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Karl Schuhmacher - Emory University, Goizueta Business School. Atlanta, GA, US

Karl Schuhmacher

Assistant Professor of Accounting | Emory University, Goizueta Business School




Karl Schuhmacher completed his PhD in Management at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2014. Prior to joining the faculty at Emory, he was a Visiting Research Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania. His primary research focus is related to management accounting, cost systems, performance measurement, and incentive contracting. His work has been published in The Accounting Review, Management Science, and Accounting and Business Research.

Education (2)

University of Lausanne: PhD, Management 2014

University of Mannheim: Diplom-Kaufmann, Business Administration 2009

Areas of Expertise (4)

Management Accounting

Incentive contracting

Performance Measurement


Publications (3)

Leading by Example in Socially Driven Organizations: The Effect of Transparent Leader Compensation Contracts on Following

The Accounting Review

Schuhmacher, Towry, and Zureich

Leading by example is one of the most powerful methods to encourage individuals to work toward a common objective. Despite the importance of leadership, little is known about how the effectiveness of leading by example depends on institutional features, such as the transparency and design of leaders' compensation contracts. We conduct two experiments to study this interplay between leadership and contracting in organizations with social missions (i.e., socially driven organizations). We find that under non-transparent contracts, leader contributions to the social objective positively influence follower contributions, reflecting effective leading by example. More importantly, under transparent contracts, the positive effect of leader contributions on follower contributions is diminished by an increase in the intensity of variable compensation and/or the amount of fixed compensation in the leader's contract. Our study informs the debate on pay transparency and demonstrates that organizations need to carefully consider the effects of contract design on leadership effectiveness.

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Time is relative: How framing of time estimation affects the accuracy of cost information.

Management Science

Schuhmacher and Burkert

Accurate cost information is critical to effective decision making within organizations. Cost computations often rely on subjective judgments by employees regarding the amount of time that different tasks consume. In an experimental setting, we examine the accuracy of two common approaches to eliciting subjective time estimates vital for accurate cost information. Specifically, we compare estimation error when employees estimate (i) the total time for all iterations of a task (the pool approach) versus (ii) the average time for one iteration of a task (the unit approach). These two approaches have received interest by both practitioners and researchers and are at the heart of the difference between conventional activity-based costing (ABC) and time-driven ABC. While mathematically equivalent, we hypothesize and find that the two approaches evoke different cognitive processes that lead to differences in estimation error. Relative to the unit approach, the pool approach produces larger error in the allocation of time among different tasks, but only when the number of iterations per task varies across tasks. Further, the pool approach results in overestimation of productive time, whereas the unit approach leads to underestimation of productive time. Our findings are robust to different response modes of the pool approach (estimates in absolute time units and in percentages). This study is relevant for designers and users of cost and performance-measurement systems in that allocation errors lead to cost cross-subsidization and poor resource-allocation decisions, while overall errors undermine capacity utilization decisions.

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The relationship between lack of controllability and proactive work behavior: An empirical analysis of competing theoretical explanations

Accounting and Business Research

Burkert, Fischer, Hoos, and Schuhmacher

The controllability principle suggests evaluating managers solely based on performance measures they can control. In practice, however, companies often disregard this principle. Therefore, our study addresses organisational benefits linked to the lack of controllability in measures used for managers’ performance evaluations. We draw on important case-based findings to establish a positive ‘base relationship’ between lack of controllability and proactive work behaviour. We test this base relationship with a large-scale sample and find that companies encourage higher levels of proactive work behaviour when they rely on less controllable performance measures. Drawing on recent developments in role theory, we advance previous research and extend the base model by including the theoretical construct of flexible role orientation. We examine different mechanisms through which flexible role orientation potentially impacts the base model. Using survey responses from 432 managers, we find evidence for a mediation model as opposed to an interaction model. Specifically, we find that lack of controllability enhances role conflict, which in turn induces more flexible role orientations ultimately resulting in higher levels of proactive work behaviour.

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Working Papers/Projects (2)

Use and design of peer evaluations for bonus allocations.

We conduct an experiment to investigate the use of peer evaluations for compensation purposes. Although organizations often rely on peer evaluations for incentive compensation, it is not well understood how peer feedback should be (i) used and (ii) designed to ensure fair evaluations and, thus, motivate effort provision. We examine peer evaluations in form of bonus pool allocation proposals, allowing us to test our theory with quantifiable data. Specifically, we differentiate between (i) a discretionary use (allocation by the manager) and a formulaic use (allocation by the team via the average) of (ii) self-including and self-excluding allocation proposals. We find that, relative to self-including proposals, self-excluding proposals only generate more effort provision under the formulaic use. Under the discretionary use, the benefits of self-excluding proposals are offset, as managerial biases enter bonus allocations. Our results are relevant for practitioners and researchers interested in incorporating peer feedback into incentive compensation.

Reciprocity over time: Do employees respond more to kind or unkind controls?

Reciprocity plays a critical role in the way employees respond to management control decisions. The current consensus is that employees punish managers for implementing unkind controls (negative reciprocity) more than they reward managers for implementing kind controls (positive reciprocity). We challenge this consensus. Prior research focuses on settings that emphasize employees’ immediate reciprocal responses. However, in the workplace, employees often respond over long periods of time to sticky control decisions (such as pay, budgets, and decision-rights). Focusing on long-term settings, we predict and find that negative reciprocity - while initially stronger - fades more and faster over time than positive reciprocity. This differential fading is so pronounced in our setting that positive reciprocity is overall stronger than negative reciprocity. Thus, in long-term settings, positive responses to kind controls may play a more important role than negative responses to unkind controls. Our findings have several managerial implications, such as suggesting potential long-term benefits of pay dispersion.

Research Spotlight

In the News (2)

Goizueta Business School welcomes new faculty

emorybusiness.com  online


Goizueta welcomes new faculty including (from left to right) Vilma Todri, assistant professor of information systems & operations management; Rohan Ganduri, assistant professor of finance; Jesse Bockstedt, associate professor of information systems & operations management; Cassandra Estep, assistant professor of accounting; Karl Schuhmacher, assistant professor of accounting; Inyoung Chae, assistant professor of marketing; Demetrius Lewis, assistant professor of organization & management; Morgan Ward, assistant professor of marketing; and Tian Heong Chan, assistant professor of information systems & operations management. John Kim, not pictured, is a lecturer in organization & management. “We are thrilled about these additions to our team,” says Kristy Towry, vice dean for faculty & research, Goizueta Term Chair in Accounting, and professor of accounting. “They are all innovators in their fields, and I can’t wait to see what new knowledge they’ll bring to the table here at Goizueta.”

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How modern managerial accounting practices help companies grow


Measuring performance for strategy execution. Managerial accounting competencies, such as performing high-level analyses on business strategy, can expose external threats to strategy execution. Once a company establishes a strategy or objective, management accountants can design systems so that actions lead towards achieving the goal of that strategy or objective, such as through performance management. “We want to make sure the employees work in the best interest of the organization and that we’re all pulling on one string,” Karl Schuhmacher, assistant professor of accounting at Goizueta, said. “The key with measuring different aspects of performance in an organization is determining what is the underlying thing that we care about and then we can constantly test how well our metric measures that,” Towry said. “We can think of the metric as a shadow or reflection of the underlying dimension of performance we are interested in.”

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