Friday, March 30, 2012

Essay on Goal Setting

Essay on Goal Setting and Reinforcement Theory

In the last couple of decades more and more employers start to be interested not purely in the amount and quality of the output but also in the psychology of the workforce. Today, a manager is willing to obtain the desired results from the employees not only by the old-school means of monetary reward or dismissal possibility. Rather he/she tries to find the appropriate theory that will assist him/her in determining how to motivate employees and through their motivation reach the intended result. In my paper I would like to talk about two theories of this kind: the goal setting theory and the reinforcement theory. In the beginning of the paper I will separately describe the two theories in detail, and in the conclusion I will suggest which theory, in my opinion, is more efficient.

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Goal setting theory was born out of Aristotle’s theory of final causality and was researched further by Edwin A. Locke in the 1960s to understand how goals can influence an individual’s performance. The basic theory behind goal setting is that human behavior is governed and can be influenced by goals and ambition. Today this theory is a subject of much interest of the wide public and managers in particular. This is because first of all the people of today are greedy of money and success that they associate with it, thus they tend to put many goals in front of them, and also because this theory has proven itself to be a great tool for increasing the employee motivation.

As it was already mentioned, the theory considers that in order to direct ourselves we set ourselves goals. According to the theory, these goals must be clear so as to be understood, challenging because when achieving something that was hard to get one feels even better about him/her and finally achievable so we are improbable to fail. We all understand that in practice no matter what kind of personality one has he/she would rather work towards his/her own goals than towards the goals set by other people. Indeed, people do not refuse to work for the achieving of the goals of others, though the less involvement one feels, the less motivated one usually is (Text Book, 222-223).

A vital stage of the goal setting theory is feedback – the concept that has also been very popular in the media for the last couple of decades. Receiving feedback is fundamental for any individual working on any task, because feedback helps us determine whether we are succeeding or whether we need to change direction. If the feedback is given sympathetically and carefully it tends to be a very powerful tool for support and motivation. What this theory regards is ruinous is the negative self-feedback that is at times more harsh than the one from others (Text Book).

Without a shadow of doubt different goals are achieved differently. There are directional goals and accuracy goals. A directional goal is one where we are motivated to arrive at a particular conclusion. Thus, our thinking is narrowed down to the actions that may be useful for achieving the desired outcome. An accuracy goal is one where we are motivated to arrive to the most accurate possible conclusion. Obviously, people would put much more effort in achieving the second kind of goals because the risk of such is much higher than of the first ones. The riskiness of such goals makes them even more attractive, creating an impression that achieving these goals is not made for everyone and not succeeding would be a very big loss. According to the theory, both methods of goal achieving work by influencing our choice of beliefs and decision-making rules (Locke, 388-389).

Reinforcement theory is familiar to everyone. Its main idea can be narrowed to the laconic phrase that “consequences influence behavior”. This means that people would do things in different ways depending of what kind of consequences will come after conducting one or another action. The above is very simple and very realistic. Indeed, we can find managers using reinforcement theory almost in every second company. Moreover, we are exposed to the use of this theory as early as we enter preschool where we are well aware what consequence will come after which actions and manage to avoid the sharp edges (Text Book, p. 225).

There are three basic principles of this theory. These are the rules of consequences. The three rules describe the logical outcomes which typically occur subsequent to consequences. Firstly, the consequences that give rewards, of course, lead to the repetition of the behavior. Secondly, consequences which give punishments decrease a behavior. Finally, consequences which give neither rewards nor punishments put out a behavior. These rules provide a very convenient framework for influencing people, predicating their behavior and using it for the sake of achieving goals. To sum up the information about this theory I must mention that reinforcement theory is a functional theory. That means all of its components are defined by their function – by the way they work, rather than by their structure – how they look. The functional nature of this theory is vital for understanding its existing drawbacks and why sometimes the theory appears to be incorrect (Lindner, 31-32).

It has to be admitted that the theory is a very influential motivation tool, however when comparing it with the goal setting theory on may easily see the drawbacks. To begin with, it is difficult to identify rewards and punishments, meaning that figuring out the best rewards and punishments for every employee or even every group of employees would take a very long time and may not be worth the effort. Secondly, if one chooses to use this theory he/she needs to have control over the reinforcement to insure that no one else may be trying to influence the behavior of the employees. Finally, this theory requires internal changes that might take a long time to implement.

In my opinion, the goal setting theory tends to be a much more successful theory. This theory is of even biggest applicability considering the times we are living in the nature of modern people. With this theory a manager can not only increase the self-esteem of the employees but also, use their high motivation for achieving the goals of the company. The biggest strength of this theory is that it encourages people to believe in themselves, thus it cannot be unsuccessful (Deci, 182 -183).
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