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The work motivation has been described as the process that initiated and maintains goal-directed performance by Clark (2003, 2). It stimulated a person's mental effort that forces his or her to use their knowledge and skill, and thus controls the main decisions to proceed at a specific work goal in the press of priorities and distractions. Indirectly, the motivation will lead the person to put more or less cognitive effort, and therefore improve both the quality and quantity of work performance. However, the motivation is only a factor that could leads us to apply our knowledge and skills, then utilize them to our work tasks effectively rather than directly influence our work performance. Besides that, the cooperation of knowledge and motivation is also a fact that leads to the successful performance in work environments. It can be measured as the motivation without adequate knowledge will not increase useful performance.
What is goal-setting theory?
Dr Edwin Locke (1968), in his journal Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, suggested that " goal setting is a cognitive theory of motivation based on the premise that people have needs that can be thought of as specific outcomes or goals they hope to obtain. "It means that goal-setting theory can be used as a tool to change the behavior of employees by influencing their targets and goals. The commitment of an individual towards a goal, the contents and specificity of a goal and the feedback on his or her performance are all head to influence the outcome (Locke and Latham 2002, 125). For example, people more likely to perform best when they have specific rather than unclear goals, when they are committed to attaining them, and when they can obtain information about how they are faring (Locke & Latham, 1990).
THE LITERATURE REVIEW
The Current Situation of Goal-Setting theory
The pioneering research on goal setting and motivation had done by Dr Edwin Locke in the late 1960s. He explained that, "Goal-setting research focused on goals and intentions as the immediate regulators of action and performance." Meanwhile, Locke and Latham (2002, 125) insist that "The elements of feedback, goal commitment, goal challenging, task complexity, self-efficacy, and self-regulatory processes had been incorporated into a more recent model of the high performance cycle." It also included the mediators of strategy development at the same time. As time went on, it has continuously been developed to become more focused on the immediate goal-performance relationships. In addition, the theory has moved from the level of individual to the larger groups, organizations and even nations.
First, goal-setting theory is applied when a person make a choice to draw his or her attention toward goal-specific activities. Second, the people would use their knowledge they have to attain the goals or to discover the knowledge onwards which needed to do so. Third, the goals will also affected persistence of a person as high goals extend effort and a more rapid work pace is required due to the strict deadlines than the free deadlines. Fourth, as difficult goals will lead to higher effort than easy goals; it energizes people regardless of whether attain towards a goal requires cognitive or physical effort. Thus, goals can be classified as a tool that can motivate people (Latham 2004, 126).
Nowadays, goal setting has been used widely in organizations as a method of providing a guideline against which performance can be worked out and thus directing an individual to work with effort. As the fact that goals are the important elements in enhancing team spirit and team performance and setting up a positive organizational situation had been strongly supported by many empirical studies, it had became an important area of study in organizational behavior and human resource management.
Conditions of Effectiveness of Theory
The theory is only applicable and effective when the following factors are present. They are;
First, goals must be measurable, unambiguous, and behavioral. A person will only use the specific result as a source of motivation when he or she is know what is expected, and a goal and time set for completion are clearly defined at the same time. While, the limited motivational value resulted if a goal is vague or unclear in a general instruction (e.g. Increase market share). It is necessary because a learning goal will lead the people to focus themselves on understanding that required task. By this, they can develop a plan through paying their attention on systematic problem solving. Thus, they can perform it correctly and as a result lead to high performance.
It is important to set each goal a challenge, because people are often motivated by accomplishment and their enthusiasm will only be boosted after the judgment on a goal based on the importance of the anticipated accomplishment. Rewards on a certain result typically increase for more challenging goals. When a person notifies that what he or she does will be well accepted, there is a natural motivation for the person to do a job effectively.
According to Edwin Locke (1981, 143), goals is attainable and useful to management only when the employees both understand and agree to a specified goal. The application of goals will be effective when employees feel they have involved in the part of creating that goal, especially if the goal is difficult. Goal commitment and difficulty are frequently worked together. It means that if the outcome of the goal is relevant important to a person, then the person believes that the goal is indeed attainable.
It is important to know that the commitment will only be there as the goal is consistent with the goals of the company, and the person believes that assigning the goal is credible.
In addition, people need feedback on their progress towards the goals, which provides the opportunities for them to determine how they are doing, adjust goal difficulty, clarify expectation and gain recognition. They are able to make the adjustment on the direction of effort and the strategy to attain their goal. Empirical research has showed that people are more likely shifted to the achievement of performance goals, and even specific and difficult goals, which are supported by feedback.
When the person classify that the tasks are too complex for them, the positive effects of setting a specific high goal by them will normally be mitigated. It means the degree of goal effects on performance will decrease as the degree of task complexity increase. According to Locke and Latham (2002), difficult goals may affect performance by influencing their effect on strategies as performance of highly complex tasks are highly depend on the person's persistence, the understanding of the task and the strategy that necessary for completing the relevant task.
Rethinking The Effective Application of Theory
However, there are some weaknesses of the goal-setting theory. Therefore, two questions should be concerned on this part. They are;
In what situation does the goal-setting theory not effective?
A studies research by Bhattacharya and Neogi (2006, 61) found that employees have been seen to give more concern to the safety of their jobs than to attain the specific goal. They fear the evaluation of their performance and consequently losing their job. Therefore, the company could encourage the employees to attain higher goals by accepting challenges, and not only provide them with negative feedback if they fail to reach high set goals. Sometimes, the hard goals combined with high pressure might also lead a person to a conflict situation that felt high anxiety. Wine (1971) stated that anxiety disrupts performance on complex tasks when it leads subjects to worry rather than concentrate on the task.
People may attempt to commit their goal for quantity at the expense of quality, or vice versa. It may bring to a situation that people who are willingly to attain their goals may be less likely to help other people to attain their goals. Therefore, the company suggested setting goals for both performance quality and quantity, as well as behavioral goals for team playing that were assessed by peers.
Also, monetary rewards always used to increase goal commitment, and serve as main factors that influence the goal-performance relationship. However, this will lead to the situation that the attainments of complementary goals that are without any compensation to be inhibit at the same time.
When there are multiples goals occur, goal conflict will happen under goal-setting systems. It might arise when there is a situation that multiple supervisor, multiple role sets or matrix management systems occur. Performance on both goals may be influence and have dysfunctional effects on performance and morale. Thus, as Mintzberg (1973) stated, the expansion of goal-setting programs to managerial tasks may be limit due to the complexity of managerial positions.
Another limitation of theory is that there have no reliable individual difference factors (except ability) have emerged in the goal-setting literature. The reason is because most of the studies likely to used assigned goal and therefore situational constraints have prevented the preferences and individual personality from affecting performance. Different personal style may have different motive to set a goal. For example, the person with high self-esteem may be more likely to try and attain for challenging goals than the people with low self-esteem.
b) What are the new developments or better improved theories since then?
The new challenges for the development of goal-setting theory will be present continually due to the changing nature of work environment. Historically, an idea of the research founded by Winters and Latham (1996) is that single contributors working on relatively simple task. However, there are the increasing needs in the research design as there is increasingly complex and team-based work in today working environment. The more complex cognitive work therefore should be including in the research design. Besides that, Locke (2004, 124) also suggested that the integrating variables such as skill and knowledge should be involved into the model on the current research.
Recently, some researchers have started to do their research of looking at the effect of goal-setting on the highly complex task. The research designs are included some very high relevant cognitive task,
such as examine the effect of the feedback on decision making in management. Actually, this type of research can help goal-setting theory to remain relevant and better improved when the time is goes on.
This essay has highlighted the strengths and weaknesses that are important for goal-setting theory. The strengths of goal-setting theory can achieve through the understanding of 4 principles: a) goals should be challenging and attainable, b) the commitment of employees towards the goal setting. c) Goals should be clearly understood by the employees in term of quality, quantity, cost, and time, and d) goals should be measurable and specific. In the other way, all of the limitations of theory that have been stated will be important themes in future research on goal-setting theory. A manager can prevent all of the limitations according to the situation that theory has been applied or search the better ways or strategies to improve it.
I start this critical essay by examining all of the points from the journals, and drawing out a mind map as a draft of the whole essay. From these steps, it has strength my ability to counter the arguments of the opponents (researchers) critically through carefully considering the strengths and weaknesses of each one. Overall, I had learnt the way to analyze, examine ideas, which are stated in the research findings and open to a range of possibilities.