Goal setting theory

Goal setting theory has become one of the most popular theories in organizational physiology (Goal Setting Theory 2006). It has been around since the early 1800s for the purpose of achievement (Goal Setting Theory has Become One of the Most Popular Theories in Organizational Physiology n.d.). However, Edwin A. Locke further examined goal setting theory in the mid-1960s for over 30 years and came out with some researches on his on regarding the impact that goals have on individual as well as on the companies that practice it (Goal Setting Theory has Become One of the Most Popular Theories in Organizational Physiology n.d.). Goal setting is basically a set of skills that involves in using goals in a particular ways to achieve variety of results (Goal Setting 1996). As goal setting theory has received a lot of feedback on its effectiveness application, the purpose of this essay is to critically examine the effective application of goal setting theory towards individual as well as toward the companies who practice it.

Employee motivation is a crucial task for upper level management team. In order for   employees to value-add their company, they must be first, highly motivated and proactive too. In a number of researches, it is to believe that by implementing goal setting theory in a company can lead to the increase of motivation of an employee. Goal setting can be a very powerful way to motivate people (Locke’s Goal Setting Theory 2000) and according to Burton, Weinberg and Yukelson (1998), in order to increase motivation in a company, goal setting can be the technique recommended. This is because it is believed that by implementing goal setting in a company can shape a person’s behavior to be more motivated in achieving goals (Locke and Latham 1990). When employees are assigned by their upper level management team in achieving certain goals or targets, they will be motivated to achieve them because this is the time that they can prove themselves to the company that they can be relied upon. Under the Locke’s Goal Setting Theory, Locke believed that there are 5 principles of goal setting and in order to be motivated, goals must be taken into consideration the degree of clarity, challenge, commitment, feedback and task complexity (Locke’s Goal Setting Theory 2000).

Goal setting theory claimed to be one of the most powerful ways to motivate people because the value of goal setting is so well recognized that the entire management systems have goal setting basics incorporated into them (Santhosh 2008). As a matter of facts, goal setting theory has been generally accepted to be the most valid and useful motivation theory regardless of what type of industry it is currently doing (Santhosh 2008). However, although goal setting theory is believed to be a very powerful tool to motivate employees, it is claimed that by setting up goals, the reason for goal must be given to the employees in order for them to be motivated (London, Edward and John 2004). This is because only when employee knows why and what the reason behind achieving those goals, than the chances of accomplishing that particular goal is high. Latham, Erez and Locke (1988) further explained that goals that are assigned without any prior explanation will lead to lower performances.

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Although there are many ways like performing essential works only, spending smarter and more uninterrupted time on tasks and using good project management skills to increase productivity, setting up appropriate goals are important in increasing company’s productivity (Dawn, 2004). Likewise, un-appropriate goals are detrimental to company’s productivity. Thus, in determining appropriate goals for a company is very important and by doing so, company must firstly determine what type of goals employees are called to achieve and then, monitor them from time to time without fail. Besides that, when a company determines her most important goals for their employees, the employees themselves will not be reluctant to develop specific skills in order to attain those goals set by the company (Borchardt 2009). This will result in better performances especially in terms of productivity. 

Goal setting theory seems to play a major role in making things work. However, according to Latham and Saari (1979), setting specific and challenging goals by individuals themselves will result in higher quality performances than by just urging the employees to performing their best. This is because when employees set their own goals in achieving a particular task, the quality of that particular task will be much better than a task which is given by their upper level management team themselves. When employees set their own targets towards their jobs, they feel fully responsible in and out in accomplishing them including providing the best quality of works. In short, employees need to be goal setters themselves in order to perform better. Thus in this case, in conjunction with the company’s goals, missions and visions, employees should be given a chance to set their own goals and achieve them in their own ways in line with company’s guidelines. A research done by Latham and Saari (1979) claims that individual with goals has more impact towards their jobs rather than individuals in the non-assigned condition.

By practicing goal setting, individuals could increase the chances for a task that need to be done a success (Goldberg 2009). This is because when the goals are clearly stated and are very specific, individuals or employees will get to focus on what they are supposed to do in order to achieve and will find solutions or ways to make it happen. To make this happen, US Fed News Service, Including US State News (September 19, 2009) reported that firstly, goals must be attainable. A goal can be set as high as the sky but if it could not be attained, it will only demoralize oneself. Secondly, goals must be written down (Goldberg 2009). The purpose of this is to make sure that those who are involved are aware of what they are supposed to achieve. Besides that, by writing down the target goals can help in making those who are involved to remember what to achieve and how to achieve them and monitor them from time to time. Thirdly, goals must be specific and clear (Sawyer 2010). This is crucial and if they are not, people who are involved could be confused and might get a total different outcome. Lastly, after setting up goals, the persons involved in making it a success must make sure that they are motivated to make it a success (Goldberg 2009). If goals have been set but the persons involved are not willing to accomplish them, then the very purpose of having them in the first place will be futile.

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A person can set his personal goal at any level he wants but to fulfill or to accomplish those goals set is very hard to determine. S.M.A.R.T. goal setting method is not foreign to people who are used to set goals in their personal life. According to goal setting expert Eade (2008), whether it is for personal or for business use, the most effective goals is to be S.M.A.R.T which represents, specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and tangible with a target date. For example, taking the difference between these two goals i.e. 1) Reduce unnecessary expenses; or 2) Reduce personal desire of online shopping to RM200 by May 1, 2010. Considering both perceptions, the second goal sets a more specific target and with it, a person’s mind will now be more focused and monitor the total amount of money spent during online shopping.

Goal setting theory can boost up a person’s confidence and self-esteem with every goal that they have achieved (Oechsli 1991). Whenever a person is pursuing a particular task, with the direction from goal setting theory can make that particular person become more focused and hence, they will tend to be more committed to do their goals and further, accomplishing it. As mentioned, goals that are specific are easier to accomplish (Eade 2008). This is because with goal setting theory, there will be guidelines of what to achieve from time to time and what are the steps they should acquire in order to move forward. With these back-up guides, people can be more confident in carrying out their tasks in which case will not only benefit the employees themselves but will also benefit the company in terms of productivity. According to Oechsli (1991), with people’s confident and high self-esteem, the job performance will improve and their attitudes will change for better which will lead to increase of productivity.

According to Then (2008), setting up goals either for the company or for personal use can enable a person to accomplish their task in a timely and organized manner. This is because through goal setting theory, a person can organize his time to accomplish a particular task and whenever a person sets his personal goal in managing a particular task, he will divide his time and build strategies in making his goals a success. Taking student as an example, if a student sets his target to complete his assignment by the next day at 5pm, in order to meet that time frame, this particular student will put away everything that could stop him to complete his obligation as a student and strive to meet the time set as committed.

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Sometimes, we humans feel stressed-out because we are not achieving what are important to us and by goal setting theory, it can be one of the best ways to relief or lessen our stress level (Scott 2009). Humans tend or love to have a lot going on in their daily life but due to time constraints, most of their plans are being disrupted. Each person can have up to 10 or even more obligations a day and without goal setting theory, life can be in chaotic situation due to limited time at the end.  However, when a person knows precisely what he wanted to achieve in a day, he will know where he has to focus his efforts (Reduce Stress with Personal Goal Setting 2010). Thus it is important that a person should know what he wanted to achieve and to plan how and when to achieve them. In this case, a person should manage his time properly and organize everything he wanted to do in an orderly manner so that he could manage his task without affecting other plans. Moreover, by practicing goal setting theory in our personal life can always make sure that we are on track no matter what may occur which will make our life much more easier to manage (Then 2008). 

In conclusion, it is generally agreed that goal setting theory is an effective theoretical framework in where it can best predict and boost up individual or employees work motivation as well as to better manage their time. However, in order to make it work, every individual must have a clear and specific as well as attainable goal. Without this, even how high a goal is set and it is not specific, that particular goal could be futile. Besides that, in order to make it happen, a person must show full commitment towards that particular task that he needs to achieve in certain time frame. In short, individuals that are involved play important role in making things happen. As mentioned, goal setting theory can lessen a person’s stress and will lead to more organized ways of completing certain tasks and through goal setting theory can motivate a person as well as it can change a person’s behavior. However, consistency is also important in making it a success nonetheless.

In my own personal opinion, I personally feel that goal setting theory is a very important tool in making things work. Besides just making life less complicated and more objective, it actually helps in shaping our life in a more purposeful way.

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