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Organizations seek to foster productive, satisfied employees; however, employees often disengage from their work for a variety of reasons. The most common form of work disengagement is exhibited through withdrawal behaviors. Such behaviors manifest within the workplace and may take either a physical or psychological form. Physical behaviors are the most identifiable withdrawal behaviors and take the form of work absenteeism, employee lateness/tardiness, as well as turnover. Psychologically expressed disengaging behaviors are often considered being "lazy" or a "burnt-out"; as individuals tend to become passive, lack creativity, and conduct minimal efforts on the job. Each form of withdrawal behavior presents a unique challenge to understanding,interacting with and providing equilibrium for both the employee and the employer.  Unlike many of the topics contained within the Work Attitudes and Motivation Wiki, the topic of withdrawal behaviors is not about examining changes to one’s work environment or motivation (the independent variable); but about examining the end result of the changes (the dependent variable) (PSU WC L.13, 2014, p.2).  It is critical to understand the origin of withdrawal behaviors so one can trace them back to the root cause at an organizational, team or an individual level.

Types of Withdrawal Behaviors

Physical Withdrawal Behaviors


  • Lateness: Excessive tardiness can be a physical sign that an employee has disengaged from the company. Research, though limited, does suggest that lateness is a good predictor of  severe types of withdrawal. This is particularly true if the person is consistently late because it shows a lack of motivation to arrive to work on time  (PSU WC L.13, 2014, p.6).

  • Absenteeism: Absenteeism is exhibited when an employee fails to report to work, typically for an extended period of time, or for an excessive number of days that have not been excused.  Examples of excused absences may include medical appointments and pre-approved vacations (Cohen & Golan, 2007, PSU WC L.13, 2014, p.2).

  • Turnover: Turnover occurs when an employee leaves an organization, and frequently it results from both lateness and absenteeism (Rosse, 1988). Unlike absenteeism, which has been looked at in a primarily negative light from an organizational perspective, turnover is seen as having both beneficial and harmful effects on an organization (PSU WC L.13, 2014, p.4).  

Turnover can result in new employees who may be more motivated and eager to help the company succeed versus long-term employees who may have lost interest and motivation in the company. By injecting new people into an organization, fresh ideas and a reduction in groupthink occur so that a company is more likely to adapt to the world around it; which as the speed of business continues to increase, that will be particularly important going forward (Aldrich, 1980; Gross, 1965).


Psychological Withdrawal Behaviors



  • Presenteeism: Presenteeism occurs when an employee shows up for work but works in a limited capacity. This can occur due to physical impairment, such as being sick with a cold, or due to mental or psychological strain. Withdrawal behavior is concerned primarily with presenteeism due to psychological reasons. An employee might sit at their desk and stare off into space, or spend increased time leisurely surfing the internet instead of accomplishing work tasks. Decreased productivity due to presenteeism is more difficult to identify and measure than absenteeism (Trotter, et al., 2009).

  • Burnout: Burnout can develop when emotional or other stressors become unbearable. Burnout occurs when an employee has exhausted all their personal mental and physical resources for the job. Burnout is “a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job, and is defined by the three dimensions of emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy” (Maslach, Shaufeli, & Leiter, 2001).



Evaluating each of these physical and psychological withdrawal behaviors is beneficial for both the organization and its employees. Companies benefit from the predictive modeling capabilities that arise from monitoring these behaviors. Companies can implement policies, procedures, job structures and work cultures aimed at reducing disengagement and withdrawal behaviors. Employees benefit from the personal awareness gained through recognizing that seemingly innocent behaviors or actions can become detrimental to organizations and personal career growth.


Individuals experiencing burnout should assess their circumstances and evaluate their options. One plausible action is to adjust your attitude, take a fresh look at the work you perform, and rediscover the positive contributions of the job.  If the job is exceedingly stressful, it may be time to reassess your interests, skills, and passions.



It is important to distinguish between different types of lateness in order to identify withdrawal behaviors. Blau (1994) identified three specific types of lateness behavior categorized by pattern, frequency and duration; including increasing chronic lateness, stable periodic lateness, and unavoidable lateness.

Types of Lateness

It is sometimes hard to tell if an employee has a legitimate reason for being late. When employees are late due to legitimate reasons, they are likely to provide similar reasons for their lateness as an employee who is leaning towards withdrawing from the company.  Examples of excuses could be heavy traffic, an accident or transportation issues. Types of lateness include the following:

  • Unavoidable Lateness: Transportation concerns are a primary cause of unavoidable lateness; however, personal illness and accidents also can create unavoidable lateness (Blau, 1994).

  • Stable Periodic Lateness: This type of lateness is due to higher leisure-income trade off, as well as work and family conflict. Employees exhibiting this type of lateness are not unhappy with their job, they simply have other things they consider more important than arriving on time (Blau,1994). For example, an employee with high job satisfaction and young children might experience work-family conflict. He or she may prioritize his or her children's needs over arriving to work on time.

  • Increasing Chronic Lateness: Lower job satisfaction, lower job involvement and lower organizational commitment can all lead to increased chronic lateness (Blau,1994). Chronic lateness by staff can become costly to an organization.

The following table explains each type of lateness as described by Blau (1994):



Lateness Behavior








Stable Periodic




Increasing Chronic





Note: Unavoidable lateness is labeled immeasurable due to the random pattern of lateness. It is difficult to measure and compare frequency and duration of a random event (Blau, 1994).

Causes of Lateness 

A significant negative relationship has been found between job satisfaction and lateness (Adler & Golan, 1981). An employee experiencing low job satisfaction is more likely to arrive at work late. Reinforcing the view that work is tedious or repetitive; which will cause disengagement to occur and the employee will be increasingly late to work. The employee then comes to think of their job as a source of income alone, versus a valued career.

Employees who are never late have higher job satisfaction, stronger organizational commitment and higher job involvement (Blau, 1994). An employee who finds their work stimulating or challenging is less likely to engage in lateness as a withdrawal behavior (Adler & Golan, 1981).

We have learned from class commentaries that are focused on Work Attitudes and Motivation that lateness is an accurate indicator of countless styles of withdrawal (Adler & Galan, 1981). In other words, an individual who exhibits an emerging pattern of regular lateness may in fact have negative issues regarding work motivation and soon begin to engage in more obvious withdrawal behaviors. Organizational leaders might also notice that individuals are already exhibiting other less pronounced types of withdrawal behavior and intercede as necessary to address individual issues.

Results of Lateness

Significant instances of tardiness by staff can cost employers lost productivity and  revenue. In the United States, an excess of $3 billion per year is lost in productivity because of employees being late. If one employee is late ten minutes each day of the year, they are costing the company the equivalent of one week of vacation time (DeLonzor, 2005). Additional costs are incurred with the time that supervisors must spend on reprimands and dealing with tardiness, along with the negative impact a tardy employee has on other employees. (Cascio, 1987). One employee's lateness can have a trickle-down effect on co-workers.They may believe that they can get away with lateness because it goes unnoticed with no corrective action taking place (PSU WC L.13, 2011).

Resolution for Lateness

It is beneficial for leadership to determine the true type of lateness behavior and the corresponding causes. The experts agree, if you are consistently late you should first attempt to discover the underlying emotion causing it so your awareness can lead to change. Also, put yourself in the position of the person you’re meeting; imagine that person’s frustration and wasted time. Managers at all levels should monitor lateness in accordance with company policy and learn to recognize any changes in the pattern, frequency or duration of lateness (Blau, 1994). This way, supervisors can distinguish between unavoidable lateness and increasing chronic lateness. In the event of stable periodic lateness, or increasing chronic lateness, the employer and employee can work together to find a mutually agreeable solution. he resolution for chronic lateness falls on the individuals themselves. An employee may not realize that they are acting this way until they take the time to sit down and ponder what is causing chronic lateness (DeLonzor, 2003). This can open opportunities for the person to understand why they are always late and the awareness can hopefully lead to a change in emotions and behaviors causing the chronic lateness.


There are many reasons an employee may be absent from work; the most common accepted and excused reasons are sickness and vacation leave. These two forms of leave from work are planned absences and are, to a degree, required by law to be available to employees. However, absenteeism is when an individual misses an extended amount of time from work, usually a day or more, that is unexcused. Absenteeism, unplanned and unexcused, generates great focus due to its perceived negative impact upon organizations, such as the loss of production (PSU WC L.13, 2014, p.2).

Measures of Absence

When I/O psychologists are hired to investigate, analyze and explain why employees are missing work unexcused, they must use measures of absence. Measures of absence help to distinguish between absences that are beyond a person's control (illness or family emergencies) and absences that are voluntary and within a person's control.

Within organizational research there are over 41 different measures of absence, yet due to their conceptual and operational clarity, frequency and time-lost are considered the most commonly used measures of absence (Leonard & Dolan, 1990). The reasoning behind the measure of frequency is that absences that are of a shorter duration indicate voluntary absences due to controllable factors. The measure of time-lost absence is thought to capture involuntary absences. Longer absences are explained as resulting from uncontrollable factors (Darr & Johns, 2008); however, this is not always the case. There is a general idea that longer absences are usually due to uncontrollable factors; however, it is not a rule and sometimes longer absences can be due to controllable factors.

Causes of Absenteeism

Just as it is commonly assumed that a happy worker is a productive worker, it is also assumed that an unhappy worker is more likely to be an absent worker. However, that is not necessarily true, as research has yielded that "several meta-analyses have found that job satisfaction only accounts for 5% of absenteeism" (Pinder, 2008).  Another study of job satisfaction and absenteeism, which included both blue collar and white collar in manufacturing and service industries, found that "in the great majority of cases (211 out of a total of 240 correlations) there was no significant relationship of any kind between absence and satisfaction (Nicholson, Brown & Chadwick-Jones, 1976).  

To explain absenteeism, Darr and Johns (2008) conducted a meta-analysis that suggests work strain appears to be the larger cause of absence from work. More specifically, these researchers found that physical and psychological illness, resulting from work strain, was a significant reason for absence from work either directly or indirectly.

In determining whether work strain directly causes absence, Darr and Johns (2008) examined data according to three models as shown below:





Figure adapted from Darr & Johns 2008

Darr and Johns' (2008) study concludes, "the total indirect effect exceeded the direct effect of work strain on absence,” which supports the mediating role of illness as the cause of individuals' absenteeism. This does not mean that employees do not miss work as a direct effect of work strain, but there is more support for work strain causing illness. Illness then leads to absence from work; in which case researchers Darr and Johns (2008) bring up that if absenteeism is a response to stress, perhaps we should stop looking at minor absenteeism as a cost to an organization, but rather as a health break that allows people to continue working throughout the rest of the year (PSU WC L.13, 2014, p.3).

Results of Absenteeism

Unplanned absences are more costly than planned absences since the organization did not have time to find additional labor to cover for the employee that was unable to come to work. According to a 2010 updated Mercy study sponsored by Kronos, unplanned absences cost organization's 8.7 percent of payroll; more than half the cost of healthcare. The chart below illustrates the cost of absenteeism and the potential savings of lowering it.



(Mercer & Kronos, 2013)


Resolution of Absenteeism

Improving a number of issues can reduce the amount of absenteeism an organization has. First, improve employee morale. Make the organization a place in which employees enjoy coming to work. Incorporate "fun" into the workplace. Second, improve interpersonal relationships. As an HR manager, take time to initiate conversations with employees to see what is, or is not, motivating them to come to work. Be a listening ear to employees and allow time for employees to discuss   their work  and what might be creating negative motivation. Third, increase the authoritative abilities of managers. Having an authoritative manager may demotivate some employees. On the other hand, some employees may be less likely to miss work if they know actions will be taken in response to regular, unexcused absences. Finally, simply improving working conditions can reduce absenteeism. Make sure employees are working in a safe and healthy environment. Even though there is no way to reduce absenteeism completely, organizations should do their best to make sure it's not occurring because of a decrease in motivation (Primus Solutions, 2010).




Most employees will eventually leave a company and a company may view these turnovers in a positive or negative manner, depending on the impact to the company at that time. An employee may voluntarily leave the company because he or she is leaving the workforce entirely, because he or she accepted a position with a different company, or an employer may force the employee to leave the company for a variety of reasons.

The Causes for Employee Turnover

As mentioned, there are many causes for turnover, but most reasons fall into two categories: voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary turnover can occur for a number of different reasons and depending on the individual instances, it can be a result of a combination of negative and/or positive reasons. People usually choose to leave at least one job within their lifetime to improve their everyday life. These reasons could include: opportunities for better pay, higher career satisfaction, mobility caused by marriage or retirement. All of which could be considered positive reasons  to leave a job. Negative reasons for voluntary turnover might include: medical issues for an employee which prevent them from continuing to work at a particular job or a need to care for a family member that needs increased care but cannot be afforded.

The other aspect for employee turnover involves the involuntary choice in leaving a job.  A company may release an employee for financial reasons, or worse, if the employee did not perform to the expected standards of the company.

Most companies want to avoid high employee turnover in order to save money, as it costs additional money to recruit and train new employees. They also prefer to maintain full capacity for potential sales and profit. Therefore, it is important for a company to investigate and understand the reasons an employee leaves voluntarily. There are some factors that a company cannot control or reduce turnover from, such as retirement and medical issues. However, companies need to understand, in regard to high voluntary turnover, that the company can modify practices to reduce employee turnover. One example comes from job dissatisfaction.

William Mobley (1977) created a model that included seven potential steps an employee can go through in job dissatisfaction that may eventually lead to eventual job turnover. Not all employees suffering from job dissatisfaction will go through each step listed in the chart below. Some employees may experience withdrawal from their work in other ways that are less extreme; i.e. developing negative behaviors, including increased tardiness and absenteeism.  



The Positive Effects of Employee Turnover

One of the positive effects in employee turnover is the fact that it can save the company money. The high volume of available workers, in comparison to the demand of jobs, allows companies to pay low wages without rewarding employees with raises. High turnover, is not an effective company tactic for highly skilled jobs requiring long-term experience and highly skilled employees.

Companies will also view turnover positively when it provides the opportunity to remove ineffective or troublesome employees. Sometimes employees simply do not perform as well as others or cause severe conflict among all the employees. When companies are able to remove problematic employees voluntarily, or lose them involuntarily; it provides an opportunity for the company to hire a new employees. Those that can work effectively and remove poor working relationships among co-workers that cause conflict and disturb the workflow. Replacing older employees that retire can promote positive change for a company’s workforce, for it enables them to hire younger employees with newer skill sets and fresh perspectives; which in turn may enhance company processes and effectiveness.

The Negative Effects of Employee Turnover

Losing an employee that is productive and vital in maintaining structure and a smooth workflow can be very detrimental for a company.Highly skilled employees hired by other companies may also take valuable information obtained from years of experience from the previous employer to the new one.  Motivation of other employees may also suffer because of the transition of losing a good manager or supervisor. Having a poor manager that the employees distrust, or that is lacking in motivational direction can increase turnover rates among the workers supervised by the poor manager.  Essentially causing even more lost production, time and money. Companies also realize the negative impact of losing their highly skilled employees. Finding replacements, is not always easy and can be very competitive among companies to gain the qualified applicant.

The following video illustrates some ideas on how to stop losing employees, in addition to providing a website that gives details on a program that offers assistance to organizations to help keep their most valuable assets, their employees.


The Impact of a Downward Economy on Employee Turnover

Research was conducted on the general employee downsizing process, or turnover, that businesses and other organizations must take during a downward economy. It has been found that during a recession job destruction is on the rise and then decreases during the recovery period of a recession. The findings also show that job destruction is not symmetrical during a recession and a recovery. In some years, the job destruction is worse, but then may be reduced by past “normal” numbers during a recovery year (Ilmakunnas & Maliranta, 2003).

Employee Turnover During Recession



(minus) Labor market becomes more rigid = “excessive” turnover of jobs and workers drop

(minus) Reduced turnover then negatively impacts the chances of displaced workers from finding new employment, leading to high long-term unemployment rate

(minus) Layoffs do not have the same rebounding effects as when individuals quit on their own (Ilmakunnas & Maliranta, 2003).


Employee Turnover During Recovery




(plus) Opportunity for switching jobs is greatly increased

(plus) This causes a chain of job availability across the board and continues job-to-job quits

(minus) Within the business cycle, the rate of employees switching jobs continues to remain greater than the number of available open positions (Ilmakunnas & Maliranta, 2003).

(minus) As a result: worker turnover rates grow compared to job turnover rates


Employee Turnover Rates During a Recession Across All Sectors

  • Sectors with high reallocation rates have high worker turnover rates

  • Before a recession most sectors experience an increase in job creation

  • During a recession all sectors experience a decrease in job creation and an increase in job destruction

  • In a recession, while organizations may see a decrease in employee turnover, they may also see a decrease in engaged employees, because although they are unhappy,  these individuals will not leave in a poor economy (Frank, Finnegan, & Taylor, 2004).


Research was conducted on how employee turnover will change as the economy begins to improve. Others anticipate that within U.S. based companies the rate of employee turnover will double as the economy improves (Frank, Finnegan, & Taylor, 2004).

Retaining Employees

Retaining employees is also a way to reduce the costs that occur with turnover. It may be more effective to retain productive employees than to let them go. If you take into consideration, the cost of the hiring process, it makes more sense to retain employees in order to reduce spending and reaffirm organizational commitment amongst the employees. The Society for Human Resource Management estimated that hiring new employees costs about $3,500.00 to replace one $8.00 per hour employee. The whole cost of the process includes recruiting, interviews, hiring, training and the early struggles that a new employee may face (Blake 2006). In the long run, it may make more sense to retain current employees and attempt to work through their issues than to replace them.




Herbert Freudenberger is attributed with coining the phrase "job burnout." It may be more precise to use the phrase “job depression” to describe burnout. Burnout is a suffering of the spirit, which results in damaging or destroying motivation. On any particular day, an employee’s enthusiasm for his/her work may increase or decrease but it does not remain the same. People do not usually have an unending amount of enthusiasm for their work. Even the hottest fires will run out of fuel and it does not matter how much we fan the flames because when the wood is gone, the fire will extinguish. Jobs are no different and when motivation wanes, people will burnout (Potter, 2005).


The people who are most likely to suffer from burnout are caretakers. They easily become cynical about the work they do because their work can be seemingly unending. Caregivers responsible for their loved one will actually start to become hostile towards them or take their frustration out on others who are close to them. Other occupations that have a high frequency of suffering from burnout include physicians, politicians, and managers. However it is important to keep in mind that burnout can affect anyone doing anything if the conditions are right (Potter, 2005).


Symptoms of burnout usually manifest as depression, dissatisfaction, anxiety, anger and frustration. Some people also experience exhaustion and increased health problems such as headaches. severe cases, burnout can affect people’s lives outside of work as well, resulting in relationship problems and substance abuse. In general, people will develop a "why bother" attitude (Potter, 2005).  Burnout is a process that does not occur overnight; it is a process that is cumulative. Burnout begins with very subtle warning signs, and if not addressed, will progress into a lasting and profound sense of dread of going to work.


Burnout happens a little differently than some of the other withdrawal behaviors. Burnout relates more to the stress that develops over time. However, burnout does not occur only to those who are stressed or frustrated. Someone can still love their work and develop burnout. For example, caregivers usually do not get the rewards and overt recognition for their work and if they are not watchful and take care of their own needs then they will eventually suffer burnout. In this case, they are both employee and employer and one facet must take care of the needs of the other. Just as we have come to understand motivation and what fuels the fire within us, we can use this understanding to understand the causes of burnout. Motivation is the result of rewards, autonomy and feeling that our work is appreciated by those whom we work with most closely. Being a part of a group or team that develops group cohesiveness over time spent working closely on important projects can also motivate people. Motivation can also occur by the goals and responsibilities that the company or supervisor sets for an employee, as well as the goals established by the employee (PSU WC L.13, 2014, p.6).

Lifestyle Causes

  • Working too much without enough time for relaxing and socializing.

  • Being expected to be too many things.

  • Taking on too many responsibilities without enough help from others.

  • Not getting enough sleep.

  • Lack of close, supportive relationships.

Contributing Personality Traits

  • Perfectionist tendencies; nothing is ever good enough.

  • Pessimistic view of yourself and the world.

  • The need to be in control; reluctance to delegate to others.

  • High-achieving, Type A personality (Segal, Segal, & Smith, 2012).

Questions to Ask Yourself

Are you cynical with regard to work?

Do you drag yourself to work?

Do you have to use food, drugs or alcohol to feel better about your day at work?

Have your sleep habits changes?

Are you impatient with clients or coworkers?

Are you lacking satisfaction with accomplishments?



The following video is about stress and burnout in the United States.



This diagram shows the cycle that burnout can produce using nursing as an example, but it is applicable to numerous situations. An employee is unhappy with their current work situation and it eventually leads to burnout. This burned out employee quits.  There is then a shortage of employees.  Staffing issues develop, which leads to job dissatisfaction and that leads back to burnout; thus the cycle continues.



Just as all the things listed above contribute to motivation, a lack of them lead to burnout. Furthermore, a vicious cycle can sometimes cause the employee to feel desperate enough to quit one job and seek another. This process, however, does not solve the problem if the employee does not recognize the problem from the first job, it can lead to increased burnout.

Recovering From Burnout: Acknowledge Your Losses

Recovering from burnout is like recovering from other physical illnesses. When recovering from a cold, one should get plenty of rest, fluids and take it easy for a while. Employees should use the same approach when recovering from a case of burnout. While recovering, it is important to replenish these losses in order to feel revitalized, in the same way replenishment occurs after a physical illness. Co-workers and friends can help through support in restoring some of these losses. Others will require a change of pace, a vacation, or just some time to recharge batteries in whatever way serves best at the time. Listed below are some of the results from burnout illnesses:

  • Loss of the idealism or dream with which you entered your career

  • Loss of the role or identity that originally came with your job

  • Loss of physical and emotional energy

  • Loss of friends, fun, and sense of community

  • Loss of esteem, self-worth, and sense of control and mastery

  • Loss of joy, meaning and purpose that make work – and life – worthwhile


The earlier the stage of burnout you're in, the easier it will be to correct the situation. The most obvious way to eliminate burnout is to quit your job. While there is no quick fix, recovery from burnout is possible by being open minded, allowing changes and time. Keeping an open mind and considering all your options is vital. Employees should never sacrifice health because of the demands of any one job (Luban, 1994).

Coping With Job Burnout

The most effective way to combat job burnout is to quit doing what you’re doing and do something else, whether that means changing jobs or changing careers. If that isn't an option for you, there are still things you can do to improve your situation, or at least your state of mind.

  • Actively address problems. Take a proactive approach rather than a passive one to issues in your workplace. You’ll feel less helpless if you assert yourself and express your needs. If you don’t have the authority or resources to solve the problem, talk to a superior.

  • Clarify your job description. Ask your boss for an updated description of your job duties and responsibilities. Point out things you’re expected to do that are not part of your job description and gain a little leverage by showing that you've been putting in work over and above the parameters of your job.

  • Ask for new duties. If you have been doing the exact same work for a long time, ask to try something new: a different grade level, a different sales territory, a different machine, etc.

  • Take time off. If burnout seems inevitable, take a complete break from work. Go on vacation, use up your sick days, ask for a temporary leave-of-absence—anything to remove yourself from the situation. Use the time away to recharge your batteries and take perspective (Segal, Segal, & Smith, 2012).

The Impact of Downsizing on Employee Burnout

Numerous researchers have determined that employee burnout is different from the other reasons why individuals miss work because it deals with being overworked and then not caring about their job tasks or performance levels (PSU WC L.13, 2014, p.6).It is important for organizations to understand what causes employee burnout, especially during a recession when downsizing is common.

Employee Burnout as a Consequence of Having to Downsize

  • Decrease in employee motivation and general commitment to company

  • Employees remaining from downsizing decrease their level of work efforts

  • Work environment no longer has the trust and high feeling of security that it had before downsizing

  • “Survivor sickness”- remaining individuals feel an increase in fatigue and bitterness, while also lacking inspiration and creativity

  • Survivor sickness can impact organizational leaders and therefore result in a decline in productivity and revenue (Lewin & Johnston, 2000)

  • Organizations that downsize to increase productivity are then faced with burnout from surviving employees, ultimately leading to more loss in productivity

  • Management pays too much attention to exiting employees, rather than working to energize and encourage the remaining employees who are trying to avoid burnout

  • (Lewin & Johnston, 2000)

Why Survivor Programs Are Vital to Avoiding Employee Burnout

  • Survivors must not only continue their work tasks, but also take on the workload of those let go

  • Survivors may have to complete new tasks that require special skills and take extra time and efforts

  • As employees are let go, survivors may notice shifts in their job responsibilities and must adapt to continuous work changes (Lewin & Johnston, 2000).

It is unfortunate that many organizations do not see the importance of survivor-type programs and instead demand the same outputs despite the loss of employees. Research shows that it is imperative for managers to provide the time and resources necessary for their surviving employees to take on new, more complex tasks that are now their responsibilities (Lewin & Johnston, 2000).

3 Ways to Reduce Survivor Burnout Due to Downsizing and a Recession

  • Provide assistance to surviving employees on how to cope with change

  • Provide counseling and encouragement to the surviving employees on how to not only accept responsibility, but also take smart risks while working in a newly restructured organization

  • Managers act as a support and mentor for the surviving employees

Management must  continue to offer development workshops on how to perform effectively within a restructured organization. Regular counseling on both short and long-term professional goals is key to surviving employees feeling as though the organization is committed to them and their needs. If these employees can regain  trust with their organization, then their work attitude and behavior will improve, reducing potential employee burnout (Lewin & Johnston, 2000).

Research on Lateness, Absenteeism, Turnover and Burnout


Withdrawal behaviors are clearly detrimental to organizations. Thus, research into the causation and resolution of withdrawal behaviors are crucial to predictive modeling of behavior and for organizations to take steps to modify behavior of their employee population. Several studies have examined the potential antecedents to various withdrawal behaviors.

2005: Examination of the Influence of Five Dimensions

A 2005 study examined the influence of five dimensions of organizational culture. These dimensions were identified as job challenge, communication, trust, innovation, and social cohesiveness. The purpose of the study was to determine the effects of employees' withdrawal intentions and behavior in light of these constructs. Three forms of employees' withdrawal intentions from the job or organization, as well as one form of employees' withdrawal behavior (i.e. self-reported absenteeism) were examined. The findings of this study indicated that an "organizational culture that provides challenging jobs diminishes employees' absenteeism, and withdrawal intentions from the occupation, job, and the organization" (Carmeli, 2005).

At the conclusion of the study, the results revealed that other dimensions of organizational culture were not significantly correlated with the dependent variables, with the exception of the relationship between a culture of innovation and employees' withdrawal intentions from the job. This study contributes to a better understanding of the influence of organizational contexts (e.g. culture) on the development of multiple withdrawal intentions and behaviors (Carmeli, 2005).

2007: Examination of the Role of Work Stressors


Podsakoff, LePine, & LePine (2007) conducted a meta-analysis of 183 independent samples in order to examine the role of work stressors. Specifically, they identified two categories of work stressors, hindrance stressors and challenge stressors, and tested their impact on job satisfaction, organizational commitment, turnover intentions, turnover, and withdrawal behavior. Hindrance stressors included aspects such as role ambiguity, organizational politics, and concerns of job security- aspects that limit task accomplishment or are obstacles to employees’ personal development. Challenge stressors included aspects such as time pressure, job scope, responsibility, and high levels of workload- aspects that create positive challenges and facilitate task accomplishment (Podsakoff, LePine, & LePine, 2007).

Results show a negative relationship exists between hindrance stressors and job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Conversely, a positive relationship exists between hindrance stressors and turnover intentions, turnover, and withdrawal behaviors.  So, as hindrance stressors increase, so will turnover intentions, turnover, and withdrawal behaviors, while job satisfaction and organizational commitment will decrease (Podsakoff, LePine, & LePine, 2007).

Challenge stressors have the opposite effect. A positive relationship exists between challenge stressors and job satisfaction and organizational commitment. While a negative relationship exists between challenge stressors and turnover intentions, turnover, and withdrawal behaviors.  As challenge stressors increase job satisfaction and organizational commitment will increase, while turnover intentions, turnover, and withdrawal behaviors will decrease. This results in positive benefits for an organization (Podsakoff, LePine, & LePine, 2007).

While less is known about the costs and benefits of increasing challenge stressors and decreasing hindrance stressors, this meta-analysis indicates that managers probably should attempt to consider the two different categories of stressors when developing stress management practices. Managers can work to provide clear job roles with higher levels of autonomy and responsibility, while working to decrease hindrance stresses such as organizational politics and red tape (Podsakoff, LePine, & LePine, 2007).

2008: Perceived Organizational Support: Reducing the Negative Influence of Coworker Withdrawal Behavior

Withdrawal behaviors like, lateness, absenteeism, laziness/intentionally slow work, and turnover can have devastating effects on an organization in both efficiency and productivity, and as a result, in terms of money. Research has shown that counterproductive behaviors such as these costs organizations an estimated $200 billion per year, so identifying these causal behaviors, the reasons for them, and solutions to them are key to maximizing a company's annual potential and potential in general as a company (Eder, Paul, & Eisenberger, 2008). One aspect that has been discovered that affects the increase/decrease in the participation of withdrawal behaviors at work is perceived organizational support (POS) by the employee. The more connected, valued, and supported by the company the employee feels that he is, the less likely he/she will be to behave in a manner the hurts the company. One mediating factor that commonly increases the regularity as well as unpunished acts of withdrawal behaviors are work groups that behave this way on a regular basis. If a larger group of employees are seen and know to behave in counterproductive ways and generally get away with it, then other employees that work with/around them will behave in a similar way, and since so many others behave that way, their actions will go unnoticed. This predictable behavior pattern is known as social loafing or modeling, in that individuals behave based on observed external environmental behaviors.

While the phenomena of social loafing and/or modeling can be difficult to break or prevent, there steps that can be taken that has been proven/shown to mediate these effects, and that is an employee's POS (Eder, Paul, & Eisenberger, 2008). Research has shown that the positive relationship between other work group members withdrawal behavior and the behavior of an employee's' individual behavior is lessened by POS. If an individual employee among a work group within the organization is seen as an invaluable piece of the organization based on supportive behaviors/actions taken by the company, then they will go against the general counterproductive behavior of his/her work group since they don't want to do anything that will hurt the company that values and needs him/her so much, and is shown they are such a big part of (Eder, Paul, & Eisenberger, 2008).

2012: Meta-Analysis of Relationships Between Absenteeism, Lateness, and Turnover

The cost of employee withdrawal behaviors can cost companies billions of dollars each year in lost productivity (Rosch, 2001). Two perspectives to explain the link between withdrawal behaviors (Koslowsky, 2009) are voluntary lateness, absenteeism, and burnout as a manifestation of overall withdrawal from the organization because of lack of job satisfaction and organizational commitment; and the other is withdrawal behaviors as the result of a specific prior event (Berry, Lelchook, & Clark, 2012). The ability to quantify these behaviors will allow for greater understanding of these withdrawal behaviors.

The importance for curtailing these withdrawal behaviors has an obvious impact in the organization's bottom line. In their meta-analysis, Berry, Lelchook, and Clark (2012) provide evidence for the progression of withdrawal behaviors having an impact on organizations that may be concerned with employee withdrawal. Relatively mild behaviors can be a predictor of future severe withdrawal behaviors to include frequent absenteeism or voluntary behavior. Because of the potential for the mild withdrawal behaviors to become more serious, organizations should pay attention to these warning signs and invest in interventions to control lateness, which may have an effect on absenteeism; and with interventions on absenteeism having an effect on turnover (Berry et al., 2012).


Workplace Applications


Effective techniques for reducing withdrawal behaviors can be implemented through company policy and by developing clear and effective job structures within a supportive work environment.

Job Structure and Work Environment

  • Managers need to clearly define job responsibilities because role conflict and role ambiguity can both foster negative employee attitudes and emotions (Podsakoff, LePine, & LePine, 2007). These negative attitudes and emotions can lead to withdrawal behaviors.

  • Managers at all levels need to monitor and recognize changes in lateness behavior in order to prevent progression to more serious withdrawal behaviors such as absenteeism and turnover (Blau, 1994). Supervisors can meet with employees to discuss why the employee is engaging in withdrawal behaviors, such as lateness, and work with the employee to develop a solution (Stern, 2009).

  • Managers need to work to reduce hindrance stressors, such as organizational politics, hassles, and resource inadequacies. These stressors can lead to decreased job satisfaction and organizational commitment which can eventually lead to increases in withdrawal behaviors such as turnover (Podsakoff, LePine, & LePine, 2007).

  • Managers can improve employees’ job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and job involvement by communicating frequently with employees about their perceptions and needs, involving them in decision making, and by fostering a challenging and supportive work environment. These efforts will also help prevent burnout.

  • In the event of downsizing, managers can help their employees adjust by providing a clear vision of the corporate goals, vision, and plan as well as providing assistance and encouragement and offering development workshops (Lewin & Johnston, 2000). These efforts will help maintain organizational commitment and levels of job satisfaction, which will help prevent withdrawal behaviors.

Company Policies


Organizations and their human resources departments have programs implemented to address absenteeism, lateness, and chronic tardiness. Many organizations offer paid time off (PTO), sick time, personal leave, and holidays. In cases of prolonged illness or family situations, organizations also utilize the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), paid medical leave, excused leave of absences, etc. In the event that an employee is excessively tardy or absent, many organizations use write-ups, warning letters, and other forms of discipline. Many organizations post policies regarding lateness and absenteeism. In order to effectively combat tardiness and absenteeism, a company policy should be clear, easy to understand, and enforced.



An employee who is absent or tardy twice during a single pay period will be given a verbal warning and the supervisor will write a report about the verbal warning that will be forwarded to executive title and placed in a company record.

An employee who is absent or tardy within a 15-day period after the written warning will be suspended without pay for 3 to 5 days. The supervisor will consult with executive title to determine the length of the suspension, and whether the employee should be returned to "introductory" status or terminated after the suspension.



Many employers post these policies in a company handbook. Employers often ask employees to sign contracts or an agreement to abide by the company policies outlined in the handbook. By having employees sign these contracts if gives the employees more legal support as well as ensures that the employee has read and understands the rules and policies of the company.

In addition to establishing company policies on tardiness and absenteeism, some organizations may also send supervisors to training programs to help them prevent, identify, and combat these negative behaviors. For example, there is a training program by Lorman Educational Services provided for managers for managing absenteeism and tardiness. The training program focuses on managing attendance, understanding employee laws, effective policy and procedures, avoiding abuse, and other issues surrounding managing attendance (Lorman Education Services, 2009).

Useful Organizational Models for Reducing Withdrawal Behaviors

Work Life balance; "Americans typically think of work-family conflict as a private issue.  This is not surprising, given that American public policy to resolve such conflict is virtually nonexistent, forcing us all to cobble together individually negotiated solutions in the private marketplace." (Williams, 2010)  Work-Life balance is a concept of prioritization between work and lifestyle.  Organizations can play a large part in how employees can deal with work related stress, including work-life balance programs.  Research by Kenexa Research Institute in 2007 shows employees having a greater job satisfaction because of their organization's efforts to support work-life balancing programs (Herman, 2007).  There are several different initiatives and programs that have proven effective:  

  • Flexible Scheduling - A variable working schedule that allows employees the flexibility to choose when they work.  This policy usually revolves around a "core" or mandatory hours, e.g., a typical eight hour shift would be from 9-5, core hours may consist of 11-4 with the employee able to "flex" their time around this core; 8-4, 11-8 are some examples.

  • Performance-Based Pay Strategies- A series of specific strategies designed to motivate employees through employee ownership within the program.  These incentives include; competency pay, broadbanding, variable performance-based compensation, gain sharing, and team-based incentives.

  • Telecommuting- A work arrangement where employees do not "commute" to a central location for work.  A telecommuter or Teleworker uses mobile communications technology to work from remote locations; including home.

  • Job Sharing- An arrangement where two people are retained to perform a job normally filled by one person.  This strategy is more difficult toward the organization due to the "handoff" or "handover" between the employees must be completely thorough

Withdrawal behaviors can affect one or more employees in an organization. Negative behavior can become contagious and organizations need to find ways in which to keep employees positive and not engage in this negative conduct.  Incorporating a positive exchange relationship at the workplace can greatly increase employee satisfaction.  




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