Why and when do employees imitate the absenteeism of co-workers?

LL ten Brummelhuis, G Johns, BJ Lyons, Claartje ter Hoeven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


We aimed to shed light on the reason why individual employees adjust their absence levels to their co-workers’ absence behavior and under what conditions imitation is most likely by integrating social learning theory and social exchange theory. In Study 1, a vignette study among 299 employees, we found that respondents were more likely to call in sick when coworkers were often absent because respondents had more tolerant absence norms and more economic as opposed to cooperative exchange norms. This study also showed that employees strongly disapproved of absence and had stronger cooperative exchange norms when they worked in highly cohesive and task interdependent teams. In Study 2, a field study in 97 teams, we found that coworker absence was less strongly imitated under conditions of high cohesiveness and task interdependency. Our findings suggest that employee behavior is not only influenced by team norms about acceptable absence levels, but also by norms on what level of cooperation is expected.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-30
Number of pages15
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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