Apathetic colleagues

When it comes to controlling absenteeism among workers in adverse working conditions, don't underestimate the power of the mind. For a research paper published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, Michal Biron of the University of Haifa and Tilburg University and Peter Bamberger of Tel Aviv University and Cornell University analyzed transit workers to determine which factors influence absenteeism in environments in which there is an elevated risk of physical injury (e.g., in the construction industry) or conditions are perceived as noxious or threatening, such as slippery floors, noise, toxic agents or the prospect of physical confrontation, as is commonly encountered by retail, transit and health-care workers.

However, those dangers were not the only determinants of absenteeism. The researchers found that employees were even more likely to skip work if their coworkers took a lax view of showing up, and if they believed their supervisors were apathetic and unwilling to offer help, such as safety training, that might mitigate the risks posed by the workplace.

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