Managing to win

Kevin Lewis

July 01, 2019

Moral Perceptions of Advised Actions
Lucas Coffman & Alexander Gotthard-Real
Management Science, forthcoming

Can an organization avoid blame for an unpopular action when an adviser advises it to do it? We present experimental evidence suggesting this is the case — advice to be selfish substantially decreases punishment of being selfish. Further, this result is true despite advisers’ misaligned incentives, known to all: Through a relational contract incentive, advisers are motivated to tell the decision makers what they want to hear. Through incentivized elicitations, we find suggestive evidence that advice moves punishment by affecting beliefs of how necessary the selfish action was. In follow-up treatments, however, we show advice does not decrease punishment solely through a beliefs channel. Advice not only changes beliefs about what happened, but also the perceived morality of it. Finally, in treatments in which advisers are available, the data suggest selfish decision makers act more selfishly.

Propaganda and Combat Motivation: Radio Broadcasts and German Soldiers’ Performance in World War II
Benjamin Barber & Charles Miller
World Politics, July 2019, Pages 457-502

What explains combat motivation in warfare? Scholars argue that monitoring, material rewards, and punishment alone are insufficient explanations. Further, competing ideological accounts of motivation are also problematic because ideas are difficult to operationalize and measure. To solve this puzzle, the authors combine extensive information from World War II about German soldiers’ combat performance with data about conditionally exogenous potential exposure to Nazi radio propaganda. They find evidence that soldiers with higher potential exposure to propaganda were more likely to be decorated for valor even after controlling for individual socioeconomic factors, home district characteristics like urbanization, and proxies for combat exposure.

Leadership in the locker room: How the intensity of leaders’ unpleasant affective displays shapes team performance
Barry Staw, Katherine DeCelles & Peter de Goey
Journal of Applied Psychology, forthcoming

Research has documented conflicting evidence about the relationship between a leader’s unpleasant affective displays and team performance. Drawing on the dual threshold model of anger, we propose a novel explanation for this paradox such that the positive relationship between leaders’ unpleasant affect and team performance turns negative at high levels of intensity. We examined our hypothesis in a multilevel field study of 304 halftime locker room speeches involving 23 high school and college basketball teams and a follow-up experiment. Our results show support for the prediction and suggest that the curvilinear effect of leaders’ unpleasant affective displays may be explained by team members’ redirection of attention and approach, which is positively associated with team members’ effort at moderate levels of leader unpleasantness but leads to lower effort at high and low levels of leader unpleasantness. We discuss the theoretical contributions for scholarship on leadership, emotions as social information theory, and practical implications of the results.

The Contingent Effect of Management Practices
Steven Blader, Claudine Gartenberg & Andrea Prat
Review of Economic Studies, forthcoming

This paper investigates how the success of a management practice depends on the underlying values articulated by the management. A large US transportation company is in the process of fitting its trucks with an electronic on-board recorder (EOBR) to provide drivers with information on their driving performance. The company also has commenced a multi-year initiative to remake its internal operations, the first phase of which focuses exclusively on changing values toward a greater emphasis on teamwork and empowerment. In this setting, a natural question is whether the optimal managerial practice consists of: (1) Letting each driver know his or her individual performance only; or also (2) providing drivers with information about their performance with respect to other drivers. Using the EOBR-provided driver performance data, we randomize these practices across sites. The main result of our experiment is that (2) leads to better performance than (1) in a particular site if and only if the site has not yet received the values intervention, and worse performance if it has. The result is consistent with the presence of a conflict between competition-based managerial practices and a shift to a cooperation-based value system. More broadly, it highlights the role of intangible factors in determining the optimal set of managerial practices.

Supply Chain Proximity and Product Quality
Robert Bray, Juan Camilo Serpa & Ahmet Colak
Management Science, forthcoming

We estimate the effect of supply chain proximity on product quality. Merging four automotive data sets, we create a supply chain sample that reports the failure rate of 27,807 auto components, the location of 529 upstream component factories, and the location of 275 downstream assembly plants. We find that defect rates are higher when upstream and downstream factories are farther apart. Specifically, we estimate that increasing the distance between an upstream component factory and a downstream assembly plant by an order of magnitude increases the component’s expected defect rate by 3.9%. We find that quality improves more slowly across geographically dispersed supply chains. We also find that supply chain distance is more detrimental to quality when automakers produce early-generation models or high-end products, when they buy components with more complex configurations, or when they source from suppliers who invest relatively little in research and development.

Opting-in to prosocial incentives
Daniel Schwartz et al.
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, forthcoming

The design of effective incentive schemes that are both successful in motivating employees and keeping down costs is of critical importance. Research has demonstrated that prosocial incentives, where individuals’ effort benefits a charitable organization, can sometimes be more effective than standard monetary incentives. However, most research has focused on the intensive margin, examining effort conditional on participation in the activity. We examine the effectiveness of standard and prosocial incentives on the extensive margin, corresponding to people’s decisions to opt-in to an incentivized activity. In addition, we test the effectiveness of optional prosocial incentives, where individuals can choose between keeping or donating all or part of their payment. Across four experiments that vary the type and size of incentives, we find that individuals are more likely to avoid activities that involve any prosocial incentive. Our results highlight the importance of considering the margin of decisions when designing incentive schemes.

Reinstating the Resourceful Self: When and How Self-Affirmations Improve Executive Performance of the Powerless
Sumaya Albalooshi et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Research has found that lack of power impairs executive functions. In the present research, we show that this impairment is not immutable. Across three studies and focusing on inhibitory control as one of the core facets of executive functions, our investigation shows that self-affirmation attenuates the previously documented decrements in inhibitory control of the powerless (Studies 1-3). We also examine boundary conditions of this effect and demonstrate that self-affirmation is most effective insofar as the powerless lack self-esteem (Study 2). Finally, we directly test the underlying process of this effect and demonstrate that self-affirmation increases an efficacious self-view among the powerless, which in turn improves their inhibitory control abilities (Study 3). Overall, we conclude that reinstating an efficacious self-view through self-affirmation offsets the impairments in inhibitory control abilities of the powerless and reduces the cognitive performance gap between the powerless and the powerful.

When You Work with a Superman, Will You Also Fly? An Empirical Study of the Impact of Coworkers on Performance
Tom Fangyun Tan & Serguei Netessine
Management Science, forthcoming

We examine a large operational data set in a casual restaurant setting to study how coworkers’ sales ability level affects other workers’ sales performance. We find that waiters react nonlinearly to their coworkers’ ability. In particular, when coworkers’ overall sales ability is low, increasing this ability may prompt waiters to redouble both upselling and cross-selling efforts. When overall coworkers’ ability is high, however, further increasing their ability may trigger waiters to reduce sales efforts. Our empirical findings imply that, to maximize sales, managers should mix waiters with heterogeneous ability levels during the same shift. Through a counterfactual analysis, we find that considering the inverted U-shaped peer effects when optimizing current waiters’ schedules without changing their utilization may increase total sales by approximately 2.48% at no extra cost.

Deception as competence: The effect of occupational stereotypes on the perception and proliferation of deception
Brian Gunia & Emma Levine
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, May 2019, Pages 122-137

Deception is common but widely condemned. The current research examines why. Integrating theories of selling, stereotypes, and negotiation — and challenging much research and rhetoric on deception — we document that perceivers do not always disapprove of deceivers. Instead, they conclude that deceivers will be competent in certain occupations: those in which a selling orientation (SO) is stereotypically seen as integral to the job. We first introduce SO as an occupational stereotype and distinguish between occupations stereotyped as high vs. low in SO (HISO vs. LISO). We then demonstrate (across six studies; two preregistered; total N = 1584) that deception is perceived to signal a person’s ability to engage in SO, and thus their competence in HISO occupations. Finally, we show that this perception may lead to the hiring of deceptive individuals. These results identify occupations as a moderator of deception-related reactions, helping to explain persistent deception and highlight possible interventions.

Perceptions of Collaborations: How Many Cooks Seem to Spoil the Broth?
Sam Maglio et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Workers often work in groups of varying sizes, and those workers’ work is often judged by others. To examine how the two might relate, we first asked respondents to report the optimal number of collaborators for a variety of different tasks, finding substantial variability across tasks (Supplementary Study) that tracked with perceived task complexity (Study 1). Accordingly, framing a given task as more complex made people want more collaborators collaborating on it (Study 2), and believing that a task had been performed by the right number of collaborators — neither too few nor too many — fostered more favorable evaluations of both simulated (Study 3) and real (Study 4) experience with the collaborative output. The results of this collaboration suggest that perceivers hold an optimal size in mind when thinking about collaborations and that collaborative work benefits from ostensibly hitting this mark.

The Boss Knows Best: Directors of Research and Subordinate Analysts
Daniel Bradley, Sinan Gokkaya & Xi Liu
Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, June 2019, Pages 1403-1446

Research departments are managed by directors of research (DORs). Subordinate analysts working for higher-quality DORs provide superior earnings forecasts that elicit stronger market reactions, provide better investment recommendations, and have better career outcomes. For the broker, higher-quality DORs drive more trading commissions. Economically, analysts benefit the most from DOR–analyst industry alignment resulting from DORs’ former analyst experience. We provide several tests to mitigate endogeneity concerns and explore various mechanisms to explain these results. Overall, our article identifies a unique channel whereby the industry-specific and general human capital of top management filters through to individual subordinates and consequently improves organizational performance.


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