The rocky road from insight to understanding

James P. Walsh, B. Joseph White, Jeffrey R. Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This paper contains a commentary on the paper by Aguinis, Martin, Gomez-Mejia, O’Boyle and Joo published in this same issue. This paper aims to encourage the readers to examine this novel insight in future research but sadly, to disregard the results of this particular investigation. Design/methodology/approach: Google Scholar tells us that, over a quarter of a million studies examine the relationship between CEO compensation and firm performance. Aguinis et al. (2018) take much of that work to task. Observing that the distribution of CEO compensation is skewed, they question any work that assumes a normal distribution. Correcting the flaw, Aguinis et al. (2018) conduct their own investigation of this important relationship. Contrary to previous work, they find no consistent empirical relationship between pay and performance. The authors review and discuss their work with a clear eye on its implications for improving our understanding of these relationships. Findings: The authors cannot accept the results of the Aguinis et al. (2018) investigation as it stands. Saying why, they close their commentary with some ideas that should help one understand whether accounting for a skewed CEO pay distribution really does revolutionize one’s understanding of corporate governance. Practical implications: The statistical insight provided by Aguinis et al. (2018) yields provocative, if not profound, practical implications. While the authors’ review is critical, they aim to foster continued inquiry, not shut it down.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-89
Number of pages15
JournalManagement Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018


  • CEO pay
  • Chief executive officer (CEO) compensation
  • Corporate governance
  • Firm performance
  • Pay-for performance
  • Research methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management


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