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criterion problem

James T. Austin and Peter Villanova


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Patricia Cain Smith (1976) used the term criterion problem to characterize the dilemmas of measuring job performance for multiple purposes. This entry elaborates the problems of criteria using two facets: values and scientific understanding. The term also connotes the difficulty of understanding value‐based constructs. Because criteria represent preferences, they cannot be understood independent of values that “guide” their selection ( Austin and Villanova, 1992 ). This covariation of fact and value leads commentators to emphasize that the problems of criteria are conceptual, not methodological or statistical. Many advise that efforts would be better invested toward careful conceptual analysis to represent a job success construct. Values define the interests and broad goals of different groups. Stakeholder models, with multiple interacting groups having interests in the measurement of performance, help to frame the influence of values. Traditional constituencies are management, employees, unions, and researchers. Viewed in this manner, criteria may serve to augment or weaken the interests of different constituencies. For example, a seniority criterion for promotion decisions may be more consistent with advancement and security interests of organizational members with substantial tenure. Alternatively, a results‐oriented criterion advantages productive members' interests. Part ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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