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Goal Setting in the Principal-Agent Model: Weak Incentives for Strong Performance

Author

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  • Brice Corgnet

    (emlyon business school, GATE Lyon Saint-Étienne - Groupe d'analyse et de théorie économique - ENS Lyon - École normale supérieure - Lyon - UL2 - Université Lumière - Lyon 2 - UCBL - Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 - Université de Lyon - UJM - Université Jean Monnet [Saint-Étienne] - Université de Lyon - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

  • Joaquín Gómez-Miñambres

    (Chapman University, Bucknell University)

  • Roberto Hernán-Gonzalez

    (Nottingham University Business School - UON - University of Nottingham, UK)

Abstract

We study a principal-agent framework in which principals can assign wage-irrelevant goals to agents. We find evidence that, when given the possibility to set wage-irrelevant goals, principals select incentive contracts for which pay is less responsive to agents' performance. We show that average performance of agents is higher in the presence of goal setting than in its absence despite weaker incentives. We develop a principal-agent model with reference-dependent utility that illustrates how labor contracts combining weak monetary incentives and wage-irrelevant goals can be optimal. It follows that recognizing the pervasive use of non-monetary incentives in the workplace may help account for previous empirical findings suggesting that firms rely on unexpectedly weak monetary incentives.

Suggested Citation

  • Brice Corgnet & Joaquín Gómez-Miñambres & Roberto Hernán-Gonzalez, 2016. "Goal Setting in the Principal-Agent Model: Weak Incentives for Strong Performance," Working Papers halshs-01364444, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:wpaper:halshs-01364444
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01364444
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Alexander K. Koch & Julia Nafziger, 2017. "Motivational Goal Bracketing: An Experiment," Economics Working Papers 2017-06, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University.
    2. Max van Lent & Michiel Souverijn, 2017. "Goal Setting and Raising the Bar: A Field Experiment," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 17-001/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
    3. Jordi Brandts & Brice Corgnet & Roberto Hernán-González & José M. Ortiz & Carles Solà, 2018. "A ‘threat’ is a ‘Threat’: Incentive Effects of Firing Threats with Varying Degrees of Performance Information," Working Papers 1023, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Principal-agent models; incentive theory; non-monetary incentives; goal setting; reference-dependent utility; laboratory experiments;

    JEL classification:

    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • M54 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Labor Management

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