Home » 43-1 ( 1988) » Une analyse des comportements de travailleurs masculins et féminins selon deux formes d'absence au travail

Une analyse des comportements de travailleurs masculins et féminins selon deux formes d'absence au travail

Robert R. Haccoun et Serge Dupont


Les auteurs utilisent des données provenant d'entrevues afin de décrire les activités hors-travail d'un échantillon d'employés d'hôpital lors de journées passées à l'extérieur du travail.


Even if the last fifty years of research is a testimony to its' importance to organizations, a satisfactory understanding of employee absence remains to be achieved. In reviewing the literature, this article shows that research on absence may be critiqued on two major grounds: a) A clear lack of mutual relationship between the empirical findings, the explanatory theories and the applied interventions, b) An over reliance on the absence record of employees as the dependent variable. It is further diagnosed that this problem may be directly attributed to the limitations in the basic paradygm used to study absence in organizations. Indeed, there has been practically no attempt to describe absence from the point of view of the absent person.

This article attempts to contribute to the descriptive issue by presenting a complete re-analysis of a previously reported data set detailing how a sample of hospital workers spent their absence time.

The data was gathered from 75 semi-skilled men and women employees who were interviewed immediately upon their return from a one day absence, which was either previously scheduled (day-off) or unplanned (absence). This data structuring presents the opportunity for investigating sex differences in absence time behaviors under two different types of absences. The raw interview information was subjected to content analyses by independent raters providing numerical structures which were then analysed quantitatively.

The principal dependent variable was structured, using Robinson's (1977) classification scheme, around an «obligatory-leisure» continuum. Using this information structuring process and appropriate data transformation procedures it was possible to derive a single score for each respondent. This score expresses the total activity patterns during absence time in terms of the obligatory-leisure measure. The data was analysed using analyses of variance which were followed by hierarchical regressions. The initial analysis showed that women tend to engage in more obligatory activities during absences than their maie counterparts who maintained a greater equilibrium between leisure and obligatory activities (this accounting for 16% of the variance). There was a modest (p < .10) tendency for people to weight their activities towards leisure rather than obligatory activities during casual absence days.

The hierarchical regressions showed that, in general, respondent sex was the single best predictor of absence time activities. This was particularly true for married (or cohabitating) women whose activities were clearly more obligatory. The marital status variable was a much better predictor of absence time activity structures than whether or not the respondent was responsable for dependents. For single people rather than gender it was age which best predicted how absence time was spent. However that equation showed low levels of prediction. The data was interpreted to indicate support for the generalized idea by which absences are generally taken for «purposive» reasons as opposed to respond to a desire for increased leisure time. This basic conclusion allows for an analysis of existing absence control programs in organizations. Other work has shown that absence control programs are indeed less powerful than might have once been thought. This data suggests a preliminary explanation: If absence is purposive the typical control of absence strategies (placing pressure on individuals, either by punishing absence or rewarding presence) will indeed yield sub optimal results. Consequently this report recommends the institution of absence control strategies which allow the employee greater flexibility in the distribution of time to meet work and non-work obligations.

The paper presents an appraisal of this unusual procedure for the study of absence. It highlights the potential contributions as well as the inferential limits it forces upon both the practice and the theories of absence behavior. Suggestions for improvements in the research design close the paper.