Goals gone wild: research de-emphasizes this management process

Focusing on my personal belief that one should act on a changing context, I established this blog. Now the depression is reaching for almost its second year, it is a good thing to re evaluate your management practices. And because of the existing uncertainty, I’m very prudent to set long term, fixed goals. This HBR-item published in January 2009 may help you to reflect about your management approach with regard to goals!


For decades, goal setting has been promoted as a halcyon pill for improving employee motivation and performance in organizations.

Advocates of goal setting argue that for goals to be successful, they should be specific and challenging, and countless studies find that specific, challenging goals motivate performance far better than “do your best” exhortations.

The authors of this article, however, argue that it is often these same characteristics of goals that cause them to “go wild.”

Key concepts include:

  • The harmful side effects of goal setting are far more serious and systematic than prior work has acknowledged.
  • Goal setting harms organizations in systematic and predictable ways.
  • The use of goal setting can degrade employee performance, shift focus away from important but non-specified goals, harm interpersonal relationships, corrode organizational culture, and motivate risky and unethical behaviors.
  • In many situations, the damaging effects of goal setting outweigh its benefits.
  • Managers should ask specific questions to ascertain whether the harmful effects of goal setting outweigh the potential benefits.

Paper Information


Ivan Dzyuba
Ivan Dzyuba