Using Goal Framing to Improve Performance

Organizations often have many goals. The organization has a goal, the department has goals and each individual has their own goals. But how often do those goals align? The authors of this study (Lindenberg & Foss, 2013) argue that to get the most out of your employees, you need to align all these goals and set up governance mechanisms that support the alignment of goals. They suggest this is possible by utilizing goal framing theory.


There are three main elements of goal-framing theory, the normative, hedonic, and gain. When framing goals through the normative view, one thinks of the ‘we’ first, and what is better for the group. This person is focused on benefitting the organization. The hedonic goal applies when a person is trying to improve his or her current situation. In this instance, the focus is on the ‘now.’ In the workplace, this person wants to have fun and avoid difficult tasks. The gain goal is when someone tries to improve the resources he or she has. In the workplace, this person is looking to increase status or income.


By understanding that people have these three types of goals and utilizing that understanding to the company’s advantage, an organization can improve the performance of its employees.

Organizations need to ensure that the normative goal is the supraorbital goal, or the goal in the forefront of their employees’ minds. They can do this by ensuring that the organization’s goals are clear and that leaders are supporting these goals. In order to ensure the normative goal is the priority for an employee, an organization also needs to provide contingent hedonic and gain rewards for completing the normative goal. This reframes the way an employee looks at the goals in the organization. Employees know that if they complete the normative goal (the goals of the organization), they will receive the hedonic and gain benefits. In this way, the organizational goals remain in the forefront.

Lindenberg, S. & Foss, N. J. (2011). Managing joint production motivation: The role of goal framing and governance mechanisms, The Academy of Management Review, 36(3), 500-525.

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