Goal displacement means moving away from the intended goal. When organisations over-emphasise the rules and regulations to achieve the goals, members start placing so much importance to the rules that the rules become an end rather than means to achieve the end. This results in goal displacement.
The activities of the organisation become centered around the procedures and there appears distortion in organisation’s functioning. This distortion reflects achieving goals other than those that the organisation originally intended to achieve. Moving from intended goals to actual goals means goal displacement.
Goal displacement may be stated as a situation in which the new goals have been developed by completely disregarding the official or sanctioned goals. This situation arises when the behaviour or actions which were considered to be means to achieve the goals became the goal in themselves. For example, the rigid enforcement of discipline rules among workers which was considered indispensable may be treated as only desirable. Because if these rules are followed rigidly, it may endanger the existence of the organisation itself.
Probably, it is in this connection that the phrase ‘rigidity with flexibility’ has been coined. This phrase has relevance in modern times in all types of organisations-business, political, social, autonomous or governmental. In educational institutions students’ and teachers’ violation of rules are tolerated consequently up to a certain extent though the rules and regulations for their conduct and behaviour existing in the statute books remain unchanged. So is the case with workers and managers in business organisations or political organisations.
When we refer to goal displacement, we mean only covert goal changes. Explicitly there is no change; it is done to avoid embarrassment both to individual as well as the organisation.
Some of the reasons that result in goal displacement are as follows:
1. When goals are non-attainable.
2. When employees lack confidence to work.
3. When route to achieving goals is strict rules and regulations.
4. When managers are incompetent to achieve the goals.
5. When individuals subordinate organisational goals to individual goals.
6. When managers formulate two sets of goals: stated goals and real goals.
EX- A politician asking for votes to provide public service may actually be doing so to increase his political power. A business organisation that actually states its objectives as customer satisfaction has profit maximisation as his real goal. Strong global growth, building market leadership and promoting company’s values at best are the statements that describe what the organisation is trying to accomplish.
However, what actually happens is not what is stated. The goals which the organisation actually pursues are the real goals. They are reflected in organisational policies and managerial actions. Though unwritten and unofficial, they are the actual standards against which actual performance is measured.
On getting a child admitted to school, the authorities say — A class will have a maximum number of 25 students so that students-faculty relations can be maintained. It is not surprising to find when the session starts that the class has 45 to 50 students.
The stated goal of promoting student learning process is displaced by the real goal of making money by admitting more students. An important way to avoid goal displacement is to follow the approach of Management by objectives.
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