Nancy Rothbard, University of Pennsylvania, Rackham Centennial Alum Lecture

Lecture title:

Mandatory Fun: Gamification and the Impact of Games at Work


Nancy Rothbard, Management Department, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Speaker(s) Web Pages:

Semester: Fall 2012

Date: Friday, October 12, 2012

Time: 1:30 - 3:00 PM

Venue: Room K1310, Ross School of Business

Additional Notes:

Co-Sponsor: Rackham Centennial Alum Lecture
Introducer: Samir Nurmohamed, Management & Organizations


Scholars have long noted that people often create and play games while working in order to make their experience of work more positive. As games, and especially electronic games, have become more ubiquitous, managers have begun to develop their own games for employees with the express purpose of improving employees’ affective experiences of work and motivating them to work harder, a phenomenon known as gamification. To examine the role of gamification in the workplace, we build on and re-examine Burawoy’s (1979) notion of games and consent, highlighting the tension between the fun provided by games with the “mandatory” nature of managerially-imposed gameplay. We ask whether games at work improve people’s experience at work and what role consent plays in this process. We examine these questions through a field experiment at a fast growing technology company. In our study, over 200 salespeople were assigned to one of three experimental conditions, the game condition and 2 control conditions. In the game condition, we also measured employees’ level of consent to the game. We find that games, when consented to, increase positive affect at work, but, when consent is lacking, decrease positive affect and to some extent performance. These findings highlight the important role that consent plays in how managerially-imposed games at work change the experience of work for employees.

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Lecture recording: Flash | iPod

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