Layoffs as Part of an Optimal Incentive Mix: Theory and Evidence
Firms offer highly complex contracts to their employees. These contracts contain a mix of incentives, such as fixed wages, bonus payments, promotion options, and layoff threats. In general, economists understand how incentives motivate employees but not why a particular mix should be used. In this paper we present a model in which the observed incentive mix is an optimal contract. In particular, we show that it can be optimal for firms to combine cost-efficient incentives such as promotions and bonuses with layoffs. The intuition is that layoffs play a dual role. First, they create incentives for the employees. Second, they contribute to sorting and selection. In the empirical part of the paper we test the model’s basic assumption about employee sorting and selection together with its broader predictions about employee careers. Using personnel records from a large international pharmaceutical company, we find that the model’s predictions are consistent with the data.
|Date of creation:||Nov 2006|
|Date of revision:|
|Publication status:||published as 'Promotions, Dismissals and Employee Selection: Theory and Evidence' in: Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, 2011, 27(1). 159-179|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: IZA, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany|
Phone: +49 228 3894 223
Fax: +49 228 3894 180
Web page: http://www.iza.org
|Order Information:|| Postal: IZA, Margard Ody, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany|
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- 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.
- Baker, G.P. & Jensen, M.C. & Murphy, K.J., 1988.
"Compensation And Incentives: Practice Vs. Theory,"
88-05, Rochester, Business - Managerial Economics Research Center.
- Lazear, Edward P, 1989. "Pay Equality and Industrial Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 561-80, June.
- Edward P. Lazear, 1996.
"Performance Pay and Productivity,"
NBER Working Papers
5672, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- MacLeod, W Bentley & Malcomson, James M, 1998.
"Motivation and Markets,"
American Economic Review,
American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 388-411, June.
- MacLeod, W.B. & Malcomson, J.M., 1997. "Motivation and markets," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 9720, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
- W. Bentley MacLeod & James Malcomson, 1997. "Motivation and Markets," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 339., Boston College Department of Economics.
- Gibbons, Robert & Waldman, Michael, 1999. "Careers in organizations: Theory and evidence," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 36, pages 2373-2437 Elsevier.
- George Baker & Robert Gibbons & Kevin J. Murphy, 1994. "Subjective Performance Measures in Optimal Incentive Contracts," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 1125-1156.
- Edward P. Lazear & Sherwin Rosen, 1979.
"Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts,"
NBER Working Papers
0401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Henry S. Farber & Robert Gibbons, 1996. "Learning and Wage Dynamics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(4), pages 1007-1047.
- Michael Waldman, 1983.
"Job Assignments, Signalling nad Efficiency,"
UCLA Economics Working Papers
286, UCLA Department of Economics.
- Calvo, Guillermo A & Wellisz, Stanislaw, 1979. "Hierarchy, Ability, and Income Distribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 991-1010, October.
- James L. Medoff & Katharine G. Abraham, 1980.
"Experience, Performance, and Earnings,"
NBER Working Papers
0278, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Bentley MacLeod, 2001.
"Optimal Contracting with Subjective Evaluation,"
Theory workshop papers
357966000000000036, UCLA Department of Economics.
- Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-44, June.
- Gibbs, Michael, 1995. "Incentive compensation in a corporate hierarchy," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2-3), pages 247-277, April.
- Robert Gibbons & Michael Waldman, 1999. "A Theory of Wage and Promotion Dynamics Inside Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1321-1358.
- J. Luis Guasch & Andrew Weiss, 1980. "Wages as Sorting Mechanisms in Competitive Markets with Asymmetric Information: A Theory of Testing," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(4), pages 653-664.
- James L. Medoff & Katharine G. Abraham, 1981. "Are Those Paid More Really More Productive? The Case of Experience," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 16(2), pages 186-216.
- Christopher Ferrall & Bruce Shearer, 1999. "Incentives and Transactions Costs Within the Firm: Estimating an Agency Model Using Payroll Records," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(2), pages 309-338.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2447. 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)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.