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The carrot vs. the stick in work team motivation

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  • David Dickinson

Abstract

This paper reports on the use of carrot (positive) and stick (negative) incentives as methods of increasing effort among members of work teams. We study teams of four members in a laboratory environment in which giving effort towards the team goal is simulated by eliciting voluntary contributions towards the provision of a public good. We test the efficiency improving properties of four distinct environments: monetary prizes given to high contributors versus monetary fines assessed to low contributors, where high/low contributor is defined first in terms of absolute contributions and then in terms of contributions relative to abilities—which we call handicapping. Our results show that both carrot and stick increase efficiency levels by 11-29%. We find that handicapped incentives promise the highest efficiency levels, and when handicapping is not used certain types of penalties may be more effective than prizes. The implications for work teams and suggestions for practical implementation are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • David Dickinson, "undated". "The carrot vs. the stick in work team motivation," Working Papers 2000-06, Utah State University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:usu:wpaper:2000-06
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    5. Nalbantian, Haig R & Schotter, Andrew, 1997. "Productivity under Group Incentives: An Experimental Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 314-341, June.
    6. Bull, Clive & Schotter, Andrew & Weigelt, Keith, 1987. "Tournaments and Piece Rates: An Experimental Study," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(1), pages 1-33, February.
    7. repec:cup:apsrev:v:86:y:1992:i:02:p:404-417_08 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Isaac, R Mark & Walker, James M, 1988. "Communication and Free-Riding Behavior: The Voluntary Contribution Mechanism," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 26(4), pages 585-608, October.
    9. Dickinson, David L, 1999. "An Experimental Examination of Labor Supply and Work Intensities," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(4), pages 638-670, October.
    10. Simon Gachter & Ernst Fehr, 2000. "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 980-994, September.
    11. Palfrey, Thomas R. & Rosenthal, Howard, 1991. "Testing for effects of cheap talk in a public goods game with private information," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 183-220, May.
    12. Dickinson, David L., 1998. "The voluntary contributions mechanism with uncertain group payoffs," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 517-533, May.
    13. David L. Dickinson & R. Mark Isaac, 1998. "Absolute and relative rewards for individuals in team production," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(4-5), pages 299-310.
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