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Getting More Work for Nothing? Symbolic Awards and Worker Performance

  • Kosfeld, Michael


    (Goethe University Frankfurt)

  • Neckermann, Susanne


    (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

We study the impact of status and social recognition on worker performance in a field experiment. In collaboration with an international non-governmental organization we hired students to work on a database project. Students in the award treatment were offered a congratulatory card from the organization honoring the best performance. The award was purely symbolic in order to ensure that any behavioral effect is driven by non-material benefits. Our results show that students in the award treatment outperform students in the control treatment by about 12 percent on average. Our results provide strong evidence for the motivating power of status and social recognition in labor relations with major implications for theory and applications.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5040.

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Length: 21 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, 2011, 3 (3), 86-99
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5040
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  1. Josse Delfgaauw & Robert Dur & Joeri Sol & Willem Verbeke, 2013. "Tournament Incentives in the Field: Gender Differences in the Workplace," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(2), pages 305 - 326.
  2. Emmanuelle Auriol & Régis Renault, 2007. "Status and Incentives," THEMA Working Papers 2007-01, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
  3. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2011. "Was There Really a Hawthorne Effect at the Hawthorne Plant? An Analysis of the Original Illumination Experiments," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 224-38, January.
  4. Tore Ellingsen & Magnus Johannesson, 2007. "Paying Respect," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(4), pages 135-150, Fall.
  5. Sheryl Ball & Catherine Eckel & Philip J. Grossman & William Zame, 2001. "Status in Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 161-188.
  6. Dan Ariely & Anat Bracha & Stephan Meier, 2009. "Doing Good or Doing Well? Image Motivation and Monetary Incentives in Behaving Prosocially," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 544-55, March.
  7. Benny Moldovanu & Aner Sela & Xianwen Shi, 2007. "Contests for Status," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 338-363.
  8. Robert Dur, 2009. "Gift Exchange in The Workplace: Money or Attention?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 550-560, 04-05.
  9. Sebastian Kube & Michel Andr� Mar�chal & Clemens Puppe, 2010. "The currency of reciprocity - gift-exchange in the workplace," IEW - Working Papers 377, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich, revised Aug 2011.
  10. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gächter, 2000. "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 159-181, Summer.
  11. Andrea Patacconi & Florian Ederer, 2005. "Interpersonal Comparison, Status and Ambition in Organisations," Economics Series Working Papers 222, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
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