The Emerging Science of Worker Productivity

"The finding that exposure to low-output work lowers output, combined with the finding that low-productivity reduces willingness to punish, suggests the possibility of an organizational vicious cycle: after observing idiosyncratically bad work, workers may lower their own output and punish less in response, in turn reducing other workers' incentives to be highly productive."

And this, says Horton, may explain why leaders often use the language of contagion to describe morale and why management theory focuses on understanding and influencing culture within an organisation rather than trying to write perfect employment contracts.

Horton's work raises many questions, not least because it contradicts other work suggesting that it is possible to improve poor workers' output by pairing them with good workers. By contrast, Horton found that "the bad apples ruined the good apples, and the good apples did nothing for the bad."

Found on Hacker News.