Updating and extending the work of O'Leary-Kelly, Martocchio, and Frink (1994), with this meta-analysis on goal setting and group performance we show that specific difficult goals yield considerably higher group performance compared with nonspecific goals (d = 0.80 ± 0.35, k = 23 effect sizes). Moderately difficult and easy goals were also associated with performance benefits relative to nonspecific goals, but these effects were smaller. The overall effect size for all group goals was d = 0.56 ± 0.19 (k = 49). Unexpectedly, task interdependence, task complexity, and participation did not moderate the effect of group goals. Our inventory of multilevel goals in interdependent groups indicated that the effect of individual goals in groups on group performance was contingent upon the focus of the goal: "Egocentric" individual goals, aimed at maximizing individual performance, yielded a particularly negative group-performance effect (d = -1.75 ± 0.60, k = 6), whereas "groupcentric" goals, aimed at maximizing the individual contribution to the group's performance, showed a positive effect (d = 1.20 ± 1.03, k = 4). These findings demonstrate that group goals have a robust effect on group performance. Individual goals can also promote group performance but should be used with caution in interdependent groups. Future research might explore the role of multilevel goals for group performance in more detail. The striking lack of recent field studies in organizational settings that emerged from our brief review of trends in group goal-setting research should be taken into account when designing future studies in this domain.
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