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CEP discussion paper

The Paradox of Performance Related Pay Systems: 'Why Do We Keep Adopting Them in the Face of Evidence that they Fail to Motivate?'


This paper considers one of the paradoxes of incentive pay used in Britain’s public services, namely that despite much evidence that it does not motivate employees, it continues to be widely used. It is argued that behind this evidence, there are significant examples in which its use has been associated with improved performance. A good part of this is to be explained by the way performance pay links pay and appraisal, and the pressure this puts on line managers to set clearer goals for their staff. There is also some evidence that the goal setting is the outcome of a form of integrative, or positive sum, negotiation between individual employees and their managers, and that it is not just ‘top down’.


David Marsden

August 2009     Paper Number CEPDP0946

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This CEP discussion paper is published under the centre's Labour markets programme.