Date of this Version
Published in Journal of Management, Vol. 42 No. 7 (November 2016), pp. 1753–1783. doi: 10.1177/0149206313515520
Although pay-for-performance’s potential effect on employee performance is a compelling issue, understanding this dynamic has been constrained by narrow approaches to pay-for-performance conceptualization, measurement, and surrounding conditions. In response, we take a more nuanced perspective by integrating fundamental principles of economics and psychology to identify and incorporate employee characteristics, job characteristics, pay system characteristics, and pay system experience into a contingency model of the pay-for-performance–future performance relationship. We test the role that these four key contextual factors play in pay-for-performance effectiveness using 11,939 employees over a 5-year period. We find that merit and bonus pay, as well as their multiyear trends, are positively associated with future employee performance. Furthermore, our findings indicate that, contrary to what traditional economic perspectives would predict, bonus pay may have a stronger effect on future performance than merit pay. Our results also support a contingency approach to pay-for-performance’s impact on future employee performance, as we find that merit pay and bonus pay can substitute for each other and that the strength of pay-for-performance’s effect is a function of employee tenure, the pay-for-performance trend over time, and job type (presumably due to differences in the measurability of employee performance across jobs).