Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Influence of Motivation to Attend, Ability to Attend, and Organizational Commitment on Different Types of Absence Behaviors

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Influence of Motivation to Attend, Ability to Attend, and Organizational Commitment on Different Types of Absence Behaviors

Article excerpt

In the past twenty years over 500 books and papers have been written about absenteeism (Harrison and Martocchio, 1998). This is not surprising considering the importance of controlling absenteeism from an organizational perspective. In the United States, for example, it is estimated that employee absenteeism costs organizations approximately $40 billion per year (Gaudine and Saks, 2001). In addition, recent metaanalyses have demonstrated that absenteeism is negatively correlated (r = -.29) with performance (Bycio, 1992).

The majority of the work done in this field has focused on how individual factors such as personality (Porter and Steers, 1973), demographics (Lee, 1989), and job attitudes (Steers and Rhodes, 1978) influence absence behavior. The results from these studies have been inconsistent (Harrison and Martocchio, 1998). One reason for this inconsistency may be that the majority of these studies are non-theory based. In addition, most examined overall absenteeism rather than specific categories of absenteeism. In this article, we propose extending the highly influential Steers and Rhodes (1978) model of absenteeism by focusing on various types of absenteeism as well as utilizing three dimensions of organizational commitment.


The Steers and Rhodes (1978) model of absenteeism has been called one of the most influential and often-cited models in the absenteeism literature (Harrison and Martocchio, 1998). In the model, employee attendance is primarily determined by an employee's ability and motivation to attend. These two variables also are theorized to interact such that someone's perceived ability to attend moderates the motivation to attend--attendance relationship. Motivation to attend is influenced by a person's satisfaction with his/her job situation and various pressures to attend (i.e., economic conditions, organizational commitment, etc.).

Although highly influential, the Steers and Rhodes (1978) model has received relatively few direct overall tests (Harrison and Martocchio, 1998). Due to the complexity of the model, most researchers have only tested portions of the overall model (e.g., Brooke and Price, 1989). The only study that tested all theoretical components of the original Steers and Rhodes model is Lee (1989). In his study, he found that motivation to attend predicts attendance but ability to attend had no direct or indirect affect on attendance. Moreover, motivation to attend was only weakly related to attendance. Rhodes and Steers (1990) suggest that the few partial and one complete test provide some support for their original model.

Multidimensionality of Absence Behaviors

One reason why the limited research on motivation to attend and ability to attend has found mixed results is that, in order to be consistent with Steers and Rhodes' model, these studies focused on measures of overall absenteeism. It may be that absenteeism is multidimensional rather than unidimensional. Therefore, separating and predicting different types of absences may be useful (Martocchio and Harrison, 1993). Kohler and Mathieu (1993) and others (e.g., Blau, 1985) argue that research in absenteeism may be missing significant findings by relying on a unidimensional framework of absenteeism (e.g., avoidable--unavoidable, paid--unpaid). They recommend and test the notion that absenteeism is a multidimensional construct. In Kohler and Mathieu's study of transit workers, they found that separating absenteeism into several components (illness, personal, family, transportation) enabled them to find results that would have been hidden by examining overall absenteeism.

In this article, we suggest expanding the Steers and Rhodes model to focus on absenteeism due to illness, family issues, transportation problems, and failure to report for work without notice. The predictiveness of different components from the Steers and Rhodes model may depend on the type of situation causing an employee's absence. …

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