Target setting in hierarchies: The role of middle managers

Year: 2023
Type: Journal Publication
Journal: Journal of Accounting Research


We explore how a supervisor’s hierarchical rank affects the extent to which employees’ targets reflect their past performance. Literature documents that supervisors do not fully ratchet targets for past performance, arguably because the commitment not to penalize successful employees with more difficult targets alleviates the severity of the ratchet effect. We argue that commitment is less credible in organizational hierarchies where a middle manager sets employees’ targets. Using data from an organization comprised of three hierarchical layers, we consistently find that a middle manager’s exposure to performance pressure is positively associated with the ratcheting of the employees’ targets. Moreover, we show that management at headquarters reduces a middle manager’s performance pressure when most of her employees missed their targets in the previous period. Overall, the results imply that the hierarchical rank is an important determinant of the credibility of a supervisor’s commitment to deemphasize past performance in target setting.

Participating Institutions

TRR 266‘s main locations are Paderborn University (Coordinating University), HU Berlin, and University of Mannheim. All three locations have been centers for accounting and tax research for many years. They are joined by researchers from LMU Munich, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, Goethe University Frankfurt, University of Cologne and Leibniz University Hannover who share the same research agenda.

WordPress Cookie Plugin by Real Cookie Banner