Conversely, the lack of support has an effect on the bottom line, the authors show. Not including medical benefits, employees at the transit agency earned an average of about $70 an hour and logged 77 sick hours in each of the two years studied. With 23,634 employees on the payroll, the agency lost about $127.4 million per year to sick leave. The authors calculated that unsupportive supervisors and a permissive culture accounted for about 3 percent of the absences, or almost $4 million annually.
It’s typically easier, cheaper, and faster, the authors note, for organizations to reform supervisors’ behaviors and strategies — by providing better training and resources, for example — than it is to transform an entire workplace’s cultural attitudes toward skipping work. The findings, said lead author Michal Biron, “provide useful guidance for companies and organizations that are dealing with a counterproductive employee subculture.”
Supportive supervisors are crucial to ensuring that employees who work in tough or dangerous conditions come to work more often. Working alongside colleagues who encourage calling in sick does influence employees to stay home, but only when they regard their supervisors as unsupportive.