When You Work with a Superman, Will You Also Fly? An Empirical Study of the Impact of Coworkers on Performance

Tom Tan, Information Technology and Operations Management Department (ITOM)
Serguei Netessine


We examine a large operational data set in a casual restaurant setting to study how coworkers’ sales ability level affects other workers’ sales performance. We find that waiters react non-linearly to their coworkers’ ability. In particular, when coworkers’ overall sales ability is low, increasing this ability may prompt waiters to redouble both upselling and cross-selling efforts. When overall coworkers’ ability is high, however, further increasing their ability may trigger waiters to reduce sales efforts. Our empirical findings imply that to maximize sales, managers should mix waiters with heterogeneous ability levels during the same shift. Through a counterfactual analysis, we find that considering the inverted-U shaped peer effects when optimizing current waiters’ schedules without changing their utilization may increase total sales by approximately 2.48 per cent at no extra cost.