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Optimal contracts based on subjective evaluations and reciprocity

  • Alexander Sebald


  • Markus Walzl


s demonstrated in a recent laboratory experiment [see Sebald and Walzl (2014)], individuals tend to sanction others who subjectively evaluate their performance when-ever this assessment falls short of the individuals' self-evaluation. Interestingly, this is the case even if the individuals' earnings are unaffected by the subjective performance appraisal. Hence, performance feedback which falls short of agents' self-evaluations can be interpreted as an unkind act that triggers a negatively reciprocal response not only if the assessment determines agents' earnings but also when it lacks monetary consequences. We propose a principal-agent model formalizing that agents might engage into conflict in response to ego-threatening performance appraisals and show that these conflicts stabilize principal-agent relationships based on subjective performance evaluations. In particular, we identify conditions for a positive welfare effect of increasing costs of conflict and a negative welfare effect of more capable agents.

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Paper provided by Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck in its series Working Papers with number 2012-16.

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Length: 50
Date of creation: Aug 2012
Date of revision: Nov 2014
Handle: RePEc:inn:wpaper:2012-16
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  1. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
  2. Malcomson, James M, 1984. "Work Incentives, Hierarchy, and Internal Labor Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(3), pages 486-507, June.
  3. Armin Falk & Urs Fischbacher, 2001. "A Theory of Reciprocity," CESifo Working Paper Series 457, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Margin Dufwenberg & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000090, David K. Levine.
  5. 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.
  6. Alexander Sebald & Markus Walzl, 2014. "Subjective Performance Evaluations and Reciprocity in Principal–Agent Relations," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 116(2), pages 570-590, 04.
  7. Canice Prendergast & Robert H. Topel, 1993. "Favoritism in Organizations," NBER Working Papers 4427, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Bentley W. MacLeod, 2003. "Optimal Contracting with Subjective Evaluation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 216-240, March.
  9. Sebald, Alexander, 2007. "Procedural Concerns," MPRA Paper 4508, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. Jonathan Levin, 2003. "Relational Incentive Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 835-857, June.
  11. Botond Köszegi, 2006. "Ego Utility, Overconfidence, and Task Choice," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 4(4), pages 673-707, 06.
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