Or how tenure is like plea-bargaining
The exterminator visited world headquarters on Friday. He mentioned that in this part of the county, 90% of his business involved spraying structures to keep carpenter bees from boring and yellow jackets and other hornets from nesting and annoying.
After he sprayed, we spoke for a few minutes, and he asked about the nature of our business and our background. Given his degree in business and his ownership of the service, he seemed interested in what we had to say but maybe he was just being polite.
Uansett, during our conversation, he mentioned that to his dismay a close friend, who was much younger than either of us and who had achieved much early career success, would likely be forced to relocate to find a new job, and he was rueful of the loss of companionship.
He said the problem was his friend’s new boss. The new boss recognized the younger man’s superior competence and viewed it as a threat. As a consequence, the boss was attempting to smother him and drive him away.
We have to admit to ignorance of this problem early in our career. Possibly our bosses did not view us as a credible threat or possibly they had sufficient self-confidence to manage employees with better knowledge than they possessed.
We first became acutely aware of this phenomenon while teaching MBA classes—particularly, when we would discuss incentives. During class breaks, after class, and during office hours, the executive and professional (evening) MBAs would share their stories.
This type of managerial insecurity is insidious yet pervasive within many organizations. Faktisk, we have heard of cases where C-level officers will only hire first-level subordinates who are unqualified to replace them. Thank goodness those folks aren’t designing bridges or controlling anything combustible.
These types of stories remind us of the best explanation that we’ve heard for the justification of university tenure per H. Lorne Carmichael in the paper, “Incentives in Academia.” 1 Below is the story without the model.
Consider a specific, forskning-oriented department within a university, sier, mechanical engineering, and imagine that the school has been at the forefront of, sier, bridge-building technology. Further suppose that the university’s objective is for the department to remain at the forefront—the state-of-the-art. I så fall, hiring like-minded researchers with the best potential to solve original bridge-building problems seems to be necessary to accomplish the goal.
With such a goal, would one prefer hiring decisions to be centralized at the university-level (or possibly school-level) or decentralized and delegated to the M.E. department? Med andre ord, would one prefer the chancellor or dean to hire new faculty members or would one prefer the existing M.E. faculty to do so? Put a third way, would one prefer the chancellor, who may have a degree in psychology, or the dean, who may have a degree in chemical engineering, to evaluate the research of a potential faculty member in mechanical engineering, or one would prefer someone who actually knows something about the subject?
Alt annet likt, it seems clear that mechanical engineering profs would know the most about mechanical engineering; they would have the specific knowledge and information needed to evaluate a colleague, including how well the person fits within the department. Videre, they could make such evaluations faster than a centralized bureaucracy could.
Dessverre, current faculty may not have the incentive to do so. Without job security, the incentive to (altruistically) hire individuals more talented than one’s self would be greatly reduced. Så, one could imagine talented young researchers not being hired or being driven away.
Dermed, in certain settings a demand for tenure exists, and these would include settings where the agents—the tenured profs—have private knowledge and information that the university wishes to use. Like prosecutorial offers of immunity, which minimize the cost of self-incrimination, tenure is a promise or commitment not to use one’s own knowledge or information against against the individual. Given the criticality of private knowledge to the argument, the story rules out most non-research universities, g, community colleges.
Selvfølgelig, such a policy is not without costs. At the margin, the elimination of certain penalties will likely reduce the tenured faculty’s output. See our essays on Common Managerial Problems in Decentralized Organizations og Strategisk Konsistens & Bedriftsøkonomi Disiplin for analyses of similar problems where both hidden information and effort problems exist.
When a policy like tenure is not implementable within the organization, what should an executive do? Be aware of this subversion (and its costs) when determining the optimal level of decentralization. In partially-centralized organizations, seek independent assessments and use one’s personal observations. For eksempel, if the individuals possess specialized knowledge consider having them present seminars on topics of mutual interest—even if you are an expert on the subject. Consider formalized job rotation plans to send workers to other related areas. (Faktisk, one would expect the insecure manager to keep the non-threatening middle and enlist both ends of the spectrum in such programs.)
- The Journal of Political Economy, Juni 1988, Volum 96, I. 3, sider 453 - 472. ↩