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Motivation and Absenteeism

Written by Dave Gannaway

Every employer has to deal with the problems of motivation and absenteeism. Absenteeism is costly, affects productivity as well as the morale of the rest of the workforce. Absenteeism can disrupt production lines, miss vital schedules, and place extra pressure on remaining staff. Lack of motivation creates a downward spiral and is counterproductive to all concerned.

Many employers first reaction is to shout and scream demanding greater effort, threats to cut wages, even removing persistent offenders altogether. Sadly, this most often results in sinking deeper into the hole. Levels of motivation drop even more resulting in ever lower morale. Greater pressure and stress is then placed on managers resulting in the whole workplace being thrust into depressed dejection.

Motivation and Absenteeism

These situations demand answers and the hole in the bucket must be plugged. The first task is to discover and address the root cause of absenteeism before any remedial solution can proceed. It is a time to stop and listen. Talk with the workforce and listen to what they have to say. Are they happy with their job? If not, why? What do they see they see as the problem?

Building or rebuilding rapport is an essential first move to stabilize situations. Start by creating a comfortable environment in which to communicate … one where the shop floor workers can meet management without any feelings of intimidation or threat. Communicate how important the views and happiness of everyone is.

Stopping the rot is number one objective. To do that you must discover the true cause of the problem. This may sound daunting, but it need not be. In my experience, situations of absenteeism can be caused by something as basic as a dominant or overzealous management. Middle management is often placed under heavy pressure. This can lead to bullying or intimidating tactics that may be inappropriate. Such behavior can easily have counter-productive effects on their staff. This is just one of many possible scenarios that can lead to absenteeism.

The surest solution and way forward for everyone is in ‘adding value’. In a business, as in any endeavor, the most constructive way forward is for everyone to give better value. Give the customer better value and you will sell more of your products, give employees better value and appreciation and they will be happier, enjoy their work more, and thus produce more. Happy staff will be more considerate and conscientious. They will be more reliable and call in sick less often. Quite simply, if everyone added value to their part of the process it will produce a win-win situation all around.

Value added, from the employer’s perspective need not necessarily involve increasing wages. There are many other, simple value added things that can be done. I always found that taking a genuine interest in my staff created great loyalty. Remembering their names and details about their family … “Hi Joe, how’s the family? How’s your boy getting on with his soccer?” Simple to do, it cost nothing, yet sends the message that he’s not just a number on the payroll, and someone cares. Or when someone goes the extra mile, remember to recognize their efforts and, if possible, give them some form of reward. Remember every human being on the planet responds to affection and warmth, and it free!

Any employer with an understanding of human behavior and motivation would do well to invest in teaching managers motivational techniques. Help them to understand that when folk are weary, down, stressed or just peed-off … try a little tenderness, compassion or understanding. Remember, compassion and understanding will draw men much farther than any threats or bullying can push them … by far!

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