About Me

This blog carries a series of posts and articles, mostly written by Anthony Fitzsimmons under the aegis of Reputability LLP, a business that is no longer trading as such. Anthony is a thought leader in reputational risk and its root causes, behavioural, organisational and leadership risk. His book 'Rethinking Reputational Risk' was widely acclaimed. Led by Anthony, Reputability helped business leaders to find, understand and deal with these widespread but hidden risks that regularly cause reputational disasters. You can contact Anthony via anthony.fitzsimmons At cranfield dot ac dot uk

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Bonuses: Does size matter?

Would you expect that larger bonuses lead to better or worse performance than smaller bonuses? The results of an experiment carried out by Dan Ariely and collaborators suggests that bigger bonuses may produce worse performance of tasks needing thinking skills.  These counter-intuitive results were discussed on this morning's Today programme. 

This experimental result, if confirmed, will become an important factor in assessing corporate reputations because bonus levels are so easily visible from the outside.  Very high bonus levels for those using cognitive skills may become a predicter of poor performance and thus a poor reputation. 

More work is needed to confirm the experimental result. But as it happens, the world's biggest investment banks are overhauling their pay structures to differentiate between European and other bankers.  This will neatly create, the experimental conditions needed to confirm, refine or debunk Professor Ariely's initial results.  Particularly when it comes to the relationship between base pay and bonuses.

In the meantime the results are food for thought for everyone involved in designing or considering the effects of bonus systems.

Anthony Fitzsimmons

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