Why Do Workplace Goals Fail?

by Srikant Chellappa Jul 3,2019

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

Workplace goals are more than just placeholders with numbers.

Goals are something that we can work towards, something that motivates us. And tangentially, it also benefits the organization.

In essence, workplace goals grant employees job satisfaction, provide them with a purpose and for an organization, they also grant results and success.

Therefore, it stands to reasons that workplace goals are integral to an organization. There are different types of goals that you can set, different ways of measuring them as well. Most people are well aware of goal-setting, of setting objectives and KPIs, etc. However, when it comes to failure, we are rarely as self-aware.

The truth is that goals do fail more often than not. And that is to be expected. There’s a steady wave of success. It is characterized by highs and lows. However, when employees consistently fail to meet workplace goals, be it as teams or individuals, it is time to get down to brass tacks and see what is not working.

Here are a few possible and common reasons as to why workplace goals fail.

Poor goal setting

Poor goal setting is the most common reason behind goal failure. This is because when goals are vague, or too rigid, they either don’t give the employee enough clarity or they don’t give the employee much legroom.

The best and most achievable goals tend to be flexible, accommodating and clear enough for employees.

Goals are not motivating enough

Sure, an employee’s job is to be committed to their work, regardless of whether they like it or not, that’s not a reason enough to argue that goals can be dry as the desert. Goals should be motivating. They should provide the employee with something of value, something that will make them want to work harder for it. And even if the goal in question is drier than the desert, at least let the reward be something that motivates the employee. No incentive, no motivation. After all, there’s no altruistic reason for anyone to work on a goal without a potential reward.

Employees are not committed

Goals can fail if employees are not committed to achieving them. This can happen for a variety of reasons. Maybe employees are not clear about the goal. Maybe they do not how to go about achieving it. Maybe they have not understood the reasoning behind it.

If you want employees to commit to goals, it is important to let them know what is the purpose of the goal and why they should be invested in it.

Also read: 7 Steps To Setting Workplace Goals and Making Them Happen

Goals are too lofty

Some goals are Mount Everest and some goals are Olympus Mons (the tallest planetary mountain in the solar system). It is possible to reach Mount Everest despite the fact that its the highest mountain on earth, with decreasing levels of oxygen and potentially life-threatening conditions the higher you go. However, people have achieved this goal before with varying levels of difficulties, there making it seem like a tough but not impossible task.

Reaching Olympus Mons is only possible if space travel were made travel and if Mars atmosphere becomes habitable.

Through this small geography lesson, we can infer that some goals though lofty are achievable in the sense that when we correctly apply the resources necessary for them, success is more or less ensured.

On the other hand, there are goals so lofty that their very success hinges on resources that are yet to be accessed or cannot be accessed easily. Both are certainly good goals to have. However, one lends itself more to the possibility of success, and the other lends itself more to the possibility of failure. And this is something that must be kept in mind when goal-setting.

Does not focus on the end result

When working on goals, it is important to focus on how to plan to achieve the end result. Not focus on process alone.

When you get mired in planning, you lose sight of the end goal. So no matter how much effort you put into planning, the end result is still marred by the fact that the goal has not been achieved, despite the fact that a great deal of effort has been expended on the process.

Fear of failure

Fear of failure more effectively than any lack of effort can. Fear of failure is a self-defeating mechanism. As it actively hinders us from working on the goal in a productive manner. A slight fear of failure is probably a good motivator since it can push people to act. However, when that fear of failure becomes overwhelming, it leads to people to stifle themselves and reduce their options, which in turn leads to a higher chance of failure.

Also read: Productivity Tips for Achieving Workplace Goals in 2019

Too many goals

A problem of plenty affects goals too. Too many goals do not allow you to prioritize one goal over the other and keep stealing attention. Some goals suffer at the cost of others. Multitasking might seem like a good idea but it is also important to remember that multitasking is not an effective way of getting work done.

Want to know how you can set achievable and measurable goals at your organization? The Engagedly Goals module can help! Request a live demo from our experts to learn more!

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Srikant Chellappa
CEO & Co-Founder of Engagedly

Srikant Chellappa is the Co-Founder and CEO at Engagedly and is a passionate entrepreneur and people leader. He is an author, producer/director of 6 feature films, a music album with his band Manchester Underground, and is the host of The People Strategy Leaders Podcast. He is currently working on his next book, Ikigai at the Workplace, which is slated for release in the fall of 2024.

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