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Friends or Foes? Optimal Incentives for Reciprocal Agents

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  • Luca Livio

Abstract

Widely used performance-based contracts put (positive or negative) externalities on co-workers. These externalities have been proven to shape an organization’s working climate especially when workers exhibit social preferences. However, it is a priori unclear whether a more friendly or a more competitive working environment should be encouraged. In this paper I consider a theoretical model in which a self-interested principal has to motivate a set of agents. Agents are symmetric, potentially risk-averse and exhibit reciprocity concerns towards each other. The optimal incentive scheme is derived solving a psychological game with asymmetric information about effort choices. I show that the optimal incentive design depends on the interplay between the agents’ attitudes towards risks and their preferences for reciprocity. In particular, the optimal scheme implements (i) a relative performance compensation scheme which induces an exchange of unkindness if agents are relatively little risk averse and (ii) a joint performance compensation scheme which induces an exchange of kindness if agents are sufficiently risk averse. My findings can explain some puzzling empirical results.

Suggested Citation

  • Luca Livio, 2018. "Friends or Foes? Optimal Incentives for Reciprocal Agents," Working Papers ECARES 2018-03, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Handle: RePEc:eca:wpaper:2013/265328
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    1. repec:gam:jgames:v:8:y:2017:i:3:p:37-:d:110961 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Sarkisian, Roberto, 2017. "Team Incentives under Moral and Altruistic Preferences: Which Team to Choose?," TSE Working Papers 17-838, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).

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    Keywords

    Gift Exchange; Group Production; Incentives; Moral Hazard; Reciprocity; Team; Tournament;

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