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Performance Pay, Delegation, and Multitasking under Uncertainty and Innovativeness An Empirical Investigation


  • Nicolai J. Foss
  • Keld Laursen


The existing empirical evidence is somewhat inconclusive with respect to a number of the key predictions of the agency model. Although the reach of agency theory is considerably wider, the dominant portion of work has been taken up with examining the nature of the trade-off between risk and incentives, and the implications thereof for contractual design. More specifically, some researchers have recently noted that the predicted trade-off between risk and incentives turns out to be rather weak, and perhaps non-existent, when confronted with the available empirical evidence. In this paper, we examine the risk-incentives trade-off and related predictions from agency theory on the basis of data from a data set encompassing close to 1000 Danish firms. We find that the relation between the use of performance pay in these firms and the environmental uncertainty they confront which is one way to test the risk/incentives tradeoff is indeed weak and in many cases even perverse. We then suggest, in line with other recent contributions to the literature, that this may be caused by the widespread use of delegation. One effect of delegation is that it breaks the simple relation between risks and incentives. We examine the suggestion that that those firms that are more prone to use delegation of decision rights in their internal organization are facing an uncertain environment to a larger extent than the rest of the population. We argue that this constitutes an indirect confirmation of the hypothesis. We also examine the multi-tasking agency hypothesis that as risk increases, the flexibility of agents is restricted. We fail to find support for this hypothesis. It is suggested that the reason for this finding is also related to delegation.

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  • Nicolai J. Foss & Keld Laursen, 2002. "Performance Pay, Delegation, and Multitasking under Uncertainty and Innovativeness An Empirical Investigation," DRUID Working Papers 02-14, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:aal:abbswp:02-14

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    Cited by:

    1. Alberto Bayo-Moriones & Jose Enrique Galdon-Sanchez & Sara Martinez-De-Morentin, 2013. "The Diffusion of Pay for Performance across Occupations," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 66(5), pages 1115-1148, October.
    2. Christos Bilanakos & John S. Heywood & John Sessions & Nikolaos Theodoropoulos, 2016. "Delegation and worker training," University of Cyprus Working Papers in Economics 06-2016, University of Cyprus Department of Economics.
    3. Benoît Mahy & François Rycx & Mélanie Volral, 2011. "Wage Dispersion and Firm Productivity in Different Working Environments," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 49(3), pages 460-485, September.
    4. Spyros Arvanitis & Florian Seliger & Tobias Stucki, 2013. "The Relative Importance of Human Resource Management Practices for a Firm's Innovation Performance," KOF Working papers 13-341, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
    5. repec:bla:stratm:v:37:y:2016:i:12:p:2481-2502 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Erling Barth & Bernt Bratsberg & Torbjørn Hægeland & Oddbjørn Raaum, 2008. "Performance Pay and Within-Firm Wage Inequality," Discussion Papers 535, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    7. Kampelmann, Stephan & Mahy, Benoît & Rycx, Francois & Vermeylen, Guillaume, 2016. "Who Is Your Perfect Match? Educational Norms, Educational Mismatch and Firm Profitability," IZA Discussion Papers 10399, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Jed DeVaro & Antti Kauhanen, 2016. "An “Opposing Responses” Test of Classic versus Market-Based Promotion Tournaments," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(3), pages 747-779.
    9. repec:spr:jlabre:v:38:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s12122-017-9259-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Jed Devaro & Fidan Ana Kurtulus, 2010. "An Empirical Analysis of Risk, Incentives and the Delegation of Worker Authority," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 63(4), pages 641-661, July.
    11. Erling Barth & Bernt Bratsberg & Torbjørn Hægeland & Oddbjørn Raaum, 2008. "Who pays for performance?," International Journal of Manpower, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 29(1), pages 8-29, March.
    12. Hensher, David A. & Ho, Chinh & Knowles, Louise, 2016. "Efficient contracting and incentive agreements between regulators and bus operators: The influence of risk preferences of contracting agents on contract choice," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 22-40.
    13. Fidan Ana Kurtulus & Douglas Kruse & Joseph Blasi, 2011. "Worker Attitudes Towards Employee Ownership, Profit Sharing and Variable Pay," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2011-15, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
    14. Ben-Ner, Avner & Kong, Fanmin & Lluis, Stéphanie, 2012. "Uncertainty, task environment, and organization design: An empirical investigation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 281-313.
    15. Sebastian Goebel & Barbara E. Weißenberger, 2017. "Effects of management control mechanisms: towards a more comprehensive analysis," Journal of Business Economics, Springer, vol. 87(2), pages 185-219, February.
    16. repec:bla:indres:v:56:y:2017:i:3:p:411-426 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. DeVaro, Jed, 2011. "Using "opposing responses" and relative performance to distinguish empirically among alternative models of promotions," MPRA Paper 35175, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. Anzelika Zaiceva & Klaus Zimmermann, 2011. "Do ethnic minorities “stretch” their time? UK household evidence on multitasking," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 181-206, June.
    19. Peter Cappelli & Martin Conyon, 2016. "What Do Performance Appraisals Do?," NBER Working Papers 22400, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Canice Prendergast, 2015. "The economics of wild goose chases," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 46(1), pages 146-164, March.
    21. Spyros Arvanitis & Euripidis N. Loukis & Vasiliki Diamantopoulou, 2013. "Are ICT, Workplace Organization and Human Capital Relevant for Innovation?," KOF Working papers 13-333, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
    22. Andy Cosh & Xiaolan Fu & Alan Hughes, 2012. "Organisation structure and innovation performance in different environments," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 39(2), pages 301-317, September.
    23. repec:kap:sbusec:v:50:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11187-017-9885-3 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Uncertainty; pay-for-performance; delegation; innovation; competition;

    JEL classification:

    • C35 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Discrete Regression and Qualitative Choice Models; Discrete Regressors; Proportions
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production


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