Goals gone wild: The systematic side effects of overprescribing goal setting

Lisa D. Ordóñez, Maurice E. Schweitzer, Adam D. Galinsky, Max H. Bazerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

227 Scopus citations

Abstract

Executive Overview: 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. Copyright by the Academy of Management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-16
Number of pages11
JournalAcademy of Management Perspectives
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2009

    Fingerprint

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management
  • Marketing

Cite this