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Worker Empowerment and Subjective Evaluation: On Building an Effective Conflict Culture

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  • W. Bentley MacLeod
  • Victoria Valle Lara
  • Christian Zehnder

Abstract

Although conflicts typically lead to a waste of resources, organizations may still benefit from a corporate culture that tolerates or even encourages conflicts. The reason is that coordinated conflicts may help to enforce informal contracts and foster cooperation. In this paper we report results of a series of laboratory experiments designed to explore whether and under what conditions an efficiency-enhancing conflict culture can emerge. Using a principal-worker setup with subjective performance evaluation, we show that establishing a functional conflict culture is a delicate matter. If conflicts are encouraged in a careless, hands-off manner, the destructive side of conflicts is likely to dominate. To be successful a conflict culture requires a careful management of fairness norms. In our experiment we find that conflicts have positive net effects on efficiency only if an explicit code of conduct is established and conflicts are institutionalized through a grievance process. Thus, providing workers with more power may be a necessary but not sufficient condition for improving productivity when performance evaluations are subjective.

Suggested Citation

  • W. Bentley MacLeod & Victoria Valle Lara & Christian Zehnder, 2020. "Worker Empowerment and Subjective Evaluation: On Building an Effective Conflict Culture," NBER Working Papers 27857, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:27857
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    Cited by:

    1. Matthias Fahn, 2020. "Reciprocity in Dynamic Employment Relationships," CESifo Working Paper Series 8414, CESifo.
    2. Matthias Fahn, 2020. "Reciprocity in Dynamic Employment Relationships," Economics working papers 2020-12, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts
    • M5 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects

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