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Employees Should Share Their Goals With Higher-Status Persons Within an Organization

The majority of research on goals has focused on how personal differences and the nature of goals explain why someone did or didn’t achieve their goal. However, what remains unknown is how and when social influence contributes to goal commitment and performance. Recent research in the Journal of Applied Psychology examined how the goal audience (i.e., who you share you the goal with) can impact success.

Using four mixed-methods studies, the researchers hypothesized that the more goal-holders care about the audience’s judgment of their performance, the more likely they are to exhibit more goal-striving behaviors and achieve their goals. To test these hypotheses, the researchers conducted various studies with undergraduates that involved task-based and career-based goals. When the participants completed a task-based goal (i.e., moving a slider on a computer screen as quickly as possible), goal commitment and performance was higher when progress was monitored by a high-status individual versus a lower-status individual or no one at all. The participants also reported higher evaluation apprehension (i.e., the extent to which a person feels concern related to being positively or negatively judged by the audience) when the high-status individual was aware of the goal. Conversely, those who were monitored by lower status individuals did not have increased goal commitment.

The researchers replicated these findings with longer-term goals (goals that represented “real-life” or “important” goals). Participants were asked to choose a goal related to coursework performance and an audience for their goal. Over the course of 5 weeks, the researchers tracked the participants’ commitment and progress. They found that participants who selected higher-status audiences had higher goal commitment and overall performance in their courses.


Klein, H.J, Lount, R.B., Jr., Park, H.M., & Linford, B.J. (2020). When goals are known: The effects of audience relative status on goal commitment and performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 105(4), 372-389.