Knowing that You Matter, Matters! The Interplay of Meaning, Monetary Incentives, and Worker Recognition

28 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2014

See all articles by Michael Kosfeld

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

Xiaolan Yang

Zhejiang University

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Abstract

We manipulate workers' perceived meaning of a job in a field experiment. Half of the workers are informed that their job is important, the other half are told that their job is of no relevance. Results show that workers exert more effort when meaning is high, corroborating previous findings on the relationship between meaning and work effort. We then compare the effect of meaning to the effect of monetary incentives and of worker recognition via symbolic awards. We also look at interaction effects. While meaning outperforms monetary incentives, the latter have a robust positive effect on performance that is independent of meaning. In contrast, meaning and recognition have largely similar effects but interact negatively. Our results are in line with image-reward theory (BĂ©nabou and Tirole 2006) and suggest that meaning and worker recognition operate via the same channel, namely image seeking.

Keywords: meaning, monetary incentives, worker recognition, field experiment

JEL Classification: C93, J33, M12, M52

Suggested Citation

Kosfeld, Michael and Neckermann, Susanne and Yang, Xiaolan, Knowing that You Matter, Matters! The Interplay of Meaning, Monetary Incentives, and Worker Recognition. IZA Discussion Paper No. 8055. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2420700

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 )

London
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

Xiaolan Yang

Zhejiang University ( email )

38 Zheda Road
Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310058
China

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