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The Carrot vs. the Stick in Work Team Motivation

  • David Dickinson

This paper reports on the use of carrot (positive) and stick (negative) incentives as methods of increasing effort among members of work teams. We study teams of four members in a laboratory environment in which giving effort towards the team goal is simulated by eliciting voluntary contributions towards the provision of a public good. We test the efficiency-improving properties of four distinct environments: monetary prizes given to high contributors versus monetary fines assessed to low contributors, where high/low contributor is defined first in terms of absolute contributions and then in terms of contributions relative to abilities—which we call handicapping. Our results show that both carrot and stick can increase efficiency (i.e., contributions) levels by 10–28%. We find that handicapped incentives promise the highest efficiency levels, and when handicapping is not used penalties may be more effective than prizes. The implications for work teams and suggestions for practical implementation are discussed. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1023/A:1011449606931
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Article provided by Springer in its journal Experimental Economics.

Volume (Year): 4 (2001)
Issue (Month): 1 (June)
Pages: 107-124

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Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:4:y:2001:i:1:p:107-124
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  1. Nalbantian, Haig & Schotter, Andrew, 1994. "Productivity Under Group Incentives: An Experimental Study," Working Papers 94-04, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  2. Martin Sefton & Robert S. Shupp & James Walker, 2005. "The Effect of Rewards and Sanctions in Provision of Public Goods," Working Papers 200504, Ball State University, Department of Economics, revised Feb 2005.
  3. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, . "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," IEW - Working Papers 010, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  4. Dickinson, David L, 1999. "An Experimental Examination of Labor Supply and Work Intensities," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(4), pages 638-70, October.
  5. David L. Dickinson & R. Mark Isaac, 1998. "Absolute and relative rewards for individuals in team production," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(4-5), pages 299-310.
  6. 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.
  7. Isaac, R Mark & Walker, James M, 1988. "Communication and Free-Riding Behavior: The Voluntary Contribution Mechanism," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 26(4), pages 585-608, October.
  8. Palfrey, Thomas R. & Rosenthal, Howard, 1991. "Testing for effects of cheap talk in a public goods game with private information," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 183-220, May.
  9. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7656, David K. Levine.
  10. Dickinson, David L., 1998. "The voluntary contributions mechanism with uncertain group payoffs," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 517-533, May.
  11. Alchian, Armen A & Demsetz, Harold, 1972. "Production , Information Costs, and Economic Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(5), pages 777-95, December.
  12. Bull, Clive & Schotter, Andrew & Weigelt, Keith, 1987. "Tournaments and Piece Rates: An Experimental Study," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(1), pages 1-33, February.
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