سلسله مراتب، اجبار و بهره برداری: تجزیه و تحلیل تجربی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|20482||2014||14 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||محاسبه نشده|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Volume 97, January 2014, Pages 155–168
The power to coerce workers is important for the efficient operation of hierarchically structured organizations. However, this power can also be used by managers to exploit their subordinates for their own benefit. We examine the relationship between the power to coerce and exploitation in a laboratory experiment where a senior and a junior player interact repeatedly for a finite number of periods. We find that senior players try repeatedly to use their power to exploit junior workers. These attempts are successful only when junior workers have incomplete information about how their effort impacts on the earnings of senior players, but not when they have complete information. Evidence from an incentive-compatible questionnaire indicates that the social acceptability of exploitation depends on whether the junior worker can detect she is being exploited. We also show how a history of exploitation affects future interactions.
Hierarchy is a nearly ubiquitous form of organization. Large multinational firms, small businesses, governmental agencies, and political parties are all hierarchically structured to some degree. A hierarchy typically implies that some individuals have the power to issue orders to others and punish those that disobey them. The power to coerce subordinates into taking specific actions is regarded as essential for the efficient operation of hierarchically structured organizations (e.g., Coleman, 1990 and Day, 1963). However, individuals higher up in the hierarchy can abuse this power to their own benefit and exploit subordinates (e.g., Vafaï, 2002 and Wertheimer, 1987). The extent of exploitation in organizations is not precisely known. According to the European Values Survey, 50.2% of respondents stated that they felt exploited at work, at least sometimes.1 What is known, however, is that the exploitation of workers entails significant costs not only for the workers, but also for the organizations. Apart from the significant litigation costs, exploitation has been linked to reductions in workers’ morale and productivity (Bewley, 1999), and to an increase in workplace aggression (Baron et al., 1999 and Hoad, 1993). The latter has been estimated to cost more than 1.75 million working days each year in the United States (Bachman, 1994). Despite the importance of the topic, empirical evidence on exploitation in organizations is rare. One reason for this is that exploitation is usually either illegal or socially unacceptable, and thus hard to observe. Another important reason is that it can be difficult to determine what constitutes exploitation in daily life. In general, exploitation can be defined as the act of taking unfair advantage of another party (Wertheimer, 1996 and Wertheimer, 2008).2 However, determining what constitutes “unfair advantage” is not always straightforward as this typically depends on the context of an interaction and the history between the parties involved, which is often unobservable and unverifiable. The paucity of empirical evidence implies that our knowledge regarding different factors that may facilitate exploitation is limited. For this reason, in this paper, we present evidence from a laboratory experiment exploring whether individuals use the power to coerce to exploit their subordinates to their own benefit and whether this depends on the ability of subordinates to detect that they are being exploited. While the laboratory environment undoubtedly differs in numerous ways from that in the field where exploitation occurs, it has the advantage that it allows one to examine situations where it is easier to establish what constitutes fair treatment of a worker and, thus, what constitutes exploitation. Another advantage of using laboratory experiments is that they allow one to manipulate the environment to determine which factors may make exploitation more likely. For similar reasons, laboratory experiments have been previously used to study issues such as corruption, discrimination, and favoritism for which field data is also scarce (e.g., Abbink, 2006, Bernhard et al., 2006, Cameron et al., 2009 and Castillo and Petrie, 2010).3 Our set up is as follows. A senior worker is placed in charge of a project. He must complete the project together with a junior worker. For simplicity, we will refer to the senior worker as “he” and the junior worker as “she”. The two workers are equally efficient at work and the more effort the junior worker exerts on the project, the less effort the senior needs to exert. The senior worker makes a suggestion about how much effort the junior worker should exert. The junior worker is not bound by this suggestion and can disobey the senior worker by choosing to exert a different level of effort. The senior worker observes the junior worker's effort and has the power to punish her. He can use this power to try to ensure that the junior worker does not work less than he does, but he can also use it to coerce the junior worker into working more than him. Therefore, our set up allows us to establish a plausible benchmark for what constitutes fair treatment of the junior worker and what can be defined as exploitation. Like in most organizations, in our experiment, the two workers interact repeatedly for a finite number of periods. This implies that senior workers may have an incentive to invest in coercing the junior worker into exerting unfairly high levels of effort. Our aim is to examine whether participants in the role of senior workers attempt to exploit junior workers, whether junior workers obey senior workers, and whether senior workers punish junior workers when they disobey their orders. We examine behavior under symmetric information, where junior workers know when they are exploited, and under asymmetric information, where the junior workers cannot detect exploitation. In addition, we employ a method developed by Krupka and Weber (in press) that uses an incentive-compatible questionnaire to elicit participants’ normative views against exploitation and coercion, and how these views are affected by whether information is symmetric or asymmetric. Finally, we explore the impact of past exploitation on future outcomes. Field evidence indicates that (perceived) unfair treatment of a subordinate is associated with aggression against supervisors (e.g., Greenberg and Barling, 1999). In our experiment, after senior and junior workers have interacted for a finite number of periods, their roles are switched allowing us to explore how exploited workers behave when they find themselves in a position of power. The experimental results indicate that participants in the role of senior workers systematically attempt to exploit junior workers. These attempts are much more pronounced under asymmetric information. In line with this behavior, responses to the incentive-compatible questionnaire indicate that senior workers consider higher-than-fair levels of effort more socially acceptable when there is asymmetric information. This is presumably because junior workers do not know they are being exploited. Despite the significant amounts of punishment in both treatments, exploitation is not successful under symmetric information as junior workers disobey the suggestions made by senior workers. Exploitation is successful under asymmetric information, although the extent of exploitation is small. The reason is that junior workers appear to anticipate that senior workers will try to exploit their informational advantage and disobey their suggestions. Disobedience is punished in both treatments, but substantially more under asymmetric information. As a consequence, junior workers with incomplete information are not only significantly worse off than senior workers, but also than junior workers who have complete information. Finally, we find that junior workers that have been exploited are more likely to attempt to exploit their subordinates when roles are reversed.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
We have designed a game in which exploitation can result from the hierarchical relationship between players and, in particular, from the fact that the senior worker has the power to coerce a junior worker into exerting high levels of effort. Using a laboratory experiment, we find that senior workers often attempt to exploit junior workers, asking them to exert high levels of effort. This occurs both when junior workers have complete information about how their effort affect the senior worker's earnings, and when they have incomplete information about how their effort affects the earnings of the senior worker. These attempts, however, are more frequent and pronounced under incomplete information. The evidence collected from an incentive-compatible questionnaire used to elicit norms against exploitation suggests an explanation for this behavior: senior workers seem to consider small levels of exploitation as socially acceptable when junior workers cannot detect they are being exploited. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first empirical evidence that the content of norms may depend on the information that individuals have at their disposal. The attempts to exploit junior workers are unsuccessful under complete information. The reason is that most junior workers disobey suggestions by senior workers to exert an effort that would imply unequal earnings for senior and junior workers, despite the threat of being punished. Interestingly, junior workers disobey senior workers even when they have incomplete information. This is presumably because they anticipate that senior workers will try to exploit their informational advantage. The result is that, while exploitation is successful under asymmetric information, its extent is small. Most senior workers attempt to coerce junior workers into exerting high levels of effort under both informational conditions by investing significant amounts in punishing junior workers when the latter show disobedience. The willingness to coerce junior workers is more pronounced under asymmetric information. The result of exploitation and coercion is that junior workers are substantially worse off in monetary terms under asymmetric information than under symmetric information. What do our results imply for exploitation in organizations? As mentioned in Section 1, our laboratory experiment controls for a number of factors that could affect the willingness of managers to exploit their subordinates in daily life. For this reason, generalizations should be made with care. We believe our findings suggest that exploitation may be more likely in organizations in which workers have little information about the product of their efforts relative to their managers. Greater transparency in these cases could limit the extent of exploitation, not only because workers will be more likely to resist exploitation, but also because managers may be less willing to act in a way that would be socially unacceptable. This may be either because individuals suffer a cost when they violate social norms or because socially unacceptable behavior could cost managers their job.21