Why Calling In Sick Matters Less In Trinidad Than In The US

A cross-cultural study involving employees at multinational corporations in nine countries confirmed that cultural attitudes affect how absenteeism is viewed. What does this mean for an increasingly mobile and global workforce?

What's the Latest Development?


Two recent studies that look at absenteeism in a cross-cultural context find that feelings experienced by workers differ depending on a range of factors. In one study, workers at 10 multinational companies in nine countries were surveyed on their feelings about calling in sick. The responses were evenly split: Three countries, including Trinidad, considered calling in sick to be acceptable; three had neutral feelings; and three -- the US, Japan, and Ghana -- viewed missed work days more negatively. In another study, Swedish workers ranging from 19 to 64 were asked whether they felt shame when calling in sick. Those that felt more shame included young people, immigrants from non-Nordic countries, and people suffering from a mental illness.

What's the Big Idea?

Absenteeism is a common part of business, but there hasn't been a lot of study on how individual countries' cultural norms can impact that business. The authors of the first study ask: "[I]n an increasingly mobile global workforce, how does an individual who has been socialized in a nation where absence is generally viewed as a more legitimate behavior behave in a nation where it is viewed as less so?"

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