When Goal Setting Goes Bad

If you ever wondered about the real value of goal setting in your organization, join the club. Despite the mantra that goals are good, the process of setting beneficial goals is harder than it looks. New research by HBS professor Max H. Bazerman and colleagues explores the hidden cost when stretch goals are misguided. Q&A.

Max Bazerman

There is a growing set of research that shows “learning or mastery” goals have much more positive effects on performance and internal motivation than “performance” goals.

Max Bazerman

When we factor in the consistent findings that stretch and specific goals both narrow focus on a limited set of behaviors while increasing risk-taking and unethical behavior, their simple implementation can become a vice. 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.

‘Goals Gone Wild’: How Goal Setting Can Lead to Disaster

Despite evidence that ambitious goal setting can hurt productivity, damage a company’s reputation and violate ethical standards, its use has become endemic in American business practice and scholarship, even spilling over to the debate on how to improve America’s public schools. A new paper by Wharton operations and information management professor Maurice E. Schweitzer and three co-authors documents the hazards of corporate goal setting and … [ Read more ]

Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting

Goal setting is one of the most replicated and influential paradigms in the management literature. Hundreds of studies conducted in numerous countries and contexts have consistently demonstrated that setting specific, challenging goals can powerfully drive behavior and boost performance. Advocates of goal setting have had a substantial impact on research, management education, and management practice. In this article, we argue that the beneficial effects of … [ Read more ]

Dishonest Deed, Clear Conscience: Self-Preservation through Moral Disengagement and Motivated Forgetting

People routinely engage in dishonest acts without feeling guilty about their behavior. When and why does this occur? Across three studies, people justified their dishonest deeds through moral disengagement and exhibited motivated forgetting of information that might otherwise limit their dishonesty. Using hypothetical scenarios (Study 1) and real tasks involving the opportunity to cheat (Studies 2 and 3), we find that dishonest behavior increased moral … [ Read more ]

No Harm, No Foul: The Outcome Bias in Ethical Judgments

Too often, workers are evaluated based on results rather than on the quality of the decision. Given that most consequential business decisions involve some uncertainty, the upshot is that organizations wind up rewarding luck rather than wisdom. From a rational decision-making perspective, people’s decisions should be evaluated based on the information the decision maker had available to him or her at the time, and not … [ Read more ]

Negotiation Genius: How to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Brilliant Results at the Bargaining Table and Beyond

From two leaders in executive education at Harvard Business School, here are the mental habits and proven strategies you need to achieve outstanding results in any negotiation.

Whether you’ve “seen it all” or are just starting out, Negotiation Genius will dramatically improve your negotiating skills and confidence. Drawing on decades of behavioral research plus the experience of thousands of business clients, the authors take the mystery … [ Read more ]

Dealing with the ‘Irrational’ Negotiator

“Negotiators who are quick to label the other party ‘irrational’ do so at great potential cost to themselves,” say HBS professors Deepak Malhotra and Max H. Bazerman. Their new book, Negotiation Genius, combines expertise in psychology with practical examples to show how anyone can improve dealmaking skills. In this excerpt, Malhotra and Bazerman describe what to do when the other party’s behavior does not make … [ Read more ]

Harnessing Our Inner Angels and Demons: What We Have Learned About Want/Should Conflicts and How That Knowledge Can Help Us Reduce Short-Sighted Decision Making

Abstract: Although observers of human behavior have long been aware that people regularly struggle with internal conflict when deciding whether to behave responsibly or indulge in impulsivity, psychologists and economists did not begin to empirically investigate this type of want/should conflict until recently. In this paper, we review and synthesize the latest research on want/should conflict, focusing our attention on the findings from an empirical … [ Read more ]

When Not to Trust Your Gut

Most of us trust our intuition more than we should, especially when the pressure is on in negotiations. Professors Max Bazerman and Deepak Malhotra on negotiating more rationally. From Negotiation. Key concepts include:
* Too much trust in intuition can lead to irrational decisions.
* Employ “System 2” thinking to apply logic even in times of stress and indecision.
* In negotiations, schedule more time … [ Read more ]

Predictable Surprises: The Disasters You Should Have Seen Coming, and How to Prevent Them (Leadership for the Common Good)

You and Your Organization Are at Risk

Were the earth-shattering events of September 11, 2001, predictable, or were they a surprise? What about the collapse of Enron in bankruptcy and scandal? Max H. Bazerman and Michael D. Watkins argue that they were actually “predictable surprises”-disastrous examples of the failure to recognize potential tragedies and actively work to prevent them. Disturbingly, this dangerous phenomenon has its roots … [ Read more ]