Back to: Management & Organizational Behavior
Ratchet Effect (Business Practice) Definition
It refers to the escalation of production, price, or wage that tends to self-perpetuate and resist fall back. People are influenced by the previous best or highest level and that makes it difficult to reverse the change. If a person receives a 12% salary hike during the last appraisal and is offered a 7% hike in the current appraisal, he or she might feel disappointed with the present hike. This is called the ratchet effect.
A Little More on What is the Ratchet Effect
Similarly, if a company implements a new strategy, employs extra workers, offers more incentive, and invest more capital for increasing the production, it is difficult for them to scale back the production to its previous level — even if the new strategy proves to be costly for them.
The Rachet Effect may impact both small industries and large-scale firms. A cell phone manufacturing company introduces new features in its products to boost up sales. Later, it becomes impossible for them to reverse back those changes even when inclusion of those features needs more capital, labor, and skill. The company cannot simply go back to produce the previous models. They have to keep on producing new models to meet the expectation of the customers.
The Rachet Effect also impacts producers in terms of volume of the products produced. The raised expectations escalate the consumption process and influence consumer perspectives. If a company sells a bottle of a shampoo containing 12oz, they may not be able reduce the volume to 8oz (even at a compensated price) without a negative customer reaction. Humans are conditioned in such a way that a previously higher level influences our minds, and reversing back is not easy.
The main problem with the ratchet effect is that, people get accustomed to a continuous rate of growth. Even when the market gets saturated, they expect the same rate of growth. Thus, it becomes impossible to satisfy their needs and demands — which affects the market adversely.
References for Ratcheting Effect
Empirical tests of budget ratcheting and its effect on managers’ discretionary accrual choices, Leone, A. J., & Rock, S. (2002). Journal of Accounting and Economics, 33(1), 43-67. This paper examines whether budgets ratchet using the business-unit data from a large multinational corporation. The results show evidence of ratcheting where favorable budget variances result in performance budget increases that are bigger than the reductions associated with the unfavorable differences of the same magnitude. The paper argues that under ratcheting, the cost of reporting the positive transitory earnings surprises are higher than the short-term benefits of the current-period bonus.
Running just to stand still? Managing CSR reputation in an era of ratcheting expectations, Bertels, S., & Peloza, J. (2008). Corporate Reputation Review, 11(1), 56-72. This study presents an investigation carried out with the senior managers who are responsible for the firm’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities with the purpose of examining the interaction between the reputation of a firm for CSR and the actions of its industry peers as well as even the efforts of other firms in its geographic community.
Cyclical ratcheting in government spending: Evidence from the OECD, Hercowitz, Z., & Strawczynski, M. (2004). Review of Economics and Statistics, 86(1), 353-361. This article explores the role played by business cycles in the phenomenon of increasing government spending in OECD countries. It applies an empirical framework that includes the long-run as well as cyclical considerations in the determination of government spending to panel data from 1975 to 1998. It also analyzes the cyclical changes in the composition of government spending and even a potential link between cyclical ratcheting and government weakness.
Performance target revisions in incentive contracts: Do information and trust reduce ratcheting and the ratchet effect?, Bol, J. C., & Lill, J. B. (2015). The Accounting Review, 90(5), 1755-1778. This research examines a situation where the principals utilize past performance in revising the performance targets but fail to incorporate the past performance information in reviewing their targets fully. It uses archival data across many years and independent bank units and detects a pattern of ratchet attenuation and output restriction that is in tandem with the presence of implicit agreements for the principal-agent dyads where information asymmetry is efficiently reduced.
The ratcheting‐up effect, Carbonell, V. (2012). Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 93(2), 228-254. This paper argues that the ratcheting up effect exists. It states that what one is morally obligated to do is hindered by what would be reasonable for one to believe he is morally obligated to do. It argues that moral saints present one with a particular kind of evidence that bears on what one can reasonably believe about their obligation. Therefore, exposure to moral saints ratchets-up one’s obligations by fighting a kind of ignorance that would defeat these obligations.
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COMPONENT OF ORGANIZATIONS AND THE RATCHET EFFECT: A CRITIQUE OF CROSS‐SECTIONAL STUDIES, Montanari, J. R., & Adelman, P. J. (1987). Journal of Management Studies, 24(2), 113-123. This article states that when growth and decline are explored concerning the administrative component of organizations, a dichotomy is present between cross-sectional designs and inside the organization longitudinal studies. It thus presents an analysis of the ratchet effect and a conceptual model of factors that influences the growth and decline of the administrative component.
Target ratcheting and incentives: Theory, evidence, and new opportunities, Indjejikian, R. J., Matějka, M., & Schloetzer, J. D. (2014). The Accounting Review, 89(4), 1259-1267. The article provides an introduction in which various reports are discussed. These reports are contained within the issue on topics regarding target ratcheting and incentives in business and include the analysis of a Spanish travel agency as well as a survey of the targeted earnings of several companies in the US.
Brazil’s Fiscal Stance during 1995-2005: The Effect of Indebtedness on Fiscal Policy over the Business Cycle, De Mello, L., & Moccero, D. (2006). (No. 485). OECD Publishing. This paper utilizes a method that is used by the OECD Secretariat to differentiate the changes in the fiscal stance that result from policy action and those that are related to the automatic stabilizers contained in the tax code, social security system, and unemployment insurance. The findings indicate that discretionary action tends to be pro-cyclical in downturns while undermining the existence of a strong sustainability motive in the conduct of Brazilian Fiscal policy.
Budget adjustments in response to spending variances: Evidence of ratcheting of local government expenditures, Lee, T. M., & Plummer, E. (2007). Journal of Management accounting research, 19(1), 137-167. This study investigates the extent to which government administrators incorporate the previous year spending variances into present year budgets. It argues that the budget increases associated with the previous year government overspending are expected to be larger than reductions related to the underspending of a similar amount. The study concludes that budget ratcheting is more prevalent when controls on government spending are likely to be weaker.
Ratcheting and the role of relative target setting, Aranda, C., Arellano, J., & Davila, A. (2014). The Accounting Review, 89(4), 1197-1226. This study examines supervisors considering the relative performance of comparable units in target setting, which is referred to as Relative Target Setting (RTS), using data derived from 376 branches of a large travel retailer for over five years. Evidence of RTS is found after controlling for individual past performance in the form of ratcheting.
Target ratcheting and effort reduction, Bouwens, J., & Kroos, P. (2011). Journal of Accounting and Economics, 51(1-2), 171-185. This paper explores how retail store managers decrease their sales activity as a response to target ratcheting. This paper determines that the managers who have favorable sales performance in the first three quarters decrease their sales activity in the final quarter. It also finds out that the managers who reduce their sales activity in the final quarter are more likely to surpass their next-year sales targets than those who refuse to lower their final quarter sales.