Friday, March 16, 2018

The Power of Guilt: Understanding Employee Absenteeism

Most of us probably believe that a link exists between a person's attendance record at work and his or her job satisfaction.  The employees who show up every day must be more satisfied than those who opt to stay home a fair bit, right?  Not so fast. Interestingly, the data do not support the beliefs most of us hold about absenteeism and job satisfaction.  

An interesting new study helps us understand what's really going on in the workplace.  Rebecca Schaumberg and Francis J. Flynn examined more than 300 customer service associates at various call centers.   The scholars measured job satisfaction, and they tracked the employee's attendance at work over a four month period.   Interestingly, they also administered a survey to evaluate how "guilt prone" each individual was.  What did they discover?  If individuals were not very susceptible to feelings of guilt, then attendance and job satisfaction are positvely corelated.  In other words, the more dissatisfied people are, the more likely they are to miss work.  That's what we would expect.  However, things change when we examine people who are higly "guilt prone."  For these people, no relationship exists between attendance and job satisfaction.  These people sometimes keep right on showing up for work, even if they are very unhappy, because of their feelings of guilt.  

The lesson is clear - be careful how you interpret a strong attendance record on the part of employees.  Low absenteeism may not signal that you have created a terrific work environment where people love to come to work.  It may tell more about the personal attributes of your workers, and what motivates them to act each morning.