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Getting More Work for Nothing? Symbolic Awards and Worker Performance

21 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2010  

Michael Kosfeld

Goethe University Frankfurt; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); University of Bonn - Center for Development Research (ZEF)

Susanne Neckermann

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Abstract

We study the impact of status and social recognition on worker performance in a field experiment. In collaboration with an international non-governmental organization we hired students to work on a database project. Students in the award treatment were offered a congratulatory card from the organization honoring the best performance. The award was purely symbolic in order to ensure that any behavioral effect is driven by non-material benefits. Our results show that students in the award treatment outperform students in the control treatment by about 12 percent on average. Our results provide strong evidence for the motivating power of status and social recognition in labor relations with major implications for theory and applications.

Keywords: award, non-monetary incentives, status, social recognition, field experiment

JEL Classification: C93, M52

Suggested Citation

Kosfeld, Michael and Neckermann, Susanne, Getting More Work for Nothing? Symbolic Awards and Worker Performance. IZA Discussion Paper No. 5040. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1638476

Michael Kosfeld (Contact Author)

Goethe University Frankfurt ( email )

Faculty of Economics and Business Administration
Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 4
Frankfurt am Main, 60323
Germany

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 7 / 9
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

University of Bonn - Center for Development Research (ZEF) ( email )

Walter-Flex-Str. 3
Bonn, NRW 53113
Germany

Susanne Neckermann

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Zuerich, 8006
Switzerland

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