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Should Managers Set Goals for Employees

Does Goal Setting Fall on the Manager?

Managers are responsible for the work of their employees. They have projects and commitments they need to fulfill and they give their employees tasks that help get those initiatives fulfilled. Because of this, it may seem like a good idea for managers to set goals for their employees, to keep them on track and productive.

This can be a problem. The biggest problem with managers being the goal setters is that the employees are the ones responsible for achieving the goals. If they are given a goal that they are not capable of doing, or if they don’t have the necessary funding, or more importantly, they don’t have the interest in the goal (not motivated), they are going to fail to complete them. This makes the employees look bad and it is not
even their fault.

It’s certainly okay for employees to work with their managers on setting up their goals together. In fact, because the manager knows the overall objectives and goals of the department, it is hard to imagine that the employees would be able to come up with those goals on their own. Some amount of input from the managers is going to be required.

Managers Should Help with Goal Setting

Managers should guide employees goal setting with the objective of making the employees successful, yet still causing them to stay productive and continue to grow in their position. Piling on a bunch of work and masking that as goals is a sure way to get employees to fail and possibly quit. They will be uncommitted, miserable and bring down other employees that this is done to. When managers set the employees up to succeed, there is a sense of pride and it will add to the respect and abilities of the managers.

Managers need to spell out what are the success factors associated with the employees’ goals. They can do this by setting milestones or using project management software. There should be rewards associated with obtaining these milestones even if only praise for the accomplishments. Long term, increased compensation should be tied to consistent success of employees.

Use Goals to Challenge Performance

This is not to say managers should allow goals that are too easily attainable simply for the sake of making the employees successful. The managers need to align the skills of their employees with the goals set out in such a way that the employees will make them a success and be proud of the accomplishment. When things are too easy, employees will get bored. They need challenges, as long as those challenges are within their capabilities. This is why it’s crucial for managers to understand those capabilities. It’s one of the many challenges associated with being a good manager and it does take some practice before mastering.

For more veteran employees it is encouraged for managers to mentor them in the goal setting strategy in an attempt to prepare them for the next level of their career success.

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