Research / BFI Working PaperNov 08, 2022

Subjective Performance Evaluation, Influence Activities, and Bureaucratic Work Behavior: Evidence from China

Alain de Janvry, Guojun He, Elisabeth Sadoulet, Shaoda Wang, Qiong Zhang

Subjective performance evaluation is widely used by firms and governments to provide work incentives. However, delegating evaluation power to local leadership could induce influence activities: employees might devote too much effort to impressing/pleasing their evaluator, relative to working toward the goals of the organization itself. We conduct a large-scale randomized field experiment among Chinese local civil servants to study the existence and implications of influence activities. We find that civil servants do engage in evaluator-specific influence to affect evaluation outcomes, partly in the form of reallocating work efforts toward job tasks that are more important and observable to the evaluator. Importantly, we show that introducing uncertainty about the evaluator’s identity discourages evaluator-specific influence activities and improves bureaucratic work performance.

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