Project on Absenteeism Among Workers

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  • Topic: Illness, Trade union, Productivity
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"Perceived Consequences of Absenteeism"
by Lillie Guinell Morgan and Jeanne Brett Herman
Journal of Applied Psychology Dec. 1976
The study:  The authors conducted a detailed statistical study to determine which would be the best approach to reducing absenteeism in the work place; "the carrot or the stick." They evaluated factors which they perceived motivated workers to be absent from work and factors they felt were deterrents to absenteeism. Conducting the study:  Information was collected from sixty blue-collar workers in an automobile-parts foundry. Workers were asked to rate the importance of motivational and deterrent factors that influenced their decisions to be absent or not. Factors that were tested (proposed by the authors) as possibly motivating  worker absenteeism included: break from routine, family activities, personal illness, break from supervisor, family illness, time with friends, family functions, personal business, break from co-workers, transportation, leisure time, house maintenance. Most of the factors were found to be, to varying degrees, significant in motivating absenteeism except break from supervisor, and time with friends. The factors that were tested as deterrents to absenteeism included: loss of wages, disciplinary talk, loss of co-workers, work harder, heavier work load, disciplinary time off, loss of promotion opportunities, loss of job, disciplinary probation, loss of production, and loss of benefits. The most significant of these deterrent factors were found to be: disciplinary talk, loss of promotional opportunities, and loss of benefits. Conclusion:  The study concluded that providing positive incentives  to workers in the form of those motivational factors that normally influence workers to be absent is better than imposing penalties for discouraging absenteeism. The best reward for workers with low absenteeism is to grant additional time off for personal matters. Workers are influenced to a lesser extent by deterrents, loss of pay and benefits and loss of promotion opportunities and discharge, imposed for frequent absenteeism. Finally a combination of incentives  (additional time off) and penalties (loss of benefits or job) with the primary emphasis on motivational incentives is the most effective approach to reducing absenteeism.  

There have been many studies on productivity measuring supervisory methods.  The results are not always consistent.  The study done by Argyle, Gardner and Cioffi, was done on ninety foremen in eight British factories manufacturing electric motors and switch gear. There were five dimensions of foremanship outlined.  General supervision has been found to be preferred by workers and in fact, is related to increased job satisfaction.  A foreman who exercises pressure for production is usually inversely related to productivity, and job satisfaction.  Foremen who are employee centered almost always relate to higher job satisfaction.  Democratic leadership generally leads to greater job satisfaction.  Finally, punitive leadership is typically associated with low productivity levels, however, a link to job satisfaction has not been determined. It was expected that all the dimensions of foremanship would be related to productivity.  The most successful foreman should exercise general supervision, low pressure, in addition to being employee centered, democratic, and non-punitive.  The type of foremanship is believed to have more influence on those workers who are not paid on an incentive basis.  Assembly departments will exhibit a greater difference on productivity due to the fact that they are more people oriented.  It was also believed that trained foremen will have more favorable ratings on the dimensions of foremanship and will have more efficient departments.  In regards to absenteeism and turnover, smaller groups were expected to have lower rates. Typically, with...
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