Goal Setting

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This essay will explain the goal setting theory. I will review theories related to goal setting. Then I will apply the theories to a work example. Lastly, I will provide recommendations based on the theories. Literature review:

Goal setting is a theory of motivation, which may give employees a sense of purpose, challenge, and meaning to their work as well as a sense of accomplishment (Latham 2007, p. 62). Effective goal setting has according to Medlin and Green (2009, p. 952) been a driver of performance for decades. Latham and Locke (1990, p. 261) states that goals direct attention to the activity specified by the goal and simultaneously away from goal-irrelevant activities. The core finding of goal setting research is that specific high goals when accepted, lead to higher performance than no goals or vague goals (Latham 2007, p. 53). The importance of the goal to the individual and self-efficacy (i.e. self-confidence that the goal for a specific task is attainable) influences the commitment of an individual to a goal (Latham & Locke, 2007, p. 291). However, if there is no commitment to the goal, no motivational effects will occur from goal setting (Slocum, Cron and Brown, 2002, p. 77). According to Latham and Locke (1990, p. 95) goals motivate individuals to be persistent, and challenging goals inspire the individual to be determined in not settling for less than could be achieved. Furthermore, goals can affect performance indirectly by motivating the individual to develop task specific strategies (Latham & Locke, 1990, p. 261). Goals are moderated by ability, goal commitment, feedback in relation to goal pursuit, the complexity of the task, and situational factors (e.g., presence of needed resources) (Latham & Locke, 2007, p. 291). An employee’s motivation is according to Latham and Locke (2007, p. 291) affected by specific challenges and demands such as high goals. However, people automatically use the knowledge and skills they have already acquired that are relevant to achieve the goal (Latham & Locke, 2002, p. 707). In the absence of knowledge or ability, setting a specific high goal can have a negative effect on a person’s performance (Kanfer & Ackerman, 1989, p. 661). A learning goal should be set rather than an outcome goal when the knowledge or skill for attaining the goal is unknown (Latham & Locke 2007, p. 293). A situational constraint to effective goal setting is environmental uncertainty, which might be due to unavailable information in order to set efficient outcome or learning goals (Seijts & Latham, 2001, p. 292). In order for goals to affect performance, Erez and Zidon (1984, p. 77) state that there must be commitment to the goals, that is, employees must be truly trying to attain them. One important factor that facilitates goal commitment is the belief that the individual are able to attain the goal (i.e., high self-efficacy), and the importance of the outcome that they expect as a result of working to attain the goal is yet another important factor (Locke & Latham, 2002, p. 707). An employee’s success in achieving challenging but attainable goals is associated with positive and valued (high-valence) outcomes (Fried & Slowic, 2004, p. 406). Examples of internal outcomes are a sense of accomplishment, escape from feeling bored or useless, and proving oneself. External outcomes are for example, higher income, job security, and opportunities for promotions. The higher the importance of these expected outcomes for the person, the higher the goal commitment to attain it (Latham, 2007, p. 185). Locke and Latham (1990, p. 242) suggest that when feedback allows performance to be tracked in relation to one’s goal, goal setting is more effective. When people find they are below target, they normally increase their effort or try a new strategy (Matsui, Okada, & Inoshita, 1983, p. 410). If the employees do not know how they are doing, it is difficult for them to adjust their performance...
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