Experiments in Organizational Economics: Volume 19

Cover of Experiments in Organizational Economics

Table of contents

(14 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xvii
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Abstract

We augment a standard bilateral gift-exchange game to allow employees to communicate their gratitude for, or disapproval toward, the wage assigned to them by their manager. This provides employees with a means of reciprocation or emotion expression toward the employee which is not available in a standard gift-exchange game and may substitute for the higher-than-equilibrium efforts commonly seen in this environment. We find that employees express gratitude or disapproval according to the wage received, but these messages are not a substitute for monetary reciprocation as the relationship between wages and effort is unchanged. These results suggest that employees view the messages as a form of emotional expression independent from rewarding or punishing managers. Average wage levels are little affected by allowing messages, although wages do fall more over time in the absence of messages and individual managers’ wage choices are affected by the messages they receive.

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To study strategic information transmission in organizations, we conduct a simplified version (with only three states) of the sender-receiver game experiment designed by Wang, Spezio, and Camerer (2010), in which an informative sender advises an uninformed receiver to take an action (to match the true state), but has incentives to exaggerate. We also have the same subjects play the original five-state game. We find similar “overcommunication” behavior with Taiwanese subjects – messages reveal more information about the true state than what equilibrium predicts – that let us classify subjects into various level-k types. However, results from the simplified version are closer to equilibrium prediction, with more senders robustly classified as level-2.

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Policymakers worldwide have proposed a new contract – the ‘social impact bond’ (SIB) – which they claim can allay the underperformance afflicting not-for-profits, by tying the private returns of (social) investors to the success of social programs. We investigate experimentally how SIBs perform in a first-best world, where investors are rational and able to obtain hard information on not-for-profits’ performance. Using a principal-agent multitasking framework, we compare SIBs to inputs-based contracts (IBs) and performance-based contracts (PBs). IBs are based on a piece-rate mechanism, PBs on a non-binding bonus mechanism, and SIBs on a mechanism that, due to the presence of an investor, offers full enforceability. Although SIBs can perfectly enforce good behaviour, they also require the principal (i.e., government) to relinquish control over the agent’s (i.e., not-for-profit’s) payoff to a self-regarding investor, which prevents the principal and agent from being reciprocal. In spite of these drawbacks, in our experiment SIBs outperformed IBs and PBs. We therefore conclude that, at least in our laboratory test-bed, SIBs can allay the underperformance of not-for-profits.

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Self-regulatory organizations (SROs) can be found in education, healthcare, and other not-for-profit sectors as well as in the accounting, financial, and legal professions. DeMarzo et al. (2005) show theoretically that SROs can create monopoly market power for their affiliated agents, but that governmental oversight, even if less efficient than oversight by the SRO, can largely offset such market power. We provide an experimental test of this conjecture. For carefully rationalized parameterizations and implementation details, we find that the predictions of DeMarzo et al. (2005) are borne out.

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We study whether group identity mitigates inefficiencies associated with appropriable quasi-rents, which are often created by relationship-specific investments in bilateral trade relationships. We conjecture that group identity strengthens the effect of an agent’s generous action in increasing his trade partner’s altruistic preferences, and this effect helps reduce incentives to undertake ex-post inefficient opportunistic behavior such as investment in an outside option. Our experimental results, however, do not support this conjecture, and contrast with our previous experimental findings that group identity mitigates distortions in ex-ante efficient relation-specific investment. We discuss a possible cause of the difference and its implications for the theory of the firm.

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Recent research suggests that prosocial organizations are likely to have more prosocial employees, and that this match plays a significant role in organization contracting practices and productivity – for example, in government. Evidence suggests that selection plays a role: prosocial employees are more likely to join prosocial organizations. In this paper, we ask whether prosocial behavior increases with tenure in prosocial organizations. Using a unique sample of nearly 300 mid-career Indonesian public officials, we find that subjects with longer tenure in the public sector exhibit greater prosocial behavior.

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We investigate whether giving workers autonomy through delegation of contract choice intrinsically motivates effort. In a novel laboratory experiment that controls for contract preferences and outcomes, principals can either choose the contract under which agents work on a real-effort task, or delegate the contract choice to the agents. We evaluate whether agents exert higher effort when they are allowed to choose the contract versus when the contract is imposed on them. We find no difference between the two conditions, even after controlling for baseline ability and for locus of control. Because our design excludes the possibility that preferences play a role, and because workers engaged in a real-effort task, this result casts doubt on an intrinsic link between the autonomy granted through delegation and the motivation of employees in the workplace. Our results do not deny, however, the possible instrumental benefits of autonomy (which did not play a role in our design) and their potentially powerful impact on motivation.

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This paper is a study of how people with heterogonous individual characteristics self-select into different compensation schemes. A laboratory experiment is designed in which “workers” can join “companies” that pay according to various schemes: piece rate, revenue sharing, individual tournament, and team tournament. The main findings are: (1) Subjects with high relative performance always prefer individual tournament. (2) Risk-averse subjects are less likely to choose competitive schemes. (3) Individual tournament attracts fewer women than men, which is partially explained by gender-specific social preferences. (4) Compared to people with siblings, only children are less likely to accept any team-based schemes without information about their teammates. (5) The provision of feedback about relative performance can adjust individuals’ biased self-beliefs and then influence their self-selections.

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We demonstrate in a laboratory experiment that the effectiveness of performance-contingent incentives is inversely related to risk-aversion levels. For about 16.5% of participants, performance fails to improve under performance-pay, and the probability of such failure increases with risk-aversion. This phenomenon works in part through the reduced effort level of more risk-averse individuals when effort level is positively correlated with risk exposure. It is also associated with higher self-reported levels of stress by more risk-averse people working under performance-contingent pay. We find no evidence of such stress causing decrements in the quality of effort affecting performance after controlling for effort level. However, controlling for effort, more risk-averse participants perform better under a fixed salary, leaving less room for improvement under performance-pay.

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We experimentally study strategic procrastination in a dynamic team environment. Two team members work for a finite number of periods on a joint project. The project’s success probability depends on the effort provided by both group members. Payment is conditional on finishing the project successfully. Between treatments, we vary whether both agents are free to choose their effort level or only a single agent can do so. If only one agent can choose effort, the effort of the other member is exogenously fixed; either to providing effort only shortly before the deadline or to providing effort in all periods. While in the former case we observe some effort patterns that resemble rational procrastination, the results from the other two treatments suggest that this seems to be caused by other-regarding concerns rather than being due to the strategic motives inherent in the mechanics of rational procrastination models.

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We present an overview of research on spillover effects within firms and introduce a classification of the literature. We divide spillovers into either technological or social in nature. In our classification, a technological spillover is one in which an agent rationally responds to a cue in the workplace that does not rely on the identity or characteristics of a coworker. Social spillovers, on the other hand, may be thought of as arising from the social preferences of an individual or social norms established in the organization.

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Corrigendum

Page 281
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Index

Pages 283-286
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Cover of Experiments in Organizational Economics
DOI
10.1108/S0193-2306201719
Publication date
2016-12-18
Book series
Research in Experimental Economics
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78560-964-0
Book series ISSN
0193-2306