Motivating Low Performers with Input-based Relative Performance Feedback: Evidence From a Field Experiment

46 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2021

See all articles by Rainer Michael Rilke

Rainer Michael Rilke

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management

Victor van Pelt

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management

Sebastian Lehnen

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management

Christina Günther

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management

Date Written: December 6, 2021

Abstract

Although relative performance feedback can positively influence employee performance, its effect tends to be mixed for employees who underperform compared to their peers. We conducted a field experiment examining whether basing relative performance feedback on inputs, which is relative performance feedback that is strongly linked with effort, helps low-performing employees internalize the bad news that they are underperforming. Internalizing the bad news that they are underperforming helps direct their efforts toward what they can do to change it in the future. Our findings reveal input-based relative performance feedback increases input-based performance among low performers. We also find that input-based relative performance feedback eventually increases low performers’ contributions to the firm’s outputs. These results support our theoretical predictions based on social comparison theory and social loss aversion, and they have implications for firms that face employee turnover restrictions or otherwise seek to motivate low performers in their workforce.

Keywords: Relative performance feedback, field experiment, rankings, status, peer comparison, loss aversion, social comparison, performance information

JEL Classification: C93, D91, M40, M41

Suggested Citation

Rilke, Rainer Michael and van Pelt, Victor and Lehnen, Sebastian and Guenther, Christina, Motivating Low Performers with Input-based Relative Performance Feedback: Evidence From a Field Experiment (December 6, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3978948 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3978948

Rainer Michael Rilke (Contact Author)

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management ( email )

Burgplatz 2
Vallendar, 56179
Germany

Victor Van Pelt

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management ( email )

Burgplatz 2
Vallendar, 56179
Germany

Sebastian Lehnen

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management ( email )

Burgplatz 2
Vallendar, 56179
Germany

Christina Guenther

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management ( email )

Burgplatz 2
Vallendar, 56179
Germany

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