Minimizing “Presenteeism” Delivers ROI on Steroids

Word count: 597; time to read: about 3 minutes

While absenteeism may be a major source of productivity loss among average workers, the ranks of well-paid executives are sometimes plagued by a much more subtle cancer.


Presenteeism (pre-zən-tiˈɪzəm) n.  1. The opposite of absenteeism. 2. The act of being present at work when the organization would actually benefit if the employee was absent.  3. Able to introduce catastrophic effects on a company’s output, including but not limited to hidden long-term opportunity costs.

As the term implies, presenteeism causes harm to an organization when employees are AT work…not away from it.  Presenteeism is harder to detect than its “evil twin,” and even more difficult to measure.

Yet the OPPORTUNITY COST of presenteeism for a company can dwarf the impact of missed time from work.

That is because presenteeism can infiltrate every hour of every day…all year long.

Warnings aside, the good news is that your organization (or department) can achieve more impressive results than you thought possible…if you are willing to challenge this hidden thief.

Some Suggestions

First, decide that it’s important to minimize presenteeism, and acknowledge that few initiatives will have a greater ROI for your organization.  (ROI on steroids.)

Second, spend time getting to know what really energizes your key employees. (This should not be done for “show,” however even this exercise can be motivating to those that work for you.)

Third, start from the top by prompting executives to take an assessment or meet with a career coach that will give them objective feedback on their gifts and passion. If there is a better seat for them on the bus, help them find it.

If not, encourage…and even HELP them find a different bus.  Though hard in the short term, this will pay handsome long-term dividends.

Note that how you handle those who volunteer that they may want to get off the bus will be on display for all other passengers.  You have two choices for how to respond.  You can treat them the way YOU would want to be treated (graciously) and experience a small and temporary dip in productivity.  OR you can quickly kick them off the bus – complete with an assault on their loyalty – and push the productivity leaks underground where they will not be seen…but will surely become larger and systemic.  Heck, successful online retailer, Zappos, even PAYS people to get off the bus (*see below).


Finally, launch “The 4th Revolution” at your company. (This is the working title of my book.) From the industrial revolution to the technology revolution, our nation has experienced WAVES of productivity gains that have ushered in untold professional and personal benefits to our country, organizations and individuals.

So launch the 4th revolution within YOUR company…where you leverage the passion and hard-wired behavior of workers (starting with executives), and where you hire and retain them simultaneously for their mind, their muscle…and their HEART!

And while the above are worthy suggestions…an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.”  (HINT: read about the Zappos (some details below), and ONLY hire people that are excited about coming to work Monday morning to do what needs to be done.)

Be vigilant about looking for the convergence of people’s God-given abilities, their interests, and their preferred working environment.

In short, let your competitors hire executives with experience and a nice resume, but no passion for the role or industry.

(*Amazon and online shoe retailer, Zappos, offer employees up to $5,000 to quit. The amount starts at $1,000 and increases each year. Details can be found in this article.)


About the author

Scott Kaufman is the founder of Convergence Recruiting, a firm that helps organizations hire and retain peak performers. 

He has successfully placed executives in large and small companies, non-profits, most industries, and for all functional areas of leadership (including general management, operations, finance, HR, IT, marketing, and sales).

Typical clients have revenues of $15MM to $500MM with 50 to 1,000 team members.

More information is available at, or Scott can be reached at 678-879-7980. 

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