Boundary conditions on the relationships of contingent rewards and noncontingent punishments with evaluated performance and satisfaction are sought for supervisory and professional staff in local governments in the United States and Japan. Subgroup differences in tolerance for noncontingent punishment are reflected in mean differences in its use between nations (more reported in Japan), genders (less reported by women), and regions of the United States. The effects of noncontingent punishment on outcomes were not found for U.S. police sergeants. Evidence for a national contingency is reflected in the finding that the relationship of noncontingent punishments (but not contingent rewards) with cooperation, individual effectiveness, and satisfaction was stronger in the United States than in Japan. The study adds caution to the culture-free and contingency-free application of the theory of performance-contingent rewards and punishments. Implications for the theory of social rewards and punishments and for the contingencies and criteria considered in leadership research, particularly cross-cultural leadership research, are addressed. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.