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Saintgits Institute Of Management
GOAL SETTING THEORY
Components of Goal Setting Theory
A. Goal Difficulty
The extent to which a goal is challenging and requires effort
B. Goal Specificity
The clarity and precision of a goal
C. Goal Acceptance
The extent to which a person accepts a goal
D. Goal Commitment
The extent to which an individual is personally interested in
reaching a goal
Goal setting involves establishing specific,measurable,achievable,realistic and
time-targeted (S.M.A.R.T ) goals.
Work on the theory of goal-setting suggests that an effective tool for making
progress is to ensure that participants in a group with a common goal
are clearly aware of what is expected from them. On a personal level,
setting goals helps people work towards their own objectives.
Goals are a form of motivation that sets the standard for self-satisfaction
Achieving the goal one has set for oneself is a measure of success, and being
able to meet job challenges is a way one measures success in the workplace.
Goal setting theory was developed and refined by Edwin A. Locke
in the 1960s.
A goal can become more specific through quantification or
enumeration (should be measurable), such as by demanding
"...increase productivity by 50%," or by defining certain tasks that
must be completed.
Setting goals affects outcomes in four ways:
I. Choice: Goals narrow attention and direct efforts to goal-
relevant activities, and away from perceived undesirable
and goal-irrelevant actions.
II. Effort: Goals can lead to more effort; for example, if one
typically produces 4 widgets an hour, and has the goal of
producing 6, one may work more intensely towards the
goal than one would otherwise.
III. Persistence: Someone becomes more prone to work
through setbacks if pursuing a goal.
IV. Cognition: Goals can lead individuals to develop and
change their behavior.
The four mechanisms through which goal setting can affect
individual performance are:
A. Goals focus attention toward goal-relevant activities and
away from goal-irrelevant activities.
B. Goals serve as an energizer: Higher goals induce greater
effort, while low goals induce lesser effort.
C. Goals affect persistence; constraints with regard to
resources affect work pace.
D. Goals activate cognitive knowledge and strategies that help
employees cope with the situation at hand.
Locke and Latham have indicated three moderators that
indicate goal setting success:
1) The importance of the expected outcomes of goal
2) Self-efficacy – one's belief that they are able to achieve
the goals, and;
3) Commitment to others – promises or engagements to
others can strongly improve commitment
A. Social LearningTheory
Provides insights into why and how goals can motivate
B. Locke’s Goal SettingTheory assumes behavior is a
result of conscious goals and intentions.
By setting goals for employees, a manager should be able to
influence their behavior.
Goal setting and feedback go hand in hand.Without feedback, goal setting is
unlikely to work. Providing feedback on short-term objectives helps to
sustain motivation and commitment to a goal.
Feedback should be provided on the strategies followed to achieve the goals
and the final outcomes achieved, as well.
Feedback on strategies used to obtain goals is very important, especially for
complex work, because challenging goals put focus on outcomes rather than
on performance strategies.
Properly-delivered feedback is also very essential
The following are needed for providing a good
A. Create a positive context for feedback.
B. Use constructive and positive language.
C. Focus on behaviors and strategies.
D. Tailor feedback to the needs of the individual worker.
E. Make feedback a two-way communication process.
Types Of Goals
The two types of goals are learning goals and performance goals.
1.) Learning goals
Tasks where skills and knowledge can be acquired
2.) Performance goals
Avoid tasks where error and judgment are possible
Select tasks that are easy to accomplish and will make one appear successful
Principles Of Goal Setting
To motivate, goals must have:
E. Task complexity
Clear goals are measurable and unambiguous.
When a goal is clear and specific, with a definite time set for completion,
there is less misunderstanding about what behaviors will be rewarded. Here
the employee knows what's expected, and he can use the specific result as a
source of motivation.When a goal is vague –it has limited motivational
To improve a team's performance, set clear goals that use specific and
measurable standards. "Reduce job turnover by 15%" or "Respond to
employee suggestions within 48 hours" are examples of clear goals.
Ensure the clarity of the goal by making it Specific, Measurable andTime-
As long as the employee believes that the goal is consistent with the
goals of the company, and believes the person assigning the goal is
credible, then the commitment should be there.
The harder the goal, the more commitment is required. If you have
an easy goal, you don't need a lot of motivation to get it done.
When you're working on a difficult assignment, you will likely
encounter challenges that require a deeper source of inspiration and
Encourage employees to develop their own goals, and keep them
informed about what's happening elsewhere in the organization.
This way, they can be sure that their goals are consistent with the
overall vision and purpose that the company seeks.
One of the most important characteristics of goals is the level of
People are often motivated by achievement, and they'll judge a
goal based on the significance of the anticipated accomplishment.
When an employee know that what he does will be well
received, there's a natural motivation to do a good job.
Rewards typically increase for more difficult goals. If you believe
you'll be well compensated or otherwise rewarded for achieving
a challenging goal, that will boost your enthusiasm and your
drive to get it done.
Feedback provides opportunities to clarify expectations, adjust goal
difficulty, and gain recognition. It's important to provide opportunities or
targets, so individuals can determine for themselves how they're doing.
SMART goals are Measurable, and this ensures that clear feedback can be
People who work in complicated and demanding roles probably have
a high level of motivation already. However, they can often push
themselves back if measures aren't built into the goal expectations to
account for the complexity of the task.
It's therefore important to do the following:
A. Give the person sufficient time to meet the goal or improve
B. Provide enough time for the person to practice or learn what is
expected and required for success.
C. The whole point of goal setting is to facilitate success.Therefore,
make sure that the conditions surrounding the goals don't frustrate
or inhibit people from accomplishing their objectives.This
reinforces the "Attainable" part of SMART.
The following are practical suggestions for managers to consider when
attempting to use goal-setting to enhance motivation and performance
I. Goals Need to Be Specific
Specific goals (often quantified) let organization members know what to
reach for and allow them to measure their own progress.
Research indicates that specific goals help bring about other desirable
organizational goals, such as reducing absenteeism, tardiness, and turnover
II. Goals Must Be Difficult but Attainable
The key point is that a goal must be difficult as well as specific for it to raise
Although organization members will work hard to reach challenging goals,
they will only do so when the goals are within their capability.
As goals become too difficult, performance suffers because organization
members reject the goals as unreasonable and unattainable.
A major factor in attainability of a goal is self-efficacy .This is an internal
belief regarding one’s job-related capabilities and competencies. If
employees have high self-efficacies, they will tend to set higher personal
goals under the belief that they are attainable.The first key to successful goal
setting is to build and reinforce employees’ self-efficacy.
III.Goals Must Be Accepted
Goals need to be accepted.
Participation in the goal-setting process tends to enhance goal
Participation helps organization members better understand the goals,
ensure that the goals are not unreasonable, and helps them achieve the
Some individuals may reject imposed goals, but if they have self-
efficacy, they may still maintain high personal goals to accomplish the
IV.Feedback Must Be Provided on Goal Attainment
Feedback helps organization members attain their performance
Feedback helps in two important ways.
A. It helps people determine how well they are doing.
Performance feedback tends to encourage better performance.
B. Feedback also helps people determine the nature of the
adjustments to their performance that are required to improve.
V. Goals Are More EffectiveWhenThey Are Used to Evaluate Performance
1) When employees know that their performance will be
evaluated in terms of how well they attained their goals, the
impact of goals increases.
2) Salespeople, for example, have weekly and monthly sales
goals they are expected to attain.Telephone operators have
goals for the number of customers they should assist daily.
CEOs of organizations such as IBM, General Motors, and
Microsoft Corporation are evaluated on meeting growth,
profitability, and quality goals.
VI.Deadlines Improve the Effectiveness of Goals
1) For most employees, goals are more effective when they
include a deadline for completion.
2) Deadlines serve as a time-control mechanism and increase the
motivational impact of goals. Being aware that a deadline is
approaching, the typical employee will invest more effort into
completing the task.
3) In contrast, if plenty of time remains for attaining the goal, the
employee is likely to slow down his or her pace to fill the
available time. However, when deadlines are too tight,
particularly with complex tasks, the quality of work may suffer.
VII.A Learning Goal Orientation Leads to Higher Performance than a
Performance Goal Orientation
A. A person with a learning goal orientation wants to develop competence by
mastering challenging situations.
B. Research has indicated that a learning goal orientation has a positive
impact on work-related behaviors and performance .
C. The learning goal orientation is particularly relevant in today’s work
environment, which requires employees to be proactive, problem solve,
be creative and open to new ideas, and adapt to new and changing
VIII.Group Goal-Setting is As Important As Individual Goal-Setting
Having employees work as teams with a specific team goal,
rather than as individuals with only individual goals, increases
Furthermore, the combination of compatible group and
individual goals is more effective than either individual or
group goals alone.
Limitations Of Goal Setting Theory
Combining goals with monetary rewards motivates many
organization members to establish easy rather than difficult goals. In
some cases, organization members have negotiated goals with their
supervisor that they have already completed.
Goal setting focuses organization members on a narrow subset of
measurable performance indicators while ignoring aspects of job
performance that are difficult to measure.The adage “What gets
measured is what gets done” applies here.
Setting performance goals is effective in established jobs, but it may
not be effective when organization members are learning a new,
Goal setting is widely used in the workplace as a means to improve and
sustain work performance.
Goal setting theory is based on the assumption that behavior reflects an
employee’s conscious goals and intentions. Consequently, the
expectation is that employee efforts and performance within an organization
will be influenced by the goals assigned to or selected by these employees.
In the workplace, successful managers use the goal setting theory to clarify
expectations, improve performance, and develop employees into stronger
workers, which in turn makes the company stronger
Application of Goal SettingTheory in theWorkplace
Some of the ways managers use this theory are:
A. Include employees in goal setting
B. Set individual goals that flow directly from those of the work unit
C. Set specific goals
D. Ask supervisors to set their own goals
E. Have meetings with employees regularly regarding performance and
progress on developmental objectives
F. Provide ongoing feedback and coaching
G. Have employees take the lead in both setting goals and the review process
H. Ensure that goals are focused on areas that are important to current and
I. Align reward systems with desirable results
Some reward systems that are used for employees reaching
their goals are:
1. Monetary by salary increases or giving bonuses
2. Job and career related including promotions
3. Recognition and pride related through awards and other