When it comes to workplace organization, there are two schools of thought that dominate the corporate landscape: goal setting and goal commitment. While there is no consensus on which one is better and contributes to maximum workplace efficiency, experts agree that a balanced combination of these two concepts is the model that yields the best results. However, the debate is still ongoing amongst experts. In this article, we will try to find out which one is more important: goal setting or goal commitment?
Goal Setting Theory
The study of goal setting in an organizational context was started by Cecil Alec Mace, who carried out the first empirical studies during the 1930’s. Edwin A. Locke picked up Mace’s research in the 1960’s, continued his studies for the next 30 years and developed what became one of the most practical and influential theories about motivation. The first article on the subject, called ‘’Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives’’ was published in 1968 to rave reactions from the scientific world.
It was applied and supported in many workplaces, ranging from blue collar to white collar, and demonstrated the link between setting goals and high work performance and efficiency. The hypothesis of the study states that employees, and people in general, are more likely to perform better when they are tasked to achieve very specific, predefined goals. The researchers proposed two ways to add specificity to the goals:
- Quantifying the goals – ‘’increase something by 40 %’’ instead of ‘’increase’’ in the general sense of the expression.
- Enumeration – clearly defining the tasks that must be completed instead of simply defining the goal.
Moreover, through a keen understanding of goal setting, its effects on individual employees and a correct application of this theory, organizations can use it to increase efficiency. Setting clear goals keeps employees efficient for four reasons:
- Employees are more likely to be persistent and get over setbacks if the goal is crystal clear.
- Goals have the potential to instill discipline and healthy and productive work habits.
- By narrowing someone’s attention and directing efforts on a predefined path.
- If employees work in daily quotas, they are more incentivized to exceed it.
Further on, despite the existence of two separate schools of thought that favor one of them, it could be argued that goal setting and goal commitment are intertwined. By having a keen knowledge of the positive effects that individual goal setting can yield, organizations can increase the overall performance of the institutions. Researchers Latham and Locke have proposed three criteria that influence the success of setting goals:
- Commitment can be improved by constant engagement to others
- Exposure to positive models
In other words, goal commitment is mainly influenced by external factors. It is vital that the person who is setting the goals is a positive role model of work ethic and conduct because the individual will be more incentivized to accomplish the objectives.
Another theory that demonstrates the influence of goal setting on worker behavior is the prospect theory, and it mainly focuses on decision making under conditions of risk. The paper suggests that the goal setting process should take into account the long-term psychological effects on the team. First, the feelings experienced by the employees upon failing a task are stronger than the positive ones they would experience upon success, pushing them to work harder on the next task.
A Few Drawbacks and Practical Solutions
However, goal setting and commitment by extension can have several negative effects on the working environment. Goal setting can encourage a medium of excessive competition, which is counterproductive because employees will strive to flourish on an individual level at the expense of the team and organization, as this study states.
A manager’s priority should be to set a direct link between the employees’ personal goals and aspirations to the team’s and companies as a whole. That is why it is indicated to set strong team goals that show exactly how each employee will contribute to the company’s potential success.
As a result, the importance of the goal-setting process on the company’s overall performance can’t be stressed enough. There are several ways to implement this model correctly. Managers can either set goals for the team or allow the employees to design goals of their own volition that will encourage them to work for the benefit of the collective and company.
Moreover, it has been demonstrated that helping employees focus through goals will keep them on track, and the potential to accomplish a difficult task with clear consequences on the company can motivate them more than money.
Managers should also highly prioritize transparency and healthy, productive communication between team members. It is vital that both managers and employees are informed about each other’s tasks, activities, and goals.
Communication channels should always be open so that colleagues can collaborate on various activities and help each other out in case one of them has a hard time accomplishing his job. This organizational model is applied in many companies, one famous example being Google. There, employees are aware of each other’s progress in real time.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that various other factors, like the dimensions of the team, the corporate culture of the company and several other random elements will influence whether or not the goal setting model will work as intended. But, as long as it is applied correctly, and it is combined with constant feedback from superiors and crystal-clear working standards, the benefits will surely outweigh the drawbacks.
The modern economic landscape of the world has brought many changes to how companies operate and the overall corporate culture. Goal commitment and goal setting are intertwined, and companies should apply a model that combines them both. Nowadays, employees tend to be motivated more by the nature of their work and activity than by financial gain. That is why it is important that managers set clear goals so that workers will be more incentivized to perform better both for their personal good, and the company’s success.
by Alex Moore