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2-min read

Why Certain Employees Always Call in Sick

Women in purely male teams and older employees in very young teams are absent almost twice as much as their colleagues in teams where they have a good fit.


Updated:May 12, 2019, 4:41 PM IST
Why Certain Employees Always Call in Sick
Female night shift workers saw a 41 percent increased risk of skin cancer and a 32 percent higher risk of breast cancer. (Photo courtesy: AFP Relaxnews/ Martin Novak/ shutterstock.com)

If you are tired of certain employees skipping work, look at the constitution of the team. According to an interesting study, women in purely male teams and older employees in very young teams are absent almost twice as much as their colleagues in teams where they have a good fit.

Professor Florian Kunze and Max Reinwald from the University of Konstanz in Germany investigated workplace behaviour of employees who are in the minority in their teams.

The two researchers observed more than 800 teams in a big Swiss-based service company over the course of seven years.

They focused on two attributes of new team members — gender and age.

They found that the more unequal a new team member, the earlier and the more easily they will find themselves in situations where they will be subject to discrimination.

These so-called anchoring events then go on to shape the subjects' perceptions of teamwork for years to come.

"Of course non-average team members don't automatically and constantly skip work! We have not been looking into individual workloads and performance or into individual work biographies, that remains for a follow-up study to tackle.

"Our study is limited to a blue-collar environment, where prejudices towards women and older co-workers are more pronounced. We can safely draw the conclusion that women in male-dominated, as well as older employees in younger environments, experience more discrimination. And this experience of discrimination increases over time," said Professor Kunze.

The team evaluated 2,711 persons — date of a team entry, team composition, team swaps, absenteeism — all completely anonymously.

"The trend is pretty obvious: during their first year on a new team, new members remain inconspicuous regardless of their fit.

After that, the curve rises, and quite steeply in many cases. After a few years, women in purely male teams, and older employees in very young teams, are absent almost twice as much as their colleagues in teams where they have a good fit.

"It comes down to about eight annual days of absence compared to four, which is pretty significant," said the researchers in a paper published in Academy of Management Journal.

Reinwald and Kunze hope the results would give companies and organizations looking to increase diversity some pointers on how to do so successfully.

"Employees that do not fit their teams demographically require increased attention and support, especially when just starting out - and team leaders ought to be sensitized to and prepared for these needs," they suggested.

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