DP13526 Organizations with Power-Hungry Agents

Author(s): Wouter Dessein, Richard Holden
Publication Date: February 2019
Keyword(s): delegation, Hierarchies, Organization Design, Preferences for Power
JEL(s): D2, L2
Programme Areas: Industrial Organization
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=13526

We analyze a model of hierarchies in organizations where neither decisions themselves nor the delegation of decisions are contractible, and where power-hungry agents derive a private benefit from making decisions. Two distinct agency problems arise and interact: Subordinates take more biased decisions (which favors adding more hierarchical layers), but uninformed superiors may fail to delegate (which favors removing layers). A designer may remove intermediate layers of the hierarchy (eliminate middle managers) or de-integrate an organization by removing top layers (eliminate top managers). We show that stronger preferences for power result in smaller, more de-integrated hierarchies. Our key insight is that hoarding of decision rights is especially severe at the top of the hierarchy.