Feeling lousy. When calling in sick is not an option (Strategy and Markets)
Research | 17 November 2015 Feeling lousy. When calling in sick is not an option (Strategy and Markets)

Assessing the presenteeism climate can help organizations avoid its negative consequences | Researcher: Luis Martinez

Some underlying mechanisms regarding presenteeism still remain unclear, namely, the construct of presenteeism climate and the importance of leadership for presenteeism. In order to shed some light into this phenomenon, Nova SBE’s Professor Luis Martinez and colleagues sought to develop and apply a new scale of presenteeism climate. In addition, by integrating literature on leadership, the researchers aimed to recognize the possible influence of Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) variables on a presenteeism climate, a topic that has rarely been explored.

Results of the study showed that LMX has a negative correlation with presenteeism climate. Also, this structure remained invariant with additional samples from employees working in hospitals from Ecuador and China.

Presenteeism and LMX

Presenteeism relates to employees who are present at the workplace but, due to physical or psychological problems, are unable to deliver a full performance. It’s relevance for management comes from the fact that presenteeism is associated with significant productivity loss. At present, there is still no consensus regarding the measurement of the construct and its dimensions, namely the presenteeism climate.

Leadership might play a role on decreasing the presenteeism climate. Supervisors and employees share a dual relationship characterized by mutual obligations, such as liking each other, interaction, respect, trust and support – as reinforced in the Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) theory. LMX has been associated with several organizational outcomes, such as turnover intention, satisfaction, performance and citizenship behavior. Prior research showed that high LMX supervisors tend to reduce emotional exhaustion by decreasing role stress and increasing socialization roles.

However, little is still known about the relationship between LMX and other variables such as presenteeism. In this sense, research has shown that LMX appears significantly correlated with important antecedents of presenteeism such as job insecurity and family interference. The research team also aimed to assess the individual perceptions of employees in the banking and health sectors with respect to the existence of a climate of presenteeism in their organizations, including the legitimacy given to absenteeism, and its various manifestations, as well as their opinion about the concept itself.

Research hypotheses

The following hypotheses were supported by this study:
- Presenteeism climate reveals construct validity with extra-time valuation, supervision distrust and co-workers competitiveness as independent factors.
- LMX quality is negatively associated to presenteeism climate.
- The relationship between LMX and presenteeism climate reveals cross-cultural invariance.

A new instrument to assess presenteeism climate and other implications

Overall, the results from this study provide an interesting contribution for the measurement of presenteeism climate – a concept that often appears in the literature, but that has not been systematically measured. In the authors’ view, this paper broadens the understanding of the presenteeism phenomenon by designing an instrument to assess its climate, and by extending its literature with leadership-related consequences.

This study has implications for managers and academics, as it emphasizes the importance of favorable behaviors between leaders and employees in order to decrease presenteeism and its adverse consequences. In line with this, organizations should provide structured leadership programs in order to increase the proximity between leaders and subordinates. Also, leaders should value transformational leadership dimensions, namely, proximity and empathic support.

Additionally, the researchers think that the questionnaire should be considered an important tool for organizational change, as it measures organizational climate, allowing consultants and managers to diagnose and implement behavioral modifications that might affect employees’ productivity levels. Lastly, managers should be aware of the need to consider a broad array of indicators of organizational effectiveness that reflect the perspectives of a firm’s multiple internal and external stakeholders. Thus, the scale developed in the paper provides important insight to measure and manage an important HRM indicator: presenteeism climate.

This article is based on the paper “LMX as a negative predictor of presenteeism climate: A cross-cultural study in the financial and health sectors” authored by Aristides Ferreira, Luis Martinez, Cary Cooper, and Diana Gui, which was published in 2015 in the Journal of Organizational Effectiveness: People and Performance. (issue 2(3), pages 282-302).

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