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Performance Pay and the Erosion of Worker Cooperation: Field Experimental Evidence

Author

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  • Burks, Stephen V.

    () (University of Minnesota, Morris)

  • Carpenter, Jeffrey P.

    () (Middlebury College)

  • Götte, Lorenz

    () (University of Bonn)

Abstract

We report the results of a field experiment with bicycle messengers in Switzerland and the United States. Messenger work is individualized enough that firms can choose to condition pay on it, but significant externalities in messenger behavior nonetheless give their on-the-job interactions the character of a social dilemma. Firms therefore suffer efficiency losses when messengers fail to cooperate. Second-mover behavior in our sequential Prisoner's Dilemma allows us to characterize the cooperativeness of our participants. We find that messengers, like our student controls, have heterogeneous social preferences, but are much more cooperative than students. Among messengers, we find that employees at firms that pay for performance are significantly less cooperative than those who are paid hourly or are members of cooperatives. To examine whether the difference is the result of treatment or selection we exploit the fact that firm type is location-specific in Switzerland and that entering messengers must work in performance pay firms in the U.S. We find that the erosion of cooperation under performance pay is predominantly due to treatment, and that the treatment effect is relatively rapid, more akin to the differential cueing of a behavioral norm than the gradual acquisition of a new preference.

Suggested Citation

  • Burks, Stephen V. & Carpenter, Jeffrey P. & Götte, Lorenz, 2006. "Performance Pay and the Erosion of Worker Cooperation: Field Experimental Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 2013, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2013
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Todd R. Kaplan & Bradley J. Ruffle, 2012. "Which Way to Cooperate," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 122(563), pages 1042-1068, September.
    2. Burks, Stephen V. & Carpenter, Jeffrey P. & Götte, Lorenz & Rustichini, Aldo, 2008. "Cognitive Skills Explain Economic Preferences, Strategic Behavior, and Job Attachment," IZA Discussion Papers 3609, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Jang, Chaning & Lynham, John, 2015. "Where do social preferences come from?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 25-28.
    4. Carpenter Jeffrey P & Seki Erika, 2005. "Competitive Work Environments and Social Preferences: Field Experimental Evidence from a Japanese Fishing Community," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(2), pages 1-25, December.
    5. Dur, Robert & Sol, Joeri, 2010. "Social interaction, co-worker altruism, and incentives," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 293-301, July.
    6. Leonardo Becchetti & Giuseppina Gianfreda & Noemi Pace, 2012. "Human resource management and productivity in the “trust game corporation”," International Review of Economics, Springer;Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS), vol. 59(1), pages 3-20, March.
    7. Kvaløy, Ola, 2010. "Performance pay and dynamic social preferences," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 698-704, August.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    field experiment; conditional cooperation; egoism; social dilemma; altruism; social preference;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • J54 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Producer Cooperatives; Labor Managed Firms
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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