A paper by Oriana Bandiera (joint with Iwan Barankay and Imran Rasul) “Social Connections and Incentives in the Workplace: Evidence from Personnel Data” is forthcoming in Econometrica
The authors present evidence on the effect of social connections between workers and managers on productivity in the workplace. To evaluate whether the existence of social connections is beneficial to the firm’s overall performance, they explore how the effects of social connections vary with the strength of managerial incentives and worker’s ability. To do so, they combine panel data on individual worker’s productivity from personnel records with a natural field experiment in which we engineered an exogenous change in managerial incentives, from fixed wages, to bonuses based on the average productivity of the workers managed. The authors find that when managers are paid fixed wages, they favor workers to whom they are socially connected irrespective of the worker’s ability, but when they are paid performance bonuses, they target their effort towards high ability workers irrespective of whether they are socially connected to them or not. Although social connections increase the performance of connected workers, they find that favoring connected workers is detrimental for the firm’s overall performance.