IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Workplace Democracy in the Lab


  • Mellizo, Philip

    () (College of Wooster)

  • Carpenter, Jeffrey P.

    () (Middlebury College)

  • Matthews, Peter Hans

    () (Middlebury College)


While intuition suggests that empowering workers to have some say in the control of the firm is likely to have beneficial incentive effects, empirical evidence of such an effect is hard to come by because of numerous confounding factors in the naturally occurring data. We report evidence from a real-effort experiment confirming that worker performance is sensitive to the process used to select the compensation contract. Groups of workers that voted to determine their compensation scheme provided significantly more effort than groups that had no say in how they would be compensated. This effect is robust to controls for the compensation scheme implemented and worker characteristics (i.e., ability and gender).

Suggested Citation

  • Mellizo, Philip & Carpenter, Jeffrey P. & Matthews, Peter Hans, 2011. "Workplace Democracy in the Lab," IZA Discussion Papers 5460, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5460

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alchian, Armen A & Demsetz, Harold, 1972. "Production , Information Costs, and Economic Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(5), pages 777-795, December.
    2. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1995. "Complementarities and fit strategy, structure, and organizational change in manufacturing," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2-3), pages 179-208, April.
    3. John Pencavel, 2013. "Worker cooperatives and democratic governance," Chapters,in: Handbook of Economic Organization, chapter 24 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. repec:hrv:faseco:34310817 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Richard B. Freeman & Alexander M. Gelber, 2010. "Prize Structure and Information in Tournaments: Experimental Evidence," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 149-164, January.
    6. Paul J. Gollan & David Lewin, 2013. "Employee Representation in Non-Union Firms: An Overview," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52, pages 173-193, January.
    7. Pedro Dal Bo & Andrew Foster & Louis Putterman, 2010. "Institutions and Behavior: Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Democracy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(5), pages 2205-2229, December.
    8. Bruno Frey & Matthias Benz & Alois Stutzer, 2004. "Introducing Procedural Utility: Not Only What, but Also How Matters," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 160(3), pages 377-377, September.
    9. van Dijk, Frans & Sonnemans, Joep & van Winden, Frans, 2001. "Incentive systems in a real effort experiment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 187-214, February.
    10. Douglas L. Kruse & Joseph R. Blasi & Rhokeun Park, 2010. "Shared Capitalism in the U.S. Economy: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Employee Views of Financial Participation in Enterprises," NBER Chapters,in: Shared Capitalism at Work: Employee Ownership, Profit and Gain Sharing, and Broad-based Stock Options, pages 41-75 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Bonin, John P & Jones, Derek C & Putterman, Louis, 1993. "Theoretical and Empirical Studies of Producer Cooperatives: Will Ever the Twain Meet?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 31(3), pages 1290-1320, September.
    12. Edward P. Lazear, 2000. "Performance Pay and Productivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1346-1361, December.
    13. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2007. "Do Women Shy Away From Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1067-1101.
    14. Charness, Gary & Kuhn, Peter, 2011. "Lab Labor: What Can Labor Economists Learn from the Lab?," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
    15. Michael Kremer, 1997. "Why are Worker Cooperatives So Rare?," NBER Working Papers 6118, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. repec:cup:apsrev:v:62:y:1968:i:01:p:25-42_11 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Sue Fernie & David Metcalf, 1995. "Participation, Contingent Pay, Representation and Workplace Performance: Evidence from Great Britain," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 33(3), pages 379-415, September.
    18. Falk, Armin & Fehr, Ernst, 2003. "Why labour market experiments?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 399-406, August.
    19. Williamson, Oliver E., 1980. "The organization of work a comparative institutional assessment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 5-38, March.
    20. repec:bin:bpeajo:v:26:y:1995:i:1995-3:p:121-174 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. William N. Cooke, 1994. "Employee Participation Programs, Group-Based Incentives, and Company Performance: A Union-Nonunion Comparison," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 47(4), pages 594-609, July.
    22. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Gabriel Burdín, 2016. "Equality Under Threat by the Talented: Evidence from Worker‐Managed Firms," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 126(594), pages 1372-1403, August.
    2. Philip Mellizo & Jeffrey Carpenter & Peter Hans Matthews, 2017. "Ceding control: an experimental analysis of participatory management," Journal of the Economic Science Association, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 3(1), pages 62-74, July.
    3. Sabrina Jeworrek & Vanessa Mertins, 2014. "Wage Delegation in the Field," IAAEU Discussion Papers 201408, Institute of Labour Law and Industrial Relations in the European Union (IAAEU).
    4. Tomas Sjöström & Levent Ülkü & Radovan Vadovic, 2017. "Free to Choose: Testing the Pure Motivation Effect of Autonomous Choice," Carleton Economic Papers 17-11, Carleton University, Department of Economics.
    5. Köhler, Katrin & Pagel, Beatrice & Rau, Holger A., 2015. "How worker participation affects reciprocity under minimum remuneration policies: Experimental evidence," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 267, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    6. John Pencavel, 2013. "Worker cooperatives and democratic governance," Chapters,in: Handbook of Economic Organization, chapter 24 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    7. Samuel Bowles & Sandra Polania-Reyes, 2011. "Economic incentives and social preferences: substitutes or complements?," Department of Economics University of Siena 617, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
    8. Jörg Franke & Ruslan Gurtoviy & Vanessa Mertins, 2014. "Workers' Participation in Wage Setting and Opportunistic Behavior: Evidence from a Gift-Exchange Experiment," IAAEU Discussion Papers 201407, Institute of Labour Law and Industrial Relations in the European Union (IAAEU).
    9. Marco Faillo & Costanza Piovanelli, 2017. "Wage delegation and intrinsic motivation: an experimental study," CEEL Working Papers 1701, Cognitive and Experimental Economics Laboratory, Department of Economics, University of Trento, Italia.
    10. Franke, Jörg & Gurtoviy, Ruslan & Mertins, Vanessa, 2016. "Workers’ participation in wage setting: A gift-exchange experiment," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 151-162.
    11. Claudia Keser & Claude Montmarquette, 2011. "Voluntary versus Enforced Team Effort," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(3), pages 1-25, August.

    More about this item


    real-effort experiment; workplace democracy; decision control rights;

    JEL classification:

    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • 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

    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:dp5460. 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.