Q: What are some of the intended consequences of applying behavior modification based on the growing problem of absenteeism and excessive sick leave?
A: Behavior modification is meant to be used to reward people for what they do well and to punish those or coach those who do not.
In the case of absenteeism and excessive sick leave, one could take a positive approach and award those with perfect or near perfect attendance with incentives such as extra days off, non-monetary or monetary bonuses.
To combat those behaviors that a leader wants to eliminate (lateness, frequent absences), employers can develop progressive disciplinary systems based on frequency and reasoning.
One of the practices I employ in the classroom is to allow excused absences when students notify me in writing or via phone call before class begins. Certainly, there are valid reasons for absenteeism. This semester, however, I have also employed a strategy by which if a student misses class without prior notice, they lose points off their grade, and if they do so twice, they fail the course. This has resulted in better attendance, better communication between me and the students, and the expectation that there is a dialogue about any reason the student must miss class.
This same type of method can be applied in the workplace (and I have seen it used effectively). Someone who doesn't call and doesn't show is treated much more severely that someone who calls 2 hours ahead of time, the night before, or alerts management further in advance than these rules dictate.
When it comes down to it, the effectiveness of behavior modification can vary between individuals and the group as a whole, but it can certainly set the tone in your department about how people should respect each others time, as well as the businesses.