This of the work that the employees


This essay will
be looking at goal setting theory which is a process theory of motivation and
looking at the implications, benefits and limitations of it in the workplace.
Motivation is a crucial part of any organisation as it can affect the
productivity of the workers, the morale of the staff and also the quality of
the work that the employees are producing. So, this is why it is so important
for managers to keep tabs on how motivated their staff are and always looking
into ways to increase their motivation. The aim of the essay will be to closely
examine goal setting theory and assess whether it would be a beneficial theory
for a business to motivate their staff. The structure of the essay will include
definitions of motivation and goal setting theory, implications, benefits, limitations
and examples from organisations showing how goal setting theory is used in


are lots of different definitions of motivation from different scholars, (Bucanan
and Huczynski, 2016:777) define motivation as ‘the cognitive decision-making
process through which goal-directed behaviour is initiated, energized, directed
and maintained.’ (Toates, 1980 cited in wong, 2000) Describes motivation as the
reasons we do certain behaviour due to goal- directness and incentives. Whereas
(Lauby, 2005) defines motivation as the psychological force that determines the
direction of a person’s behaviour, a person’s level of effort and their level of
persistence. This essay is looking at goal setting theory specifically as a
process theory of motivation. Goal setting theory was developed by Edwin Locke
who argued that our primary motivation in the work place is defined in terms of
our desire to achieve a particular goal, this goal represents what we intend to
achieve at a given time in the future (Locke, 1968 cited by Schultz and

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Edwin Locke first developed goal setting theory it has gone on to become one of
the most popular theories of motivation being used in a business environment
and could be found being used in businesses all around the globe. When applying
goal setting theory in a business the first step is to set a goal, a goal can
be defined as a desirable objective these goals can either be used as a
motivational device that they are working towards or as a control device to
monitor performance in relation to the goals set (Stickler, 2007). The best
outcomes from goal setting theory is found when the goals set are specific, usually
qualitative so they can be measured and also challenging. Goals need to be
challenging so that if the workers are committed to their job the higher the
goal set the higher their performance will be (Kessler, 2013). Locke and his
colleagues came to the decision that the motivational force that comes from
goal setting theory comes from six different motivators: Participating, rewarding,
supporting, clarifying, communicating, and challenging. (Locke et al, 1988
cited by Cleg and Bailey 2008). Participating is a motivator as it makes the
employees think their part of something important and working towards a common
goal. Rewarding can be either psychological or physically giving something to
someone for achieving their goals, this motivates employees to work hard as
they will want the reward as it will be something favourable. Supporting means
getting support from your managers and staff higher in the business hierarchy
showing confidence in you and belief that you can achieve your goals. Clarifying
is a motivator as without clarity workers will find it hard to see what there
working towards and may lose motivation, so goals set need to be clearly laid
out on how to achieve them and what is the end goal of the process. Communicating
like clarifying is a motivator as without clear communication employees might
start to become confused on what is the task or drift away from the main goal. Finally
challenging is a motivator as goals need to be reasonably hard to achieve as if
they were too easy to achieve workers may start to lose interest in the task.


good example of Locke’s goal setting theory being used and its implications for
a business is in the American Pulpwood Industry. The pulpwood producers were
looking for a way to increase the productivity of their workers cutting down
trees who were being paid on a piece-rate basis. So, they then applied
goal-setting theory by setting specific high goals to each of the workers for
how many trees they could cut down. The results where that productivity
increased massively for the loggers as they tried to reach their goals, so much
so that they started bragging to each other and their families about how many
trees they cut down that day, they also found that the absenteeism decreased as
workers found their jobs less tedious (Latham, 2004). Another good example of
goal setting theory being applied is at Microsoft who have a history of using goals
to motivate their staff. An example at Microsoft was that the vice president
was trying to get his recruiting team to increase its hiring goals to meet with
the business needs. The vice president set the recruiting target at twice the
current amount and said if they achieved it he would through a massive party at
his house. The recruiting team ended up exceeding his target by almost a third (Shaw,
2004). Both these examples show how that when targets are set effectively goal
setting theory can be a productive method of motivation for a company.


are many benefits of Locke’s goal setting theory for both the organisation and
their employees. Of course, the main benefit of Locke’s goal setting theory is
the motivation of the staff caused by the motivational factors named earlier in
the essay. This motivation of the staff by goal setting theory is beneficial
for the company as they will want their staff to be as motivated as possible as
the more motivated they are the more productive they will be which will lead to
an increase in output. For an employee it is important to be motivated at work
as without motivation they may lose interest in their work and find coming to
work becomes a chore which would decrease the morale of the workforce. This is
also an advantage for the company that the workers are motivated to do their
job as it will lead to a decrease in the amount of absenteeism as shown in the
example earlier with the loggers that when they were presented with a goal they
found their job became less tedious and where less willing to take days off. Another
benefit of goal setting theory is that the effects can work not only for individuals but to organizational units and
entire organizations (Locke and Latham, 2002). Meaning that as well as
individuals can benefit from goal setting theory so too can organizations as
organizations like workers can set goals that they want to achieve in the
future to try work towards and motivate the workforce as a whole to try and
achieve this goal. Goal setting theory is considered so beneficial that a
survey done on 1331 British industries showed that ’79 per cent used some form
of objective setting’ (Yearta et al, 1995:237) which shows the popularity of it
and the success it has had since being introduced.


like all practical business theories as well as having benefits the theory will
also have some limitations. One limitation of goal setting theory is that the
goal being set may be too difficult to achieve. For example, the employee may
be lacking skills and abilities to achieve their goal which has been set by
their manager making the employee feel helpless and unskilled, so it may be
better for the employers to set goals for behaviour and learning instead of
setting goals for an outcome (Anon, 2017). That it is also why it is so
important to set realistic goals that are achievable, as if a manager sets a
goal that is unrealistic it may cause a lot of stress and anxiety for the worker
and it may also lead to them trying to take risks to try to achieve the goals
which can have a negative effect on the performance of the business (Akdeniz,
2015). Another limitation of goal setting theory is that some employees may try
too hard to get quantity over quality at the expense of the other. Meaning that
the employees are trying so hard to reach their goal that the quality of the
work goes down as they aren’t as focused as much on it and they may start doing
things such as make errors. Another problem could be that staff are so committed
to reaching their own goals that they have no time to help anyone else trying
to achieve their goals reducing the amount of communication in the workplace. A
solution to this could be to set goals for both performance as well as setting
goals for behaviour such as setting goals for working in a team.


conclusion goal setting theory can be a very effective way of motivating staff
in the workplace as shown by the examples of the loggers and at Microsoft and
also how popular it has become as a motivational strategy in businesses. The
benefits of goal setting theory are that because it can motivate staff that can
increase productivity and adds meaning to employee’s jobs making it less tedious
for them to come into work every day. However, although it can benefit a
company they need to make sure that the goals are set correctly otherwise it
can have negative effect on the employees. So, the managers need to think
carefully about the goals they are setting and make sure they are considering
the six motivators that are Participating, rewarding, supporting, clarifying,
communicating, and challenging. They may also need to consider setting goals
for both performance and behaviour to make sure that there is not a decrease in
communication. All motivational theories however will have some limitations but
overall if goal setting theory of motivation is done correctly and time has
been taken over setting the goals it could be used successfully in almost any
business in any industry. 

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