Date of this Version
Academy of Management Perspectives
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 nongoal areas, distorted risk preferences, a rise in unethical behavior, inhibited learning, 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.
Originally published in the Academy of Management Perspectives © 2009 Academy of Management
This is a pre-publication version. The final version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.5465/AMP.2009.37007999
goal setting in personnel management, management by objectives, incentives in industry, employee motivation, motivation, management research
Ordoñez, L. D., Schweitzer, M. E., Galinsky, A. D., & Bazerman, M. H. (2009). Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Overprescribing Goal Setting. Academy of Management Perspectives, 23 (1), 6-16. http://dx.doi.org/10.5465/AMP.2009.37007999
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Date Posted: 25 October 2018
This document has been peer reviewed.