Goal-setting Theory: Motivation

Motivation Definition: The reason or reasons to act in a particular way. It is what makes us do things and carry out tasks for the organisation. However, motivation is often used as an excuse, a lack of motivation for not doing anything. This is why in an organisation discipline needs to be used, to inspire the fact that motivation isn’t always needed, but discipline to get the job done is.

Goal-Setting Theory Definition: This theory has established four main propositions, which help to explain work behaviour, why people strive to try and meet their goals and why people don’t work as hard as they should.

The Goal-setting Theory has mainly been applied to short-term objectives, as they are often a lot more clear and thought as, as looking too far into the future is quite hard to do. The four main propositions are below:

Creating Challenging Goals

This leads to increased levels in performance. These types of goals, also known as ‘stretch’ goals lead as to work harder and push to meet the objectives, therefore getting much more from workers for the same price.

Creating Specific Goals

This also leads to higher levels of performance, as employees know exactly what they are trying to achieve. SMART comes into this area of the theory, saying that goals should be; specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time related.

Participation Objectives

This proposition helps to make people feel more involved with their working lives, therefore making them much more interested in actually completing the goals. Commitment is increased.

Knowing the results of the last objectives

Allowing employees to know what was achieved in past objectives will help them strive to beat them, increasing performance and results.

However, there are some implications of the Goal-setting Theory (Locke and Latham, 1990), mainly due with overuse of the above propositions. These implications are noted below:

  • Setting goals which are too hard to achieve. This could lead to dissatisfaction in the workplace and lead to less results.
  • Not being specific enough, which could lead to people missing out parts of the objective and therefore not actually meeting them.
  • Allowing employees to participate too much, which could lead to easier objectives being set, or objectives which aren’t relevant to the company.

(Locke and Latham, 1990)

Key Learning Points

  1. What is the Definition of Motivation?
  2. Explain the Goal-Setting Theory?