Development Lunch: Sandra Polania-Reyes, Notre Dame


Location: 424 Flanner Hall


Motivating Teamwork in Organizations: Lab-in-the-Field Evidence on Cooperation


This economic field experiment tests the effects of acknowledgment on voluntary contributions to a public good. The experiment is conducted at a private organization whose executive board is concerned withmotivating cooperation among its employees. 

Public acknowledgment (made the acknowledgment known to the team) and private acknowledgment (only to the high contributor employee) may have different effects on cooperation. Using a within-subjects design, 410 Colombian employees participated in an online public goods game. The analysis reveals that public acknowledgment has a sizeable effect on contributions, while private acknowledgment has a small effect.

Acknowledgment, as a symbolic (public) award for cooperation in teams within organizations, can be effective even if they have no impact on the contributors’ future career opportunities or income. The awards are purely symbolic, and the status increment they produce is limited to the recipients’ anonymous online identities in a randomly formed team within their organization. Enhanced self-identification with the community can explain these results, but they are also in line with recent findings on the role of status and reputation and recognition within organizations.