Absenteeism at Work and its Implications for Organizational Performance

Absenteeism and its Perils

Absenteeism or taking leave from work is a growing problem for many organizations that have to deal with the loss of employee time and productivity which then result in decreased earnings and revenues for these organizations. While legitimate leave of absence from work is usually taken as the norm and is indeed sanctioned in the form of annual leave and holidays apart from sick leave, in recent years, employees in many organizations have begun to take extended breaks from work be it for personal or health or any other reasons. It is not the case here that employees must not take leave of absence. Rather, the contention of this article is that prolonged and unnecessary leave of absence as well as unplanned and disruptive leave of absences must be regulated if the organizations have to remain profitable and at the same time, the employees put in their best at work.

In other words, if the employees stick to planned leave of absence and take sick leaves only in genuine cases, then there should not be a problem with the balance between organizational needs and personal needs. However, when employees go on leave suddenly and in the middle of important projects where the deliverables are of utmost importance, it is certainly the case that the organization suffers as a result of this.

Authorized and Unauthorized Leaves

The previous section dealt with the pros and cons of planned and unplanned leaves. If we now turn to authorized and unauthorized leaves of absence, we find that once an employee decides to absent himself or herself without informing his or her manager or supervisor, then he or she can be slotted as gone AWOL or Absent Without Official Leave which is a term that was first used in the armed forces and is now widely used in Human Resource parlance to denote those employees who have absented themselves without notice. Indeed, contemporary organizations and the HR personnel are not taking kindly these instances as well as the managers who often report such instances and mention it in the employees’ appraisal to indicate a serious breach of discipline. The point here is that when employees absent themselves suddenly and without authorization, the managers have to reallocate their work and find other employees to complete their tasks.

Apart from this, the managers might not be completely in the loop about the specific tasks being done by the employee who has absented himself or herself without authorization. This is because in the laissez faire work environment of the 21st century, often it is not possible for the managers to have minute details of what an employee is working on. Moreover, when employees absent themselves suddenly, the other employees might be having their hands full and hence, it might not be possible to reallocate the tasks completely.

Absent Without Leave or AWOL

Absenteeism takes on a more dangerous turn when employees go AWOL and engage in suspicious and illegal activities which can have a bearing on the organizations as the individual in question is a part of the organization and hence, the organization bears some responsibility towards his or her actions. This is the reason why many organizations in recent years have come out with strict policies and rules and regulations that specify an outer limit for the number of days an employee can go AWOL without informing his or her manager. In some multinationals like Fidelity, this is as short as two days because the reasoning is that in this connected and mobile age, the employee or his or her family as well as friends can contact the organization within two days if the employee is absent because of legitimate reasons like being involved in an accident, or having a personal emergency.

Further, organizations like IBM and Microsoft have call trees that can be activated in case of emergencies and procedures to activate continuity of business routines. This means that the employees have to give alternate contact numbers to their managers in the call trees so that the employee and the alternate contact can be reached in case of any serious event because of which the employee is unable to reach the manager.

Absenteeism from Trainings and Events

We have so far focused on absenteeism from work and its consequences for organizational performance. If we consider absenteeism from trainings and important events like Annual Days, All Hands Meets, and Town Halls with the senior leadership, we find that many organizations are frowning on this kind of absenteeism as well. The contention here is that for smoother organizational communication, employees have to necessarily attend these meets and hence, absenteeism is not being tolerated here. moreover, being absent from trainings entails monetary losses for organizations as training nowadays is an expensive affair and is usually priced on a per seat basis.

Further, finding replacements at the last minute is tough for many organizations and hence, many HR managers and direct managers often make it a point to mention absenteeism from training in the overall performance assessments of the employees. Before concluding this article, it would be pertinent to point that a balanced and objective look at absenteeism would reveal the fact that in most cases, there are legitimate reasons on both sides i.e. the employees and the organizations. Therefore, the concluding statement is that both employees and the organizations should realize their responsibilities and conduct themselves in a manner that does not lead to legal and other complications for either side.


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