Organizational Behaviour | Analysis

Organizational behaviour can be defined as “The study of human behaviour in organizational setting”. In broader term it is the study of interface between human behaviour and the organization itself.

We can easily observe and understand the behaviour of individuals without organization but it is always difficult to understand the behaviours of organizations without individuals. So the organizational behaviour is the field of study that investigate the impact that individuals, groups and structure have on behaviour within an organizations, for the purpose of applying such knowledge toward improving an organizations effectiveness.

The three levels of organizational behaviour can be categorised as follow;

  1. The individual
  2. Group processes
  3. Organizational processes

Key forces affecting organizational behaviours are;

  • People
  • Individuals
  • Groups
  • Environment
  • Government
  • Competition
  • Social pressure
  • Structure
  • Jobs
  • Relationships
  • Technology
  • Machinery
  • Computer hardware and software

Organizational behaviour covers all the topics and aspects that can contribute towards the success of an organization and its aim is to provide suitable environment to its employees and all the relevant factors and things that motivate these workforce to improve productivity. Organizational behaviour also explains different techniques and approaches that can reduce the intensity of absenteeism in an organization and hence can help to reduce the cost associated with absence of employees. Absenteeism is key topic in this assignment and its further detail and analysis will be discussed later on in this article.

2. What is Absenteeism?

Cascio (2003, p. 45) defines absenteeism as “any failure of an employee to report for or to remain at work as scheduled, regardless of the reason.” Milkovich and Boudreau (1994) define absenteeism from an organization’s perspective as “the frequency and or duration of work time lost when employees do not come to work.” Absenteeism therefore implies “an unplanned, disruptive incident; but more specifically, it can be seen as non-attendance when an employee is scheduled for work” (Van der Merwe & Miller, 1988, p. 3).

The absenteeism is pervasive throughout most organizations and can place huge financial burdens on organizations. A central concern in organizations is probably that some employees believe that it is their “right” to take sick leave whether they are sick or not. These short, unscheduled absences impact on work schedules, increase workloads of other employees and can also have a detrimental effect on productivity.

Absenteeism is influenced by a number of interrelated factors ranging from family responsibilities to satisfaction on the job. There is an underlying assumption that low job satisfaction leads to high absenteeism rates and vice versa, however, research in this area is contradictory. While there is no single, “one-size-fits” all cure for this phenomenon, it is evident that managers are constantly seeking ways to reduce the rate of absenteeism within organizations today.

2.1 Types of Absenteeism

Absenteeism can be classified into three broad categories (Van der Merwe and Miller, 1998) as under;

  • Sickness absence,
  • Authorised absence or absence with permission and
  • Unexcused absence or absence without leave.

2.1.1 Sickness Absence

Sickness absence is a category where employees claim health problem as their reason for absence. Requirements regarding medical or doctor’s certificates vary and are determined by company policy or the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA). The Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 (1997) is that a certificate needs to be produced after two days of sickness absence. Most managers have found that certification is not a guarantee of genuine absence as it has become easy for people to gain access to medical certificates.

2.1.2 Authorised Absence / Absence with Permission

Authorised absence are absence with permission where employees provide excuse and it includes valid reasons like; holidays, study leave or special leave etc. And normally such requests are included in the company absence policy.

2.1.3 Unexcused Absence

All absences that do not fall in above mentioned categories and where no valid reason is given or not accepted are known as unexcused absences. These absences when reached to appropriate proportion will have to be pointed out to employees in question in order to bring their attendance in line with acceptable norms.

3. Absenteeism Model

Aamodt (1996) said that before an organization spends time and money trying to stop absenteeism; it must first understand and explore the theories around why people miss work. Various models have been developed to explain absence behaviour, but the Integrated Model of Attendance developed by Rhodes and Steers (1990) provides framework on the various factors influencing employee attendance at work.

Fig 3.1: Absenteeism Model, Source: Rhodes & Steers (1990, p. 46)

Figure 2.1 suggests that an employee’s attendance (Box 8) is primarily determined by two important variables: (1) an employee’s motivation to attend (Box 6), and (2) an employee’s ability to attend (Box 7) (Rhodes & Steers, 1990, p. 45). The authors further suggest that the employee’s motivation to attend is influenced by two factors: (1) satisfaction with the job situation (Box 4), and (2) pressures to attend (Box 5). In the context of this model, the job situation refers to the general working environment and not only the nature of the tasks. Rhodes and Steers (1990) list seven factors related to the job situation that could lead to increased job satisfaction, namely, job scope, job level, role stress, size of the work group, style of the leader, co-worker relations and the opportunity for advancement (Box 1). A few of these factors are explained briefly. If, for example, the particular management style is autocratic and disliked by staff, it could cause friction and poor attendance might be the consequence (Rhodes & Steers, 1990). In terms of co-worker relations, Johns (1996) argues that group norms have a strong impact on attendance levels. Du Plessis et al. (2003) found that a “culture” of absenteeism amongst one group of employees might affect work values and commitment of other employees. New employees seem to adopt the existing culture, values, norms and standards of the organization which they join, i.e. they might be influenced by the current absenteeism norms in the organization (Rosseau, 1985 as quoted by Du Plessis et al., 2003). Lau, Au and Ho (2003) found that industries with a high group absence rate also had higher levels of individual absences. Organizations are therefore faced with the challenge of managing absence behaviours within groups as it influences the behaviour of employees entering the organization. Furthermore, the model suggests that employee values and expectations also have an influence on employee attendance (Box 2). Attitudes, values and goals differ considerably from person to person, depending on what is important for the individual at a particular point in time. Rhodes and Steers (1990, p. 60) postulate that “work related attitudes (for example, job involvement) can play a significant role in determining how employees view the psychological contract between employees and management, as well as how committed they are to coming to work. ” Further variables cited by these authors include personal work ethics and the centrality of work which refers to how important work is in a person’s life goals. The decision by an employee to absent him / herself is thus related to the importance attached to work.

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Another factor influencing attendance is the personal characteristics and backgrounds of employees (Box 3). Tylczak (1990) terms this category “employee specifics” and includes things like gender roles; desire to spend time with friends and hobbies. As an example, older, more established employees might be more stable and might report fewer sick leave incidents than younger employees who do not mind risking their jobs due to absence. Closely related to this is the question of whether lifestyle choices influence absenteeism. According to Ericson (2001), lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking and other substances could influence absenteeism. Common in organizations is the trend of employees taking sick leave either on a Friday or on a Monday due to alcohol and other substance abuse. Ericson (2001, p. 90) maintains that “the area of lifestyle choice is probably the hardest part of absenteeism management to address, as it blurs the lines between personal habits and the workplace.” An organization can offer counselling services to help solve these personal problems in an effort to reduce absenteeism levels. These programmes are generally referred to as employee assistance programmes (EAP’s) and is defined as “a confidential counselling and referral service provided by organizations as an employee benefit” (Strazewski, 2005, p. 52).

Finally, the model suggests that there are certain “pressures to attend” (Box 5) which have an influence on an employee’s motivation to attend and these include the economic / market conditions (like unemployment), incentive and reward systems, personal work ethic and organizational commitment. Hence, if unemployment levels are high, people might be less willing to take sick leave for fear of losing their jobs (Rhodes & Steers, 1990). There are also factors that constrain an employee’s ability or capacity to attend (Box 7) includes (a) genuine illnesses and (b) family related and transportation problems.

Details available at: Accessed on 27/04/2010.

3. Common Reasons behind Absenteeism

Some of the common reasons behind absenteeism are as under;


Family related and transport problems

Individual personality traits

Demographic variables also impact on absenteeism and includes like;


Tenure (length of an employment)

Marital status

Number of dependents


Job level etc.

4. Cost Associated with Employees Absenteeism

Absenteeism is costly and managers are constantly exploring ways to reduce it. Bydawell (2000) and Schumacher (2004) highlight the growing concern that employees who absent themselves and present doctor’s certificates, are actually absent for non-health related matters. Some employees even use their sick leave as vacation days when they have exhausted their annual leave benefits. This makes it extremely difficult for managers as some employees have an “entitlement” mentality.

Haswell (2003) maintains that it is unlikely that absenteeism can be completely eradicated in organizations; hence, financial provision should be made for sick benefits. To determine whether absence is really a problem to be addressed, the organization has to assess the costs of absence to the organization.

A number of studies have attempted to determine the financial implications of absenteeism. Chadwick-Jones (1982) as cited by Butler (1994, p. 26) estimated that “one day’s absence by an employee costs the organization one and a half times the daily rate of pay of that employee.” Most companies probably use their own methods of determining the cost associated with absenteeism. However, according to Butler (1994), there are a few ways to estimate absenteeism costs.

One of these is the aggregate approach that estimates the number of additional employees to be hired to offset the effects of absenteeism. The company thus hires casual labour or temporary employees to fill in for the absent employees, especially in positions that cannot be left vacant, for example, an organization’s receptionist position. Goodman and Atkin (2000) as cited by Butler (1994, p. 26) indicate that “the cost therefore of recruiting, selecting, training and paying these additional employees represents one way in which the costs of absenteeism can be estimated. “

Another approach estimates the incremental costs per day associated with the absent employee, for example, salary and pension that still have to be paid during the employee’s absence. According to Butler (1994, p. 26), “if an employee is absent and a casual / temporary employee is hired, the task of management is to compare the costs that would have been involved if the absent employee had come to work, plus the additional costs of hiring a replacement employee.” It is important then for organizations to have a proper system in place to determine the costs of absenteeism, so that it can be managed effectively.

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5. How to Measure Absence?

There are number of different methods that is used by most organizations to measure absence rate, and two most common methods of measuring absence are as follows;

The gross absence rate (GAR)

The absence frequency rate (AFR)

5.1 The Gross Absence Rate (GAR)

The formula for gross absence rate is as follows;

GAR = ÃŽ 100

This gross absence rate formula is widely used in most of organizations and it determines total days lost through absence of employees. This can then be further utilized to find out the cost associated with these absences. It also gives the percentage of employees not joining the work according to the schedule.

5.2 The Absence Frequency Rate (AFR)

Formula for absence frequency rate is as under;


Van der Merwe and Miller (1988, p. 12) note that “when computing the AFR, each absence, irrespective of the length, is counted as one incident.” The AFR is expressed as a ratio, and normally it is given per month, i.e. the absence incidents per person per month.

Details available at: Accessed on 29/04/2010.

6. Absenteeism Managing Methods

Every organization use different approaches and policies in order to manage absences and any absence related costs. Most employers expect some degree of absence, but most organisations find the effects on profitability and employee morale very damaging (Harris, 2005). According to Paton (2004, p. 25), “sickness absence is no longer a medical issue for employers, it is a strategic one.” Organisations can no longer wait for employees to come back from sick leave, hoping the problem will disappear. There is a growing realisation that it is very much up to employers to get employees back to work as absenteeism is costly. Bydawell (2000) believes that programmes to manage absenteeism should not be initiated with the intention to pressurise employees to be at work, irrespective of their personal situation nor should employees be unfairly treated when they absent themselves for legitimate reasons.

According to Johnson et al. (2003), successful absenteeism management strategies begin with the belief that something can actually be done to reduce absenteeism. Managers need to keep in mind that there is no “one-size-fits” all solution that is appropriate for all organisations. Every organisation is unique and absenteeism reduction strategies should be customised to the particular work environment.

Some of the common methods adapted by most organizations to manage absenteeism are as under;

6.1 Pooling of Leaves

Some of the ways in which American companies have tried to deal with the absenteeism problem is by introducing a system where all the leave categories are “lumped” together and employees can take their leave as they wish (Cole, 2002). This includes scheduled vacations and unscheduled events like illnesses. Employees therefore have more control and become more accountable for their own time, taking as much or as little as they need to tend to personal and family need.

This method can reduce the absenteeism level if adapted according to the need of employees and can reduce the cost associated with the absence of employees.

6.2 Record Keeping

Every organization must maintain a proper record of absence in order to make effective use of absence management programme. Bydawell (2000) states that most organisations fail to track attendance adequately. The result is – what does not get measured, is not managed. If this happens, “excessive absenteeism escalates to the point that it directly affects productivity, quality and morale and employing people is eventually seen as a liability” (Bydawell, 2000, p. 14). If the proper record is maintained than management can find the area of problem and can remove that problem by taking necessary steps.

6.3 Absence Control Policies

This strategy suggests that managers make use of positive reinforcement (public recognition and rewards) or negative reinforcement/ punishment (employee call-in to give notice of absence, progressive discipline for excessive absence and doctor’s certificates for all illnesses) to shape employees’ behaviour in the desired direction. It is important that employees are educated in the company’s expectations/standards of acceptable attendance. Johnson et al. (2003, p. 340) maintain that “absence policies purely aimed at controlling absence have been found to actually cause higher absence levels by undermining employee commitment.” According to Anderson (2004), employers should rather focus on building a present and committed workforce to reduce the number of absences. The author further holds that organisations should create a working environment where employees actually want to come to work because if employees are dissatisfied with particular workplace realities like job design, policies and work climate, they will use the avenues available to them, including sick leave.

6.4 Attendance Oriented Culture

Organisations should have policies in place that create a work environment where employees want to work in, including flexible working arrangements and rewards for good attendance, as such policies have been found to reduce sickness absence (Evans & Walters, 2002 as quoted by Johnson et al., 2003; O’Reilly, 2003).

Bonus and incentive culture for regular attendant would be helpful and can motivate other non regular employee to come on work according to schedule.

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6.5 Flexible Work Practices

Many employees care for children or elderly relatives and these household tasks are common cause of absence (Gragg, 2004; O’Reilly, 2003). Family-friendly initiatives by organisations could be an effective way of cutting absence. This may mean providing more flexible working hours, child care facilities and time off for school events that may help employees strike a balance between their work and personal lives (Johnson et al., 2003).

Telecommuting is another strategy employed by some organisations as it gives employees freedom to work in an environment that fits their personal needs, without jeopardising the outputs expected by the employer (Gragg, 2004). With telecommuting, employees can schedule their personal appointments to fit into their work schedules. This could help to reduce the number of unscheduled absence. Gragg (2004) however, also cautions against telecommuting as there could be employees who abuse this privilege.

6.6 Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP)

An EAP can be described as “a manpower management control system designed to facilitate early identification of employees with a variety of medical, emotional and financial problems that impair these employees’ job performance and also to motivate them to receive assistance, thereby improving their job performance and quality of life” (Van der Burgh, 1988 as quoted by Koen-Muller, 2005, p. 41). Hence, an EAP is one of the fundamental ways in which an organisation can assist its employees in dealing with problems related to their “mental” health, thereby reducing the effect on long-term absenteeism. A common reason for employing an EAP is to assist employees with problems relating to drug and alcohol abuse (Employee assistance programmes, 2004). Typical EAPs entail face-to-face counselling sessions with professional counsellors; however, telephone counselling is also used in some organisations (Strazewski, 2005). According to Haswell (2003), the key principle of an EAP is the referral of employees by their immediate supervisors, particularly when job performance is affected. Essential to an employee assistance programme, is the issue of confidentiality as well as easy access, follow-up and evaluation (Rhodes & Steers, 1990).



7. How Organization Behaviour Theory In General Related To Every Day Practice?

Organization behaviour theories mirror the employee performance on every day practice in organization, there are number of different theories that discuss the employees satisfaction and absenteeism in different way.

Abraham Maslow supposed that the motivation could be explained by human needs into five levels(lower level physiological , safety , belongingness and higher level esteem and self actualization) ,Maslow say if employees low level of need are fulfil then employees are satisfied and motivated and produce high level of perforce, if employees basic need are not fulfil then employees are de-motivated and will not gave full consideration to work and they got illness through the stress and the start absence. Organization should consider the employee basic need and gave incentive to employee on their performance to reduce the absenteeism.

Herzberg two factor theory Herzberg’s works has influenced thinking in organizational behaviour and management. Its most enduring benefit is the attention it focuses on the effects of company systems and job design on employees’ job satisfaction. Here, job design refers to how work is arranged and how much employees control their work. Before Herzberg’s theory, employee job satisfaction was thought of only in extrinsic terms (satisfaction was only a function of pay). He pointed out that the origins of job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction were different. We now know that concentration on hygiene factors will not ensure that organizations have creative, involved, productive and motivated employees.

Stacy Adams, developed equity theory: equity theory makes a contribution to understanding how employees react to incentives and outcomes in the work setting. In the background of the performance-job satisfaction connection, equity theory shows how employees react to the available rewards from work in terms of their experienced levels of job satisfaction.

Employees always make comparison of their pay and rewards with their colleague, if employee feels unfairness in any stage then they get de-motivated and stress. Employee reduces their performance and start making absence from the work. So it is the duty of employer to make equal and faire distribution of available rewards among all employees.

Expectancy theory is a prevailing tool for managers. It can help managers to have a better understanding of their subordinates and the organization in which they work. If the achieving individual believes the organization rewards performance instead of effort, then his instrumentalities will be high and positive. If the achieving employee believes the organization does not equitably reward performance, then he will probably leave. Remember, every frustrated employee with a high need for achievement is a potential entrepreneur.

Finally it is the vital to all organizations to develop and implements such programmes that provide equal opportunities to all its employees and also reward them equally for their work. If the employees are satisfied and feeling motivation towards their work than probably they will not be absent from work. Organization also needs to provide counselling to its employees in order to solve their problems and reduce the level of absenteeism in their organization. By doing that organizations not only get regular employees on work but also reduce its costs associated with absenteeism.

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