Friday, August 12, 2011

Procrastination in team work

Teamwork can turn out very bad when moral hazard is present: if people do not trust each other or care about each other, nothing gets done. When doing research, we are lucky to be able to choose our co-authors, but even then things can turn for the worse if a team member looses interest. And we remember how bad it is when a team is forced upon you during our studies. Now, this is all very loose reasoning, let us get on firmer ground.

Philipp Weinscheink studies team production in a dynamic game with moral hazard. If all players are rewarded equally, they will all wait until the last moment to participate. This is very like what we often see in political negotiations with a deadline, where nothing happens until the last moment, and player consciously wait for the last moment. The same often happens at collective agreement bargaining. And of course, the outcomes are far from optimal, as the debt ceiling mess in the US has recently shown.

If the rewards are not equally distributed, the outlook is better. Quite obviously, those who are rewarded better will tend to procrastinate less. But they are not necessarily better off that those less rewarded, as they put more effort. Thus, second-best contracts are unequal ones. But all this falls apart if some players have limited liability (which means they have better outside options) or if some can sabotage. Then everyone will wait until the last moment and very little gets done. Think about the US situation again...

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