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The present study has two general purposes. First, based on the compensation strategy literature, we examine the extent to which organizations facing similar conditions make different managerial compensation decisions regarding base pay, bonus pay, and eligibility for long-term incentives. Second, working from expectancy and agency theory perspectives, we explore the consequences of these decisions for subsequent firm performance as measured by return on assets. Using longitudinal data on approximately 16,000 top and middle level managers and 200 organizations, significant between-organization differences in compensation decisions are found. The smallest organization effects are on the level of base pay. The largest organization effects are on bonus levels and eligibility for long-term incentives. In other words, our results suggest that organizations tend to distinguish themselves through decisions about pay contingency or variability rather than through decisions about the level of base pay. To study consequences, residualized measures (adjusted for employee and job factors) of organization pay level and pay mix are used. Pay level is not associated with organization financial performance. On the other hand, greater contingency of pay in the form of bonuses and long-term incentives is associated with better financial performance.


Suggested Citation
Gerhart, B. & Milkovich, G. T. (1988). Organizational differences in managerial compensation and financial performance (CAHRS Working Paper #88-19). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies.