Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Comparing Correlates for Different Types of Absence versus Lateness Behaviors

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Comparing Correlates for Different Types of Absence versus Lateness Behaviors

Article excerpt

Using self-report measures of lateness and absence on pilot and main study samples, this study applied Dalton and Mesch's (1991) measurement approach to successfully "dissect" avoidable absence and avoidable lateness behaviors. Avoidable absence behavior was calculated by subtracting unavoidable absence from total absence, and avoidable lateness behavior was calculated by subtracting unavoidable lateness from total lateness. Record-based absence and lateness data, as well as test-retest self-reported absence and lateness data, collected on a subsample of pilot respondents, supported the validity and reliability of this approach. Main sample results included work exhaustion showing stronger positive relationships to absence versus lateness and career commitment exhibiting stronger negative relationships to avoidable lateness and avoidable absence. Two new specific work attitudes, punctuality and sick abuse, were partially successful in explaining lateness and absence behaviors. J Allied Health 2004; 33:238-246.

ALTHOUGH SOME RESEARCH1,2 has argued for collapsing measures of lateness and absence together into a broader work-withdrawal construct, most empirical research continues to focus on absence and lateness as related but distinct behaviors.5,4 Furthermore, perhaps partially due to greater associated employee costs, absence is studied much more frequently than lateness.5 With a one-day absence, an employee misses a full day of scheduled work, while lateness generally means arrival some time after the beginning of scheduled work. Health care organizations, like many other types of organizations, must monitor the absence and lateness behaviors of their employees to ensure adequate staffing levels. The primary purpose of this study is to apply a measurement approach, by Dalton and Mesch,6 for distinguishing between different types of absence and lateness behaviors, while examining the differential impact of a set of correlates on these behaviors.

Types of Absence and Lateness

Much empirical research on absence and lateness has used general or overall measures of each, without distinguishing type.3,4 Research has recognized that absence and lateness are both negatively evaluated by organizations and thus typically low base-rate employee behaviors.7,8 However, prior research9,10 has suggested that an "unavoidable/avoidable" distinction can be usefully made in absence behaviors. Unavoidable employee absence includes absence due to factors beyond an employee's control, such as personal or family illness, bad weather, or transportation problems. The Steers and Rhodes12 model of absence recognized this by grouping such factors under "ability to attend." Avoidable absence is under the employee's control, that is, there is a choice made by the employee to not come to work.13 While there is acknowledged "subjectivity" in this unavoidable/avoidable distinction, such a distinction is possible.10'11 For example, if an employee wakes up and there is 10 inches of snow on the ground, this would constitute an "unavoidable" or "involuntary" absence; if an employee wakes up and finds it is raining and decides he or she does not feel like going to work, this would be an "avoidable" or "voluntary" absence.

The Steers and Rhodes12 model recognized this volitional choice with an "attendance motivation" factor, which is a function of satisfaction with one's job situation and pressures to attend (e.g., work ethic, group norms). Theoretical work on lateness also recognizes "motivational" (i.e., work attitude and "ability," such as family related, weather, and transportation) antecedents.8'14 Applying the above example to unavoidable/avoidable lateness, the same employee who finds it is raining upon awakening decides to go to work but arrives late due to the slower/more congested traffic caused by the rain. This lateness would be classified as "unavoidable." Based on. prior theory,8·12 six of the seven correlates investigated as antecedents of lateness and absence in this study are motivational or choice related (i. …

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