Employee volunteering and management control in cooperative settings
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This study experimentally investigates whether employee volunteering programs can serve as an informal control mechanism that improves cooperation in team settings. I posit that employees who participated in volunteering programs are more likely to be conditional cooperators, who are willing to cooperate if others also cooperate, and use others’ volunteering behavior as a signal of their type. I also posit that the effectiveness of this signal in facilitating cooperation depends on the perceived credibility of the signal. In the experiment, participants make a volunteering choice and then are paired to play a contextualized prisoners’ dilemma game. As predicted, I find that, when volunteering appears non-strategic, the cooperation rate is higher when the paired participants both volunteered than otherwise. However, when volunteering could be strategic, the cooperation rate does not differ significantly, regardless of whether one or both of the paired participants volunteered. Implications of these findings for research and practice are discussed.