Monday, October 25, 2004

The Latest HR Buzzword - Presenteeism

I love words but I hate buzzwords. Buzzwords put a new spin on an old issue but don't generally add any significant value except to help consultants and vendors sell more services. Now that I am in the vendor seat, I should value buzzwords but I just can't do it. The most recent buzzword that annoys me is "Presenteeism". Do we really need a 12 letter word for people who come to work sick? And since that really isn't all that useful the buzzword makers have expanded the definition of presenteeism to include people coming to work sick of work.

If we cut through the bull we have two very basic issues.

1) Employees coming in to work sick. Well, let's think about that for a minute. Why would people come to work sick? The answer is pretty simple. They either feel that:

- their employer will not trust that they are really sick
- they will somehow be penalized by their employer for staying home
- they have too much work that is mission critical or will pile up
- they will not get paid and they need the money

What to do if we don't want employees to come to work when they are sick? We need to develop a corporate culture where supervisors show concern for employee's personal wellness, respect and trust employees without hesitation when they say they are sick and have back up employees cross trained to assist during times when an employee is out. This is really Management 101. Which again brings up the need for better training and mentoring in basic managerial skills.


2) Employees who aren't productive because they are not happy with their jobs. I don't like the word presenteeism for this. It's much more useful to look at the reasons they are not productive. I have my own 11 letter word for those reasons: Irritations. I would much prefer to see a company focusing on identifying and removing the irritations that cause employees to be less productive. Using the word presenteeism simply shifts the blame to the employees.

These two areas are both important managerial issues but do we really need the term presenteeism in order to think about them?

Beth C.

56 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Irritation - I have my own irritation, it's a ten letter word - Supervisor. If I am sick, I call in - and they do not believe me. Nobody cares, as long as I have the 'sick hours' available to me.

1:02 PM, October 25, 2004  
Blogger B. N. Carvin said...

Employees calling in sick when they are not sick is a real pet peeve of mine. One of the things that I always do when I have new employees is let them know this. I make it very clear that I won't tolerate people calling in when they are not sick. I also let them know that if they are sick, not to feel bad about staying home. I rather have them resting and getting well.

I also let employees know that since I don't want them calling in sick when they are not sick to please feel free to let me know if they need a mental health day or just feel too lousy to come in -- even if they are not technically sick. We all have those days don't we? As long as my employees are honest about it I'm happy to give them the time when they need it.

I have found that when everyone is open and upfront that few people take advantage of it. There really needs to be some mutual trust there.

Beth C.

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