:3:p:86-99
Note: DOI: 10.1257/mic.3.3.86
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  1. Robert Dur, 2009. "Gift Exchange in The Workplace: Money or Attention?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 550-560, 04-05.
  2. Benny Moldovanu & Aner Sela & Xianwen Shi, 2007. "Contests for Status," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 338-363.
  3. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, . "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocitys," IEW - Working Papers 040, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  4. Emmanuelle Auriol & Régis Renault, 2008. "Status and incentives," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 39(1), pages 305-326.
  5. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2009. "Was there Really a Hawthorne Effect at the Hawthorne Plant? An Analysis of the Original Illumination Experiments," NBER Working Papers 15016, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Josse Delfgaauw & Robert Dur & Joeri Sol & Willem Verbeke, 2013. "Tournament Incentives in the Field: Gender Differences in the Workplace," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(2), pages 305 - 326.
  7. Ederer, Florian & Patacconi, Andrea, 2010. "Interpersonal comparison, status and ambition in organizations," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 348-363, August.
  8. Sebastian Kube & Michel Andre Marechal & Clemens Puppe, 2012. "The Currency of Reciprocity: Gift Exchange in the Workplace," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(4), pages 1644-62, June.
  9. Sheryl Ball & Catherine Eckel & Philip J. Grossman & William Zame, 2001. "Status In Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(1), pages 161-188, February.
  10. Dan Ariely & Anat Bracha & Stephan Meier, 2007. "Doing good or doing well? Image motivation and monetary incentives in behaving prosocially," Working Papers 07-9, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  11. Tore Ellingsen & Magnus Johannesson, 2007. "Paying Respect," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(4), pages 135-150, Fall.
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