What Is the Connection between Job Satisfaction and Absenteeism?

Sandi Johnson

Job satisfaction and absenteeism are two human resource conditions that directly relate to and indicate the status of the other. Increasing job satisfaction among employees statistically reduces rates of absenteeism. Likewise, high absenteeism across an organization can indicate a reduced sense of satisfaction among employees. Determining the factors involved and the connections between job satisfaction and absenteeism have presented challenges to human resource professionals for as long as there have been jobs and employers.

Missing work for jury duty is not considered absenteeism.
Missing work for jury duty is not considered absenteeism.

Researchers define job satisfaction as an employee's feeling of contentment within his current job role. Factors that influence such contentment include, but are not limited to, opportunities for professional growth, safe working conditions, a supportive organizational culture, as well as compensation and benefits. Most employees do not require perfection in regards to all influencing factors, but a reasonable level of tolerable compromises. When the general consensus of employees is that conditions are below average, morale will suffer, bringing to light common problems with job satisfaction and absenteeism. Few employees feel motivated to attend a job where they feel under-appreciated, threatened, stuck, or poorly compensated, often looking for any valid or semi-valid reason not to go to work.

Employees are less likely to go to work if they feel unappreciated.
Employees are less likely to go to work if they feel unappreciated.

Absenteeism is a natural part of having human employees. Illness or injury, care of a loved one, jury duty, and vacations are normal and valid reasons employees miss work. When organizational culture, job responsibilities, working conditions, or compensation fall below what employees expect, job satisfaction plummets. Subsequently, absenteeism rates will climb, often disguised as sick days or medical leave, although invalid absences also rise. Studies indicate that no matter the industry or organizational structure, when job satisfaction among employees drops, absenteeism consistently rises for that organization.

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High job satisfaction reduces the rate of absenteeism.
High job satisfaction reduces the rate of absenteeism.

Human resource professionals, government researchers, and scholars studying workplace habits typically focus on absenteeism rates to initially gauge job satisfaction among employees. Statistically, trends in job satisfaction and absenteeism are one of the strongest indicators that an organization needs to make changes. Although other indications, such as reduced productivity, appear first, attendance is the easiest factor to spot in large organizations. Studying trends in attendance is more predictably accurate, cheaper, and less time-consuming than surveys, personal interviews, or complex evaluations. If an organization wants to gauge how well it meets the needs of employees, attendance statistics offer a quick assessment.

Employees may be required to miss work to appear for jury duty.
Employees may be required to miss work to appear for jury duty.

Low absentee numbers, however, do not always indicate a strong sense of job satisfaction. Contentment among employees varies, based on numerous factors. For example, a highly motivated employee may tolerate poor workplace conditions or an unsavory atmosphere at work during times of economic hardship. As such, job satisfaction and absenteeism are not the only indicators of stable, beneficial human resource practices. Professionals recommend considering all factors that influence employee attendance, job satisfaction, job performance, and productivity levels.

A person who is overworked may frequently feel fatigue.
A person who is overworked may frequently feel fatigue.

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