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Pro-Social Missions and Worker Motivation: An Experimental Study

  • Fehrler, Sebastian

    ()

    (University of Konstanz)

  • Kosfeld, Michael

    ()

    (Goethe University Frankfurt)

Do employees work harder if their job has the right mission? In a laboratory labor market experiment, we test whether subjects provide higher effort if they can choose the mission of their job. We observe that subjects do not provide higher effort than in a control treatment. Surprised by this finding, we run a second experiment in which subjects can choose whether they want to work on a job with their preferred mission or not. A subgroup of agents (roughly one third) is willing to do so even if this option is more costly than choosing the alternative job. Moreover, we find that these subjects provide substantially higher effort. These results suggest that relatively few workers can be motivated by missions and that selection into mission-oriented organizations is important to explain empirical findings of lower wages and high motivation in the latter.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 6460.

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Length: 38 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2012
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 2014, 100, 99-110
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6460
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  1. Josse Delfgaauw & Robert A.J. Dur, 2002. "Signaling and Screening of Workers' Motivation," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 02-050/3, Tinbergen Institute, revised 04 Mar 2005.
  2. Jacobsen, Karin & H. Eika, Kari & Helland, Leif & Thori Lind, Jo & Nyborg, Karine, 2011. "Are nurses more altruistic than real estate brokers?," Memorandum 09/2011, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  3. Bruggen, Alexander & Strobel, Martin, 2007. "Real effort versus chosen effort in experiments," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 96(2), pages 232-236, August.
  4. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  5. Josse Delfgaauw & Robert Dur, 2004. "Incentives and Workers’ Motivation in the Public Sector," CESifo Working Paper Series 1223, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. David Burns & Jane Reid & Mark Toncar & Jeffrey Fawcett & Cynthia Anderson, 2006. "Motivations to volunteer: The role of altruism," International Review on Public and Nonprofit Marketing, Springer, vol. 3(2), pages 79-91, December.
  7. Canice Prendergast, 2007. "The Motivation and Bias of Bureaucrats," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 180-196, March.
  8. Engelmann Dirk & Strobel Martin, 2002. "Inequality Aversion, Efficiency, and Maximin Preferences in Simple Distribution Experiments," Research Memorandum 015, Maastricht University, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
  9. Timothy Besley & Maitreesh Ghatak, 2003. "Competition and incentives with motivated agents," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 2202, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  10. Karine Nyborg & Tao Zhang, 2013. "Is Corporate Social Responsibility Associated with Lower Wages?," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 55(1), pages 107-117, May.
  11. Carpenter, Jeffrey & Myers, Caitlin Knowles, 2010. "Why volunteer? Evidence on the role of altruism, image, and incentives," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 911-920, December.
  12. Buurman, Margaretha & Dur, Robert & van den Bossche, Seth, 2009. "Public Sector Employees: Risk Averse and Altruistic?," IZA Discussion Papers 4401, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. Paul Gregg & Paul A. Grout & Anita Ratcliffe & Sarah Smith & Frank Windmeijer, 2008. "How important is pro-social behaviour in the delivery of public services?," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 08/197, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  14. Tonin, Mirco & Vlassopoulos, Michael, 2012. "Social Incentives Matter: Evidence from an Online Real Effort Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 6716, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  15. Avinash Dixit, 2002. "# Incentives and Organizations in the Public Sector: An Interpretative Review," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(4), pages 696-727.
  16. Huck Steffen & Rasul Imran, 2010. "Transactions Costs in Charitable Giving: Evidence from Two Field Experiments," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-35, April.
  17. Kosfeld, Michael & von Siemens, Ferdinand, 2007. "Competition, Cooperation, and Corporate Culture," IZA Discussion Papers 2927, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  18. Francois, Patrick, 2000. "'Public service motivation' as an argument for government provision," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(3), pages 275-299, November.
  19. Tonin, Mirco & Vlassopoulos, Michael, 2010. "Disentangling the sources of pro-socially motivated effort: A field experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 1086-1092, December.
  20. Brekke, Kjell Arne & Nyborg, Karine, 2008. "Attracting responsible employees: Green production as labor market screening," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 509-526, December.
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