Goal Setting Gone Wrong

Goal Setting Gone Wrong

Several years ago there were studies done on goal setting and their effects on the workplace. In these studies, researchers found that goal setting wasn’t as powerful as once thought. Goals lead to a variety of unhealthy thoughts and actions like unethical behavior and demotivation. Think Volkswagen getting cars off the assembly line for sale knowing they had emissions issues. They also found people would be so focused on their goals that they would neglect other activities and tasks that were important to their work. Then once a goal was completed, the actions that got someone on a successful path the goal along with it’s actions were abandoned. Each January for the past two years, I have discussed the importance of goal setting. Maybe I was wrong about goal setting…



Max Bazerman who worked on the study I reference, discussed his findings in an interview for Harvard Working Knowledge written by Sean Silverthorne “Goals are appropriate when you know exactly what behaviors you want, you aren't concerned about secondary behaviors, and unethical behavior is not a big risk.” Silverthorne asks if not goals then what? “Creating environments where people want to achieve, where they want to help the organization, and where they want to do so in an ethical manner. Research shows that an even stronger effect than goals is intrinsic motivation, having individuals do an activity because they find the work rewarding in and of itself. Given that goals can undermine this intrinsic value of work, sometimes "the best solution is no specific stretch goal at all or at the very least mastery or learning goals” reply’s Bazerman.

Even with these studies I still go back to this common thought-you still need a plan, a roadmap of where you want to go with clear milestones so that you know you are heading in the right direction. Each year I create my goals I get energized and motivated with all that I need to do to make them happen. Do you get excited when you write out your goals?

Based on this study I’m approaching goals in a different way. There are specific themes and learning that I want to have that will help me and my business be more successful. Themes and tasks related to different aspects of my work. The themes are planned out monthly and tasks related to the theme keep me on track for making what I want to have happen a reality and a success.

When I work with clients we don’t set goals, we set a vision of what our work will look like. We discuss what the project will look like when our work is complete, what will it feel like, and what do we need to do to make that vision a reality. Together we work on the tasks that will help them achieve the vision that they want to create. We celebrate when we can agree that the vision is completed. Then our focus shifts to maintaining it.

If you would like to make 2017 a great year and focus on your success, join me on January 25, 2017 at 6:00-pm the Phoenix Public Library at hive@central for a workshop on How to Unleash Your Untapped Potential. Learn ways that you can create areas of focus, plan tasks and actions and have a successful year.




Margo Brown is a Productivity Coach and Professional Organizer with Wave Productivity. She works with entrepreneurs, small business owners and business professionals to help them get more focused, organized and productive in their workplace. She serves the Tempe and Phoenix area in Arizona. If you want to get more organized in your office call 602-677-8275 or email margo@waveproductivity.com


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