The role of financial incentives and social incentives in multi-task settings

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In this paper, we investigate the role of financial incentives and social incentives in multi-task settings where the agent makes an effort-level choice and an effort-allocation choice. We focus on a setting where these choices are not independent and an active trade-off between effort level and effort allocation exists. Social incentives play a crucial role in this trade-off. While financial incentives increase the effort level, social incentives congruent with the principal's interest mitigate the distortions in effort allocation associated with financial incentives, which improves the effectiveness of financial incentives. In a 2×2 experiment, we find that participants who receive distorting financial incentives provide significantly more total effort than participants who receive a fixed wage, but they allocate effort significantly less congruently. However, the effort-allocation distortion caused by distorting financial incentives is significantly reduced by congruent social incentives. We further find that the level of effort on the unmeasured task is not significantly different between fixed wages and financial incentives, which implies that distortions in effort allocation are driven by doing more of the measured task instead of doing less of the unmeasured task. Our findings have important implications for both theory building and organizational practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-51
JournalJournal of Management Accounting Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

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