This paper reports the results from a controlled field experiment designed to investigate the causal effect of public recognition on employee performance. We hired more than 300 employees to work on a three-hour data-entry task. In a random sample of work groups, workers unexpectedly received recognition after two hours of work. We find that recognition increases subsequent performance substantially, and particularly so when recognition is exclusively provided to the best performers. Remarkably, workers who did not receive recognition are mainly responsible for this performance increase. This result is consistent with workers having a preference for conformity.

conformity, employee motivation, field experiment, reciprocity, recognition
Field Experiments (jel C93), Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects (stock options, fringe benefits, incentives, family support programs, seniority issues) (jel M52)
Tinbergen Institute
Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper Series
Discussion paper / Tinbergen Institute
Erasmus School of Economics

Bradler, C, Dur, A.J, Neckermann, S, & Non, J.A. (2013). Employee Recognition and Performance: A Field Experiment (No. TI 13-038/VII). Discussion paper / Tinbergen Institute (pp. 1–33). Tinbergen Institute. Retrieved from