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Job Satisfaction And Absenteeism Relationship

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 3442 words Published: 11th May 2017

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In organizational research, the term absenteeism is marked by “nonattendance of employees for scheduled work when they are expected to attend” (Huczynski & Fitzpatrick, 1989, p. 250). Absenteeism varies widely within organizations and within different sectors. Work attitudes are considered important determinants of withdrawal behavior (Appelbaum et al., 2003; Harrison and Martocchio, 1998; Sturges et al., 2005). Job satisfaction is considered the main determinant of absenteeism.


Job satisfaction or dissatisfaction is a work attitude which refers to personal feelings or beliefs associated with work. Hanisch and Hulin (1991) theorized that absenteeism and other withdrawal behaviors (e.g., lateness, turnover) reflect ”invisible” attitudes such as job dissatisfaction, low level of organizational commitment, or an intention to quit. According to this view, an employee who is absent from work is consciously or unconsciously expressing negative attachment to the organization. Zboril-Benson (2002) reported that as job dissatisfaction increased, self-reported absenteeism increased. Conversely, employees who are highly satisfied with their jobs or strongly committed to the organization will avoid withdrawal behaviors and maintain continued attachment to work (Blau & Boal, 1987). It has been predicted that job satisfaction increased, absenteeism decreased (Hackett & Guion, 1985; Taunton et al., 1989; 1995)

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1.1 Job satisfaction and absenteeism relationship

In the past, scholars have questioned the job satisfaction-absenteeism relationship. Muchinsky (1977) concluded that a relationship exists between job satisfaction and absenteeism. Researchers including Johns (1978), Muchinsky (1977), Porter and Steers (1973) thought that job satisfaction to be inversely related to absenteeism. Findings reported a weak relationship between the two variables (Nicholson, Brown and Chadwick-Jones, 1976; Ilgen and Hollenback, 1977) and therefore Nicholson et al. (1976) concluded that such a relationship does not exist. Moreover, a hypothesis put forward by Steers and Rhodes (1978) is that the relationship between job satisfaction and absenteeism is not direct; instead it is moderated by factors as shown in APPENDIX A.

1.2 Model and theory

To date, the major theoretical construct used to organize and relate these behaviors has been “job withdrawal behavior” (Adler& Golan, 1981). For many years, research has focused on a withdrawal model of absenteeism which suggested that withdrawal behaviors were largely related to individual’s attitudes specifically job dissatisfaction and low work commitment. Withdrawal theory has been used to account for the job satisfaction-absenteeism relationship (Steers & Rhodes, 1978, 1984). This theory suggests that when individuals become dissatisfied with their jobs, this reduces their motivation to attend work, resulting in absence behavior. Further, Steers and Rhodes (1978) predicted that the effects of all other job related and organizational variables on absence would work their way through job satisfaction. Steers and Rhodes (1978) assigned job attitudes a central place in their model, predicting that the effects of other job related and organizational variables on absence would work their way through job satisfaction.

Although the withdrawal theory has seen substantial support in the literature, a more recent meta-analysis has shown that absence behavior is much more complex than a simple direct relationship between job satisfaction and absence behavior (Harrison & Martocchio, 1998). This meta-analysis concluded that a number of direct relationships exist in addition to the job satisfaction, absence relationship. More recently, John (2001) criticized the withdrawal model for focusing only on workers’ attitudes and not on dispositional and external factors such as absence cultures, organizational policies and other social factors.

The majority of included studies did not explicitly follow a theoretical framework focused on absenteeism.

1.3 Empirical evidence

The strongest evidence from research in North America and the developed world is a consistent relationship between levels of job satisfaction and absence from work (Farrell & Stamm, 1988; Harrison & Martocchio, 1998). The more satisfied employees are with the workplace, the less likely they are to be absent, conversely, the more dissatisfied employees are with the workplace, the more likely they are to be absent. Three Meta-analyses of the relationship between employee absenteeism and job satisfaction (Scott & Taylor, 1985; Hackett & Guion, 1985) showed that job satisfaction was found consistently to be negatively associated with absence (Scott & Taylor, 1985; Hackett, 1989). Job satisfaction was also shown to be negatively associated with absence, and found to be the most significant predictor of absenteeism by Brooke (1989)

Wegge, Schmidt, Parkes, and Van Dick (2007) hypothesized that low job satisfaction affects absenteeism. The purpose of their study was to identify organization-specific predictors of job satisfaction, including work attitudes. job dissatisfaction can have a negative impact on the organization and has been causally related to high rates of employee absenteeism (Hacket & Bycio, 1996).

Additional findings from unit-level research generally reveal negative relationships between satisfaction and absence (Steel et al., 2002; Terborg, Lee, Smith, Davis, & Turbin, 1982). Recently, Hausknecht, Hiller, Vance (2008) found a negative relationship between unit level job satisfaction and unit level absenteeism. associated with work unit membership. In the few studies in which satisfaction and absence were aggregated to the unit level, researchers have found mixed results regarding the direction and magnitude of the variables’ relationship. For example, Dineen et al. (2007; Study 2) studied absence over three months among 70 manufacturing teams and found that the relationship between job satisfaction and absenteeism was negative when dispersion (within-team variability in satisfaction) was high. However, they also found that absence was actually lowest when mean job satisfaction and dispersion were both low, suggesting that shared negative attitudes may actually create a common in-group identity that promotes attendance at work.

ybema et al. (2010) found that low job satisfaction could be an antecedent as well as a consequence of absenteeism. this study is among the first to give empirical evidence for reciprocity between job satisfaction and employee absenteeism.

Khurram, Khansa, Muhammad, Saajid and Kashif (2011) analysed the factors responsible for turnover and absenteeism in public sector institutions in Pakistan. and found that job satisfaction significantly predicted employee absenteeism. Employees, who were high on job satisfaction, had low absentees.

1.3.1 Empirical evidence in health care professions

Nurses are reported to have one of the highest rates of absenteeism among all professionals in Canada, especially those working in hospitals (Rajbhandary & Basu, 2010). For example, in 2005 the rate of absenteeism for full-time nurses in Canada was 58% higher than the average Canadian full-time worker (Rajbhandary & Basu, 2010).

Cohen and Golan (2007) using female employees in long term nursing care facilities showed that among work attitudes, job satisfaction is a strong predictor of absenteeism. Their findings support the notion that job satisfaction plays a critical role in an employee’s decision to be absent (Spector, 1997).

Machin, Fogarty and Albion (2004) found that in a sample of rural-based nurses high work support was related to lower levels absenteeism while high work demands were associated with high levels of absenteeism. in 2008, Albion, Fogarty, Machin and Patrick found that job satisfaction fully mediate the relationship between the organization climate variable, role clarity and intention to leave. Moreover a linear relationship between work distress and absenteeism was found, that is, higher levels of work distress lead to long duration of absences. they presented … as a model that propose that individual moral, quality of work life, job satisfaction and individual distress are psychological states that all make a contribution to organizational variables such as absenteeism and intention to leave.

Davey, Cummings, Newburn-Cook and Lo (2009) aimed to identify and examine predictors of short-term absences of staff nurses working in hospital settings reported in the research literature. Their findings showed that work attitudes, job satisfaction, as a predictor of absenteeism and reduced nurse absenteeism.

1.3.2 Empirical evidence in teaching profession

Bridges (1980) conducted a study on job satisfaction and teacher absenteeism and found that job satisfaction was not a major contributor to the teachers’ absenteeism. However, Bridges acknowledged that there was evidence to suggest that job satisfaction and absenteeism have a strong relationship and that further studies are needed to yield conclusive results.

Job satisfaction can account for the high rate of teacher absenteeism in school systems worldwide, and very little research has been done to address it (Sargent & Hannum, 2005). Sargent and Hannum (2005) noted that of particular interest was the job dissatisfaction in rural schools in the United States and how this factor was closely linked to teacher absenteeism.

Turner (2007) examined four large urban school systems in a North Carolina school district and the different variables associated with teacher absenteeism. Turner reported that the schools with the most work system interdependence (i.e., interactions between teachers and administrators) led to high job satisfaction and low employee absenteeism. In other studies, teacher absenteeism has not focused exclusively on developing countries such as the United States and India (Chaudhury, Hammer, Kremer, Mularidhararrn, & Rogers, 2004). in Israel, teacher absenteeism continues to be problematic and remains a top focus of research (Abeles, 2009)

In a study concerning job satisfaction and teacher absenteeism, Akhtar, Hashmi and Naqvi (2010) surveyed 150 teachers from public and private educational settings and found that the majority of teachers were satisfied with their jobs. The researchers, however, did not conclude whether job satisfaction accounted for the number of absences, but they did note some limitations in their study. Specifically, they stated that the participants in both settings may not have been sincere in their responses to the surveys and that this may have affected the results of the study.

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Emmanuel (2010) The study therefore concludes that job satisfactions, meaningfulness of work and job stress are major determinants of teacher absenteeism in Nigerian public primary schools. The first proposition is that absenteeism is dependent on job satisfaction. Robbins (2005) defines job satisfaction as a general positive attitude towards one’s job. He found a strong positive correlation between absenteeism and job satisfaction. The point to note is that while high level of job satisfaction may not necessarily result in low rate of absenteeism, low level of job satisfaction is more likely to increase the level of absenteeism.

1.4 Facets of job satisfaction

According to Aamodt (2007), there are many facets of job satisfaction, including pay, supervision, coworkers, work, and promotional opportunities. The biggest incentive on employee satisfaction is monetary; most employees are satisfied with their jobs or current positions when they feel that they are getting paid what they are worth. Along with getting paid for what they are worth, employees also want recognition for their hard work. Employees are the most satisfied, inspired, and motivated when they know that they are getting paid what they are worth and being recognized by their managers, coworkers, and so on, for a job well done.

Job satisfaction is effected by two factors one is individual (intrinsic) and other is organizational (extrinsic) factors (Castle, 2008). Intrinsic job satisfaction has been differentiated from extrinsic job satisfaction – intrinsic is defined as satisfaction with the job itself, and extrinsic as the satisfaction with factors external to the job (Weiss, Davis, England, & Lofquist, 1967)

Punnett, Greenidge and Ramsey (2007) found in their study that the most important single predictor of absence was satisfaction with co-workers. Also they found that both intrinsic satisfaction for instance activity and responsibility and extrinsic factors including organizational loyalty, satisfaction with co-workers, activity, responsibility, and security had a negative relationship with absenteeism which means that as these factors decrease, absenteeism increase.


2.1 Feedback

Gaudine and Saks (2001) tested the effects of an Absenteeism Feedback Intervention on employee absenteeism. They provided absenteeism feedback to nurses in a medium-sized hospital. Nurses received feedback about their own number of absent days and episodes as well as the average of their work and occupational group. When compared with a control group that did not receive feedback, nurses in the experimental group who had higher than average absenteeism during the previous year but were not extreme offenders, had significantly fewer absent days and episodes.

Another study by Markham, Scott and McKee (2002) examined the effects of a recognition program on absenteeism in four manufacturing plants. One of the plants was designated the experimental group and received personal recognition for good attendance. The other three plants served as control group: one received information feedback about their absenteeism every 2 months, one only participated in completing the study survey and one did not receive an intervention or complete the survey. The results showed a significant decrease in absenteeism over four time-periods for the plant with the personal recognition program. However, in the plant that received information feedback, a significant decrease in absenteeism was found only in the first quarter. There was also a significant decrease in the first quarter for the plant that received the survey, and a significant decrease in the plant that did not receive the survey in the first and second quarters. However, Markham et al. (2002) study did not include feedback about the absenteeism of one’s coworkers or work group as that of Gaudine and Saks (2001).

Gaudine, Saks, Dawe and Beaton (2011) investigated the effects of absenteeism feedback and goal-setting interventions on nurses’ perceptions of fairness, feelings of discomfort and absenteeism. For the nurses receiving absenteeism feedback and who were likely to respond to the intervention, there was a significant decrease in the total number of days absent but not for episodes. In contrast, there was no significant decrease in total days or episodes absent for the nurses in the control group. However, the results cannot be generalized since the study consisted of only a small amount of female participants from a single health-care organization.

2.2 Rewards

Well structured rewards are helpful in bringing down the level of absenteeism (Camp & Lambart, 2006).

One such study that applied the concept of operant conditioning was conducted by Pedalino and Gamboa in 1974. In the study, the concept of operant conditioning was implemented to determine whether financial rewards could alter the employees’ behaviors within the work setting. The researchers hypothesized that “intermittent reinforcement using financial rewards will lead to a significant decrease in [employee] absenteeism” (p. 695). The goal of reducing employee absenteeism was achieved. They also found out that when the incentive program was removed, absenteeism jumped back to the same extent.

Jacobson (1989) suggested that a monetary incentive program will increase teacher attendance notably and lower the payroll costs of hiring substitute teachers. He investigated a direct relationship between monetary incentives and work floor attendance and showed that absence among teachers in a particular school district in the State of New York declined significantly after introduction of the incentive plan. On the other hand, although Jacobson (1989) revealed data suggesting that even though the implementation of organizational incentives yielded high rates of teacher attendance short-term, Jacobson did not reflect on whether these incentives would have a linear effect in the long term

Absenteeism has been shown to decline with a tangible reward system (Camp & Lambert, 2006). They found that a retirement system that allowed unused “sick days” to count toward retirement benefits was more effective at reducing the number of absences among employees than a retirement system that did not allow accumulation of unused “sick days.” The results provide support for operant conditioning. For the correctional staffs that were rewarded for unused sick leave, absenteeism was lower than for the group of staff that were not. This indicates that by providing a positive reinforce by counting unused sick leave toward length of employment for the purpose for retirement encourages correctional staff to report to work more often.

Hassink and Koning (2009) investigated the effectiveness of a lottery-based bonus reward system in reducing employee absenteeism. Dutch manufacturing firm held a monthly lottery for workers who had taken no sick leave in the previous three months and had not previously won the lottery. The authors find statistically significant differences in absence patterns across groups of workers with different eligibility statuses depending on their attendance records and whether they had previously won. One finding is that absenteeism rose among workers who, having won already, were ineligible for further participation.

Román (2009) investigates how workers react to changes made to an existing incentive plan for teams and whether the underlying changes led to improvements in productivity and product quality, and in reducing absenteeism and turnover. The firm switched from an incentive plan that relied on piece-rates to a two tier incentive plan that rewarded individual team performance and plant-wide performance. He found significant improvements in worker productivity and product quality as well as reductions in worker absenteeism and turnover after the implementation of the incentive plan

In a study conducted in India concerning the use of a monetary incentive program to increase teacher attendance, Duflo, Hanna, and Ryan (2010) reported that the teachers were responsive to the financial incentives, showing an attendance rate of 66% in the treatment group and 64% in the control group.

Moreover, research suggests implementing some form of incentive reward system with feedback can be an effective method of changing employee behavior (Beard, Woodman, & Moesel, 1998; Morgan & Herman, 1976; Steers & Rhodes, 1978).

Camden, Price and Ludwig (2011) tested an intervention that combined public normative feedback and a credit reward system. Cashiers and baggers in a grocery store received points that could be used for store credit toward purchases if they showed up on time and worked their entire scheduled shift, and gained manager approval for a schedule change. In addition, the points earned by employees were posted on a public feedback poster that listed the employee’s name and the total number of points earned. As expected, the total number of absent days per week decreased as did the number of unauthorized schedule changes.


Properly managing or approaching employee absenteeism by having a clear understanding of the absence itself is crucial to alleviate this dilemma properly and legally. Organizations must be able to correctly identify the types and causes of absences and take into consideration the different employment laws.


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