It’s that time of year again when employees all over the world go through the often times painful process of goal setting for the following year. I have written skeptically about employee goal setting in the past but recently reviewed the peer reviewed literature on the topic and wanted to revisit the topic in light of what I learned. If anything I am more skeptical than before about the purported positive impacts of goal setting on employee and business performance. The literature that does exist, and there is a ton of it, is absolutely 90%+ pro goal setting but all of the “studies” are so rife with methodological flaws and inherent/built in biases that their “findings” aren’t worth much more than the paper they are printed on. It is times like these that I am thankful to be an actual scientist, doing actual science, because the so called “scientific” literature on business theory especially as it relates to goal setting is garbage. They do their best to “science” it up with talk of hypotheses tested and lots of statistical analysis of “data” but in the end the “data” are mostly surveys of peoples “feelings” and how those feelings impacted such and such business performance metric. My opinion is there is just no way to tackle this problem scientifically so I say stop trying.
The bottom line for me is this, I do not want to hire anybody that needs goals to be successful. I do not want to have to hand hold or lead or show you the way to success. I do not have time to prepare your goals, and you should be too busy to have time to prepare them. If you are not busy, then you should not be on my team. If you do not know what you should be working on then you should not be on my team. It is possible it is my fault that you do not know what you should be working on, but sorry, figure it out or I don’t want you on my team. Don’t misunderstand me I do not give employees no information, hand over the keys, and say have at it. I always patiently and thoroughly explain the overall objectives of whatever project I am currently working on with which I need assistance and their expected role in achieving those objectives. You might call that goal setting but I call it working or doing my job. Once you understand the objectives it is your job to figure out how to get them accomplished. I call that you doing your job. I will always be there to help, to answer questions, and to assist in essentially anyway that I can, but I do not have time to prepare goals nor do I care to. If you want to set goals for yourself and feel you need them to succeed, go for it, but keep them to yourself. If you need goals to succeed I don’t want you on my team.