In three experiments, I investigate how supervisors’ task performance in lower-level jobs prior to being promoted to the supervisory level influences the targets they set for employees. I propose that supervisors show an “experience bias” by which they overemphasize their own experiences when setting targets for employees. As such, supervisors who achieved high performance before being promoted set higher targets than low-performing supervisors, despite having the same information about the employee’s potential. In line with my prediction, I find that supervisors exhibit this bias if they have worked on the employees’ task but that this bias is absent when they previously did a different task. I also show that this bias comes from a limited awareness that own experiences are not generalizable and it likely prevails in many managerial situations. The biased targets also lead to negative employee reactions. This study contributes to the understanding of supervisor target setting.

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