Robust Systems of Cooperation in the Presence of Rankings: How Displaying Prosocial Contributions Can Offset the Disruptive Effects of Performance Rankings
Organization Science, Forthcoming
47 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2019
Date Written: March 10, 2019
Sustaining systems of cooperation in the face of strong self-interest is a subject of longstanding inquiry in the social sciences. Much of this work has focused on understanding the antecedents and outcomes associated with cooperation, noting that the inertial properties of a system should sustain cooperation over time. This paper shifts the focus toward examining how cooperation is maintained in the face of potentially disruptive forces. To advance theory, research, and practice on how to maintain cooperation over time, we examine how systems of cooperation interact with, withstand, or succumb to a potentially disruptive force that is commonplace in organizational contexts: rankings. Using a longitudinal, nodeception, between-groups experimental design, we assess how systems of cooperation respond to the introduction of performance rankings. Examining data from more than 11,000 rounds of decision-making from 592 participants clustered in 74 teams, we find that cooperation plummets when performance rank information is introduced. However, the addition of reputation information — individuals’ histories of prosocial contributions — enables a system of cooperation to withstand the disruptive effects of performance rankings. Actors use reputation information to make decisions that reduce perceived inequity. Our study contributes to theories of cooperation, performance feedback, macro-level prosocial behavior, and management practice.
Keywords: cooperation, reciprocity, performance rankings, prosocial, reputation, robustness, organizational citizenship, equity
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