IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/feb/natura/00725.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

When Bonuses Backfire: Evidence from the Workplace

Author

Listed:
  • Jakob Alfitian
  • Dirk Sliwka
  • Timo Vogelsang

Abstract

Monetary incentives are widely used to align employees' actions with the objectives of employers. We conduct a field experiment in a retail chain to evaluate whether an attendance bonus reduces employee absenteeism. The RCT assigned 346 apprentices for one year to either a monetary attendance bonus, a time-off bonus or a control group. We find that neither form of the bonus reduced absenteeism, but the monetary bonus increased absence by around 45%. This backfiring effect is persistent and driven by the most recently hired apprentices. Survey results reveal that the bonus shifted the perception of absenteeism as acceptable behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Jakob Alfitian & Dirk Sliwka & Timo Vogelsang, 2021. "When Bonuses Backfire: Evidence from the Workplace," Natural Field Experiments 00725, The Field Experiments Website.
  • Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00725
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://s3.amazonaws.com/fieldexperiments-papers2/papers/00725.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Gneezy, Uri & Rustichini, Aldo, 2000. "A Fine is a Price," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 1-17, January.
    2. Daron Acemoglu & Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 1998. "Why Do Firms Train? Theory and Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(1), pages 79-119.
    3. Magnus Henrekson & Mats Persson, 2004. "The Effects on Sick Leave of Changes in the Sickness Insurance System," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(1), pages 87-114, January.
    4. Johansson, Per & Palme, Marten, 1996. "Do economic incentives affect work absence? Empirical evidence using Swedish micro data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 195-218, February.
    5. Nicolas R. Ziebarth & Martin Karlsson, 2014. "The Effects Of Expanding The Generosity Of The Statutory Sickness Insurance System," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(2), pages 208-230, March.
    6. Nazmul Chaudhury & Jeffrey Hammer & Michael Kremer & Karthik Muralidharan & F. Halsey Rogers, 2006. "Missing in Action: Teacher and Health Worker Absence in Developing Countries," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 91-116, Winter.
    7. Josse Delfgaauw & Robert Dur & Joeri Sol & Willem Verbeke, 2013. "Tournament Incentives in the Field: Gender Differences in the Workplace," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(2), pages 305-326.
    8. Oriana Bandiera & Iwan Barankay & Imran Rasul, 2005. "Social Preferences and the Response to Incentives: Evidence from Personnel Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 917-962.
    9. Riphahn, Regina T., 2004. "Employment protection and effort among German employees," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 85(3), pages 353-357, December.
    10. Dan Ariely & Anat Bracha & Stephan Meier, 2009. "Doing Good or Doing Well? Image Motivation and Monetary Incentives in Behaving Prosocially," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 544-555, March.
    11. Frey, Bruno S & Oberholzer-Gee, Felix, 1997. "The Cost of Price Incentives: An Empirical Analysis of Motivation Crowding-Out," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(4), pages 746-755, September.
    12. Guido Friebel & Matthias Heinz & Miriam Krueger & Nikolay Zubanov, 2017. "Team Incentives and Performance: Evidence from a Retail Chain," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(8), pages 2168-2203, August.
    13. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
    14. Esther Duflo & Rema Hanna & Stephen P. Ryan, 2012. "Incentives Work: Getting Teachers to Come to School," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(4), pages 1241-1278, June.
    15. Tanjim Hossain & John A. List, 2012. "The Behavioralist Visits the Factory: Increasing Productivity Using Simple Framing Manipulations," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(12), pages 2151-2167, December.
    16. Ernst Fehr & Bettina Rockenbach, 2003. "Detrimental effects of sanctions on human altruism," Microeconomics 0305007, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. Ziebarth, Nicolas R., 2013. "Long-term absenteeism and moral hazard—Evidence from a natural experiment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 277-292.
    18. Oriana Bandiera & Iwan Barankay & Imran Rasul, 2011. "Field Experiments with Firms," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 63-82, Summer.
    19. Lacetera, Nicola & Macis, Mario, 2010. "Do all material incentives for pro-social activities backfire? The response to cash and non-cash incentives for blood donations," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 738-748, August.
    20. Andrei Bremzen & Elena Khokhlova & Anton Suvorov & Jeroen van de Ven, 2015. "Bad News: An Experimental Study on the Informational Effects Of Rewards," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(1), pages 55-70, March.
    21. Guido W. Imbens & Jeffrey M. Wooldridge, 2009. "Recent Developments in the Econometrics of Program Evaluation," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(1), pages 5-86, March.
    22. Erin L. Krupka & Roberto A. Weber, 2013. "Identifying Social Norms Using Coordination Games: Why Does Dictator Game Sharing Vary?," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 495-524, June.
    23. Tore Ellingsen & Magnus Johannesson, 2008. "Pride and Prejudice: The Human Side of Incentive Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 990-1008, June.
    24. Ziebarth, Nicolas R. & Karlsson, Martin, 2010. "A natural experiment on sick pay cuts, sickness absence, and labor costs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 1108-1122, December.
    25. Ernst Fehr & John A. List, 2004. "The Hidden Costs and Returns of Incentives-Trust and Trustworthiness Among CEOs," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(5), pages 743-771, September.
    26. Johansson, Per & Palme, Marten, 2005. "Moral hazard and sickness insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(9-10), pages 1879-1890, September.
    27. Dirk Sliwka, 2007. "Trust as a Signal of a Social Norm and the Hidden Costs of Incentive Schemes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 999-1012, June.
    28. Edward P. Lazear, 2018. "Compensation and Incentives in the Workplace," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 32(3), pages 195-214, Summer.
    29. Puhani, Patrick A. & Sonderhof, Katja, 2010. "The effects of a sick pay reform on absence and on health-related outcomes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 285-302, March.
    30. Bruce Shearer, 2004. "Piece Rates, Fixed Wages and Incentives: Evidence from a Field Experiment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(2), pages 513-534.
    31. Andrea Ichino & Regina T. Riphahn, 2005. "The Effect of Employment Protection on Worker Effort: Absenteeism During and After Probation," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(1), pages 120-143, March.
    32. Allen, Steven G, 1981. "An Empirical Model of Work Attendance," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 63(1), pages 77-87, February.
    33. Nicola Lacetera & Mario Macis, 2013. "Time for Blood: The Effect of Paid Leave Legislation on Altruistic Behavior," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(6), pages 1384-1420, December.
    34. Per Johansson & Mårten Palme, 2002. "Assessing the Effect of Public Policy on Worker Absenteeism," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(2), pages 381-409.
    35. Imbens,Guido W. & Rubin,Donald B., 2015. "Causal Inference for Statistics, Social, and Biomedical Sciences," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521885881, June.
    36. Bandiera, Oriana & Fischer, Greg & Prat, Andrea & Ytsma, Erina, 2016. "Do women respond less to performance pay? Building evidence from multiple experiments," CEPR Discussion Papers 11724, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    37. Eddy Cardinaels & Huaxiang Yin, 2015. "Think Twice Before Going for Incentives: Social Norms and the Principal's Decision on Compensation Contracts," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(5), pages 985-1015, December.
    38. Banker, Rajiv D. & Lee, S.-Y.Seok-Young & Potter, Gordon & Srinivasan, Dhinu, 2000. "An empirical analysis of continuing improvements following the implementation of a performance-based compensation plan," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 315-350, December.
    39. Kreps, David M, 1997. "Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Incentives," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 359-364, May.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Pichler, Stefan & Ziebarth, Nicolas R., 2017. "The pros and cons of sick pay schemes: Testing for contagious presenteeism and noncontagious absenteeism behavior," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 156(C), pages 14-33.
    2. Manthei, Kathrin & Sliwka, Dirk & Vogelsang, Timo, 2019. "Talking about Performance or Paying for it? Evidence from a Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 12446, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Ziebarth, Nicolas R., 2013. "Long-term absenteeism and moral hazard—Evidence from a natural experiment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 277-292.
    4. Ziebarth, Nicolas R. & Karlsson, Martin, 2010. "A natural experiment on sick pay cuts, sickness absence, and labor costs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 1108-1122, December.
    5. Stefan Pichler & Nicolas R. Ziebarth, 2015. "The Pros and Cons of Sick Pay Schemes: Testing for Contagious Presenteeism and Shirking Behavior," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1509, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    6. Pichler, Stefan & Ziebarth, Nicolas R., 2019. "Reprint of: The pros and cons of sick pay schemes: Testing for contagious presenteeism and noncontagious absenteeism behavior," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 171(C), pages 86-104.
    7. Samuel Bowles & Sandra Polania-Reyes, 2011. "Economic incentives and social preferences: substitutes or complements?," Department of Economics University of Siena 617, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
    8. Pichler, Stefan & Ziebarth, Nicolas R., 2015. "The Pros and Cons of Sick Pay Schemes: A Method to Test for Contagious Presenteeism and Shirking Behavior," VfS Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 112940, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    9. Eliason, Marcus & Johansson, Per & Nilsson, Martin, 2019. "Forward-looking moral hazard in social insurance," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 84-98.
    10. Kajackaite, Agne & Werner, Peter, 2015. "The incentive effects of performance requirements – A real effort experiment," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 84-94.
    11. Stijn Baert & Bas van der Klaauw & Gijsbert van Lomwel, 2018. "The effectiveness of medical and vocational interventions for reducing sick leave of self‐employed workers," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(2), pages 139-152, February.
    12. René Böheim & Thomas Leoni, 2014. "Firms' Sickness Costs and Workers' Sickness Absences," NBER Working Papers 20305, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Nicolas R. Ziebarth & Martin Karlsson, 2014. "The Effects Of Expanding The Generosity Of The Statutory Sickness Insurance System," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(2), pages 208-230, March.
    14. Vincenzo Scoppa & Daniela Vuri, 2014. "Absenteeism, unemployment and employment protection legislation: evidence from Italy," IZA Journal of Labor Economics, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 3(1), pages 1-25, December.
    15. Martin Ljunge, 2011. "Sick of Taxes? Evidence on the Elasticity of Labor Supply when Workers Are Free to Choose," Discussion Papers 11-27, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    16. Goerke, Laszlo & Pannenberg, Markus, 2015. "Trade union membership and sickness absence: Evidence from a sick pay reform," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 13-25.
    17. Eliason, Marcus & Johansson, Per & Nilsson, Martin, 2018. "Forward-looking moral hazard in social insurance: evidence from a natural experiment," Working Paper Series 2018:11, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    18. Dickinson, David & Villeval, Marie-Claire, 2008. "Does monitoring decrease work effort?: The complementarity between agency and crowding-out theories," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 56-76, May.
    19. René Böheim & Thomas Leoni, 2020. "Do Employees’ Sickness Absences React to a Change in Costs for Firms? Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 122(2), pages 553-581, April.
    20. Pons Rotger, Gabriel & Rosholm, Michael, 2020. "The Role of Beliefs in Long Sickness Absence: Experimental Evidence from a Psychological Intervention," IZA Discussion Papers 13582, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    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:feb:natura:00725. 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: (Joe Seidel). General contact details of provider: http://www.fieldexperiments.com .

    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.