A study of merit pay as a motivator of faculty performance at a public university
Author(s): Kong, Xiangping Degree: Ed.D. Year: 2000 Pages: 00262 Institution: University of
Northern Colorado; 0161 Source: DAI, 61, no. 08A (2000): p. 3011 Standard No: ISBN: 0-599-89405-9
Abstract: This study investigated whether conditions identified by Lawler existed for pay to motivate
faculty performance at a public university. Examined were faculty perceptions of the relationship between
merit pay and motivation, and whether five conditions prevail in order for merit pay to motivate academic
performance: (1) the link between pay and performance; (2) the importance of such incentives as merit
pay; (3) the amount of merit pay; (4) performance measures and evaluation process; and (5) trust level
between faculty and administration. Analyses also examined faculty perceptions of merit pay and whether
various demographics were related to faculty perceptions.
A survey questionnaire, with most items developed and validated by the researcher, was sent to 361 full
time faculty at a public doctoral institution, in which annual salary increases depended in part on a merit
pay plan for two years. A total of 217 faculty responded (a usable return rate of over 60%) to 39 question
items regarding merit pay, 9 demographic questions, and two open-ended questions. The descriptive
analysis, analysis of variance (ANOVA), and written comments indicated that none of the conditions was
fully realized in the view of faculty. Survey findings also demonstrated that the merit pay system did not
bring about positive effects on faculty motivation, productivity, and satisfaction with salary levels. Rather,
faculty reported that merit pay negatively affected morale, cooperation among faculty colleagues, and
relationships between faculty and administrators.
When five conditions and nine demographics were analyzed, a significant difference was found for college
affiliation. Responses of college of business faculty differed significantly from those of the other four
colleges; the former generally provided positive views toward merit pay. A significant difference was found
between responses of high salaried and low salaried faculty with regard to the condition of trust toward
administration; the former had a more positive attitude toward administration. No significant differences
were discovered on the other independent variables.
The results of this study led to the conclusion that the conditions posited by Lawler for pay to motivate
were not present, and that the faculty generally did not favor a merit pay approach to compensation.