Edwin Locke and Gary Latham Goal Setting Theory
We all tend to do is established goals, whether it be in our personal or professional lives. Goal setting produces many different benefits.
The basic underlying premise of goal setting theory is the goals that we establish affect our achievements. By establishing goals with certain characteristics, we can then increase our motivation towards a particular task.
Edwin Locke and Gary Latham Goal Setting Theory & Motivation
Some of the most notable research has been conducted by Gary Latham and Edwin Locke, who proved that establishing specific and challenging goals where participants receive feedback on their progress achieved higher productivity than their counterparts.
Locke and Latham provide a well-developed goal-setting theory of motivation. The theory emphasizes the important relationship between goals and performance.
Many research supports predictions that the most effective performance seems to result when goals are specific and challenging when they are used to evaluate performance and linked to feedback on results and create commitment and acceptance.
The motivational impact of goals may be affected by moderators such as ability and self-efficacy. Deadlines improve the effectiveness of goals. A learning goal orientation leads to higher performance than a performance goal orientation, and group goal-setting is as important as individual goal-setting.
These results were also consistent across low complexity jobs such as independent loggers and high complexity jobs such as scientists and engineers.
Regardless of your occupation, establishing goals provides a benefit. But establishing just any goal is not going to produce a great motivational benefit.
For example, the common goal of simply doing your best was found in some studies to produce similar levels of productivity than simply no goal at all.
Why is it that goal setting tends to increase our motivation and result in greater performance outcomes?
- According to academic research, goals helped focus our energies on the things that actually matter by establishing a goal. What you essentially do is prioritize those activities that lead to the accomplishment of the goal. Anything else gets in the way, which means you would likely focus on engaging in goal-related behaviors. Several studies also site that goals energized people. This is particularly powerful when challenging goals commonly referred to as stretch goals are established. Like a clear avenue in terms of achieving them, these types of goals force individuals to think of new methods of accomplishing them.
- In addition to energizing us, goals also affect our persistence. This is especially powerful if our goals are made public, were far more likely to continue to exert the effort to accomplish the goal because we don’t want to admit that we failed at something.
- Lastly, establishing goals forces us to use our existing knowledge and abilities to accomplish our goals. If a deficiency exists in this area, they force us to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to accomplish our goals. This goes back to persistence. If we identify something significant to us, we’re likely to expend additional energy to achieve the goal.
Although there are many goal setting benefits, not everyone can receive these benefits to the same degree.
The reason for this is a lot depends upon the types of goals that are established. To receive the motivational benefits that goal-setting theory provides, goals should meet certain criteria;
5 Goal-Setting Theory Principles
Goal Specificity and Clarity – Setting Clear and Precise Goals
Goals need to be specific to affect our behavior truly. The reason is that doing your best is vague and doesn’t provide a specific target to work towards.
We’re also much more likely to quit when something gets a little difficult because we can always hide behind the well. I did my best.
Importantly, for a goal to motivate and employees, it must be set following the SMART Goal principle. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable and Realistic and Timebound)
Specific: This means that the goal must be specific so that the employee knows what needs to be achieved. Goals that could be easily met don’t provide the challenge, which is necessary to motivate employees.
Measurable: The goal must be measurable, so it is possible to determine whether the goal has been achieved or how close the employee is to achieving it.
Achievable and Realistic: The goal must be achievable and realistic; that is, the goal should be challenging.
Time-bound can be reached within the set timeframe to provide a degree of urgency that encourages the employees to get on with doing whatever is necessary to meet the goal.
Challenging Goals – Raise the Stakes.
In addition to being specific, goals should be challenging or difficult. Challenging does not mean impossible to achieve, although challenging goals tend to be motivating. Goals that are viewed as impossible to achieve often produce the opposite result.
A key principle underlying Locke and Latham’s goal-setting theory is that all employees are motivated by being given challenging goals.
Under Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, employees are motivated by having their needs satisfied. In contrast, on the lock and Latham’s goal-setting theory, employees are motivated by being given challenging goals.
The employee’s goals must be aligned, that is, are consistent with the business’s objectives because we want the employees to contribute to the achievement of the business objectives by meeting their individual goals.
To receive the benefits of setting goals, participants must also accept the goal and be committed to it.
For example, if a supervisor sets a subordinate goal, there’s a strong chance that the subordinate won’t be very committed to the goal.
However, if the subordinate can be involved in the goal-setting process, they’re much more likely to accept the goal and be committed to it.
The smart goal must be set jointly by the manager and the employee to have some buy-in. That is so that the employees agree to the goal rather than has the goal imposed upon them.
In this way, the employees will be more willing to take responsibility for achieving the goal and be more motivated to achieve the goal.
A significant difference between Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Locke and Latham’s goal-setting theory is that in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it is only where an employee has self-actualization needs that setting challenging goals will motivate the employees.
This is because challenging goals are a way of meeting employees’ needs and job satisfaction.
In contrast, under Locke and Latham’s goal-setting theory, challenging goals are considered a motivation for all employees, irrespective of their other needs.
Of all the motivation theories, Locke and Latham’s goal-setting theory is the one that focuses most directly on the link between employee motivation and the performance of the business.
Because the goals have been set jointly by the manager and the employee, the employee is highly motivated to achieve them because the employee has accepted responsibility for doing this by being involved in setting the goals in the first place.
Presence of Feedback.
The other principle under goal-setting theory is the presence of feedback. Individuals need to have some way of gauging their own performance so they can make the necessary adjustments.
The manager Should provides periodic that is regular feedback to the employees. This enables the manager and the employee to adjust the goals if, for some reason, they’ve ceased to be appropriate, for example, because of unforeseen events.
It also enables the manager and the employee to determine how the employee is progressing towards achieving the goals and whether they may need to do something different to ensure that the goals are achieved.
This is why the goals have to be measurable because if they are not measurable, it’s impossible to determine the employee’s progress against these goals.
Failure to receive feedback leaves individuals in an almost neutral state and can make them frustrated, affecting performance.
At the end of the performance time period for achieving the goals, whether the employee has achieved the goals again, the goals need to be measurable.
The manager and the employees need to evaluate how successful the employee has achieved the goals at this stage.
Has the employee failed to achieve the goals, and if so, why or has the employees over achieved the goals?
Providing performance outcomes for the employees is key. If the employee has achieved the goals, this outcome could be recognition or reward, such as a pay rise, a bonus, or a promotion.
If the employee has failed to achieve the goals, then the outcome could be providing the employees with some form of support, such as training, so that the employee’s eyes can develop the skills that the employee needs to achieve the goals.
In other cases, this outcome could be some punitive action or sanction, such as a pay cut, a demotion, or, at worst, dismissal for underperformance.
Task Complexity – Don’t exceed beyond a limit.
Under Locke and Latham’s goal-setting theory, the goals of the individual employees must be aligned. They must be consistent with the business objectives so that the employees will effectively contribute to achieving the business objectives by achieving their individual goals. This is the management by objectives (MBO)
The goal-setting theory does come with its share of risks. A common issue with goal setting is that it incentivizes workers to avoid helping one another.
Since goals are often set at the individual level, workers would be affecting their ability to achieve their own goals if they took time to help a coworker. This becomes particularly pervasive when the achievement of goals is linked to desirable rewards.
Although managers may be preaching the importance of teamwork, workers are encouraged to focus on their own tasks, which they’ll likely do.
One solution to this problem is establishing individual and group goals with various incentives tied to each.
Assuming that these goals don’t conflict with one another, this could be a way to tie individual interests to the group’s interests.
Criticism of the Locke and Latham’s Goal Setting Theory.
The management by objectives (MBO) is a potential disadvantage of applying Locke and Latham’s goal-setting theory. This disadvantage is that it can be time-consuming for a manager to set individual goals for employees to monitor each employee’s progress towards achieving those goals regularly. To provide regular feedback on that progress, evaluate goal achievement, and determine an appropriate outcome based on the extent to which the employee has achieved the goals set for that employee.