Work culture includes the relationship an individual has with peers or colleagues, and also the rapport a person has with his or her manager/boss.
A new study suggests a supportive supervisor can keep employees in certain hazardous jobs from being absent even when co-workers think it’s all right to miss work.
Having peers who think it’s OK to miss a lot of work days influenced employees to miss more work only when the employees felt their supervisors were not supportive, the study found.
The influence of a strong relationship with the supervisor even mitigated absenteeism associated with an individual’s perception of danger on the job.
“The findings provide useful guidance for companies and organizations that are dealing with a counterproductive employee subculture that condones missing work,” said lead author Michal Biron, PhD, of Israel’s University of Haifa and the Netherlands’ Tilburg University.
“Leadership will do well to provide front line supervisors with training and resources so that they can be supportive of their employees who deal with tough work environments.”
Researchers studied 508 workers with the transportation authority of a large U.S. municipality. The entity closely monitors employee attendance and enforces a strict absence policy.
The sample was 69 percent men and 31 percent women with an average age of 46. Forty-three percent of the workers were employed in the authority’s bus division, 48 percent in the station division and 9 percent in the subway division.
Researchers determined the participants’ rate of absenteeism from their personnel records over 24 months. Thirty-four individuals were randomly selected to determine perceived job hazards by responding to a series of questionnaires about hazards on the job such as electrocution, dangerous chemicals or contaminants, continuous loud noise, extreme temperatures or humidity, and verbal or physical assaults by customers or co-workers.
All study participants were queried on how they felt about their co-workers and the degree to which their co-workers viewed 20 possible reasons for absence as “justifiable.” Reasons ranged from the individual’s own illness symptoms to personal situations such as parental illness or an important event at a child’s school.
The participants were also asked to rate their supervisor’s supportiveness.
Researchers asked the employees to indicate how often during the past month their immediate supervisor assisted them in various ways, such as “talked you through work-related problems, helping you come up with solutions,” and “provided you with encouragement about your work.”
The participants responded using a 5-point scale ranging from 0 for “never” to 4 for “several times a day.”
A remarkable finding was the absence of high employee absenteeism even when confronted with aversive work conditions and among peers who approve of missing work.
“This may be because employees want to reciprocate positive treatment and avoid causing any problems due to their absenteeism that could negatively impact their supervisors,” said co-author Peter Bamberger, Ph.D.
The study is published online in the Journal of Applied Psychology.