Carnegie Mellon University
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Causes of Absenteeism

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journal contribution
posted on 2009-12-01, 00:00 authored by Robert S. Atkin, Paul S. Goodman

The objective of this report is to examine the causes of absenteeism. In general, there are two strategies available to the researcher to explore this issue.. The first is to ask job incumbents why they take days off and what contributes or inhibits the taking of absences Although this strategy is straightforward, it has rarely been reported in the literature. At least two reasons can be suggested for its infrequent use: (a) a belief that responses to questions of this type are likely to be biased toward "correct" reasons, and (b) the relative expense involved in conducting the interviews necessary to Obtain this type of data.. Support from the Bureau of the Mines through Contract #J0328033 provided the funding necessary the alleviate issue (b) We also believe that issue (a) has been minimized by an interview strategy that had the following characteristics:·

1 Extensive prior discussions with the UMWA at the national, district and local level.

2 .. Extensive prior discussions with mine operators at the corporate, regional and mine level.

3 Individuals interviews conducted with miners at the job site (which in most cases meant underground) ..

4. A very specific set of ground rules that included three key provisions, namely, that participation in the interview was voluntary, that all answers were confidential, and that no reports would be issued that identified individual miners or small groups of miners ..

5 A thorough interview that focused on real issues of interest to miners in the language of the industry rather than an "off-the-shelf" questionnaire couched in behavioral jargon.

6 .. A promise of feedback to both the miners and the mine management on a number of topics of interest to both. Such feedback sessions have all been delivered, typically within three months of the collection of the data ..

The second strategy, more common in the literature, is to collect absence information and various other data pertaining to age, marital status, job satisfaction, and job and organizational characteristics, and then use multivariate techniques (usually linear regression) to establish predictive relationships.. Atkin and Goodman (1983) discuss this strategy, the general findings it produces, and the limitations it poses ..

This report will focus on data that talks to the first of these strategies. We believe that such an approach may provide new insights about absenteeism. as viewed by the job incumbent. that are not typically found as part of the more traditional analysis. We intend to use these insights in a later paper to improve upon the traditional analysis ..

In summary. this report will focus on answers to questions. posed to miners. about why they took days off. how important various factors were in deciding to take days off. various possible job-based causes of absence-taking and various characteristics of absence control plans.. A later report will use an improved version of the traditional technology to establish statistical relationships between possible causes and actual absence-taking ..


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