10 Goals Gone Wild - Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side...

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Copyright © 2009 by Lisa D. Ordóñez, Maurice E. Schweitzer, Adam D. Galinsky, and Max H. Bazerman Working papers are in draft form. This working paper is distributed for purposes of comment and discussion only. It may not be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder. Copies of working papers are available from the author. Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting Lisa D. Ordóñez Maurice E. Schweitzer Adam D. Galinsky Max H. Bazerman Working Paper 09-083
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Goals Gone Wild 1 Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting Lisa D. Ordóñez Eller College of Management, University of Arizona Maurice E. Schweitzer Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania Adam D. Galinsky Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University Max H. Bazerman Harvard Business School, Harvard University
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Goals Gone Wild 2 Abstract Goal setting is one of the most replicated and influential paradigms in the management literature. Hundreds of studies conducted in numerous countries and contexts have consistently demonstrated that setting specific, challenging goals can powerfully drive behavior and boost performance. Advocates of goal setting have had a substantial impact on research, management education, and management practice. In this article, we argue that the beneficial effects of goal setting have been overstated and that systematic harm caused by goal setting has been largely ignored. We identify specific side effects associated with goal setting, including a narrow focus that neglects non-goal areas, a rise in unethical behavior, distorted risk preferences, corrosion of organizational culture, and reduced intrinsic motivation. Rather than dispensing goal setting as a benign, over-the-counter treatment for motivation, managers and scholars need to conceptualize goal setting as a prescription-strength medication that requires careful dosing, consideration of harmful side effects, and close supervision. We offer a warning label to accompany the practice of setting goals.
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Goals Gone Wild 3 Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting For decades, goal setting has been promoted as a halcyon pill for improving employee motivation and performance in organizations. Across hundreds of experiments, dozens of tasks, and thousands of participants across four continents, the results are clear (Locke, Latham, Smith, & Wood, 1990). Compared to vague, easy goals (e.g., “Do your best”), specific, challenging goals boost performance. In a review of four decades of goal-setting research, Locke and Latham (2006) claim, “So long as a person is committed to the goal, has the requisite ability to attain it, and does not have conflicting goals, there is a positive, linear relationship between goal difficulty and task performance.” In this article, however, we contend that goal setting has been over-prescribed. In particular, we argue that goal setting has powerful and predictable side effects. Rather than being
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This note was uploaded on 04/03/2012 for the course RSM 410 taught by Professor Hua during the Spring '12 term at University of Toronto- Toronto.

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10 Goals Gone Wild - Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side...

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