early candidate for WOTY races

Michael Quinion TheEditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Fri Apr 23 16:36:54 UTC 2004

> Economists refer to slack productivity from ailing workers as
> "presenteeism," and the Cornell study said it may cost employers even
> more than absenteeism due to illness.

"Presenteeism" has been lurking in the linguistic undergrowth for
some time, as it happens, though with the sense of employees staying
at work unnecessarily out of normal hours for fear of being laid off;
my first example on file in that sense is from the Guardian of 30
Nov. 1994: "In their search for a balance between life at work at
life beyond it, they reject the 'presenteeism' which is becoming more
of a problem than absenteeism in many organisations." But a search
throws up an earlier sense still, from around 1944, when the US Air
Force instituted a presenteeism campaign, with the word used in the
sense of good attendance (among its civilian employees, not its

Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words
E-mail: <TheEditor at worldwidewords.org>
Web: <http://www.worldwidewords.org/>

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