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Strive to be First or Avoid Being Last: An Experiment on Relative Performance Incentives

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  • Dutcher, E. Glenn

    (University of Central Missouri)

  • Balafoutas, Loukas

    (University of Innsbruck)

  • Lindner, Florian

    (University of Innsbruck)

  • Ryvkin, Dmitry

    (Florida State University)

  • Sutter, Matthias

    (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods)

Abstract

We utilize a laboratory experiment to compare effort provision under optimal tournament contracts with different distributions of prizes which motivate agents to compete to be first, avoid being last, or both. We find that the combined tournament contract incorporating both incentives at the top and at the bottom induces the highest effort, especially in larger groups. Avoiding being last produces the lowest variance of effort and is more effective at motivating employees compared to competing for the top.

Suggested Citation

  • Dutcher, E. Glenn & Balafoutas, Loukas & Lindner, Florian & Ryvkin, Dmitry & Sutter, Matthias, 2015. "Strive to be First or Avoid Being Last: An Experiment on Relative Performance Incentives," IZA Discussion Papers 9330, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp9330
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    Cited by:

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    3. Loukas Balafoutas & E. Glenn Dutcher & Florian Lindner & Dmitry Ryvkin, 2017. "The Optimal Allocation Of Prizes In Tournaments Of Heterogeneous Agents," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(1), pages 461-478, January.
    4. Philipp Schreck, 2020. "Volume or value? How relative performance information affects task strategy and performance," Journal of Business Economics, Springer, vol. 90(5), pages 733-755, June.
    5. Drugov, Mikhail & Ryvkin, Dmitry, 2020. "Tournament rewards and heavy tails," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 190(C).
    6. David Gill & Zdenka Kissová & Jaesun Lee & Victoria Prowse, 2019. "First-Place Loving and Last-Place Loathing: How Rank in the Distribution of Performance Affects Effort Provision," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 65(2), pages 494-507, February.
    7. Subhasish M. Chowdhury & Joo Young Jeon & Abhijit Ramalingam, 2018. "Property Rights And Loss Aversion In Contests," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 56(3), pages 1492-1511, July.
    8. Daniel Houser & Jian Song, 2021. "Asymmetric Shocks in Contests: Theory and Experiment," Working Papers 1081, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science.
    9. Simon Piest & Philipp Schreck, 2021. "Contests and unethical behavior in organizations: a review and synthesis of the empirical literature," Management Review Quarterly, Springer, vol. 71(4), pages 679-721, October.
    10. Balafoutas, Loukas & Sutter, Matthias, 2019. "How uncertainty and ambiguity in tournaments affect gender differences in competitive behavior," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 1-13.
    11. Hermann, Daniel & Mußhoff, Oliver & Rau, Holger A., 2019. "The disposition effect when deciding on behalf of others," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 74(C).
    12. Boosey, Luke & Brookins, Philip & Ryvkin, Dmitry, 2017. "Contests with group size uncertainty: Experimental evidence," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 212-229.
    13. Bettina Rockenbach & Sebastian Schneiders & Marcin Waligora, 2018. "Pushing the bad away: reverse Tullock contests," Journal of the Economic Science Association, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 4(1), pages 73-85, July.
    14. Cadsby, C. Bram & Song, Fei & Engle-Warnick, Jim & Fang, Tony, 2019. "Invoking social comparison to improve performance by ranking employees: The moderating effects of public ranking, rank pay, and individual risk attitude," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 64-79.
    15. Philip Brookins & John P. Lightle & Dmitry Ryvkin, 2015. "The effects of communication and sorting on output in heterogeneous weak-link group contests," Working Papers wp2014_01_01, Department of Economics, Florida State University.
    16. E. Glenn Dutcher & Regine Oexl & Dmitry Ryvkin & Tim Salmon, 2021. "Competitive versus cooperative incentives in team production with heterogeneous agents," Working Papers 2021-26, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
    17. Brünner, Tobias, 2020. "Self-selection with non-equilibrium beliefs: Predicting behavior in a tournament experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 169(C), pages 389-396.
    18. Hoffmann, Christin & Thommes, Kirsten, 2020. "Can digital feedback increase employee performance and energy efficiency in firms? Evidence from a field experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 180(C), pages 49-65.
    19. Philip Brookins & Jennifer Brown & Dmitry Ryvkin, 2016. "Peer Information and Risk-taking under Competitive and Non-competitive Pay Schemes," NBER Working Papers 22486, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Elizabeth Sheedy & Le Zhang & Dominik Steffan, 2022. "Scorecards, gateways and rankings: remuneration and conduct in financial services," Accounting and Finance, Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand, vol. 62(3), pages 3239-3283, September.
    21. Daniel Houser & Jian Song, 2021. "Costly Waiting in Dynamic Contests: Theory and Experiment," Working Papers 1082, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science.
    22. So, Tony & Brown, Paul & Chaudhuri, Ananish & Ryvkin, Dmitry & Cameron, Linda, 2017. "Piece-rates and tournaments: Implications for learning in a cognitively challenging task," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 11-23.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    experiment; contract; loser; winner; tournament; learning;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • C90 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - General

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