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Overexertion of Effort under Working Time Autonomy and Feedback Provision

Thomas Dohmen and Elena Shvartsman

No 222, ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series from University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany

Abstract: Working time autonomy is often accompanied by output-based incentives to counterbalance the loss of monitoring that comes with granting autonomy. However, in such settings, overprovision of effort could arise if workers are uncertain whether their performance suffices to secure the output-based rewards. Performance feedback can reduce or eliminate such uncertainty. We develop an experiment to show that overprovision of costly effort is more likely to occur in work environments with working time autonomy in the absence of feedback. A key feature of our design is that it allows for a clean measurement of effort overprovision by keeping performance per unit of time fixed, which we achieve by calibrating subjects’ productivity on a real effort task ex ante. This novel design can serve as a workhorse for various experiments as it allows for exogenous variation of performance certainty (i.e., by providing feedback), working time autonomy, productivity, effort costs, and the general incentive structure. We find that subjects provide significantly more costly effort beyond a level necessary to meet their performance targets in the presence of uncertainty, i.e., the absence of feedback, which suggests that feedback shields workers from overprovision of costly effort.

Keywords: working time autonomy; performance uncertainty; feedback provision; incentives; effort; subjective stress (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C91 D90 I10 J81 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 31 pages
Date: 2023-03
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-exp, nep-hrm and nep-lab
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https://www.econtribute.de/RePEc/ajk/ajkdps/ECONtribute_222_2023.pdf First version, 2023 (application/pdf)

Related works:
Journal Article: Overexertion of Effort under Working Time Autonomy and Feedback Provision (2023) Downloads
Working Paper: Overexertion of Effort Under Working Time Autonomy and Feedback Provision (2023) Downloads
Working Paper: Overexertion of Effort under Working Time Autonomy and Feedback Provision (2023) Downloads
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