Subjective Performance Evaluation, Influence Activities, and Bureaucratic Work Behavior: Evidence from China

February 28, 2023


Subjective performance evaluation could induce influence activities: employees might devote too much effort to pleasing their evaluator, relative to working toward the goals of the organization itself. We conduct a randomized field experiment among Chinese local civil servants to study the existence and implications of influence activities. We find that civil servants do engage in evaluator-specific influence to affect evaluation outcomes, partly in the form of reallocating work efforts toward job tasks that are more important and observable to the evaluator. Importantly, we show that introducing uncertainty about the evaluator’s identity discourages evaluator-specific influence activities and improves bureaucratic work performance.