An Experimental Examination of Incentive and Sorting Effects of Pay-for-Performance on Creative Performance
Miss Ji Hyun Kim
Ph.D. Candidate in Management and Human Resources
Wisconsin School of Business
University of Wisconsin
There has been a longstanding debate about whether pay-for-performance (PFP) enhances or undermines creative performance. Traditional motivation and revised creativity theories suggest that PFP and intrinsic task interest can be combined additively to enhance creative performance, whereas self-determination theory (SDT), which incorporates the earlier cognitive evaluation theory (CET), posits an undermining effect of PFP. To resolve the two conflicting predictions and provide a more comprehensive understanding of the effects of PFP on creative performance, the current study incorporated both incentive and sorting mechanisms of PFP, varying levels of PFP intensity, and moderators of central theoretical importance. A novel laboratory experiment was developed with a focus on incorporating key elements of workplace settings. They are reflected in the designs of the creative work tasks (creating advertising slogans and writing magazine articles), task autonomy (low or high), PFP conditions (three levels based on common organization practices), and allowing mobility between PFP conditions to enable participants to sort themselves into their preferred PFP condition. Risk attitude was included as a key person variable, given its central importance in PFP. Results showed that high PFP intensity more strongly enhanced creative performance through both incentive and sorting mechanisms. In addition, the role of creative self-efficacy in sorting behaviors was exploratively investigated. Finally, the implications of the results and future research directions were discussed.