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Goals (th)at Work – Goals, Monetary Incentives, and Workers’ Performance

  • Sebastian Goerg


    (Florida State University, Department of Economics)

  • Sebastian Kube


    (University of Bonn, Department of Economics)

In a randomized field experiment, we investigate the connection between work goals, monetary incentives, and work performance. Employees are observed in a natural work environment where they have to do a simple, but effort-intense task. Output is perfectly observable and workers are paid for performance. While a regular piece-rate contract serves as a benchmark, in some treatments workers are paid a bonus conditional on reaching a pre-specified goal. We observe that the use of personal work goals leads to a significant output increase. The positive effect of goals not only prevails if they are self-chosen by the workers, but also if goals are set exogenously by the principal – although in the latter case, the exact size of the goal plays a crucial role. Strikingly, the positive effect of self-chosen goals persists even if the goal is not backed up by monetary incentives. We propose a novel incentive contract where – through the choice of a personal work goal – workers themselves determine the risk and the size of their bonus payment at the same time.

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Paper provided by Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in its series Working Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods with number 2012_19.

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Date of creation: Oct 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mpg:wpaper:2012_19
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  1. Armin Falk & Markus Knell, 2004. "Choosing the Joneses: Endogenous Goals and Reference Standards," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 106(3), pages 417-435, October.
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