Sandbagging is managers believing they can accomplish more if they lower the bar and set goals their team can easily hit. Sure, managers often purposely set comfortable goals so that there’s room for “under-promise and over-deliver.”
Setting low goals may appear a clever strategy, but it’s a recipe for underperformance. Sandbagged goals don’t demand much in the way of performance when managers already know precisely how their teams will achieve the goals.
However, sandbagging can let teams down. Under-setting goals actually does what it’s created to avoid—teams eventually find such easy goals boring and demotivating. Low goals require little and inspire less, and ultimately undercut productivity. According to this study by Chancellor University’s Steve Kerr and Douglas Lepelley, when goals are fixed “too low, people often achieve them, but subsequent motivation and energy levels typically flag, and the goals are usually not exceeded by very much.”
Idea for Impact: To generate the greatest levels of effort and performance, set demanding goals outside your team’s comfort zone, but not so challenging and unattainable as to break your team’s morale. Aiming to achieve extraordinary things—hitting the farthest target and missing—can often be more worthwhile than successfully hitting a easy target.