Concept of Absenteeism

Concept of Absenteeism

It refers to workers absence from their regular task when he is normally schedule to work. According to Webster’s dictionary

‘Absenteeism is the practice or habit of being an absentee and an absentee is one who habitually stays away from work.’

According to Labour Bureau of Shimla

‘Absenteeism is the total man shifts lost because of absence as percentage of total number of man shifts scheduled to work.’

Absenteeism refers to the failure of the workers to report on duty without prior notice. It has also been defines as the total man shifts lost because of the absences as a percentage of the total of man- shifts schedules. Industrial absenteeism is an expression of the workers dissatisfaction towards their job, work place or the very environment, no definition can give a clear out meaning for absenteeism.

Causes of absenteeism may include,

* Serious accident and may be ill

* Morale is low

* Working condition are not suitable

* Boredom at work place

* Job satisfaction is low

* Power leadership inadequate supervision

* Personal problem ( financial, marital ,substance abuse, child care etc,)

* physically not fit

* transportation problem

* benefit which continuous income during periods of illness or accident

* stress

* extra work

* discontent with work environment

Types of Absenteeism:

There are mainly two kinds of absenteeism.

* Physical Absenteeism

* Functional Absenteeism

Physical Absenteeism

Physical absenteeism is when employees are not present at work. It is divided into innocent absenteeism and culpable absenteeism.

Innocent Absenteeism

Innocent absenteeism refers to employees who are absent for reasons beyond their control, like sickness and injury. Innocent absenteeism is culpable which means that it is blameless. In a labour relation context this means it cannot be remedied or treated by disciplinary measures.

Culpable Absenteeism

Culpable absenteeism means, the employees who are absent without authorization for reasons which are within their control. For example, an employee who is on sick leave though he or she is sick and it can be proven that employee was not sick is guilty of culpable absenteeism. To be culpable is to be blameworthy. In a labour relations context this means progressive discipline can be applied.

Functional Absenteeism

Functional Absenteeism is when employees are present to work, but are not productive. Frequent and lengthy tea or smoke and toilet break examples of types of absenteeism. This type of absent also means arriving late, leaving early, spending more length of time in fetching or carrying tools or looking for information.

For the large majority of employees absenteeism is legitimate, innocent absenteeism which occurs infrequently. Procedures for disciplinary action apply only to culpable absenteeism. Many organisations take the view that through the process of individual absentee counselling and treatment the majority of employees will overcome their problems and return to an acceptable level of regular attendance.

Literature Review

McGregor’s Theory X and Y in relation with Absenteeism

In this theory, which has been proven counter- effective in most modern practices, management assumes employees are inherently lazy and will avoid work if they can and that inherently dislike work. As a result of this, management believes that workers need to be closely supervised and comprehensive systems of controls developed. Following are some key features of theory X.

People by nature

* if given the opportunity would not apply themselves in working for someone else

* Lack ambition & must be supervised and directed to work

* Prefer to be told what to do

* Resist change

* Do not own the organizational problems

Reflects carrot and stick

Hard Approach- the stick

o Coercion

o Implicit threats

o Close supervision

o Tight controls

Soft Approach- the carrot

o Rewards, inducements

o Being permissive

o Benevolent management

o Harmony as a priority

The problem with Theory X

Under McGregor Theory X the firm relies on money and benefits to satisfy employees’ lower needs, and once those needs are satisfies the source of motivation is lost. Consequently, the only way that employees can attempt to satisfy their higher level of needs in their work is by seeking more compensation, so it is quite predictable that they will focus on monetary rewards.

McGregor makes a point that a command and control environment is not effective and because it relies on lower needs as levers of motivation, but in modern society those needs already are satisfied and thus no longer motivate. In this situation one would expect employees to remain absent from work, avoid responsibility, resist change etc thus creating a self fulfilling prophecy. From this reasoning, McGregor proposed an alternative: Theory Y.

In Theory Y management assumes employees may be ambitious and self motivated and exercise self-control. It is believed that employees enjoy their mental and physical work duties. Some features of Theory Y.

People are

o Actively seek work instead of avoid it

o Will be self disciplined if committed

o Capable of setting their own goals and integrating these with the goals of the organization

o Seek responsibility and challenge

o Prefer participative management

o Creative potential is under-utilized at work

McGregor believes that Theory Y managers are more likely than Theory X mangers to develop the climate of trust with employees that required for human resource development.

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If we study these two theories can see that absenteeism will be more in an organization which got the managers who belong to Theory X school of thought than Theory Y. This absenteeism can be managed by motivating the employees and by satisfying their lower needs and also giving them opportunity to satisfy their higher needs. Employees will be more productive if their work goals and their higher level of needs are in alignment.


Job satisfaction in regards to one’s feeling or state of mind regarding nature of their work. Job can be influenced by variety of factors like quality of one relationship with supervisor, quality of physical environment in which they work, degree of fulfilment in their work etc. Positive attitude towards job are equivalent to job satisfaction. Job satisfaction is an important indicator of how employees feel about their job and a predictor of work behaviour such as organisational citizenship, Absenteeism, turnover.

Reasons of low job satisfaction

· Conflict between co-workers

· Conflict between supervisor

· Not being opportunity paid for what they do

· Fear of losing their job

· Have little or no say in decision making that affect employees

Effects of low job satisfaction

High absenteeism is one of the main effects that an organization faces due to low job satisfaction. If there will be low job satisfaction among the employees the rate of absenteeism will definitely increase and it also effects on productivity of organization. If the job satisfaction in employees is high rate of absenteeism will be low and vice versa.


Expectancy theory has two levels of outcome, first level outcome result employees working in directed way. First level outcome can be performance at work, absenteeism or leaving from work. Second level outcome occur after first level outcome which includes getting as per motion receiving recognition.

Expectancy Theory Beliefs

* Valence:

Refers to emotional orientations which people hold with respect to outcomes(rewards)

* Expectancy:

Employees have different expectations and level of confidence about what they are capable of doing. Management must discover what resources, training or supervision the employees need

* Instrumentality:

The perception of employees whether they will actually receive what they desire, even if it has been promised by a manager. Management must ensure that promises of rewards are fulfilled and that employees are aware of it

Expectancy theory helps mangers to understand their employee’s behaviour within the organization. If the achieving individual believes the organization rewards than is instrumentalities will be positive and high and if the employees believe that organization does not equitably reward performance than it can leads towards the absent seem or leave.

Self esteem in Maslow hierarchy also explain expectancy theory, if employees have a positive self image they believe that they good work lead to good performance and they experience high expectancies for their performance behaviour and employees with negative self image believe that their ability or inadequate and they will put less effort to work and which can cause absenteeism at work which leads towards more cost and less productivity

Abraham Maslow’s “Need Hierarchy Theory”

One of the most widely mentioned theories of motivation is the hierarchy of needs theory put forth by psychologist Abraham Maslow. Maslow saw human needs in the form of hierarchy, ascending from the lowest to the highest and he concluded that when one set of needs is satisfied, this kind of need ceases to be motivator.

As per theory these needs are

i. Physiological needs

These are important for sustaining the human life. Food, water, warmth, shelter, sleep, medicine and education are the basic physiological needs which fall in the primary list of need satisfaction.

ii. Security or Safety needs

These are the needs to be free of physical danger and of the fear of losing a job, property, food or shelter. It also includes protection against any emotional harm.

iii. Social needs

Since people are social beings, they need to belong and be accepted by others. People try to satisfy their need for affection, acceptance, and friendship.

iv. Esteem needs

According to Maslow, one people begin to satisfy their need to belong, they tend to want to be held in esteem both by themselves and others. This kind of need produces such satisfaction as power, prestige status and self-confidence. It includes both internal esteem factors like self respect, autonomy and achievement and external esteem factors such as states, recognition and attention.

v. Need for self-actualization

Maslow regards this as the highest need in his hierarchy. It is the drive to become what one is capable of becoming. It includes growth, achieving one’s potential and self-fulfilment. It is to maximize one’s potential and to accomplish something.

Gaol Setting Theory by Edwin Locke

Instead of giving vague task to people, specific and pronounced objectives, help in achieving them faster. As the clarity is high, o goal orientation also avoids any misunderstanding in the work of the employees. The goal setting theory states that when the goals to be achieved are set at a higher standard than in that case employees are motivated to perform better and put in maximum effort. It revolves around the concept of “self-efficacy” i.e. individual’s belief that he or she is capable of performing a hard task.

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Dr. B. F Skinner Research

Dr. B. F. Skinner (1953) through his research came to believe that positive reinforcement can significantly increase the probability of the reoccurrence of the particular behaviour. Additionally, Skinner proposed that actions can also be strengthened by negative reinforcement. In negative reinforcement, a particular behaviour is encouraged because of the removal of an aversive stimulus. For example, an employee’s desired actions would be reinforced if, by performing that desired actions, the employee’s supervisor ceased to reprimand the employee. The removal of the negative reinforcement, the supervisor’s reprimands, would serve to strengthen the employee’s desired behaviour. While both positive and negative reinforcement can be effective. Skinner favoured the former much more than the later.


Managers generally find it useful to compute and analyse the absenteeism occurrence. The following approach can be used in this regard.

* Total Time lost. This is one of the most popular measures that is used. The computation gives a percentage of total scheduled work time that is lost to absenteeism. The formula for the measure is.

Total time lost =Days lost to absenteeism for a periodAverage number of employees ×total days in period×100

* Tardiness. Tardiness is a form of absenteeism that can create work problems, particularly in manufacturing environments where machines and assembly lines are scheduled to start at a specific time. Excessive tardiness disrupts normal working operations, making it difficult for the first level supervisor to synchronise the beginning of a shift operation.

Cost of Absenteeism

There is a lot of cost the absenteeism cause to an organization. These can be in different areas of a company.

* Separation costs: Includes HR staff and supervisor time and salaries to prevent separations, exit interview time, unemployment expenses, legal fees for separation challenged, accrued vacation, continued benefits etc.

* Production cost: Includes that cost which a company faces when production charges are not met due to shortage of workers or high absenteeism in company.

* Replacement costs: Includes recruiting and advertising expenses, search fees, HR interviewer and staff time and salaries, employee referral fee, relocation and moving costs, supervisor and managerial time and salaries etc.

* Training costs: Includes paid orientation time, training staff time and salaries, costs of training material, co worker coaching time and salaries.

* Hidden costs: Includes costs not obvious but affect lost productivity, decreased customer service, other unexpected employee turnover, missed project deadlines etc.

Recommendations for Managing Absenteeism

Control of absenteeism in large complex organization will normally involve multiple strategies that address both the motivation and ability of the employee to attend work. Specific strategies for enhancing motivation include a proper match between the employee and the job, job enrichment, rewards for good attendance, people oriented supervision and clear attendance standards. Strategies for enhancing the ability to attend work include creating a safe and healthy work condition, providing day care facilities at the workplace, creating programmes to assist trouble employees, providing programmes for reducing job stress and providing recreational and excise facility.

Absenteeism is a serious problem for a management because it involves heavy additional express resaves and understudies are kept in readiness to take the place of absenteeism, fairly which the overlade cost of idle equipment to be faced. Employees do not usually also give request for leave in advance or even sometime don’t give notice of the period for which they will remain absent. It should be noted that no single measure can be effective in controlling absenteeism, but a skilful combination of various can lead to the desired result.

* Disciplinary Approach:

Managers can use a disciplinary approach. People who are absent for the first time receives an oral warning, and subsequent absences bring written warnings, suspension and finally dismissal

* Positive reinforcement:

Positive reinforcement includes such methods as giving employees cash, recognition, time off or other rewards for meeting attendance standards. Offering rewards for consistent attendance, giving bonuses for missing fewer than a certain number of days and buying back unused sick leave are all the positive methods of removing absenteeism.

* Combination approach:

A combinations approach ideally rewards desired behaviours and punishes undesired behaviour. This “carrot and stick” approach uses policies and discipline to punish offenders and various programs and rewards to recognise employees with outstanding attendance.

* NO FAULT policy:

With a no fault policy the reasons for the absences do not matter and the employees must manage their own attendance unless they abuse that freedom. Once absenteeism exceeds normal limits then disciplinary actions up to and including termination of employment can occur. The advantage of the no fault policy are that all employees can be covered by it and managers and HR people don’t have to judge whether absence count as excused or unexcused.

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* The personal management should encourage notification, especially in cases of sickness when the duration of absence is likely to be long.

* Job security for workers.

* Adaptation of a well defined recruitment procedures.

* Motivation of worker, workforce and social measures. The management should recognised the needs of the workers and offer them adequate and cheap lousing facility or subsidized food, free medical aid and transportation facilities, free educational facility to their children and other monetary and non-monetary benefits.

* Their genuine difficulties like their need of money at the time of marriage, death or family illness should be recognizes by the management and it should be try to help them in this regard.

* Improve common and prompt redressed of consciences.

* The selection of employees on the basis of communal linguistic and family consideration should be discouraged or avoided.

* Regularity in attendance should be encouraged to some extent by the offer of a bonus and other pecuniary rewards.

* To reduce unavoidable absence due to sidedness or any other organizational accident, programme of health and safety should be strengthened.

* In case of personal and family e.g. illness of children in case of married woman employees which make absence unavoidable, leave should be granted liberally.

* Facilities for obtaining leave for rest; by this the management will be able to know in advance how many workers would take leave on a particular day or date. This enables management to engage extra manpower force on that particular day so that the target for that day can be achieved.

* Proper working condition in the organization so that employees can donate their full effort and energy for achieving the production target assigned to them by the management.

* Adequate wage as that worker may be satisfied and will be able to full fill their daily needs and they will not search for another wages of earning money, this will help them to concentrate more on a particular job more and thus will be able to do the job more effectively and efficiently.

* Protection from accident and sickness. This enables the workers to feel safe from this factor and they can utilize their full energy for the well being of the organization.

Part 2:

Organisation behaviour help people to understand employees behaviour, in which situation they feel stress and by which way they can be motivated and remove their stress and also help them to produce good result. If you understand human behaviour then you can easily influence them. Human behaviour in organisation depends upon external and internal factors and forces. Different scientists have given different theories to help managers understand human behaviour.

The theories that we have discussed above have different impact on different persons. The theories also differ in strengths. Theories of motivation mainly from Maslow and Herzberg does not have find a very wide spread support but McClelland theory regarding the relationship between achievement and productivity. In general need theories are not very valid explanation of motivation.

In order to attract the best talent to an organization, a culture of diversity and open communication is needed. Once an organization has the best talent it can find, the organization can improve efficiency and have more wide-spread viewpoints to learn from. Care must be taken though, to make sure the organizational concept is compatible with the strategic goals of an organization.

There is a dispute that clear and higher level of goals leads to higher productivity. This provides the strong application that goal setting theory provides the most powerful explanation of dependant variable. The theory itself however does not address absenteeism, job satisfaction or turnover.

Reinforcement theory has an impressive record for predicting factors such as quality and quantity at work persistent of effort absenteeism, tardiness and accident rates. It does not offer much insight into employee satisfaction or the decision to quit.

Equity theory deals with productivity and job satisfaction, absence, and turnover variables. However its strength probably is that it provides the spark for research on organisation justice.

Expectancy theory focuses on performance variable it has power to offer a relatively powerful explanation of employee, productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. But expectancy theory assumes that employee have few constraints on other decision discretion. It makes many of the same assumption that the rational model makes about individual decision making which limits its applicability. Expectancy theory has some validity because for much behaviour people consider expected outcomes. Whether an organization is for profit or not, motivating and utilizing the talent an organization has is vital in the business world today. Understanding organizational behaviour is a major factor for increased opportunity and success in the business world. Gaining an awareness of an organizations culture is necessary for continued diverse growth.


Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behaviour, New York, NY: The MacMillan Company.

Human Resource Management (2007), Robert L. Mathis, John H. Jackson: Page 85

Karash, R. (2002).What is a “Learning Organization”.Retrieved October 10, 2007, from,

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