Smallest Meaningful Pay Increases: Field Test, Constructive Replication, and Extension

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


  • Atul Mitra
  • Aino Tenhiälä
  • Jason D. Shaw

Research units

  • University of Northern Iowa
  • Hong Kong Polytechnic University


The authors extend prior literature by examining, in two distinct field settings, smallest meaningful pay increases (SMPIs) in terms of magnitude, behavioral intention, and affective reactions. In Study 1, a two-wave study of 177 employees of a university medical center in the United States, the authors find stable thresholds of about 5.0 percent for positive reactions to pay increases (magnitude [5.4 percent], behavioral intentions [4.2 percent], and affective reactions [5.6 percent]). In Study 2, a sample of 495 university employees in Finland, the authors also find stable but slightly higher thresholds of about 8 percent for behavioral intentions (8.4 percent) and positive affective reactions (7.2 percent) to pay increases. They also find threshold effects of -5.7 percent for behavioral intentions and -5.8 percent for negative affective reactions in response to restricted future pay increases levied in the transition to a new pay system. Discussion of the results centers on pay raise administration and future research regarding implied and direct pay reductions.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-81
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Research areas

  • Emotion in the workplace, Pay for performance

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