Absenteeism – Your Leaders Are The Problem

In New Zealand “pulling a sickie” cost business $283m in 1 year


Before you take another sickie to play golf, think what this costs your business and to your colleagues

Excessive levels of absenteeism is a major problem especially in medium to large sized businesses and it all comes back to its leaders. In a study conducted by the Southern Cross Health Society in 2012 and published in 2013, absenteeism (defined as someone who is away from work for reasons other than being ill) cost New Zealand business $1.26B

The biggest reason for absenteeism was being off to look after another family member (anyone who is a parent will understand this one), but high up on the list was those that were suspected of taking the time off for no apparent reason but feigning illness. This was estimated at costing the business community $283m.

Indeed this reflects a recent report published by Gallup State of the Global Workplace in December 2017 that finds 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. 18% are actively disengaged in their work and the workplace, while 67% are “not engaged”. The latter group makes up the majority of the workforce, they are not your worst performers, but they are indifferent to your organisation. They give you their time, but not their best effort nor their best ideas.

The leaders are the real problem

Why? If people were excited to come to work, knew they were part of something great that had purpose and worked in a non hostile environment then why would they want to take that sickie?

The sad reality is that people are attracted to work within an organisation but always leave due to the leaders within that organisation. This could happen directly because the leader is themselves not a good person to be around or it could happen indirectly, a colleague they work with is disrupting or even toxic but the leader is just not dealing with the problem. Either way it lands on the leaders shoulders to do something about it.

5 Steps Leaders Can Take Today

  1. Communicate your purpose: Everyone wants to be part of something bigger than themselves, something with purpose that makes them feel proud about what they do and the impact they can make. Too many organisation have no clarity around what this is, as the leader of your organisation you need to take the time to get clarity here.
  2. Live your values: Every organisation should have a set of defining core values, 2 – 3 inherent beliefs that drive the behavior of the organisation. They need to be part of the every day language of the organisation and everyone within it uses that language. This is the best thing you can do to move on those within the organisation that just don’t fit.
  3. Communicate your strategy: Stop treating your people like mushrooms (keep them in the dark, feed them full of $#!t and hope they grow). Communicate your strategy, your quarterly objectives, give them the opportunity to contribute the execution of those plans. Indeed why not leverage off the specific skills of individuals to help you pull off that next compelling strategy, that will make it easier for you the leader and will engage the person(s) involved and make them feel more valued.
  4. Throw away your job descriptions: Job descriptions are the laughing stock of HR, personifies bureaucracy¬† and worst of all just don’t work. Replace them with a living document called the Job Balance Scorecard (JBSC). The JBSC gives employees a very clear understanding of what their 2-3 key accountabilities are along with the desired outcomes that the organisation is looking for. If this is implemented correctly you will never need to do another performance review again.
  5. Know your people: As a leader in your organisation you should know the people you lead. You should understand what makes them tick; what excites them, what upsets them, what their passions are and the names of their partners and children. This all sounds obvious but that amount of leaders we come across that know nothing about their employees outside work is astounding.

There is a lot more to leadership than just these 5 points, but the above areas can be implemented very quickly and they will make a difference to everyone in your organisation.