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Knowing that You Matter, Matters! The Interplay of Meaning, Monetary Incentives, and Worker Recognition

  • Kosfeld, Michael

    ()

    (Goethe University Frankfurt)

  • Neckermann, Susanne

    ()

    (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

  • Yang, Xiaolan

    ()

    (Zhejiang University)

We manipulate workers' perceived meaning of a job in a field experiment. Half of the workers are informed that their job is important, the other half are told that their job is of no relevance. Results show that workers exert more effort when meaning is high, corroborating previous findings on the relationship between meaning and work effort. We then compare the effect of meaning to the effect of monetary incentives and of worker recognition via symbolic awards. We also look at interaction effects. While meaning outperforms monetary incentives, the latter have a robust positive effect on performance that is independent of meaning. In contrast, meaning and recognition have largely similar effects but interact negatively. Our results are in line with image-reward theory (Bénabou and Tirole 2006) and suggest that meaning and worker recognition operate via the same channel, namely image seeking.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 8055.

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Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp8055
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  1. Ashraf, Nava & Bandiera, Oriana & Lee, Scott S., 2014. "Awards unbundled: Evidence from a natural field experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 44-63.
  2. Uri Gneezy & Stephan Meier & Pedro Rey-Biel, 2011. "When and Why Incentives (Don't) Work to Modify Behavior," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 191-210, Fall.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Masella, Paolo & Meier, Stephan & Zahn, Philipp, 2014. "Incentives and group identity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 12-25.
  6. Michael Kosfeld & Susanne Neckermann, 2011. "Getting More Work for Nothing? Symbolic Awards and Worker Performance," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 86-99, August.
  7. Christiane Bradler & Robert Dur & Susanne Neckermann & Arjan Non, 2013. "Employee Recognition and Performance: A Field Experiment," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 13-038/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
  8. Carpenter, Jeffrey P. & Gong, Erick, 2013. "Motivating Agents: How Much Does the Mission Matter?," IZA Discussion Papers 7602, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Camerer, Colin F & Hogarth, Robin M, 1999. "The Effects of Financial Incentives in Experiments: A Review and Capital-Labor-Production Framework," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 19(1-3), pages 7-42, December.
  10. Fehrler, Sebastian & Kosfeld, Michael, 2012. "Pro-Social Missions and Worker Motivation: An Experimental Study," IZA Discussion Papers 6460, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. S. Bowles & S. Polania-Reyes., 2013. "Economic Incentives and Social Preferences: Substitutes or Complements?," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 5.
  12. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
  13. Ariely, Dan & Kamenica, Emir & Prelec, Drazen, 2008. "Man's search for meaning: The case of Legos," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 67(3-4), pages 671-677, September.
  14. repec:dgr:uvatin:2013038 is not listed on IDEAS
  15. Jordi Blanes i Vidal & Mareike Nossol, 2011. "Tournaments Without Prizes: Evidence from Personnel Records," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(10), pages 1721-1736, October.
  16. repec:dgr:uvatin:20130038 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. repec:cep:stieop:46 is not listed on IDEAS
  18. Chandler, Dana & Kapelner, Adam, 2013. "Breaking monotony with meaning: Motivation in crowdsourcing markets," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 123-133.
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