Let’s Quit Together

(Photo: Michael Lokner)

If you’ve heard our podcast “The Upside of Quitting,” you’ll know that we think that strategic quitting has its place. A new paper looks at the peer effects of quitting. From the introduction:

Quitting is an important issue but its determinants have not received extensive research. Quitting lets an individual benefit from alternative opportunities but it usually also has costs, either monetary or moral, or both. There are also many reasons to believe that quitting is affected by social interactions and by observing others’ quitting decisions. This is particularly the case when thinking about quitting addictive behavior.

The researchers paid 104 undergrads to work for up to 75 minutes: a compulsory 15 minute followed by 60 minutes in which the participant could stop working at any time. Researchers Julie Rosaz, Robert Slonim, and Marie Claire Villeval found that if workers are not alone and allowed to interact with each other, they are more prone to quit at the same time:

We find that allowing individuals to work with a co-worker present does not increase worker’s productivity. However, the presence of a peer in all working conditions causes workers to quit at more similar times. When, and only when, communication is allowed, workers are significantly more likely to (1) stay longer if their partner is still working, and (2) work longer the more productive they are. We conclude that when workers receive a piece-rate wage, critical peer effects occur only when workers can communicate with each other.

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  1. Troy V. says:

    That’s an interesting, and not totally unexpected, outcome. It’s a bit different than the work in Krackhardt and Porter (1985) where having a friend quit actually improved ones sense of satisfaction and commitment.

    http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/krack/documents/pubs/1985/1985%20When%20Friends%20Leave.pdf

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  2. Vinay D cardwell says:

    This makes sense because we are always comparing ourselves to others and if we see a coworker leave early we ask, “Well why can’t I???”

    Its those that work or stay a little longer are those that get noticed. I suggest to postpone the desire to leave at the same time and wait 5 more minutes. It will work wonders.

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  3. Ted says:

    I feel that this is totally true. I am only 16 and work at a local Dairy Queen. When I see people leave early then I feel that I should be able to leave early as well. This mainly happens on the cold and rainy days where no one really wants ice cream.

    I also think that it is easier to quit other things in a group. If you see someone taking shortcuts out on the field then you will as well. If you have someone quit smoking with you then you are more prone to quit as well because they are keeping you accountable.

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