My research focuses on the Ethics-Productivity Dilemma.
I study how the same economic and psychological mechanisms that impact employee performance also influence misconduct and other unethical behaviors. I also look into the broader social implications of misconduct and trauma.
Management Science, Forthcoming in 2018
This paper investigates the impact of a corporate wellness program on worker productivity using a panel of objective health and productivity data from 111 workers in five laundry plants. Although almost 90% of companies use wellness programs, existing research has focused on cost savings from insurance and absenteeism. We find productivity improvements based both on program participation and postprogram health changes. Sick and healthy individuals who improved their health increased productivity by about 10%, with surveys indicating sources in improved diet and exercise. Although the small worker sample limits both estimate precision and our ability to isolate mechanisms behind this increase, we argue that our results are consistent with improved worker motivation and capability. The study suggests that firms can increase operational productivity through socially responsible health policies that improve both workers’ wellness and economic value, and provides a template for future large-scale studies of health and productivity.
Organization Science, February 2016
This paper uses data from an attendance award program implemented at one of five industrial laundry plants to show the complex costs of corporate awards previously ignored in the literature. We show that although the attendance award had direct, positive effects on employees who previously had punctuality problems, it also led to strategic gaming behavior centered on the specific eligibility criteria for the award. The award program temporarily changed behavior in award-eligible workers but did not habituate improved attendance. Furthermore, we show that the extrinsic reward from the award program crowded out the internal motivation of those employees who had previously demonstrated excellent attendance, generating worse punctuality during periods of ineligibility. Most novelly, we show that the attendance award program also crowded out internal motivation and performance in tasks not included in the award program. Workers with above average pre-program attendance lost 8% efficiency in daily laundry tasks after the program’s introduction. We argue that these motivational spillovers result from the perceived inequity of internally motivated workers’ previously unrewarded superior attendance contributions. Our paper suggests that even purely symbolic awards can generate gaming and crowding out costs that may spill over to other important tasks.
Management Science, May 2015
This paper examines how firm investments in technology-based employee monitoring impact both misconduct and productivity. We use unique and detailed theft and sales data from 392 restaurant locations from five firms that adopt a theft monitoring information technology (IT) product. We use difference-in-differences models with staggered adoption dates to estimate the treatment effect of IT monitoring on theft and productivity. We find significant treatment effects in reduced theft and improved productivity that appear to be primarily driven by changed worker behavior rather than worker turnover. We examine four mechanisms that may drive this productivity result: economic and cognitive multitasking, fairness-based motivation, and perceived increases of general oversight. The observed productivity results represent substantial financial benefits to both firms and the legitimate tip-based earnings of workers. Our results suggest that employee misconduct is not solely a function of individual differences in ethics or morality, but can also be influenced by managerial policies that can benefit both firms and employees.
Management Science, March 2014
This paper examines how compensation systems impact peer effects and competition in collocated sales teams. We use department store sales data to show that compensation systems influence worker incentives to help and compete with peers within the same firm, which in turn changes the capability of the firm to compete with rivals. Compensation also affects how salespeople impact peers at collocated competing firms, thereby impacting market competition. Moreover, compensation influences how salespeople strategically discount prices in response to peers. Our results suggest that heterogeneity in worker ability enhances firm performance under team-based compensation while hurting individual-based firms and that peer interactions are critical considerations in designing sales force incentive plans and broader firm strategy.
Management Science, February 2013
Competition among firms yields many benefits but can also encourage firms to engage in corrupt or unethical activities. We argue that competition can lead organizations to provide services that customers demand but that violate government regulations, especially when price competition is restricted. Using 28 million vehicle emissions tests from more than 11,000 facilities, we show that increased competition is associated with greater inspection leniency, a service quality attribute that customers value but is illegal and socially costly. Firms with more competitors pass customer vehicles at higher rates and are more likely to lose customers whom they fail, suggesting that competition intensifies pressure on facilities to provide illegal leniency. We also show that, at least in markets in which pricing is restricted, firms use corrupt and unethical practices as an entry strategy.