Ownership, Accountability, Incentives and Motivation
Key research questions
The social sciences literature has seen an outburst of laboratory and field experiments in the past 20 years. Many of these experiments have focused on topics that are central to the field of productivity and motivation, including how workers respond to various forms of monetary compensation, discrimination, arbitration, bargaining, and job matching. Most social scientists agree that a key advantage of experiments is the ability to control conditions more tightly than in any other context. Testing theories through experiments are an easy and reliable way to learn how those theories will work "in the wild", where real-world data may have difficulties in disentangling variety of environmental factors. In this work package, micro foundations are taken as the key to many processes and outcomes, for example underlying how public sector workers interpret information, make evaluative judgements and consequently how this feeds into their behaviour.
Using experimental methods, we investigate how financial and non-financial incentives, gender, psychological biases and individual preferences affect work productivity and motivation. Our work adds to the work of other social and political psychologists and behavioural economists, who have researched topics such as the effect of leadership, individual characteristics and group processes on decisions, productivity and motivation. Building on motivation-crowding theory (Frey 1997; Titmuss 1970), Ariely, Bracha, & Meier (2009) hypothesised that increasing extrinsic types of motivation can undermine individuals’ intrinsic and reputational motivations. A strong desire for harmony and consensus, group insulation, and lack of impartial leadership can cause a group of talented and experienced decision makers to make disastrous collective judgements (‘t Hart 1994).
With an increasing budget cuts across the UK and many Western countries, we anticipate that multitasking jobs in public sector will increase as a means to save labour cost expenses. Doctors, nurses, academics already multitask between a number of job roles such as caring for patients and teaching students, working on research & development and carrying out administrative duties. While individuals can be more motivated and productive in one job role more than the other, the job requirements will still dictate them to be as productive as possible in all tasks. One of the themes that we investigates looks at how employees respond to incentives and feedback provided by organisations when they are required to perform multiple job tasks. We ask what personal characteristics of employees determine how they respond and how efficient the response is from the perspective of an organisation and an employee.
The second question we ask is whether teamwork and group dynamics can contribute to a more productive and motivating workplace environment in public sector jobs. Standard economics theories predict that members of teams will free ride and be much less motivated to spend effort on tasks. Meanwhile extensive work in psychology has shown that being part of a team brings about an additional accountability and peer support that is a driving factor behind motivating and fulfilling jobs. Our research bridges the gap between economics and psychology and investigates the effects of team work environments on productivity and motivation.
With our work, we are aiming to add few pieces to the scientific and social mosaic of why certain people work in certain environments better than in others. Extending this idea, we also look at whether and how workers may respond to certain public management policies by analysing their preferences, attitudes, beliefs and behaviour.
Dr. Zahra Murad
Dr Zahra Murad investigates the influence of feedback on confidence, performance and inclination to compete.
Dr Zahra Murad discusses her recent experiment whether social tasks can increase productivity
Dr Zahra Murad discusses recent research into the impact of multitasking on productivity and incentives to multitask.