IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Delegated Job Design


  • Hvide, Hans K
  • Kaplan, Todd


Why do firms delegate job design decisions to workers, and what are the implications of such delegation? We develop a private-information based theory of delegation, where delegation enables high-ability workers to signal their ability by choosing difficult tasks. Such signalling provides a more efficient allocation of talent inside the firm, but at the cost that low-ability workers must be compensated to be willing to self-sort. Career concerns put a limit to the efficiency of delegation: when market observability of job content is high, the compensation needed to get low ability workers to self-sort is high, and firms limit delegation to avoid cream-skimming of the high-ability workers. We investigate implications of the theory for how misallocation of talent within firms may occur and to the design optimal incentive contracts.

Suggested Citation

  • Hvide, Hans K & Kaplan, Todd, 2003. "Delegated Job Design," CEPR Discussion Papers 3907, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3907

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: CEPR Discussion Papers are free to download for our researchers, subscribers and members. If you fall into one of these categories but have trouble downloading our papers, please contact us at

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Andrew D. Foster & Mark R. Rosenzweig, 1996. "Comparative Advantage, Information and the Allocation of Workers to Tasks: Evidence from an Agricultural Labour Market," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 63(3), pages 347-374.
    2. Lindbeck, Assar & Snower, Dennis J, 2000. "Multitask Learning and the Reorganization of Work: From Tayloristic to Holistic Organization," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 353-376, July.
    3. James A. Fairburn & James M. Malcomson, 2001. "Performance, Promotion, and the Peter Principle," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(1), pages 45-66.
    4. Fershtman, Chaim & Judd, Kenneth L, 1987. "Equilibrium Incentives in Oligopoly," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 927-940, December.
    5. Marschak, Thomas & Reichelstein, Stefan, 1998. "Network Mechanisms, Informational Efficiency, and Hierarchies," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 79(1), pages 106-141, March.
    6. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1997. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 1-29, February.
    7. Caroli, Eve & Greenan, Nathalie & Guellec, Dominique, 2001. "Organizational Change and Skill Accumulation," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(2), pages 481-506, June.
    8. Gibbons, Robert & Waldman, Michael, 1999. "Careers in organizations: Theory and evidence," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 36, pages 2373-2437 Elsevier.
    9. Lindbeck, Assar & Snower, Dennis J, 1996. "Reorganization of Firms and Labor-Market Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 315-321, May.
    10. Robert B. Wilson, 1967. "Competitive Bidding with Asymmetric Information," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 13(11), pages 816-820, July.
    11. Raghuram G. Rajan & Julie Wulf, 2006. "The Flattening Firm: Evidence from Panel Data on the Changing Nature of Corporate Hierarchies," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(4), pages 759-773, November.
    12. Edward P. Lazear, 2001. "The Peter Principle: Promotions and Declining Productivity," NBER Working Papers 8094, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Olsen, Trond E & Torsvik, Gaute, 2000. "Discretion and Incentives in Organizations," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 377-404, July.
    14. George A. Akerlof, 1970. "The Market for "Lemons": Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500.
    15. repec:dau:papers:123456789/10092 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Robert Gibbons & Michael Waldman, 1999. "A Theory of Wage and Promotion Dynamics Inside Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1321-1358.
    17. Lindbeck, Assar & Snower, Dennis J., 2001. "Centralized bargaining and reorganized work: Are they compatible?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(10), pages 1851-1875, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    career concerns; delegation; discretion; peter principle; sun hydraulics;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • M12 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - Personnel Management; Executives; Executive Compensation

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3907. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.