Behavioral Theory; Performance Feedback; Goal Conflict; Safety; Airline Industry;
In this study, the authors examine how multiple and sometimes conflicting goals are prioritized and pursued in organizations.Theories of coalitions and political behavior address prioritization among goals and changes in goal emphasis over time but cannot accurately predict the behavior of organizations that pursue conflicting goals. By linking theories of performance feedback theory and variable risk preferences, the authors show that performance shortfalls relative to aspirations on multiple goals can trigger managerial concerns for organizational failure. In such situations, the goal perceived as more important for survival gets priority and triggers stronger reactions.Empirically, the authors examine how airlines’ dual focus on safety and profitability affects decisions regarding fleet changes. In the airline industry, safety and profitability have clear conflicts (at least in the short term) owing to the costs of replacing aircraft models with poor safety records.The authors find evidence that airlines pursue fleet safety goals; however, the nature and extent of that pursuit depends on whether the firm’s profitability goals are being met. As predicted, the responsiveness to safety goals is strengthened by low profitability because safety is associated more closely with survival.The study augments existing research on multiple goals by emphasizing the nature of goal interdependencies and its implications for behavior in organizations.