Definition of Goal Setting Theory

The goal-setting theory attributes to the outcomes of setting goals and to its resulting performance. Edwin Locke proposed the theory in the 1960s, according to his theory setting certain and specific goals leads to higher employee motivation thus to better performance and greater productivity.

The theory states that people who set specific goals perform better than the people who set goals that are general in nature.


Edwin Locke’s Five Principles of Goal Setting theory are:

Clarity. The goal must be well defined, clear, and measurable than a vaguely defined goal.

Challenge. There must be a certain level of difficulty and challenge in achieving that goal. This creates a sense of motivation.

Commitment. A person should be accountable to himself or to another body so that a decent effort in meeting the goal can be put in.

Feedback. Comments, criticism either positive or negative in achieving a goal will make sure the goal’s direction is followed. Moreover, feedback motivates an individual and leads to enhanced performance.

Complexity. The task on hand must pose a challenge and should be attainable. The more challenging a task is the more a person would feel motivated towards achieving it.

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