LEICESTER, England, July 8 (UPI) -- Leaders of all stripes, whether third grade teachers or Fortune 500 CEOs, use goals to motivate their followers, whether students or subordinates.
But setting goals isn't the perfect strategy for coaxing performance out of everyone. A new study finds that in the office setting, men respond to goals more actively than do women.
As part of the study, researchers from the University of Leicester recruited 109 study participants from a major company to complete a series of simple mathematics tasks. Prior to their assigned tasks, the participants were divided into groups. Two groups were given non-binding goals (without monetary rewards or threat of punishment) -- one with a moderate performance benchmark, and the other with a more aggressive benchmark. A third group was given no goal.
The results showed that men attempted to answer more questions and performed better when enticed by goal-setting, regardless of the level of challenge. In the group with no goal, women performed better than men.
"The focus of this research was to determine how to motivate people," study leader Samuel Smithers, a researcher in Leicester's economics department, said in a press release. "When we are given a goal, we feel a sense of purpose to achieve it; it naturally helps to focus us. The findings demonstrate that setting a goal induces higher effort."
"My research found that women perform better than men in the no goal setting," Smithers explained, "but men thrive in both of the goal treatments, suggesting that men are more responsive to goals than women."
The research was published in the journal Economics Letters.