Peer-based control is an organization-level motivational concept that
replaces hierarchical control to drive the direction and performance of
individuals within a team and the collective efforts of team members. In
self-managed teams of employees, individual and collective performances
corresponded positively with both inclusionary, normative controls and
rational, monetary peer-based controls, according to recent study results.
“We were interested in ways to compensate people in teams. One of
the problems we always have is when you do an individual incentive system,
you’ll have people that will excel by themselves at the expense of
teammates and, when you do a group incentive, you often have problems with
people not maximally working as individuals. Instead, they slack off and let
other members of the team do it,” Greg L. Stewart, PhD, professor
at the University of Iowa, told O&P Business News.
Peer evaluation and rewards
Stewart and colleagues obtained data from a sample of 587 factory
production workers organized into 45 self-managing teams. Through
questionnaires, the researchers asked the workers about their level of
attraction to the team and allowed teammates to provide how much they believed
their teammates, rather than just supervisors, had a say in the amount of
financial compensation individuals receive. The supervisors of the groups
addressed the productivity of both individuals and teams.
Overall, study results showed that both individuals and collective teams
did not want to disappoint team members, so normative controls — a sense
of belonging, such as team spirit — are a more effective motivating tool
vs. rational controls — the influence of monetary rewards. However, when
teammates do not get along, appealing to normative controls as a motivating
favor does not work, making rational controls the primary motivating factor to
“What we found is that team members can have a say in each
others’ rewards and it’s actually helpful for teams, particularly for
teams that may not naturally be cooperative in working well together,”
“In some ways people have always thought that if you let team
members evaluate and reward each other that it would become hypercompetitive,
but we didn’t find that,” he said. “Instead, we found that
because they have to continue working together in these settings that they were
cooperative and tended to treat people fairly, which led to increased
performance for individuals and for the group.”
Stewart and colleagues plan to continue studying incentives in teamwork.
“We’re in the process of continuing to study a tradeoff of
combinations, using money to motivate people vs. group processes and social
motivation that come from belonging to groups and caring about others,”
This study and future studies on team cooperation in a working
environment will help in real world situations by providing ways for company
management to ensure high job performance when people work in teams. However,
according to Stewart, not all teams will need any type of financial incentive.
“Teams that naturally get along and cooperate well don’t
necessarily need the incentives as much since individuals in the team are drawn
to work hard because they feel a sense of care and belonging to the group and
they don’t want to let others down,” he said. “However, when you
have a team that doesn’t have that natural cohesiveness where they want to
work together and feel this sense of duty and attraction to the group, having
them be able to have some say in compensation and reward decisions actually
increases performance and is another tool that managers can use.” —
by Casey Murphy
For more information:
Stewart GL, Courtright SH, Barrick MR. Peer-based control in
self-managing teams: linking rational and normative influence with individual
and group performance. J Appl Psychol. 2012;97:435-447.
Disclosure: The researchers have no relevant financial disclosures.