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Authority versus Persuasion

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  • Eric J. Van den Steen

    () (Harvard Business School, Strategy Unit)

Abstract

This paper studies a principal's trade-off between using persuasion versus using interpersonal authority to get the agent to 'do the right thing' from the principal's perspective (when the principal and agent openly disagree on the right course of action). It shows that persuasion and authority are complements at low levels of effectiveness but substitutes at high levels. Furthermore, the principal will rely more on persuasion when agent motivation is more important for the execution of the project, when the agent has strong intrinsic or extrinsic incentives, and, for a wide range of settings, when the principal is more confident about the right course of action.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric J. Van den Steen, 2009. "Authority versus Persuasion," Harvard Business School Working Papers 09-085, Harvard Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:09-085
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2006. "Belief in a Just World and Redistributive Politics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 699-746.
    2. 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.
    3. Wouter Dessein & Luis Garicano & Robert Gertner, 2010. "Organizing for Synergies," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 77-114, November.
    4. Yeon-Koo Che & Navin Kartik, 2009. "Opinions as Incentives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(5), pages 815-860, October.
    5. Susan Athey & John Roberts, 2001. "Organizational Design: Decision Rights and Incentive Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 200-205, May.
    6. Eric Van den Steen, 2010. "Interpersonal Authority in a Theory of the Firm," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 466-490, March.
    7. Paul Milgrom & John Roberts, 1986. "Relying on the Information of Interested Parties," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(1), pages 18-32, Spring.
    8. Paul R. Milgrom, 1981. "Good News and Bad News: Representation Theorems and Applications," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 12(2), pages 380-391, Autumn.
    9. Van den Steen, Eric, 2007. "The Limits of Authority: Motivation versus Coordination," Working papers 37305, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
    10. Morris, Stephen, 1995. "The Common Prior Assumption in Economic Theory," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(02), pages 227-253, October.
    11. Sherwin Rosen, 1982. "Authority, Control, and the Distribution of Earnings," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 311-323, Autumn.
    12. Crawford, Vincent P & Sobel, Joel, 1982. "Strategic Information Transmission," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1431-1451, November.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Irene Valsecchi, 2013. "The expert problem: a survey," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 14(4), pages 303-331, November.
    2. Alonso, Ricardo & Câmara, Odilon, 2016. "Bayesian persuasion with heterogeneous priors," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 165(C), pages 672-706.
    3. Brice Corgnet & Roberto Hernán-González & Stephen Rassenti, 2011. "Real Effort, Real Leisure and Real-time Supervision: Incentives and Peer Pressure in Virtual Organizations," Working Papers 11-05, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    4. Alonso, Ricardo & Câmara, Odilon, 2014. "Persuading skeptics and reaffirming believers," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 58680, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • M54 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Labor Management

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