IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Supervisors and Performance Management Systems


  • Frederiksen, Anders

    () (Aarhus University)

  • Kahn, Lisa B.

    () (Yale University)

  • Lange, Fabian

    () (McGill University)


Supervisors occupy central roles in production and performance monitoring. We study how heterogeneity in performance evaluations across supervisors affects employee and supervisor careers and firm outcomes using data on the performance system of a Scandinavian service sector firm. We show that supervisors vary widely in how they rate subordinates of similar quality. To understand the nature of this heterogeneity, we propose a principal-agent model according to which supervisors can differ in their ability to elicit output from subordinates or in their taste for leniency when rating subordinates. The model also allows for variation in how informed firms are about this heterogeneity. Within the context of this model, we can discern the nature of the heterogeneity across supervisors and how informed firms are about this heterogeneity by relating observed supervisor heterogeneity in ratings to worker, supervisor, and firm outcomes. We find that subordinates are paid significantly more, and their pay is more closely aligned with performance, when they are matched to a highrating supervisor. We also find that higher raters themselves are paid more and that the teams managed by higher raters perform better on objective performance measures. This evidence suggests that supervisor heterogeneity stems, at least in part, from real differences in managerial ability and that firms are at least partially informed about these differences. We conclude by quantifying how important heterogeneity in supervisor type is for workers' careers. For a typical worker, matching to a high rater (90th percentile) relative to a low rater (10th percentile) for just one year results in an increase in the present discounted value of earnings equivalent to 7–14% of an annual salary.

Suggested Citation

  • Frederiksen, Anders & Kahn, Lisa B. & Lange, Fabian, 2017. "Supervisors and Performance Management Systems," IZA Discussion Papers 10725, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10725

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Frederiksen, Anders & Lange, Fabian & Kriechel, Ben, 2017. "Subjective performance evaluations and employee careers," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 408-429.
    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. Dohmen, Thomas J., 2004. "Performance, seniority, and wages: formal salary systems and individual earnings profiles," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(6), pages 741-763, December.
    4. Nicholas Bloom & John Van Reenen, 2007. "Measuring and Explaining Management Practices Across Firms and Countries," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(4), pages 1351-1408.
    5. 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.
    6. Anders Frederiksen & Előd Takáts, 2011. "Promotions, Dismissals, and Employee Selection: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 27(1), pages 159-179.
    7. George Baker & Michael Gibbs & Bengt Holmstrom, 1994. "The Wage Policy of a Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 921-955.
    8. Lisa B. Kahn & Fabian Lange, 2014. "Employer Learning, Productivity, and the Earnings Distribution: Evidence from Performance Measures," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 81(4), pages 1575-1613.
    9. Flabbi, Luca & Ichino, Andrea, 2001. "Productivity, seniority and wages: new evidence from personnel data," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 359-387, June.
    10. Gibbons, Robert & Murphy, Kevin J, 1992. "Optimal Incentive Contracts in the Presence of Career Concerns: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 468-505, June.
    11. Bennedsen, Morten & Perez-Gonzalez, Francisco & Wolfenzon, Daniel, 2007. "Do CEOs matter?," CEI Working Paper Series 2006-21, Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    12. Bruce C. Greenwald, 1986. "Adverse Selection in the Labour Market," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 53(3), pages 325-347.
    13. Fabian Lange, 2007. "The Speed of Employer Learning," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 1-35.
    14. Bennedsen, Morten & Pérez-González, Francisco & Wolfenzon, Daniel, 2007. "Do CEOs Matter?," Working Papers 13-2007, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Economics.
    15. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1987. "Aggregation and Linearity in the Provision of Intertemporal Incentives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(2), pages 303-328, March.
    16. Michael Gibbs & Wallace Hendricks, 2004. "Do Formal Salary Systems Really Matter?," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 58(1), pages 71-93, October.
    17. David H. Autor & David Scarborough, 2008. "Does Job Testing Harm Minority Workers? Evidence from Retail Establishments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 219-277.
    18. Prendergast, Canice & Topel, Robert, 1993. "Discretion and bias in performance evaluation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(2-3), pages 355-365, April.
    19. Bengt Holmstrom, 1979. "Moral Hazard and Observability," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 74-91, Spring.
    20. Tirole, Jean, 1986. "Hierarchies and Bureaucracies: On the Role of Collusion in Organizations," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 2(2), pages 181-214, Fall.
    21. Uta Schönberg, 2007. "Testing for Asymmetric Employer Learning," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 651-691.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    labor; personnel economics; principal-agent; performance management systems; supervisors; organizational economics;

    JEL classification:

    • M5 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    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:iza:izadps:dp10725. 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: (Mark Fallak). General contact details of provider: .

    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.