The Power to Reward vs. the Power to Punish: The Influence of Power Framing on Individual-Level Exploration

Jonathan B. Evans, Oliver Schilke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This article adopts a relational perspective to demonstrate that characteristics of the dyadic relationship between supervisors and their employees are critical to understanding individual-level exploration—understood as the extent to which organizational members pursue new opportunities and experiment with changes to current practices. To this end, we introduce the concept of power framing—that is, whether the control over valued resources is emphasized as the ability to reward or to punish—and propose that supervisor power framing shapes employee exploration. In an experimental study, we demonstrate that reward (versus punishment) power framing increases employee exploration behavior and that this effect is mediated by perceived trustworthiness of the supervisor. In a second survey study, we replicate these findings in a field sample and show that the relationship between reward power framing and exploration depends on the degree to which the focal employee is sensitive to power characteristics (i.e., power distance orientation). This investigation advances scholarship on the microfoundations of exploration while also highlighting the ability of leaders to alter trustworthiness perceptions and induce employee exploration through power framing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)346-363
Number of pages18
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • benevolent leadership
  • experiment
  • individual-level exploration
  • power
  • regulatory focus
  • trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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