By Kriss Gross
Oct 14, 2014
In today’s workforce many people work simply for the sake of working, being able to make a livable wage, and taking care of their families. What is unfortunate is that far too many organizations take advantage of an employee’s satisfaction of having a job and fail to take the necessary steps to have employees who enjoy the work they do and the organization they do it for. To the contrary, there are companies that recognize the value of productive satisfied employees and the financial benefit of keeping these employees on their payroll. So, what is it that entices individuals to stay with an employer that goes beyond the ability to pay the bills and possibly provide health insurance for their families? As an industrial/organizational (I/O) psychologist, discovering the elements of a company’s structure, which make it an organization that people strive to stay involved with, is important. When researching companies that retain satisfied employees, the I/O researcher might want to determine the correlates of employee satisfaction and lower absenteeism.
To research this dynamic the hypothesis is put forth as high employee satisfaction is correlated with low employee absenteeism. In order to understand the reasons that employee satisfaction results in lower absenteeism the researcher needs to understand the dynamics of organizations that result in this positive correlation. Company structure, manager styles, and individual attitudes can contribute to a company’s people wanting to work. Company structure that relates to job satisfaction involves organizational culture, pay and benefits, and promotional opportunities that enticed the employee to seek initial employment. Once hired management and employee motivations are the main variables that determine whether an employee stays with an organization.
Related research has determined of the many variables that influence job satisfaction and its effect on absenteeism, management style is an independent variable (Riggio, 2007, p. 27) that can be manipulated by not only the researcher, but the organization as well. This variable was addressed by Frooman, Mendelson, & Murphy (2012) in literature discussing how management styles can have a positive or negative correlation with the levels of absenteeism in organizations. Recognizing that this variable can be improved upon, companies offer management training seminars, teaching communication skills, diversity and sensitivity training and other skills that help improve the ways that managers interact with their employees.
When I/O psychologists research the hypothesis of job satisfaction and lower absenteeism they must consider how the independent variables will affect the dependent variable of absenteeism. They must also take into account that this variable is two-fold, legitimate and illegitimate absenteeism. Of course, legitimate absenteeism is beyond the control of the employee, i.e. illness, child care issues, and family emergencies; however, illegitimate absences are days taken from work when the employee is not necessarily ill, but wants to extend a long weekend or because it’s a nice day, they decide to spend time with their children (Frooman, et al., 2012, 5b).
There are factors that can influence the outcome of research determining the correlates suggested in the hypothesis, known as extraneous variables (Riggio, 2007, p. 28). These variables could be found in the behaviors of subjects who are aware they are being observed or the motivation of participants could lead to their desire to be “helpful” when responding to research questions. Another extraneous variable to consider is the length of time an employee has been with the organization, as those with tenure may have the propensity to overlook or ignore circumstances that a newer employee may find discouraging. To ensure validity of the research, participants could be randomly assigned to either the control group or the treatment group. Another option is to perform the research using naturalistic observation (Shaughnessy, 2008, p. 100), by gathering the data in as natural an environment as possible, with the observer blending in with environment.
To observe workers in a natural environment, the correlational method (Riggio, 2007, p. 30) is used to gather the information the researcher needs to support their posited hypothesis. Because this method does not involve manipulation of the independent variable, the observer need only record information as it occurs. This method is preferred in settings such as the workplace, due to desire to get natural reactions within the studied environment. On the other hand, using an experimental design would require those being observed to be made aware of an observer’s presence, which could confound the results of the study.
Data Collection Techniques
When employing a correlational method to research the given hypothesis, data collection can be achieved using several avenues. Narrative recording (Shaughnessy, 2008, p. 110) has the trained observer recording information as it occurs, such as verbal responses, facial expressions, or body language related to a directive given by a supervisor, as well as the manner in which the directive was given. An example could be recording the subject’s look of exasperation after receiving direction from a supervisor who is constantly hovering or needlessly repeating a request. The way the supervisor communicates with subordinates could be recorded as well, i.e. was the request made in a respectful, mentoring tone or given in a rude, demanding fashion (Riggio, 2007, p. 32). In conjunction with the natural observations, the researcher can gather archived data from personnel records to attain a record of absences of observed employees. Another method could use survey questions, which ask participants to answer predetermined questions, usually employing a Likert scale (Vogt, 1999) to measure attitudes, knowledge, perceptions, and values.
Using the Likert scale to predict employee satisfaction, researchers can analyze the organizational attitudes and perceptions of the employees and how they rate their satisfaction of their individual positions, co-workers, company culture, benefits and promotional opportunities. However, of most importance to this research is the employee’s overall satisfaction with those in positions of leadership and the effect their leadership styles have on their subordinate’s overall satisfaction with their employment with the organization. Because this study is using leadership styles as its primary focus to address employee satisfaction and its correlation with lower absenteeism, the results attained in the study by Frooman, et al. (2012, 2a) offer compatible and supportive data.
As an employee’s level of satisfaction is proposed to be a determinant of absenteeism (Riggio, 2007, p. 33), the Likert scale can address the reasons an employee would have legitimate or illegitimate absences. While legitimate absences can be physical or psychological in nature, illegitimate absences can have psychological elements as well, such as an employee needing a “mental health” day to deal with the demanding nature of an oppressive supervisor, a perceived unmanageable work assignment, or even a dispute with a co-worker. The questionnaire used by the researcher could have a section for open-ended responses; thus, allowing the employee to give more detailed information about specific areas of concern. If there seems to be a pattern among the respondents, then human resources (HR) managers and I/O specialists can address these issues with the supervisors in question. Due to the confidential nature of the questionnaire, respondents are more likely to feel more at ease in sharing information that is causing the need for absences that are less than legitimate in nature.
When specific outcome pertaining to a given variable coincides with another measure of the same variable it is referred to as a correlation (Shaughnessy, 2008, p. 45). As with the subject of this research, there is an assumption that job satisfaction correlates with a decreased level of absenteeism. The provided questionnaire addressed issues involving how managerial styles can be an integral influence on the perceptions an employee has in regard to their rates of absenteeism. When measuring the degree of correlation, a positive correlation (Shaughnessy, 2008, p. 513) is concluded when the hypothesis is proven; thus, there is evidence that increases in lower rates of absenteeism are a result of an employee’s increased job satisfaction. A negative correlation (Shaughnessy, 2008, p. 512) would exist if the individual’s satisfaction with their employment increased; yet there was a decrease in the rates of lower absenteeism. When no correlation exists, it means that one variable has no measurable effect on the second variable. As it concerns this research, a correlation of r = -.70 translates to the negative correlation between the two variables, i.e. increased job satisfaction did not result in decreased rates of absenteeism.
Problems and Strategies
While the correlational method provides an avenue to assess the relationship between two variables, one shortcoming is the inability to make cause and effect inferences. In an effort to draw such conclusions researchers may make inappropriate inferences and falsely interpret the data. However, using meta-analysis, the data that is gathered during the research can be used make decisions to improve or change the existing relationship based on data provided in that study and comparing it with other studies based on the same proposed hypothesis or topic of concern (Riggio, 2007, p. 31-35).
Another issue to keep in mind involves the interpretation of the data gathered and ensuring that internal validity (extraneous variables) and the external validity (ensuring the generalizability to other settings) of the research has been taken into account. This can be done by abiding by the ethical guidelines and principles set forth by the American Psychological Association (APA) (Riggio, 2007, p. 44).
The broad basis for this report was to address the supposition that an employee’s job satisfaction correlates to lower rates of absenteeism. Also addressed were the elements involved in conducting the research to gather and prove the posited hypothesis. As managerial styles have been determined, in supporting research, to have a direct bearing on employee satisfaction, the questionnaire provided to the employees gave them the opportunity to relate their perceptions and attitudes toward those in supervisory positions. The information gathered therein can be used to analyze whether this relationship has any bearing on employee absenteeism as it relates to studies of a similar nature. The analysis resulted in a correlation of r = -.70; which translated to the negative correlation between the two variables, meaning that increased job satisfaction did not result in decreased rates of absenteeism. However, this conclusion leaves open the need to further the research to determine the factors that lead to increasing levels of employee absenteeism.
Frooman, J., Mendelson, M., & Murphy, J. (2012). Transformational and passive avoidant leadership as determinants of absenteeism. Leadership & Organization Development Journal 33(5), 447-463. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.libproxy.edmc.edu/docview/1022684970
Riggio, R. (2007). Research methods in industrial/organizational psychology. Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology, 5th Edition. Retrieved from http://online.vitalsource.com/books/055821715X
Shaughnessy, J., Zechmeister, E., Zechmeister, J. (2008). Observation. Research Methods In Psychology, 8th Edition. Retrieved from http://online.vitalsource.com/books/007-7376463
Vogt, W. (1999). Likert scales. Dictionary of Statistics And Methodology. Sage: Thousand Oaks, California. Retrieved from http://www.rpgroup.org/sites/default/files/Surveys%20Interactive%20Activity%20-%20Examples%20of%20Likert%20scales.pdf