Ideas with Impact
UNB Faculty of Management

Coming to Work for the Right Reasons: Leadership Styles and Job Satisfaction

Author: Ideas with Impact

Posted on Feb 2, 2015

Category: Faculty

As any employer and human resource manager knows, high rates of absenteeism among employees is a serious problem. High rates of presenteeism - the practice coming to work when you’re not feeling well and even saving sick days for times when you want a day off – is also a Dr. Jeff Frooman's research reveals how leadership styles inspire good - and bad - employee behaviours.serious problem for many organizations. It is common knowledge that some styles of leadership will result in high levels of job satisfaction among employees, but Jeff Frooman, a professor with UNB’s faculty of business administration, recently set out to discover how certain styles of leadership affect job satisfaction, and whether this in turn inspires presenteeism and absenteeism. According to his research, the answer is “yes.”

Dr. Frooman collaborated with two others in this research project, Dr. Morris B. Mendelson, a professor of human resources management with the faculty of business at UNB Saint John, and J. Kevin Murphy, who was completing his MBA at UNB Saint John.  Together, they tried to determine how leadership styles might inspire employee behaviour when it comes to absenteeism and presenteeism; in particular, their research contrasted the transformational leadership style with a type of the transactional leadership style called passive avoidance. To do this, they analyzed the results of self-report surveys completed by 120 employees with a mail delivery company in Canada.

Their analysis suggests that the different types of leadership styles do indeed produce different effects, some positive and some negative.  They noted higher levels of presenteeism in organizations led by transactional leaders.  With this type of leadership, explains Dr. Frooman, everything is a transaction. “It’s the quid pro quo approach to managing people—you do this for me, and I’ll do this for you.”   

Motivation, then, is all about rewards and punishments. Employees working for this type of leader are rarely inspired to do more than they have to. According to Dr. Frooman and his colleagues’ findings, transactional leadership can result in higher frequencies of both presenteeism and illegitimate absenteeism. People working under this style of leadership will come to work when they’re feeling ill and save their sick days for when they think they can get away with taking a day off. “They do the minimum of what’s expected of them to get the carrot and avoid the stick, and if they’re confident they can get away it—that is, confident they can avoid the stick—they’ll take a sick day when they’re well and hit the golf course or the mall.” In short, explains Dr. Frooman, “In an effective work environment, people come to work when they are well, and stay home when they are sick. Transactional leadership seems to skew this balance.”

Transformational leaders, on the other hand, are able to articulate a collective vision, guide members of an organization effectively and inspire employees to be motivated, creative, and committed to the goals of the organization and the greater good. Dr. Frooman’s research showed higher rates of job satisfaction among employees and the desired form of behaviour - people staying home when they are ill, and coming to work when they are well – in organizations being led with transformational leaders.

The cost of absenteeism is significant for many organizations. The results of this research suggest that examining (and changing) an organization’s style of leadership can alleviate these costs.

This was an interesting project to work on, commented Dr. Fooman, "I especially enjoyed collaborating with colleagues with the business faculty on the UNB Saint John campus."

Dr. Frooman joined UNB’s faculty of business administration in 2007.  He holds a joint appointment with the faculty of business administration and the philosophy department in the faculty of rrts.  He teaches courses in business ethics and finance, and his research centers around the morality of the marketplace, and the moral implications of socio-political-economic systems, such as capitalism, socialism, and communism. His research on leadership with Dr. Morris Mendelson and Kevin Murphy was published under the title “Transformational and passive avoidant leadership as determinants of absenteeism” in 2012 in Leadership & Organization Development Journal (volume 33, number 5, pp. 447-463). His other research has been published in such journals as the Academy of Management Review, Business and Society, and the Canadian Journal of Administrative Studies.

For more information contact Liz Lemon-Mitchell.