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How Unjust! An Experimental Investigation of Supervisors' Evaluation Errors and Agents' Incentives

  • Marchegiani, Lucia

    ()

    (University of Rome 3)

  • Reggiani, Tommaso

    ()

    (University of Cologne)

  • Rizzolli, Matteo

    ()

    (Free University of Bozen/Bolzano)

In our simple model the supervisor: i) cannot observe the agent's effort; ii) aims at inducing the agent to exert high effort; but iii) can only offer rewards based on performance. Since performance is only stochastically related to effort, evaluation errors may occur. In particular, deserving agents that have exerted high effort may not be rewarded (Type I errors) and undeserving agents that have exerted low effort may be rewarded (Type II errors). We show that, although the model predicts both errors to be equally detrimental to performance, this prediction fails with a lab experiment. In fact, failing to reward deserving agents is significantly more detrimental than rewarding undeserving agents. We discuss our result in the light of some economic and managerial theories of behavior. Our result may have interesting implications for strategic human resource management and personnel economics and may also contribute to the debate about incentives and organizational performance.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 6254.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6254
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  1. Olivella, P. & Aron, D.J., 1991. "Bonuses and Penalties as Equilibrium Incentive Devices, with Application to Manufacturing Systems," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 153.91, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  2. Johannes Abeler & Armin Falk & Lorenz Götte & David Huffman, 2009. "Reference Points and Effort Provision," CESifo Working Paper Series 2585, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Fehr, Ernst & Klein, Alexander & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2005. "Fairness and Contract Design," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 67, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  4. Gary Charness & Ramon Cobo-Reyes & Natalia Jimenez & Juan A. Lacomba & Francisco Lagos, 2012. "The Hidden Advantage of Delegation: Pareto Improvements in a Gift Exchange Game," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(5), pages 2358-79, August.
  5. Bengt Holmstrom, 1979. "Moral Hazard and Observability," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 74-91, Spring.
  6. Luigino Bruni & Mario Gilli & Vittorio Pelligra, 2008. "Reciprocity: theory and facts," International Review of Economics, Springer, vol. 55(1), pages 1-11, April.
  7. Caplan, Arthur J. & Aadland, David & Macharia, Anthony, 2010. "Estimating Hypothetical Bias in Economically Emergent Africa: A Generic Public Good Experiment," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association, vol. 39(2), April.
  8. Patrick Bolton & Mathias Dewatripont, 2005. "Contract Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262025760, June.
  9. Matteo Rizzolli & Luca Stanca, 2012. "Judicial Errors and Crime Deterrence: Theory and Experimental Evidence," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(2), pages 311 - 338.
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