Transformational Pharmacy Managers May Spur More Sick Days

If a pharmacy manager shows signs of transformational leadership," he or she may be inadvertently causing employees to take more sick days.

If a pharmacy manager shows signs of “transformational leadership,” he or she may be inadvertently causing employees to take more sick days.

According to a new study published in Work and Stress, a transformational leader has the following traits:

1. Idealized influence or charisma

2. Inspirational motivation

3. Intellectual stimulation

4. Individualized consideration

While these traits appear to be positive, the study authors argued that this kind of leadership could promote a work environment that leads to absenteeism, especially among vulnerable employees.

Presenteeism was defined as working while sick, and its risks include worse medical conditions and worse quality of work life. Plus, managers may mistake employees for being incompetent when the workers show up to work sick and perform worse than usual.

The researchers argued that taking 1 or 2 days off can help cure an acute illness, while showing up to work sick can make the illness worse and cause more absenteeism in the long run.

“Vulnerable employees—that is, employees with high levels of presenteeism—may over time be at risk of having higher levels of sickness absenteeism if they work in groups where the leader encourages them to exert themselves and sacrifice themselves for the betterment of the group,” the researchers explained.

They examined presenteeism, transformational leadership, and sick days in a 3-year longitudinal study involving 155 employees. The participants were asked, “How many days have you been off sick over the past 12 months?” and “In the past 12 months, how many workdays have you gone to work even if you were sick?” They also rated their managers using the Global Transformational Leadership Scale.

The researchers found that group-level transformational leadership in the first year could predict absenteeism in the second year, but not in the third. Workers with a transformational leader and those who had high levels of presenteeism took the greater amount of sick days in the third year, but not the second year.

The relationship between transformational leadership and absenteeism was also stronger among those who reported high presenteeism. Transformational leadership increased sick days when employees reported 14 more days of presenteeism than their coworkers.

“Our results suggest a complex picture of the relationship between transformational leadership and sickness absenteeism; transformational leaders may promote self-sacrifice of vulnerable followers by leading them to go to work while ill, leading to increased risks of sickness absence in the long term,” the researchers concluded.

One way to combat this problem is by adding employee well-being and health goals into leaders’ objectives.