Are self-evaluations helpful or harmful when employees are unaware of their marginal contribution to firm welfare?



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This study examines whether eliciting self-evaluations increases or decreases the propensity of a productive agent to retaliate against an employer for paying compensation that the agent perceives to be too low for the work performed. Specifically, I consider a setting in which a principal knows more about the agent’s production than even the agent can observe. In such a setting, an agent might perceive that s/he is being underpaid if the principal pays less than the agent believes s/he deserves, especially if the agent is overconfident about his/her own productive ability. Such an agent could take retaliatory actions against the principal that would be costly to both parties. Self-evaluations could mitigate such tendencies if they result in compensation that is more aligned with agent self-perceptions. Alternatively, self-evaluations could worsen such tendencies if they reinforce the perceived inequity of compensation that does not match agent self-perceptions. I present experimental evidence from comparing a control condition without self-evaluations to three different forms of self-evaluation reports, finding evidence consistent with the premise that self-evaluations increase retaliatory actions and lower welfare. My findings show a cost to self-evaluations that thus far has not been sufficiently considered in the literature.