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Subjective Performance Measures in Optimal Incentive Contracts

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  • George Baker
  • Robert Gibbons
  • Kevin J. Murphy

Abstract

Objective measures of performance are seldom perfect. In response, incentive contracts often include important subjective components that mitigate incentive distortions caused by imperfect objective measures. This paper explores the combined use of subjective and objective performance measures in (respectively) implicit and explicit incentive contracts. Naturally, objective and subjective measures often are substitutes, sometimes strikingly so: we show that if objective measures are sufficiently close to perfect then no implicit contracts are feasible (because the firm's fallback position after reneging on an implicit contact is too attractive). We also show, however, that objective and subjective measures can reinforce each other: if objective measures become more accurate then in some circumstances the optimal contract puts more weight on subjective measures (because the improved objective measures increase the value of the ongoing relationship, and so reduce the firm's incentive to renege). We also analyze the use of subjective weights on objective performance measures, and provide case-study evidence consistent with our analyses.

Suggested Citation

  • George Baker & Robert Gibbons & Kevin J. Murphy, 1993. "Subjective Performance Measures in Optimal Incentive Contracts," NBER Working Papers 4480, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4480
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w4480.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Abreu, Dilip, 1988. "On the Theory of Infinitely Repeated Games with Discounting," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(2), pages 383-396, March.
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    3. Michael Waldman, 1984. "Job Assignments, Signalling, and Efficiency," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(2), pages 255-267, Summer.
    4. Baker, George P, 1992. "Incentive Contracts and Performance Measurement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 598-614, June.
    5. Gibbons, Robert, 1987. "Piece-Rate Incentive Schemes," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(4), pages 413-429, October.
    6. Klein, Benjamin & Leffler, Keith B, 1981. "The Role of Market Forces in Assuring Contractual Performance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 615-641, August.
    7. Canice Prendergast, 1993. "The Role of Promotion in Inducing Specific Human Capital Acquisition," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 523-534.
    8. MacLeod, W Bentley & Malcomson, James M, 1989. "Implicit Contracts, Incentive Compatibility, and Involuntary Unemployment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 447-480, March.
    9. Kahn, Charles & Huberman, Gur, 1988. "Two-sided Uncertainty and "Up-or-Out" Contracts," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(4), pages 423-444, October.
    10. Clive Bull, 1987. "The Existence of Self-Enforcing Implicit Contracts," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 102(1), pages 147-159.
    11. Bengt Holmstrom, 1979. "Moral Hazard and Observability," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 74-91, Spring.
    12. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-444, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tina Heubeck & Jochen Scheuer, "undated". "Incentive Contracts in Team Sports - Theory and Practice," German Working Papers in Law and Economics 2002-1-1042, Berkeley Electronic Press.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • J4 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets

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