IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The currency of reciprocity - gift-exchange in the workplace

  • Kube, Sebastian
  • Maréchal, Michel André
  • Puppe, Clemens

What determines reciprocity in employment relations? We conducted a controlled field experiment to measure the extent to which monetary and non-monetary gifts affect workers' performance. We find that nonmonetary gifts have a much stronger impact than monetary gifts of equivalent value. We also observe that when workers are offered the choice, they prefer receiving the money but reciprocate as if they received a nonmonetary gift. This result is consistent with the common saying, 'it's the thought that counts.' We underline this point by showing that also monetary gifts can effectively trigger reciprocity if the employer invests more time and effort into the gift's presentation.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Department of Economics and Business Engineering in its series Working Paper Series in Economics with number 25.

in new window

Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:zbw:kitwps:25
Contact details of provider: Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Kosfeld, Michael & Neckermann, Susanne, 2010. "Getting More Work for Nothing? Symbolic Awards and Worker Performance," IZA Discussion Papers 5040, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Gary Charness, 2004. "Attribution and Reciprocity in an Experimental Labor Market," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(3), pages 665-688, July.
  3. Ernst Fehr & Simon G�chter, 2000. "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 159-181, Summer.
  4. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  5. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:115:y:2000:i:3:p:791-810 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Uri Gneezy & John A. List, 2006. "Putting Behavioral Economics to Work: Testing for Gift Exchange in Labor Markets Using Field Experiments," NBER Working Papers 12063, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. W. Bentley MacLeod, 2007. "Reputations, Relationships, and Contract Enforcement," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 595-628, September.
  8. John A. List, 2006. "The Behavioralist Meets the Market: Measuring Social Preferences and Reputation Effects in Actual Transactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(1), pages 1-37, February.
  9. Heike Hennig-Schmidt & Bettina Rockenbach & Abdolkarim Sadrieh, 2010. "In Search Of Workers' Real Effort Reciprocity-A Field and a Laboratory Experiment," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(4), pages 817-837, 06.
  10. Brown, Martin & Falk, Armin & Fehr, Ernst, 2003. "Relational Contracts and the Nature of Market Interactions," IZA Discussion Papers 897, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Gary Charness & Guillaume R. Frechette & John H. Kagel, 2004. "How Robust is Laboratory Gift Exchange?," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 7(2), pages 189-205, 06.
  12. Charles Bellemare & Bruce Shearer, 2007. "Gift Exchange within a Firm: Evidence from a Field Experiment," Cahiers de recherche 0708, CIRPEE.
  13. Carmichael, H Lorne & MacLeod, W Bentley, 1997. "Gift Giving and the Evolution of Cooperation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 38(3), pages 485-509, August.
  14. Tore Ellingsen & Magnus Johannesson, 2007. "Paying Respect," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(4), pages 135-150, Fall.
  15. Adriana D. Kugler & Gilles Saint-Paul, 2004. "How Do Firing Costs Affect Worker Flows in a World with Adverse Selection?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(3), pages 553-584, July.
  16. Falk, Armin & Fischbacher, Urs, 2006. "A theory of reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 293-315, February.
  17. Waldfogel, Joel, 1993. "The Deadweight Loss of Christmas," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1328-36, December.
  18. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:97:y:1982:i:4:p:543-69 is not listed on IDEAS
  19. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
  20. Cox, James C. & Friedman, Daniel & Gjerstad, Steven, 2007. "A tractable model of reciprocity and fairness," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 17-45, April.
  21. Anthony M. Marino & Ján Zábojník, 2008. "A Rent Extraction View of Employee Discounts and Benefits," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(3), pages 485-518, 07.
  22. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
  23. Burgoyne, Carole B. & Routh, David A., 1991. "Constraints on the use of money as a gift at Christmas: the role of status and intimacy," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 47-69, March.
  24. Edward P. Lazear & Paul Oyer, 2007. "Personnel Economics," NBER Working Papers 13480, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:117:y:2002:i:3:p:817-869 is not listed on IDEAS
  26. Georg Kirchsteiger & Martin Dufwenberg, 2004. "A theory of sequential reciprocity," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5899, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  27. Charness, Gary B & Rabin, Matthew, 2001. "Understanding Social Preferences With Simple Tests," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt0dc3k4m5, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  28. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1986. "Fairness and the Assumptions of Economics," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages S285-300, October.
  29. Bruno S. Frey & Susanne Neckermann, 2008. "Awards - A View From Psychological Economics," CREMA Working Paper Series 2008-15, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  30. Lee Cronbach, 1951. "Coefficient alpha and the internal structure of tests," Psychometrika, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 297-334, September.
  31. Frey, Bruno S & Oberholzer-Gee, Felix & Eichenberger, Reiner, 1996. "The Old Lady Visits Your Backyard: A Tale of Morals and Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(6), pages 1297-1313, December.
  32. Sebastian Kube & Michel André Maréchal & Clemens Puppe, 2010. "Do wage cuts damage work morale? Evidence from a natural field experiment," IEW - Working Papers 471, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich, revised Oct 2011.
  33. Georg Kirchsteiger & Ernst Fehr & Arno Riedl, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5927, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  34. Rajan, Raghuram G. & Wulf, Julie, 2006. "Are perks purely managerial excess?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(1), pages 1-33, January.
  35. Webley, P. & Lea, S. E. G. & Portalska, R., 1983. "The unacceptability of money as a gift," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 223-238.
  36. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
  37. Robert Gibbons, 1998. "Incentives in Organizations," NBER Working Papers 6695, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  38. Prendergast, Canice & Stole, Lars, 2001. "The non-monetary nature of gifts," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(10), pages 1793-1810, December.
  39. R. Lynn Hannan & John H. Kagel & Donald V. Moser, 2002. "Partial Gift Exchange in an Experimental Labor Market: Impact of Subject Population Differences, Productivity Differences, and Effort Requests on Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 923-951, October.
  40. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:

  1. The Currency of Reciprocity: Gift Exchange in the Workplace (AER 2012) in ReplicationWiki

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:zbw:kitwps:25. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (ZBW - German National Library of Economics)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.