Attitude to absenteeism differs around the world

New research finds that employees have different attitudes to absenteeism around the world, and suggests multinational corporations should take local norms into account when developing policies on attendance.

Researchers from Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business in Montreal, Canada, collected data from over 1,500 employees in ten large multinationals in nine countries.

Senior researcher and management professor Gary Johns says:

“In light of globalization and increased interest in cross-cultural understanding of employees’ attitudes, perceptions and behaviour, we set out to investigate employees’ perceptions of the legitimacy of absenteeism from a cross-national perspective.”

They found the employees most likely to say absenteeism was acceptable were in Pakistan, India and Trinidad, while employees in the US, Ghana and Japan were the ones most likely to say absenteeism it was not acceptable. Employees from Canada, Mexico and Nigeria were somewhere in between.

When they probed within these general attitudes, the researchers found some different patterns. For example while Japanese respondents were least accepting of absence in theory, they were the least likely to hold absentees accountable for being away from work: when presented with specific cases, they were especially forgiving.

The study is published in the journal Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal.

Although absenteeism from work happens all over the world, there is very little research on how it varies from country to country.

Lead author Helena Addae completed the study as part of her doctoral research at Concordia and is now an associate professor at University of Wisconsin Whitewater. She says the findings suggest organizations developing attendance policies that span national borders should consider local norms and expectations about absenteeism:

“What’s normal for offices in Pakistan will not be the same for those in the USA,” she adds, “Therefore, companies need to be culturally sensitive in establishing rules surrounding taking time off.”