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Understanding the (unexpected) consequences of unexpected recognition

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  • Neckermann, Susanne
  • Yang, Xiaolan

Abstract

Unexpected, informal recognition is common in the workplace, but rarely analyzed by academics. The few existing studies have generated surprising results: no impact of selective recognition on future productivity for those workers who receive recognition, but increases in productivity for those who do not. We confirm those results for recognition in the form of a Thank you message and show that the same patterns hold true with unexpected financial recognition. Low-performing workers do better when others are recognized but they are left out. Previous studies have all argued that the pure relative performance information that is revealed through recognition drives these effects. We test this hypothesis with a treatment that has relative rank information only and show that this is indeed the case: financial or verbal recognition are not necessary to induce low performers to increase subsequent performance.

Suggested Citation

  • Neckermann, Susanne & Yang, Xiaolan, 2017. "Understanding the (unexpected) consequences of unexpected recognition," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 131-142.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:135:y:2017:i:c:p:131-142
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2017.01.013
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    D03; J33; M5; C91; Experiment; Principal-agent; Unexpected rewards; Recognition; Bonus; Relative performance feedback;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • M5 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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