Goal Setting Theory

Topics: Motivation, Goal-setting theory, Goal Pages: 10 (2726 words) Published: February 3, 2015
In the recent decades, academics have revealed that monetary incentives are not sufficient in driving employee performance. Reports show that employee engagement levels remain stagnant in North American with 70% of employees being disengaged. Thus, a great amount of emphasis has been turned towards employee motivation. In this paper, the goal setting theory will be discussed. The reader will be guided through the main understandings of the theory and its relevance in the North American workplace. Research conducted in this field has indicated that there is a positive relationship between goal setting and performance outputs. The prime principles of the goal setting theory state that successful goal setting needs to be assessed on five dimensions: goal clarity, goal challenge, goal commitment, performance feedback, and task complexity. The insights of the empirical studies discussed in this paper imply that when goal setting is done correctly and thoroughly throughout each stage, it leads to a significant increase in motivation. Various methods and strategies have been developed to complement the goal setting theory, an example being, the popular mnemonic acronym S.M.A.R.T. which uses the words specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely to aid in setting effective goals. Goal setting theory is both measurable and quantifiable. Empirical evidence from both experimental and field settings have supported that the benefits (increase in employee performance, increase in employee motivation, increase in profits, etc.) far outweigh the drawbacks (results from application error, organization costs, human resource efforts). Based off current research output and the abundance of research still conducted and revised on this theory, it can be concluded that the goal setting theory is an effective theory of motivation and, moving forward, will be a leader in workplace motivation in North America. INTRODUCTION

According to Gallup’s employee study, workplace disengagement is an alarming issue around the world. In North America, the region with the highest ratio of engaged workers compared to the rest of the world, the proportion of engaged workers is only 29% (Gallup, 2011). In other words, the vast majority of workers are not reaching their full potential. This has significant implications to the economy, companies, and individuals. With the great deal of emphasis on productivity in today’s marketplace, managers within organizations are constantly searching for effective strategies in motivating staff to achieving organizational goals. The theory of motivation discussed in this paper will be the goal-setting theory, which is arguably one of the most dominant theories in the field of motivation with over a thousand articles and reviews published within the last 30 to 40 years (Latham, 2006). The objective of this paper is to produce a summary and evaluation of the goal setting theory of motivation. The paper will be divided into two sections. The first section will discuss the foundation of the theory along with its main tenets. The second section will provide real life examples of the theory application and critically examine the applicability of the theory in the North American managerial workplace supported by empirical work.

The foundation of the goal setting theory was first developed and refined by the American psychologist, Edwin Locke, in the 1960s. Locke was inspired by the final cause in Aritstotle’s theory of causality, which states “that for the sake of which” or can be defined as the end or purpose of something. Stemming from Aristotle’s theory, Locke continued to research on goal setting for thirty years. With the contribution of Locke and other scientists, this theory has now been popularized and become one of the most widely used theories regarding motivation. During Locke’s primary research, he studied the relationship between goal setting variables and task...

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2. Bennett, D. (2009, March 15). Ready, aim... fail. Why setting goals can backfire. The Boston Globe, C1.
3. Gallup. State of the Global Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for Business Leaders Worldwide. DC, 2011. Print.
4. Klein, H., Wesson, M., Hollenbeck, J., & Alge, B. (1999). Goal commitment and the goal-setting process: Conceptual clarification and empirical synthesis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84, 885–896.
5. Latham, G. P. (2004). The motivation benefits of goal setting. Academy of Management Executive, 18(4), 126-129.
6. Latham, G. P., and C. T. Ernst. "Keys to Motivating Tomorrow 's Workforce." Human Resource Management Review 16.2 (2006): 181-98.
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10. Locke, Edwin A., and Gary P. Latham. "Building a Practically Useful Theory of Goal Setting and Task Motivation: A 35-Year Odyssey." American Psychologist 57.9 (2002): 705-17
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