Alan Webb

Retired - Distinguished Professor Emeritus (2000-2023)
Alan Webb

Brief biography

My primary research interests relate to the behavioural consequences of management control system elements such as targets, incentive schemes, and the motivational effects of non-cash rewards (e.g., gift cards, merchandise and 'games'). I use multiple research methods including field and lab experiments, questionnaires, field interviews and archival analysis of field data. I teach an introductory doctoral seminar on accounting research.

Education and certifications

  • Bachelor of Commerce (Mount Allison)
  • Ph.D. (Alberta)
  • Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) (Nova Scotia)
  • Fellow Chartered Professional Accountant (FCPA) (Ontario)

Recent publications

  • Webb, A. 2024. Plenty to be thankful for: Influences, a sense of purpose and community. Forthcoming, Journal of Management Accounting Research

  • Kachelmeier, S., A. Webb and M. Williamson. 2023. Do performance contingent incentives help or hinder divergent thinking? Forthcoming, The Accounting Review.

  • Anand, V., C. Wong and A. Webb. 2023. Demotivational effects of frequent feedback and how they can be mitigated: An Experimental Investigation. Journal of Management Accounting Research, 35(2): 5-32.
  • Presslee, A., G. Richins, S. Saiy and A. Webb. 2022. Small sample field study: The effects of team-based recognition on employee engagement and effort. Management Accounting Research. Forthcoming. 
  • Mitchell, T., A. Presslee, A. Schulz and A. Webb. 2022. Needs versus wants: The mental accounting and effort effects of tangible rewards. Journal of Management Accounting Research, 34(1): 187-207.
  • Huo, K., K. Kelly and A. Webb. 2021. The beneficial learning effects of combining a hypothesis-testing mindset with a causal model. The Accounting Review,97(5): 325-348.
  • Kelly, K., D. Valtchanov and A. Webb. 2021. Behavioral implications of using a slot machine game to motivate employees; A cautionary tale. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 89 (February).
  • Armitage, H., D. Lane and A. Webb. 2020. Budget development and use in small and medium-sized enterprises: A field investigation. Accounting Perspectives, 19(3): 205-240.
  • Fisher, J., T. Mitchell, S. Peffer and A. Webb. 2019. Inequity aversion, incentives and social norms: The effects on budget preparation and use. Journal of Management Accounting Research, 31(1): 105-128.
  • Berger, L., T. Libby and A. Webb. 2018. The effects of tournament horizon and the percentage of winners on social comparisons and performance in multi-period competitions. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 64: 1-16.
  • Kelly, K., A. Presslee and A. Webb. 2017. The effects of tangible versus cash rewards in consecutive sales tournaments: A field experiment. The Accounting Review, 92(6): 165-186.
  • Armitage, H., A. Webb and J. Glynn. 2016. The use of management accounting tools and techniques by small and medium size companies: A field study. Accounting Perspectives, 15(1): 31-69.
  • Kelly, K. A. Webb and T. Vance. 2015. The interactive effects of ex post goal adjustment and goal difficulty on performance. Journal of Management Accounting Research, 27(1): 1-26.
  • Presslee, A., T. Vance and A. Webb. 2013. The effects of reward type on employee goal selection, goal commitment and performance. The Accounting Review, 88(5): 1805-1831.
  • Berger, L., K. Klassen, T. Libby and A. Webb. 2013. Complacency and giving up across repeated tournaments: Evidence From the Field. Journal of Management Accounting Research, 25:143-167.
  • Webb, A., M. Williamson and M. Zhang. 2013. Productivity-target difficulty, target-based pay and outside-the-box thinking.  The Accounting Review, 88(4): 1433-1457.

Working papers

Courses taught

  • Accounting (ACC) 685: Performance Management
  • ACC 781: Introduction to Accounting Research (doctoral seminar)
  • ACC 702: Introduction to Management Accounting Research (doctoral seminar)
  • ACC 784: Behavioural Research in Accounting (doctoral seminar)

Selected Awards

  • 2024. Lifetime Contribution to Management Accounting Award. Management Accounting Section of the American Accounting Association.

  • 2023.  Best Paper Award, Journal of Management Accounting Research, with T. Mitchell, A. Presslee and A. Schulz.
  • 2021. Deloitte Professorship
  • 2015. Deloitte Professorship
  • 2014. Best Paper Award, Journal of Management Accounting Research, with J. Kennedy and T. Vance.
  • 2013 Outstanding Management Accounting Paper Award, Management Accounting Section, American Accounting Association (AAA) Annual Meeting, with J. Fisher, S. Peffer and T. Mitchell
  • 2011 Outstanding Management Accounting Paper Award, Management Accounting Section, AAA Annual Meeting, with A. Presslee and T. Vance
  • 2011 FCA, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario
  • 2011 L.S. Rosen Outstanding Educator Award, Canadian Academic Accounting Association
  • 2009 Notable Contribution to the Auditing Literature Award, AAA, with M. Gibbins and S. Salterio. "Evidence About Auditor-Client Management Negotiation Concerning Client's Financial Reporting."

Selected funding

  • SSHRC 2015. $126,663 (Principal Investigator). The Effects of Non-Cash Rewards on Motivation and Performance. With K. Kelly and A. Presslee.
  • SSHRC 2009. $58,610. The Effects of Providing Strategic Performance Information to Corporate Directors: A Field Study. With T. Atkinson and N. Kotchetova.
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) 2005. $68,654. Factors Affecting Goal Difficulty and Performance in Participative Goal Settings.
  • Copperthwaite Centre for Professional Accounting Education 2004. $31,330. The Effects of Group Response Systems on Student Engagement and Exam Performance. With C. Carnaghan.
  • CICA/CAAA 2001. $10,000. The Balanced Scorecard: The Effects of Assurance and Process Accountability on Managerial Judgment.

Professional service

  • Management Accounting Section, American Accounting Association: President (August 2019-August 2020)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario: Council Member (June 2009 - 2013)

News Story

What motivates employees to perform better: cash or a flat-screen TV?

In a recent study, SAF Professor Alan Webb examined how the type of reward (cash versus tangible) influenced the difficulty of the performance goals employees selected for themselves; how committed they were to their chosen goal and, ultimately, the effect on overall performance.
Read more.