The power of perspective: the effect of performance reporting frames on collaboration
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While organizations want to encourage collaboration, individual free riding undermines the success of collaborative efforts. In this paper, I investigate whether it is possible to mitigate free riding problems through altering how individual performance is framed when reported. On the one hand, individuals could report their performance using an individualistic frame that only focuses on the individual’s net cost of collaboration, which will merely highlight the incentive to free ride. In contrast, individuals could instead report their behavior using alternative frames that emphasize collaborative aspects of their actions. Drawing on research in psychology, I predict that individuals who report under collaborative frames will be more willing to collaborate than those who report under an individualistic frame. Utilizing an anonymous and single-shot public goods game, I demonstrate that contribution amounts are higher with collaborative frames than with an individualistic frame. Results also suggest that the reporting frames alter participants’ reasoning focus, which helps to explain their levels of collaboration. Further, a second experiment shows that performance reporting frames impact collaboration even in a repeated setting. My findings have broad implications for organizations that face free riding problems, from individual firms that want to encourage collaborative efforts among their employees to organizations that want to encourage firms to invest more in public goods.