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Optimal contracts based on subjective performance evaluations and reciprocity

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  • Sebald, Alexander
  • Walzl, Markus

Abstract

As demonstrated in a recent laboratory experiment (see Sebald & Walzl, 2014), individuals tend to sanction others who subjectively evaluate their performance whenever this assessment falls short of the individuals’ self-evaluation. Interestingly, this is the case even if the individuals’ earnings are unaffected by the subjective performance appraisal. Hence, performance feedback which falls short of agents’ self-evaluations can be interpreted as an unkind act that triggers a negatively reciprocal response not only if the assessment determines agents’ earnings but also when it lacks monetary consequences. We propose a principal-agent model formalizing that agents might engage into conflict in response to ego-threatening performance appraisals and show that these conflicts stabilize principal-agent relationships based on subjective performance evaluations. In particular, we identify conditions for a positive welfare effect of increasing costs of conflict and a negative welfare effect of more capable agents.

Suggested Citation

  • Sebald, Alexander & Walzl, Markus, 2015. "Optimal contracts based on subjective performance evaluations and reciprocity," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 62-76.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:47:y:2015:i:c:p:62-76
    DOI: 10.1016/j.joep.2015.01.004
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Alexander Sebald & Markus Walzl, 2014. "Subjective Performance Evaluations and Reciprocity in Principal–Agent Relations," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 116(2), pages 570-590, April.
    2. Luca Livio, 2018. "Friends or Foes? Optimal Incentives for Reciprocal Agents," Working Papers ECARES 2018-03, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Contracts; Subjective evaluations; Self-esteem; Ego-threats; Reciprocity;

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts

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