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Explaining the decline of tipping norms in the gig economy

Erik P. Duhaime (Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA)
Zachary W. Woessner (Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 24 June 2019

Issue publication date: 23 July 2019

930

Abstract

Purpose

Advances in information technology have enabled new ways of organizing work and led to a proliferation of what is known as the “gig economy.” While much attention has been paid to how these new organizational designs have upended traditional employee–employer relationships, there has been little consideration of how these changes have impacted the social norms and expectations that govern the relationship between workers and consumers. The purpose of this paper is to consider the social norm of tipping and propose that gig work is associated with a breakdown of tipping norms in part because of workers’ increased autonomy in terms of deciding when and whether to work.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors present four studies to support their hypothesis: a survey vignette experiment with workers on Amazon Mechanical Turk (Study 1), an analysis of New York City taxi data (Study 2), a field experiment with restaurant employee food delivery drivers (Study 3) and a field experiment with gig-worker food delivery drivers (Study 4).

Findings

In Studies 1 and 2, they find that consumers are less likely to tip when workers have autonomy in deciding whether to complete a task. In Study 3, they find that restaurant delivery employees notice upfront tips (or lack thereof) and alter their service as a result. In contrast, in Study 4, they find that gig-workers who agree to complete a delivery for a fixed amount that includes an upfront tip (or lack thereof) are not responsive to tips. Together, these findings suggest that the gig economy has not only transformed employee-employer relationships, but has also altered the norms and expectations of consumers and workers.

Originality/value

The authors present four different studies that consider the social norm of tipping in the context of gig work. Together, they highlight that perceptions of worker autonomy have driven the decline in tipping norms associated with gig work.

Keywords

Citation

Duhaime, E.P. and Woessner, Z.W. (2019), "Explaining the decline of tipping norms in the gig economy", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 34 No. 4, pp. 233-245. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMP-06-2018-0270

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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