Analyzing the Aftermath of a Compensation Reduction

Jason Sandvik (University of Utah)
Richard Saouma (Michigan State University)
Nathan Seegert (University of Utah)
Christopher Stanton (Harvard Business School)

Abstract: Wage rigidity creates real and financial frictions, though the real-world drivers of rigidities remain largely unstudied. We use staggered commission reductions at a sales firm to estimate effects on worker turnover and effort. In response to an 18\% decline in commissions, we find turnover increases for the most productive workers. We detect limited effort responses, and find no evidence of different effects based on workers' expectations of fairness or future promotion. The findings suggest that adjustment constraints stem primarily from adverse selection concerns on the extensive (turnover) margin as opposed to asymmetric effort responses on the intensive margin.