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Pro-social missions and worker motivation: An experimental study

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  • Fehrler, Sebastian
  • Kosfeld, Michael

Abstract

Do employees work harder if their job has the right mission? In a laboratory labor market experiment, we test whether subjects provide higher effort if they can choose the mission of their job. We observe that subjects do not provide higher effort than in a control treatment. Surprised by this finding, we run a second experiment in which subjects can choose whether they want to work on a job with their preferred mission or not. A subgroup of agents (roughly one third) is willing to do so even if this option is more costly than choosing the alternative job. Moreover, we find that these subjects provide substantially higher effort. These results suggest that some workers can be motivated by missions and that selection into mission-oriented organizations is an important factor to explain empirical findings of lower wages and high motivation in these organizations.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:100:y:2014:i:c:p:99-110
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2014.01.010
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    Cited by:

    1. Oscar LLOPIS & Joaquin AZAGRA-CARO, 2015. "Who do you care about? Scientists’ personality traits and perceived beneficiary impact," Cahiers du GREThA 2015-29, Groupe de Recherche en Economie Théorique et Appliquée.
    2. Lea Cassar & Stephan Meier, 2017. "Intentions for Doing Good Matter for Doing Well: The (Negative) Signaling Value of Prosocial Incentives," NBER Working Papers 24109, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Kosfeld, Michael & Neckermann, Susanne & Yang, Xiaolan, 2014. "Knowing that you matter, matters! The interplay of meaning, monetary incentives, and worker recognition," ZEW Discussion Papers 14-097, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    4. Michael Kosfeld & Susanne Neckermann & Xiaolan Yang, 2017. "The Effects Of Financial And Recognition Incentives Across Work Contexts: The Role Of Meaning," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(1), pages 237-247, January.
    5. David Ong & Chun-Lei Yang, 2014. "Pro Bono Work and Trust in Expert Fields," CESifo Working Paper Series 4897, CESifo Group Munich.
    6. Fehrler, Sebastian & Przepiorka, Wojtek, 2016. "Choosing a partner for social exchange: Charitable giving as a signal of trustworthiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 157-171.
    7. Charness, Gary & Cobo-Reyes, Ramón & Sánchez, Ángela, 2016. "The effect of charitable giving on workers’ performance: Experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 131(PA), pages 61-74.
    8. Fehrler, Sebastian & Fischbacher, Urs & Schneider, Maik T., 2016. "Who Runs? Honesty and Self-Selection into Politics," IZA Discussion Papers 10258, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. James L. Perry, 2014. "The motivational bases of public service: foundations for a third wave of research," Asia Pacific Journal of Public Administration, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(1), pages 34-47, January.
    10. Fehrler, Sebastian & Kosfeld, Michael, 2013. "Can you trust the good guys? Trust within and between groups with different missions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 121(3), pages 400-404.
    11. Hannes Koppel & Tobias Regner, 2014. "Corporate Social Responsibility in the work place," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 17(3), pages 347-370, September.
    12. Robin Zoutenbier, 2014. "The Impact of Matching Mission Preferences on Well-being at Work," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 14-036/I, Tinbergen Institute.
    13. Banuri, Sheheryar & Keefer, Philip, 2016. "Pro-social motivation, effort and the call to public service," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 139-164.
    14. Mirco Tonin & Michael Vlassopoulos, 2012. "Social Incentives Matter: Evidence from an Online Real Effort Experiment," CEU Working Papers 2012_12, Department of Economics, Central European University, revised 20 Jul 2012.
    15. Robin Zoutenbier, 2016. "The impact of matching mission preferences on well-being at work," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 17(3), pages 295-315, August.
    16. Mirco Tonin & Michael Vlassopoulos, 2015. "Corporate Philanthropy and Productivity: Evidence from an Online Real Effort Experiment," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 61(8), pages 1795-1811, August.
    17. Tobias Regner & Hannes Koppel, 2015. "What drives motivated agents? The 'right' mission or sharing it with the principal," Jena Economic Research Papers 2015-022, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    18. Karine Nyborg, 2014. "Do responsible employers attract responsible employees?," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 1-17, May.
    19. repec:aea:aejpol:v:9:y:2017:i:3:p:19-58 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Lea Cassar, 2014. "Job mission as a substitute for monetary incentives: experimental evidence," ECON - Working Papers 177, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
    21. Jeffrey Carpenter & Erick Gong, 2016. "Motivating Agents: How Much Does the Mission Matter?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(1), pages 211-236.
    22. Gerhards, Leonie, 2015. "The incentive effects of missions—Evidence from experiments with NGO employees and students," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 252-262.
    23. Cassar, Lea & Meier, Stephan, 2017. "Intentions for Doing Good Matter for Doing Well: The (Negative) Signaling Value of Prosocial Incentives," IZA Discussion Papers 11203, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    24. Timothy Besley & Maitreesh Ghatak, 2017. "Profit with Purpose? A Theory of Social Enterprise," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 19-58, August.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Motivation; Sorting; Labor; Effort; Organization; Non-monetary incentives; NGOs;

    JEL classification:

    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects

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