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ABC Analysis


Disciplines > Human Resources > Performance Management > ABC Analysis

Antecedents | Behaviors | Consequences | See also


ABC Analysis considers Antecedents, Behavior and Consequences of individual actions. It can be used in two circumstances:

  1. When doing general job analysis
  2. When investigating actual behaviors (for example when someone is under-performing or has transgressed company rules).


Analysis of antecedents considers the things that come before the behavior, such as setting expectations, goals, objectives, targets etc. They include personal objectives and company values.

Antecedents include triggers of behaviors that prompt action as well as constraints that shape action, indicating what is and what is not acceptable behavior.

Check that employees know what is personally expected of them, both in the outputs that they create and in the way in which they go about creating them (for example by following company values). These should be clearly communicated to the employee. They should also be valid and realistic (in that the employee should be able to perform them), and without internal conflict (for example if the employee is being asked to do things outside of the company values).

When using ABC for job analysis, generic antecedents may be used. For investigations, look for the antecedents of the specific behaviors reported or observed (not that for this, you need to start at the Behavior step). The notion of antecedents may also be used as a stimulation when Brainstorming for possible causes.


For job analysis, now consider the behaviors that are required to complete the objectives, checking that they are valid and can be performed within reason by the target people, without hindrance from others. This may be identified either through logical deduction from the antecedents or by study of actual job performers.

For investigations, the actual behaviors may be elicited by interview of witnesses and the person involved.


Behaviors lead to consequences, which may be positive, negative or sometimes a combination of both. The consequences may be for the person involved, other people, the company in general or a wider audience. For motivational purposes, the consequences for the person involved is most important. Consequences may also be formal or informal.

Antecedents and consequences together often go a long way towards explaining behaviors.

Sometimes the lack of consequences is as important as the actual consequences. Thus 'no consequences' is, in fact, a consequence. Thus no punishment for workplace bullying is one reason why it may occur.

  • Formal positive consequences may include praise, bonus payments, public recognition, promotion, etc.
  • Formal negative consequences may include reprimands and sacking.
  • There may also be formal consequences that seek to help the person stop acting as they do (and may even act to change the system to prevent inappropriate antecedents and consequences causing further behavior).
  • Informal positive consequences include increase in social esteem, reduced stress, etc.
  • Informal negative consequences include social ostracization, higher stress, etc.

See also

Job Analysis, Conditioning


Bijou, S., Peterson, R. F. and Ault, M. H. (1968). A method to integrate description and experimental field studies at the level of data and empirical
concepts. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 175-191.

Maag, J. W. (1995). Behavior management: Theoretical implications and practical applications. Lincoln, NE.

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