Cherry Varghese John
Saintgits Institute Of Management
GOAL SETTING THEORY
Components of Goal Setting
A. Goal Difficulty
The extent to which a goal is challenging and
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 with performance.
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
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 to3/11/20145
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
B. Goals serve as an energizer: Higher goals
induce greater effort, while low goals induce
C. Goals affect persistence; constraints with regard
to resources affect work pace.
D. Goals activate cognitive knowledge and
strategies that help employees cope with the3/11/20146
Locke and Latham have indicated three
moderators that indicate goal setting success:
1) The importance of the expected outcomes of
goal attainment, and;
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
A. Social Learning Theory
Provides insights into why and how goals can
B. Locke’s Goal Setting Theory assumes
behavior is a result of conscious goals and
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
Properly-delivered feedback is also very essential
The following are needed for providing a
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
E. Make feedback a two-way communication
Types Of Goals
The two types of goals are learning goals and performance
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
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 and Time- bound.
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
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. 3/11/201414
One of the most important characteristics of goals is
the level of challenge.
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 provided.
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
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. 3/11/201419
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
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 performance.
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
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. 3/11/201421
III. Goals Must Be Accepted
Goals need to be accepted.
Participation in the goal-setting process tends to
enhance goal commitment.
Participation helps organization members better
understand the goals, ensure that the goals are not
unreasonable, and helps them achieve the goal.
Some individuals may reject imposed goals, but if they
have self-efficacy, they may still maintain high personal
goals to accomplish the imposed goals
IV. Feedback Must Be Provided on Goal Attainment
Feedback helps organization members attain their
Feedback helps in two important ways.
A. It helps people determine how well they are doing.
Performance feedback tends to encourage better
B. Feedback also helps people determine the nature
of the adjustments to their performance that are
required to improve.
V. Goals Are More Effective When They Are Used to
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
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
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 situations
VIII. Group Goal-Setting is As Important As Individual
Having employees work as teams with a specific
team goal, rather than as individuals with only
individual goals, increases productivity.
Furthermore, the combination of compatible group
and individual goals is more effective than either
individual or group goals alone.
Limitations Of Goal Setting
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 organization3/11/201428
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 Setting Theory in the
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
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
H. Ensure that goals are focused on areas that are important to
current and future goals
I. Align reward systems with desirable results 3/11/201430
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 means