Absenteeism and Tardiness

Little has changed in the investigation of the relation between commitment and absenteeism other than the fact that studies are now being conducted to determine whether the strength and/or direction varies across different forms of commitment. For example, several investigators have examined the relation between absenteeism and two or more of Allen and Meyer's (1990b) three components of commitment. Gellatly (1995) correlated affective and continuance commitment measures obtained from nurses and food service workers in a chronic care hospital with indices of their absence frequency and total days absent over a 12-month period following the survey. Affective commitment correlated significantly in the negative direction with both indices; continuance commitment did not correlate significantly with either index. When included in a structural equation model with other individual- and group-level variables, affective commitment was still found to contribute significantly to the prediction of absence frequency.

Hackett, Bycio, and Hausdorf (1994) correlated affective, continuance, and normative commitment scores obtained from a sample of bus drivers with indices of culpable and non-culpable absence. The only significant correlation they found was between affective commitment and culpable absence. This correlation was not significant when age, tenure, and job satisfaction were controlled.

Somers (1995) examined the relations between absence (total and annexed) and affective, continuance, and normative commitment in a sample of nurses. He found that only affective commitment predicted absence, albeit modestly, and then only annexed absence. As was the case with turnover intention noted above, however, Somers also found a significant interaction effect of affective and continuance commitment. The link between affective commitment and absence was greater for those who were low in continuance commitment. The highest rate of absence was found among those with both low affective and continuance commitment. These employees may have been using absence as an escape, or as an opportunity to find alternative employment.

These findings suggest that, as was the case with turnover, affect-based measures of commitment show the strongest and most consistent relation to voluntary absence. There may, of course, be factors that moderate this relation, as was suggested by the meta-analyses reviewed earlier. Indeed, Mathieu and Kohler (1990) found some evidence for a moderating effect of job involvement. There is also some evidence that other forms of commitment may have an effect on commitment, but the findings are less consistent. This could reflect the operation of moderators. Alternatively, the lack of consistency across studies might simply reflect chance fluctuation around a relatively low true correlation. There have, as yet, been too few studies using non-affect- based measures of commitment to determine which of these two possibilities is most likely. Based on the findings of Somers (1995), it might be useful to look for interaction effects among the components of commitment in future research.

Turning to tardiness, recent research has generally confirmed that, even when significant, the correlation between commitment and lateness behaviour tends to be relatively weak (e.g. Blau, 1995). Blau (1994) argued that one explanation for this weak relation might be the inadequate conceptualization of the tardiness construct. He identified and measured three different forms of lateness behaviour: increasing chronic, stable periodic, and unavoidable. He found that affective commitment was most strongly related to chronic lateness, accounting for 17% of the variance in a sample of hospital employees and 14% of the variance in bank employees.

There have been too few studies to draw firm conclusions about the link between commitment and lateness behaviour. Future research should consider the distinctions in tardiness behaviour made by Blau (1994). One potential avenue for research would be to examine whether the different forms of lateness behaviour relate differently to different forms of commitment.

Another might be to determine whether lateness is better predicted by commitment to some organizational constituencies than others.

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