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Dealing with high absenteeism.

Dealing with High Absenteeism

Carl rushed into his office as fast as he could, hoping nobody had noticed his tardiness. To compound his problems, he had called in sick the day before. Coincidentally the World Series play-offs were only 30 minutes from his house, and he sported a suspicious-looking sunburn.

Breathing a sigh of relief, he settled into his chair. He smiled to himself until he heard heavy footsteps in the corridor. "Oh no! It's the supervisor," thought Carl. He shuffled paper until his boss poked his head through the door. "I'd like to speak to you for a few minutes, Carl," the supervisor said. "You look so serious," Carl joked halfheartedly. "Is anything wrong?" But Carl already knew what the problem was, so he braced himself for the confrontation. Does this scenario sound familiar? What can a supervisor do to deal effectively with the multibillion dollar problem of absenteeism? Research reveals predictable patterns of absenteeism across a wide spectrum of business and industry. The following are eight observations that shed light on the phenomenon:

* Emotional factors are involved in 25 percent of all absences.

* Skilled employees are absent less than unskilled or semiskilled workers.

* Most absenteeism is concentrated in a small segment of the work force.

* Long-service, older employees are absent less than the under-25-year-old group.

* Approximately 50 percent of all one- and two-day absences precede or follow otherwise legitimate time off for holidays or weekends.

* There is a high correlation between employee "illness" and major sports events.

* About 30 percent of employees are seldom absent.

* Absenteeism increases with prolonged overtime and extended work-weeks.

Surprisingly, warnings to workers who are frequently absent are seldom effective. Productivity consultant Mitchell Fein points out that the person who is absent is doing what he or she really wants to do--staying home from work even though he or she may lose wages, receive reprimands, and upset productivity.

Individuals should do what they enjoy doing, but when that personal liberty impinges on the rights of others, perhaps they should consider doing it elsewhere. Fein also maintains that efforts to reward employees to maintain good attendance have little effect because only the good employees pick the behavior up. Moreover, good employees have to work harder because their coworkers fail to show up.

A basic approach to reducing absenteeism is to keep good records on absences, study them to ascertain the reasons for the absences, and discuss them with each employee. Often employees are surprised when they see how their six-month record of absences compares with others. Excessive absences and tardiness are a reflection of morale, and so might be the first area to explore. Other techniques for reducing the problem include

* Avoid paying for holidays when an employee is absent on the day before or after the holiday.

* Screen new employees closely and do not hire those with questionable attendance records at other companies.

* Require employees to talk to their supervisors when calling in sick.

* Tie attendance records to promotions.

* Establish a written policy for absenteeism and indicate the disciplinary action taken if absenteeism becomes excessive.

* Alter paydays to that day in which the greatest number of employees are absent--usually Monday.

A strategy called the push policy is used by one company who had high absentee problems. It consists of three basic parts.

Verbal message. In the initial interview and shortly after hiring, tell the employee the company's policy regarding absences--everyone works together as part of a team. The absentee policy and call-in procedures are work rules; they are conditions of employment.

Written notice. When an employee has been absent, the supervisor determines if the absence was excusable or not. If unexcusable, the employee is given a written notice that only a maximum of two unexcused absences will be tolerated. The supervisor maintains the responsibility of determining the true cause for the absence.

Suspension/discharge. If an employee has been unexcusably absent twice in a six-month period, a face-to-face meeting between the supervisor and employee is held immediately to determine if the employee should continue with the company. Three unexcused absences in a six-month period constitutes discharge.

Does the push policy sound tough? It is--but remember, marginal employees contribute the least and cause the most headaches. Your organization's policy on absenteeism, tardiness, and reporting should be a fundamental part of the new employee orientation procedure and expressly described in the policies and procedures guide.

Jeffrey P. Davidson is the author of Marketing to the Fortune 500 and Blow Your Own Horn--How to Market Yourself and Your Career. He is a certified management consultant from Falls Church, VA. Anthony Alessandra, PhD, has authored five books, including The Business of Selling, and has been a full-time speaker since 1979, delivering over 750 speeches to managers, professionals, and executives. He is based in La Jolla, CA.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Davidson, Jeffrey P.; Alessandra, Anthony
Publication:Security Management
Article Type:column
Date:Feb 1, 1989
Next Article:Access Control and Personal Identification Systems.

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