During a recent chat with some friends, one of the biggest management headaches they’ve been dealing with is the rise in absence levels. Senior management, who have been reviewing the statistics, have asked them to incorporate new procedures to interview every person who’d had more than 3 days off in a row.  I know this kind of management information isn’t new (and I know as I’ve introduced them over many years!), and wanting to know how an individual is when they’ve returned to work is obviously worthwhile for the employee and manager/employee relationship.  A lot of information can be gained from “return to work” discussions, and it’s important to find out what might be causing the levels of absence for the individual, as well as whether any trends can be spotted.

However, there was no mention of a review of what might be causing the increase in overall sickness levels in the organisation in the first place.  All their work has been focussed on after the event, so a huge advantage in reducing absence levels could be being missed.

As part of a series of blogs on sickness levels, this first one highlights some of the signs of stressed and unhappy employees, two high level causes of increased absenteeism related specifically to the workplace.  Some are more obvious than others, but include:

  • Increase in conflict amongst team members
  • Increase in conflict between manager and employees
  • Rudeness or unruliness
  • Lack of enthusiasm
  • Lack of engagement
  • De-motivation
  • Avoidance of work and/or making decisions
  • Emotional distress
  • Disorganised work environment
  • Decreased productivity
  • Not reaching expected targets or project/task delays
  • Customer complaints
  • Manager morale is low
  • Bullying (whether obvious or subtle) – between employees or manager to employee
  • Complaints about boredom
  • Constantly working through lunch or long hours in the office
  • Gossip and grapevine discussions re redundancy, reduced hours, lack of promotion/remuneration etc
  • Communication shut down towards the manager
  • Negative attitude to new projects or any change required of them
  • Increased staff turnover

With everything else that managers are being asked to do at this time of year, (including improving productivity and efficiency, and hitting the demanding targets they’ve been set), the leadership skills needed to spot the signs amongst their team can be quite low on the list of things on their mind.  But knowing the signs is the first step to tackling some of the organisation level causes of increased absenteeism, and can only be an advantage in the long run.

Have you spotted any other signs of an unhappy workforce?

In a separate blog, I’m going to be reviewing ways to reduce sickness levels in your team.  In the meantime, to improve employee engagement and happiness, please subscribe to the Assiem newsletter where you can also get your free guide to Achieving Employee Motivation with No Budget.


  1. Pingback: Reducing Sickness Levels | Assiem

  2. Yvonne Martain

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  3. Angelo Hansson

    I consider something really interesting about your website so I saved to fav.

  4. Rick Maurer

    A fine list of things to consider. But I do hope that your readers don’t assume that the presence of any one of these items signals unhappy workers. I am quite happy (I work for myself) but I am wildly disorganized and postpone some decisions. You could argue that I am not as organized as I would like, but I am happy and pretty productive. (i.e. in business since 1978, had 5 books published, and clients still call me)

    Nevertheless, I think your list is a fine resource for leaders to look at and then explore the reasons behind boredom etc. etc.


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