Labour Research April 2012

Health & Safety Matters

Pressure brings absence

The practice of “high involvement management” causes increased short-term absence, studies have found.

Under “high involvement management”, employees are encouraged to engage more fully in their jobs, and workers are pressed to come up with ideas to continually improve every aspect of their work. While the intention behind this practice is to improve people’s work performance and, therefore, a firm’s profitability, it comes with health implications.

Greater job demands lead to greater stress, unless employees are able to tackle demanding tasks in a fashion that most suits them. Unfortunately, under high involvement management, job control is retained by managers. A 2011 study found that high involvement management practices can sometimes come at the expense of increased absenteeism.

A second study confirmed this correlation between high involvement management and short-term absence.

The second study also found that, in terms of supporting individuals at work, high involvement management is no substitute for union involvement.

The study’s authors conclude that, while organisational change is associated with increased job-related anxiety, where a union is involved in organisational change, employees do not suffer elevated levels of anxiety.

Unsurprisingly, the ability of managers practising “high involvement management” to reduce anxiety arising from organisational change was found to be zero.