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It's What You Say Not What You Pay. An Experimental Study of Manager-Employee Relationship in Overcoming Coordination Failure


  • Jordi Brandts
  • David J. Cooper


We study manager-employee interactions in experiments set in a corporate environment where payoffs depend on employees coordinating at high effort levels; the underlying game being played repeatedly by employees is a weak-link game. In the absence of managerial intervention subjects invariably slip into coordination failure. To overcome a history of coordination failure, managers have two instruments at their disposal, increasing employees' financial incentives to coordinate and communication with employees. We find that communication is a more effective tool than incentive changes for leading organizations out of performance traps. Examining the content of managers' communication, the most effective messages specifically request a high effort, point out the mutual benefits of high effort, and imply that employees are being paid well.

Suggested Citation

  • Jordi Brandts & David J. Cooper, 2005. "It's What You Say Not What You Pay. An Experimental Study of Manager-Employee Relationship in Overcoming Coordination Failure," Working Papers 162, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:162

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. C.Mónica Capra & Tomomi Tanaka & ColinF. Camerer & Lauren Feiler & Veronica Sovero & CharlesN. Noussair, 2009. "The Impact of Simple Institutions in Experimental Economies with Poverty Traps," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(539), pages 977-1009, July.
    2. Van Huyck, John B & Battalio, Raymond C & Beil, Richard O, 1990. "Tacit Coordination Games, Strategic Uncertainty, and Coordination Failure," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 234-248, March.
    3. Michael Kremer, 1993. "The O-Ring Theory of Economic Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 551-575.
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    More about this item


    Change; Incentives; Coordination; Communications; experiments; Organizations;

    JEL classification:

    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects


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