Going short-term or long-term? CEO stock options and temporal orientation in the presence of slack

Geoffrey P. Martin, Robert M. Wiseman, Luis R. Gomez-Mejia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Research summary: We draw on behavioral agency theory to explain how decision heuristics associated with CEO stock options interact with firm slack to shape the CEO's preference for short- or long-term strategies (temporal orientation). Our findings suggest CEO current option wealth substitutes for the influence of slack resources in encouraging a long-term orientation, while prospective option wealth enhances the positive effect of slack on temporal orientation. Our theory offers explanations for non-findings in previous analysis of the relationship between CEO equity based pay and temporal orientation and provides the insights that CEO incentives created by stock options (1) enhance the effect of available slack upon temporal orientation and (2) can both incentivize and de-incentivize destructive short-termism, depending upon the values of current and prospective option wealth. Managerial summary: We explore how compensation design can play a role in affecting the CEO's preference for short- or long-term strategic projects. When the CEOs have accumulated option wealth, they are more likely to invest in the long term. Yet when they have a large number of recently granted options with the potential to generate significant wealth in the event of successful risk taking, the CEO is more likely to prefer the short term in order to achieve personal wealth gains more quickly. The more liquid assets the firm holds, the weaker both of the aforementioned effects. An implication for boards is that they should anticipate CEO short-termism if the CEO has been granted new options, underlining the potential negative consequences of option compensation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2463-2480
Number of pages18
JournalStrategic Management Journal
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • CEO decision making
  • available slack
  • executive compensation
  • loss aversion
  • temporal orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management


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