Background: Sickness absence leads to understaffing and interferes with nursing efficiency and quality. It has been reported in literature that managerial leadership is associated with self-reported sickness absence in the working population.
Purposes: This study investigated the relationship between managerial leadership and sickness absence in health care by associating nurse managers' leadership styles with registered sickness absence among their nursing staff.
Methodology: The cross-sectional study included 699 nurses working in six wards (staff range = 91-140 employees) of a Dutch somatic hospital employing a total of 1,153 persons. The nurse managers heading the wards were asked to complete the Leadership Effectiveness and Adaptability Description questionnaire for situational leadership. The Leadership Effectiveness and Adaptability Description scores were linked to employer-registered nursing staff sickness absence.
Findings: High relationship-high task behavior (odds ratio [OR] = 0.76, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.65-0.85) and high relationship-low task behavior (OR = 0.37, 95% CI = 0.14 -0.98) were inversely related to the number of short (one to seven consecutive days) episodes of sickness absence among the staff. Low relationship-high task styles (OR = 2.44, 95% CI = 1.14-5.22) as well as low relationship-low task styles (OR = 2.44, 95% CI = 1.26-4.71) were positively associated with the number of short episodes of sickness absence. However, the leadership styles only explained 10% of the variance in short episodes of sickness absence.
Practice Implications: Leadership styles are associated with registered sickness absence. The nursing staff of relationship-oriented nurse managers has fewer short episodes of sickness absence than the staff of task-oriented managers. Training nurse managers in relational leadership styles may reduce understaffing and improve nursing efficiency and quality.