Leadership attributions of subordinate absenteeism

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The present research examined whether the attributions a supervisor makes in response to subordinate absenteeism are influenced by a subordinate's prior absence history, the nature of the subordinate's excuse, and the outcomes of the absence episode. In addition, this study investigated the effects these absence variables have on supervisors' selection of both appropriate absence labels (excused vs. unexcused), and the type of disciplinary action taken. 160 psychology students and 85 MBA candidates from a large Southeastern university were given a scenario describing a hypothetical absence episode, and completed a questionnaire pertaining to the dependent measures above. Results of multivariate analyses of variance conducted on measures of attributions, absence labels, and disciplinary actions supported the hypotheses that (a) prior absence histories based on a high frequency of absences and subordinate excuses for absences due to visiting friends will result in more internal attributions, unexcused absence labels, and more severe forms of disciplinary action taken by the supervisor; while (b) prior absence histories based on a low frequency of absences and subordinate excuses due to a child's accident will result in external attributions, excused absence labels, and less severe forms of disciplinary action. The consequences of absenteeism did not have an effect on subjects' attributions, and only marginally influenced subjects' absence labels and sanction decisions. Results of regression analyses also supported the hypotheses that the type of attribution a supervisor makes will directly influence the chosen absence label, and the absence label will, in turn, influence the type of disciplinary action taken. Implications of the study's findings for future absence research are discussed.