Enriching Goal-Setting Theory with Time: an Integrated Approach

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Academy of Management Review 2004, Vol. 29, No. 3, 404–422. ENRICHING GOAL-SETTING THEORY WITH TIME: AN INTEGRATED APPROACH YITZHAK FRIED LINDA HAYNES SLOWIK Wayne State University We examine the overlooked role of time in goal-setting theory and demonstrate how the integration of time into this theory adds to its dynamism and validity in the increasingly complex, constantly changing work environment. Following a brief discussion of developments in the scientific understanding of time, we discuss and illustrate how these new understandings enhance the utility and theoretical soundness of the theory and how time can be integrated into the theory’s main components: goal difficulty, goal attainability, and goal specificity. Time is an important factor in people’s lives, both at and outside of work. A significant portion of people’s cognitions relates to time— namely, past and present experiences, as well as future expectations and plans. However, it is interesting to note that work motivation theories have generally failed to systematically incorporate time as an important variable affecting people’s motivation (cf. George & Jones, 2000; Rousseau & Fried, 2001). We argue that incorporating time as an integral part of motivation theories would improve their validity, generalizability, and utility (cf. George & Jones, 2000; McGrath & Rotchford, 1983; McGrath & Tschan, 2004). Here we demonstrate the importance of time to motivation theories by discussing the potential relevance and contribution of time and context associated with time to goal-setting theory. We hope that this analysis of the role of time in goal-setting theory will serve as a basis for future analysis of the role of time in other workrelated motivational theories. Although time can be discussed as an important component of other motivational theories as well, we selected goal-setting theory to

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