This study examines control in a teamwork setting, experimentally investigating two financial incentive systems that have been proposed in the agency‐theory‐based analytic literature. Both systems rely on mutual monitoring—the ability of team members to observe each other's actions. However, the systems differ on whether team members report observations of their peers' efforts to management (vertical incentive system) or directly control the actions of each other (horizontal incentive system). Findings suggest that the effectiveness of these systems depends on the level of team identity. Specifically, a strong team identity leads to greater coordination. The result is that the effectiveness of a vertical incentive system is degraded by a strong team identity. On the other hand, a horizontal incentive system becomes more effective in the presence of a strong team identity. The results of this study suggest that when the team has achieved a high level of identity, the most effective way to use this information is likely horizontal in nature, delegating responsibility for control to self‐managed teams, rather than extracting the information through reporting mechanisms. This study thus helps explain why firms have more readily embraced horizontal incentive systems than vertical incentive systems.

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