Crucial Skills®

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Confronting Late Employees

The following article was first published on February 24, 2010.

Dear Crucial Skills,

At our organization, we expect our employees to be ready to care for patients at the start of their shift. But I have several employees who are far in the disciplinary path because they consistently “clock-in” a minute or two late. Of course, they would have been on time if “the water main hadn’t broken,” or they “hadn’t been stuck behind a school bus.” These employees feel the policy is punitive, unfair, and intolerant; and they have the empathy of the early arrivers. Help!

Needing Discipline

Dear Needing,

First, let me congratulate you for confronting the problem early and consistently, so that the late arrivers are already “far in the disciplinary path.” The most common mistake we make is to let these kinds of problems slide, and as a result, give our tacit permission for bad behavior. Here are a few tips for confronting your late arrivals:

1. Make sure the rule is clear. If you inherited this problem and your predecessor gave his/her tacit permission to let people come in late, you will want to give “fair warning” before beginning to enforce the policy. You will want to talk to the team, and specifically to the late arrivers, to explain the policy and to let them know that you will be enforcing it.

2. Have the crucial confrontation. You usually don’t notice the first time an employee comes in late; you notice when it’s become a pattern. The key is to have the conversation as soon as you realize someone is consistently coming in late. Describe the gap between what you expect and what you’ve observed, and probe for the cause of the problem.

Problems are caused by motivation (the person doesn’t share your priority) or ability (the person is unable or has difficulty complying) or a combination of both. If your employee doesn’t share your priority for arriving on time (motivation), explain the natural consequences for his or her patients, peers, and unit. If necessary, explain the imposed consequences involved in your organization’s disciplinary path.

If the person is having difficulty arriving on time (ability), ask for his or her ideas for making it happen. Encourage the employee to develop a plan that will work for him or her. But don’t allow ability blocks to become excuses. The person needs a plan that results in on-time arrival.

Often, the person will end up with both short-term and long-term plans. The long-term plan might be to get his or her car repaired; the short-term plan might be to get a ride with his or her spouse. By the end of this crucial confrontation, the person should explicitly agree on who will do what by when. Take care that you don’t transfer the burden to your back. People need to develop a viable solution that they buy into. And they need to understand that, if their solution doesn’t work, consequences will be imposed.

3. Impose the consequences. It sounds as if you have arrived at this step. If you don’t think you had a full and frank crucial confrontation, then feel free to have it now. However, if you have already had the crucial confrontation, the latecomers have already agreed on a plan, and they have failed to live up to their agreements, it’s time to impose consequences.

Take care to involve the right people in your up chain—your manager and HR—where appropriate. Try to avoid blindsiding anyone.

Before you meet with an employee, take some time to get your head and your heart right. Ask yourself what you really want—you want the person to be successful somewhere, but you can’t continue the costs to patients and your team. Then meet with the employee and explain the situation—you established a plan you both agreed to, and the employee has failed to live up to it—and the next step in the disciplinary process. Master your stories, and keep the dialogue professional. Create as much safety as possible, but understand that the employee is likely to be hurt or angry.

4. Dealing with others. When an employee is terminated, it’s normal for other employees to feel sympathy for that employee. It’s also normal for people to feel some fear about whether they will be next. You can’t share personnel information or feed the rumor mill. My guess is that, while many will have sympathy and empathy for the person, they will also feel relief that they won’t have to carry that person’s load any longer.

Best wishes for this next period. You should feel proud of yourself for stepping up to these tough conversations. Without your actions, problems like these would linger, festering in your team and undermining your ability to treat your patients.


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45 thoughts on “Confronting Late Employees”

  1. Amy

    I think your section on “Dealing With Others” does not go quite far enough. Communication in these situations is key, and while it would be wrong to call out a name and say that person was fired because of X behaviors, it can be made very clear to employees either before or after the firing that the consequences of X behaviors, tracked over time and documented, continuing after conversations about the behavior have been held with the employee, will be Y consequence. If the communication is clear enough, the other staff members will most likely anticipate who exactly is likely to meet that criteria. This can cut down on the shock and the fear due to mystery, and it also requires that leadership be careful to conduct themselves in a completely above-board manner. You can’t be arbitrary and transparent without consequences of your own.

  2. Jim


    While I appreciate your outline of progressive discipline, your response left me wanting more. Specifically, when we look at issues of motivation and ability, it is also important to have the conversation that looks at systemic disincentives and do some root-cause problem solving.
    A culture of ‘lateness’ may actually reflect a problem with scheduling, a practical issue of getting kids to school when work and life schedules don’t mesh (and which is acutally a temporary problem of several years duration), or the amotivation of having to pay extra childcare costs. There may be more creative solutions such as creating a ‘swing shift’ or even challenging the ‘way we’ve always done things’. The notion of work-life balance is important and people are not simply widgets in a business model. Life is messy and often management is about entering that messiness and finding a better path.

    1. Penny

      I absolutely AGREE with your reply. Employers need to be creative and cooperative in helping talented employees (especially skilled professional nurses) ways to balance a career and a family. Being punitive and dictatorial is a one sided approach to maintaining a well seasoned team of excellent nurses. It’s best to be flexible and understanding and to approach the individual with interest in helping them arrive on time and ready to do their absolute best. Perhaps it is possible to change the arrival time if it conflicts with child care etc. It costs an organization much more to find a replacement for someone who’s otherwise fabulous but consistently one to five minutes tardy.

  3. Sandra S.

    Let me start by saying that I am generally a punctual person — I usually arrive early, as a matter of fact. And I often do find it annoying and unfair when some people are chronically late. However, when I read “Needing Discipline”‘s question, I was immediately struck by the phrase “a minute or two late.” Being a minute or two late is a discipline-worthy issue? Really? A clue that it might not be is that there’s no resentment from the early-arrivers (in fact, there’s “empathy”), which tends to make me think that the minute or two isn’t really inconveniencing anyone. And are your clocks really syncronized accurately enough that you can be sure that these folks are really late? The clocks on the walls, phones, and computers in my company often vary by a minute or two from each other and from the time announced on the radio or the “official” government/military time.

    I agree that employees should be on time and that valid excuses for being late should be few and far between. I also agree that people who are chronically late should be subject to a discipline process. However, I have to agree with your employees that the idea that being, literally, a minute or two late is sufficient to trigger that process does seem “punitive, unfair, and intolerant.” Perhaps allowing a five-minute grace period would be more reasonable?

    1. Frank

      Sandra, I am dealing with this same 1-2 min late problem as well. I have two conflicting feelings about being 1-2 mins late. One, one clients arrive at 7:30am at the latest and many times they are 5-10 mins early waiting in the parking lot. We have our staff arrive 5 mins before we technically open at 7:30am in order to set up and open up so that the client feels warm and welcomed. I have a team member who has been anywhere from 1-3 mins late 50% of the time she has been working here. She has only worked here two months. I don’t want to seem unfair with the on the dot timing but I feel it’s just a disregard for what you are expected to do. She claims traffic for almost every instance and says she will always be late because she can’t predict the flow of traffic and she doesn’t want to waste time and arrive early. All the other team members are here on time if not early so I want to make sure their isn’t discontent as a result of her being late. I have remained firm in our position and have sat with her to develop a plan to help her be on time but she feels we should have a five minute grace period. I don’t have that five mins to give her since the client arrives in 5 mins at the latest. But her argument makes me question if I am setting reasonable goals for her or just building her frustration.

      1. Staci

        Frank, obviously your employee has a different value with regard to giving her time up and being early than you and your other employees. She feels that it is her time and doesn’t want to “waste it” being early. Maybe a possible answer is to change her schedule slightly to have her start time be more than 5 minutes before patients arrive? This would allow her the potential for a 5 minute grace period window. If there are assignments that are typically done before patients arrive, such as getting files ready for appointments, etc., those tasks could be assigned for her to complete in the time she arrives before others. This could help her feel like that extra time is not wasted.

      2. marc

        I am required to be onsite for a mandatory meeting at 7AM. My shift starts at 7AM. My employer expects that I arrive ‘Ready’ to work. Part of getting ready to work for many employees is that they get dressed maybe put on some make-up, brush their hair, drive to work, get coffee, etc… For me that is arriving about 5 minutes early and looking at my work list and then heading into the meeting knowing what to report for the days work expectation. That 5 minutes early is part of getting ‘Ready’ to work. Walking in the door at 7AM is not being ready. In that 5 minutes I have to look at the list and put my lunch away, hang up my coat, etc. That extra 5 minutes is why I might get the better reviews and monetary compensation.

    2. kathy

      Yes, one or two minutes late is a worthy offense to merit discipline in some agencies. We had the same problem with a staff member and I feel we jumped through hoops to help her to overcome even changing the expected work hours by pushing them back 15 minutes. She then became late for the new expected time. I am sure in certain agencies it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but yes there are certain places that it does matter. Especially when someone else has to do their work because they aren’t there to do it.

  4. S. Walker

    All fantastic! I would be sure to include this requirement as part of the selection process as well. If a “minute or two” is LATE, then prospective employees should be put in a position to screen themselves from your organization, rather than forcing you to do that later.

  5. c.salmon

    If this is an issue with some employess, I know of several places that operate using Flex hours which means if your late you stay late or if it is not crucial to your job, for example if you are not the one who opens the office for the day then setting up times that work for workers makes
    employer/employee relations stronger. With or new age workforce we are going to have to make concessions regarding work hours, for some reason the new worker seems to think there is a Life to live and they are not married to their jobs like the generation before them! Not only do flex hours work for the younger generation but they work really well for staff who have disabilities, single parents, the list goes on. Of course working, whether it be from 9-5 or 8-4 you must stress that the hours required in the position that you were hired for, are worked.

    I really enjoy the Vital Smarts emails keep up the good work!

    1. employee

      i agree…as an employee if i stay after for 2 to 3 hours late to get a project done and the next day and 2 to 3 minutes late and get disciplined, it kinda makes me want a new job.

      1. Melissa Leney

        Yes!!! This is exactly how I feel too. I am routinely 1-5 mins late. But I also don’t take coffee breaks, work through my lunch breaks, and work 1 or more hours overtime everyday.
        I was also promoted to lead hand and was given a shining promotion letter. That same company fired me for ‘being late’ 3 days after refusing the vaccine. I was fired without cause. According to my ROE. Totally blindsided and escorted by HR and the DC manager, one on either side of me, marched through our warehouse and the adjoining warehouse of a company we share the building with and out the doors like a criminal. It was humiliating.

  6. David Maxfield

    I always enjoy getting readers’ responses. Often, you raise issues I hadn’t considered, and stimulate a whole new line of thinking. I’d like to riff on some of the comments here.

    Amy and S. Walker emphasize the need to make sure rules are clear up front—even in the selection process. This is especially important when the rule is one that is usually considered to be flexible. As Sandra S notes, start times are rarely enforced to within the minute or two. If this level of punctuality is required, then make sure everyone knows it—and knows the reasons behind it.

    Jim and C. Salmon raise the twin issues of workplace flexibility and work-life balance. Many organizations are finding that flexibility helps them attract and keep the best employees. Rules that prevent flexibility or inhibit work-life balance should be red flags that changes are needed. Perhaps there is another way to get the work done—a way that would allow greater flexibility for employees.

    Of course we all understand that lateness—even a minute or two—is sometimes unacceptable. Perhaps that is the case in a hospital’s operating room or a complex assembly line, where one person’s absence prevents an entire enterprise from moving forward.

    Thanks again for your comments and ideas.

  7. Visitor

    I have never been late when it mattered business-wise. Other than that I am chronically late. I was late a lot from school and got punished for it. Still, I have been late from work constantly. Despite this, I have a very successful career like many others working in similar positions, people of whom many are quite as bad as me at being in time when it really doesn’t matter that much.

    The key issue here is that at least some of the people who come to work late prioritize some other parts of the work than the arbitrarily set rules that the employees are supposed to follow. People who care more about getting the job done than playing their roles in the organization have many behaviours that seem to irritate managers who cannot see what really matters: getting the job done.

    There are other reasons than this for me. I am a hopeless night owl and despite constantly trying to reverse my sleeping pattern I more or less constantly fail to do so. Getting up early means getting too little sleep and when I keep this up long enough I get sick. This is simply unacceptable to me.

    I am late also because I am human. Humans are optimistic by nature and I often fail to get my morning chores done in the amount of time I allocate for them despite how many hours that may be. And because I’m a deep thinker I easily drift into a thinking flow where I lose the track of time just to notice that I’m going to be late again no matter what I do.

    Even if it might not be so easy to see this at first glance, there are people who just utterly suck at being on time unless it’s crucial. In some professions this might be simply unacceptable, but there are a lot of professions where it doesn’t really matter, as long as the job gets done on time.

    Then there is the question about power and saving face. Some managers might think that being late is a form of rebellion and shows a lack of respect. In some cases this can very well be at least part of the story. I can see how this can be particularly irritating to managers who have subordinates who have specialized skills that the managers themselves lack.

    The truth of the matter is that in these quite common cases the power dynamic isn’t clear cut. The manager often has the power to fire the employee, but only to her great detriment. A really good manager just looks at the results and doesn’t get into these kinds of power struggles with their people, unless the employees do something that actually takes away from the work results.

    Other than that, I believe it’s best to live and let live. You might be surprised to see that some of your best people actually quit just because you enforced a rule that seemed quite innocent on the surface. For some of them being in time is as tedious as it is for me. Others just take it as a sign of lack of respect and leave you to figure out how to fill the possibly very large gap they left behind.

    Personally, if someone told me that I was two minutes late, I would probably say that it’s a new record and if I can keep up with this I might even be in time some day!

    I know very well that I probably irritated some of you with this post, but this is a subject that really gets to me. Thanks for giving me a chance to vent a bit. 🙂

    1. social networker

      I have no recourse but to laugh at somebody so hopelessly egocentric and enmeshed in entitlement.

      He’s a night owl, so he cannot get up on time, he is an optimist – so he has never learned to leave himself time for his morning chores, – he’s a deep thinker, so he gets distracted – and loses track of time – and thus it is up to his employer to accommodate his inability to master himself and his immaturity.

      And, he puts it on the employer to tolerate HIS demands, rather than vice versa.
      Like he says, if his employer wants whatever it is he does, then they will accept his excuses.
      In a recession, I think employers have more viable options than to be held hostage by someone who has a great vocabulary but never learned the meaning of the word “Conscientious.”

      1. Nona

        I personally find “visitors” comments to be self aware and humble – not entitled. I share some of visitors traits, and I don’t think that the company loses anything when I arrive late for a day that will involve sitting in my office working on my own. I don’t know what visitor does, but I suspect he puts in extra time when the company really needs an outcome. I do that many times a week. Take conference calls or meetings early or late into the night to squeeze an outcome out of an already overloaded schedule. I work evenings, weekends, and sometimes on holidays if that what it takes to deliver on a very challenging list of outcomes.

        I also manage a large team, and I don’t watch the clock, I watch the achievements, I watch the team cohesiveness, I listen for the pulse of the office, and I give gentle feedback if someone gets a little too far off the collaboration norm.

        The industrial age controls are quickly dissolving and the aging workforce across almost every nation means we need to engage people in their workplace in ways that respect individual needs while building successful teams. I am really enjoying this thread.

      2. John

        I would guess the previous author is a ‘she’.

        1. Penny

          What EXACTLY does gender have to do with this John?? It comes across as a sexist jab at females for some reason, but I’m sure you didn’t intend it that way. Please explain further.

    2. mike

      absolutely Spot on! was writing my own reply but this near enough covers everything I was going to say!

  8. Vernel

    I would add that you should document it the first time you notice it and every time thereafter. That way you will have the documentation if/when you decide to talk to the person. Most people will respond by saying that it’s the first time or that it happens rarely. And, I think it seems that way to them so the reality check helps them to see the problem.

  9. Steve Kaye

    This is an excellent article because it helps with a real problem that occurs every day.

    We have a conflict of agendas here. On one hand, employees want the freedom to determine their personal lifestyle. On the other, employers want control over basic operations that are required to run an effective business.

    When people accept a job, they do more than agree to work for a company. They agree to modify their lifestyle to accommodate the business needs. This includes coming to work on time. Of course, people have some control over this by choosing jobs that fit their preferences, such as location, work hours, travel, etc.

    If someone wants more control over personal freedom, the alternative is to start a business. Then they can design the business to accommodate their lifestyle.

    There is, however, a catch. If their business requires employees, they will have to deal with people who find job requirements offensive. Then they will find themselves trying to enforce rules that they refused to follow.

  10. Barbara

    I worked 22 years in healthcare. I do not find punching in a minute or two late worthy of punishment. My area had set times to work, and we often staggered them by 1/2 hours for better timing at work. While this might seem like it is helping the late person, it helped me also to keep from having leftover work as the shifts changed. Everyone was happy. Still, some people came a few minutes late, but some came early too (but the affect of that was happy doctors and nurses who had their patient’s glucose levels on the charts by 8 am). If a certain person was late, they had to stay late too, and I would give all the leftover (usually undesirable) tests to that person to finish up so that they weren’t left for second shift.

    I don’t give employees a pass on tardiness, but you have to be reasonable. I did have one employee who passed probation, but later was always tardy and had to be fired within a year. Nice person, pitched in on odd shifts, but not suitable for hospital work.

    1.Question – Provided everyone puts there watches in sync, how do you know that the time clock is correct, and doesn’t add a minute a day?

    2. How do you provide incentive for that person that you disciplined for being a minute late to stay when someone on the second or third shift calls in sick and you have no one to call because of hospital cutbacks?

    3. What do you do when your staff have to be on time, but you can’t close the lab and until the doctors in the clinic leave. The staff are supposed to leave at 8 pm can’t close up because the doctors don’t leave sometimes until 9:30 pm? You end up paying overtime, and saying you are sorry because that person missed saying good night to their child, or their birthday dinner….so you really have to weigh if you are going to punish someone for being a minute or two late.

    4. There are really times when no matter how hard you try, you are going to be late.Give your employee the benefit of the doubt, especially if they are good employees generally. Examples – During a heavy snow, the plow blocked my car in front of my home 3 separate times between 5 am and 6:00 am. Another time, a staff person was in a train derailment and couldn’t get in before we knew what happened, and the director complained. At times, no matter how reasonably early you start, buses might not run on time.As a manager, you tell your staff to leave earlier, but sometimes there aren’t buses on weekends or they break down.

    5. One lab I worked in had a policy – on the third time late more than 10 minutes – you were docked a half hour, 4th time late – you were docked a day, 5th time late you were fired. I never saw anyone fired, but this was in a temperate climate with no winter, no snow and little rain.

    I don’t know where you live, but you must have plenty of help. Send them to Chicago. I have to practically bribe people to work the bad 3rd shifts, especially during the holidays.

  11. Rich

    Unless there are serious NATURAL consequences for someone clocking in a minute late, I think this manager is being rigid to the point of self-destructiveness…especially if s/he EVER has to ask employees to stay beyond the ends of their assigned shifts. (Have I mentioned the software company president who noticed an empty parking lot at 9:30AM, sent out a testy memo about company work hours, and had managers come back to report lengthened delivery schedules–because the individual contributors were now working only a bit over 40 hrs per week?)

  12. x1134x

    I just got the totally unnecessary “tardiness” talk. I believe it mostly to be due to my manager being afraid of looking bad to HIS managers, because I’m never more than 15 minutes late like maybe twice a month, and NEVER even close to 30 minutes late. I ALWAYS stay the same amount of time later at the end of the day, or cut the time out of my lunch hour and just take a 50 min lunch.

    I’ve liked working here a lot, and the idea of looking elsewhere for work never even occurred to me until this talk. The fact that they were willing to overlook a chronic 5 to 10 minute late person made me tolerate a lot of flack coming back the other way, such as micromanagement of my projects, and being paid way less than I’m worth. The talk hit my irritation button. There’s no LOGIC behind it.

    The hypocrisy of my manager telling me he’d hate to have to take disciplinary action over “something so small” blows my mind. If its so small, then why are you bringing it up? Seems like he agrees with me, but doesn’t want to be seen as being a soft manager by his superiors.

    To me, a business that is strict on arrival times is a danger to the community. I can easily make up the 5 minutes I’m going to be late by driving like a maniac instead of calmly driving into work and just taking a 55 minute lunch or staying 5 minutes later.

  13. grizzly bear mom

    I work in performance management. You are concerend with employees coming in a minute or two late? The other employees are on the side of the tardy ones? It sounds like you are micromanaging. How do you have time to accomplish the strategic goals of your organization if you spend all your time putting bandaids on papercuts?

  14. Amy

    Thank you for the article. It is really interesting to see how others perceive this issue. Papercuts to some and a danger to others. It relates very well to the differences in gender and age as well as the job description. Sometimes the decisions for personnel run downstream and those in management positions have to enforce decisions they do not agree with. We experienced this and have had discussions all the way to the top to try to come up with a flexible plan that works for everyone. However, in some careers flexibility can’t be worked with. You accept that along with the paycheck.

  15. elsy mejia-carpio

    Managers needs to help employees to combine family and work responsibilities. I know for a fact that some employees have issues by dropping kids to school and so on. Managers needs to understand and compromise. If the reason is family related and it is 5 minutes o so then the manager can request from the employee to make up the time by staying 5 minutes late, or to request a change of tour. If that is not the reason then progressive discipline should be the remedy. It should start by verbal counseling and remedy such as classes about responsibility or copy of company policy and procedures.
    By all mean always try to solve any issue in a positive manner.

  16. clc

    Thank you for this article with sound advice. I have worked in healthcare for 20 years and what needs to be considered is what area “needing” works in. For example if it’s in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital a few minutes at the beginning of a shift where traditionally the history of each patient in the unit is give then missing that crucial information can affect patient safety and continuity of care. If it is one of the support areas of the hospital it may not be as time sensitive but is still a crucial part for having hospital operations run smoothly.

  17. charles

    This is someone I would not want to work for. I want to work for people who appreciate a job well done. The job and its expectations should be well defined and well measured. In my opinion such factory mentality has to go.

  18. Sharon

    This policy became a sore point with me when my sister, a nurse, was forced to punch a time clock, something that many professionals would never tolerate. These workers may or may not be nurses, but let’s look at this from another perspective. In order to be assured of being on time consistently, I must build in extra time, and risk being early most of the time when nothing untoward has happened. I would totally feel cheated out of pay for time that I devoted to be sure of meeting my employer’s needs when that is time that I cannot use for myself. I MUST come early yet I will not be paid for the time that I am there and ready to get underway, even willing to begin working. In my sister’s case, not only did she not get paid for a single minute prior to the designated time, but she was not allowed to clock in until 5 minutes in advance – adding insult as she was forced to stand in line at the time clock when she was prudent enough to allow extra time for unexpected situations that did not materialize. Is it possible that employees do not support discipline for minutes of tardiness because they feel taken advantage of on this issue? A simple change in policy such as allowing employees to be paid for clocking in early up to ten or fifteen minutes could make all the difference. Yes, payroll would increase, but disciplinary procedures and employee disgruntlement are costly, too.

  19. Joe

    Sharon is right. If your employer requires you to consistently be on time at the beginning of your scheduled shift, or you get fired, your employer should pay you for the extra time you worked when you arrived early at your shift or let you leave work early by the same amount. There is no such thing as a free lunch, ok, so why are people required to work for free in a potential life-or-death situation or get fired?

    Many people have flourishing lives and family outside of a job that pays for labor. The transfer of money in exchange of goods and services is far less important than the things life has to offer; especially those with closely connected family and friends or those seeking such a lifestyle.

    When you have a crucial conversation with someone consistently breaking the time rules and you get to the part where you calmly but firmly say the perpetrator must follow the company rules or else they will get fired, then you should have fired them already. Giving them another chance could kill somebody and people above you will be asking you some serious questions about your decision to let it go one last time.

    For most jobs, it is not critical to be consistently on time since people would not necessarily die or get injured or lose a fortune because you are late to arrive at your meeting or work location. Many people are choosing to work at home and call into work through the Internet.

    I can imagine the day when people don’t come to work anymore since the overhead is simply becoming too expensive due to the mountain of lawsuits and tax laws that only get bigger and bigger. Instead, they join like-minded groups and exchange goods and services from their home using their cars and the Internet. All jobs requiring physical labor will be contracted out to foreigners that are brought into the country with a temporary work permit who desire to live here more than where they currently live.

  20. Todd

    @Sandra S. Clearly every institution is different, but I think the key to this example is that in this department, they are expected to “be ready to care for patients at the start of their shift”. This means if they are late, or are not prepared to immediately see patients at the start of their shift then the team is going to experience a coverage gap and care for the patients may suffer.

    In this business it sounds like that expectation has been set, and employees are expected to arrive early, clock in, and make sure they’re ready to hit the ground running at the start of their shift.

    It reminds me of a phrase my Dad used with me.. “If you’re early, you’re on time – if you’re on time, you’re late – if you’re late…” I’ve heard several iterations depending on circumstance, but insert “left behind”, “don’t bother showing up”, or “you’re fired”.

    I’ve also heard that “Managers say, ‘Don’t be late’ but Leaders always show up early.”

    Helping the employees understand the story of why their tardiness is negatively impacting the team (and it sounds like the rest of the compasionate team needs to understand as well) and helping them take ownership and devise solutions is critical to future success.

  21. Late Larry

    I personally think any manager that cares about 2 or 3 minutes late is generally more of a loser himself than the employee. I guess when you leave this world you can you can champion always being 5 minutes early on your tombstone. Other than that, no normal person cares. I’ve enjoyed over the years watching “on timers” being terrible at their jobs or sitting in an office all day having conference calls that offer really no value to productivity of a business. But hey at least your on time.

    1. Penny

      ??????Late Larry ?

  22. Bob Jones

    I dislike authority, and rules. I would make a lousy employee in the traditional Corporate Culture.

    But I cannot help but laugh at the self-entitled narcissistic people who think they should be allowed to show up late and be paid if they show up early.

    What part of J-O-B do you not understand? What would happen if you went to the bakery and bought a cake – and there was a chunk broken off of it? You would feel you did not get what you paid for.

    What if you bought a Subway pass for 20 trips and they cut you off at 19?

    If I am paying for YOUR Labor to be at my disposal and convenience for 8 hours a day, I expect you to be there for 8 hours a day.

    You certainly expect your Full Paycheck, and would raise heck if your Boss unilaterally decided you did not have to be paid the full amount this week…and said they will let you go home early instead.

    Oh, heck NO! You want your pay, not the time off. You have every right to expect full pay, and your boss has every right to expect full value on the labor that is being purchased.

    It is very clear to me how many people do not appreciate the fact that they *have* a job. My wife has been out of work for a year. Trust me: She will be showing up in time to hit the ground running if she ever gets the chance.

    Self-centered Ingrates! I see them in every workplace, sauntering around without any sense of urgency about anything that they do….
    and failing to realize that they are NOT being paid for their TIME, they are being paid for their LABOR – in Hourly Units.

    That said, Management should certainly be understanding and flexible where possible when personal situations and transportation delays arise. We *are* all Human.

    But, if the traffic delayed me 30 minutes, I would be offering to stay 30 minutes, and not expect the employer to subsidize my transportation woes.

  23. JB

    Bit late to the party on this discussion, I know, but it’s a very complex issue and one I struggle with all the time.

    Generally, people who quite like being late always say they make up the time, are doing loads extra, and taking it up with them is laughable. Of course, they also say that they’re amused by the people who are on time but ‘aren’t as productive’ etc. Then there’s the issue with a business being so lacking and creativity and flexibility that they have to crack down on time.

    However, the niggling issue I have with all that is that you can be as productive, creative, hard working etc as you like. But if you’re given the leeway to behave in a way that suits you, rather than the business, then others will simply follow suit.

    Too many assume it’s a clear split between turning up early, doing a ok job and being seen to be ‘in’ v turning up late, being incredibly creative and productive when you’re in and just being generally great.

    But what if you are habitually late, not that productive, and nowhere near as good as you’ve got yourself pegged. You’re just creating an entitlement culture where you’ve self appointed yourself as a great employee while the other saps are in on time, doing longer hours, but are nowhere near as amazing. But maybe you’re late AND useless?!

    Allow one person to turn up 15 minutes late every day because they’re ‘productive and make up the time at home’ and slowly others treat this as a policy and have an expectation to do the same. And if they’re not as productive, not making it up at home, or not really doing much while they’re in work?

    Suddenly you’re saddled with a less productive team, splits and arguments over entitlement, resentment because the manager turns a blind eye, and it’s hugely difficult to pull everyone back to a common goal on anything.

    I detest the feeling that I’m being made to crack down on something people perceive as ‘minor’, especially when people think I’m over reacting, but the alternative is tough too.

  24. Judy Holcomb

    What if EVERYBODY in the office came in 3 minutes late every day? Rules are for everyone. People can get fired for less than that.

    1. Bob Jones

      Exactly, it is like the player on the team who feels entitled to not have to come to practices and work hard because he plays so well in the actual games. “I am more productive than all the people who come to work on time, so I deserve to be treated differently.”

      This then leads to resentment and discontent among the other people on the team who are *not* given “Star Treatment.”

      *DO* your job. If you want to negotiate flexible starting hours, then do it – If you do not feel your productivity is recognized, then ask for more recognition via *normal* reward modes. *Have* that Crucial Conversation.

      Do not ask for Discriminatory treatment when it comes to enforcing the Company Culture.

      Do not keep pushing the envelope until Managers feel compelled to draw a line in the sand.

      Part of the problem is that people have such different ideas about where lines should be drawn – if at all.

      Rebels Without a Cause (like me) and younger folk would prefer not to have to color within *Lines* at all…but few organizations can be exceptional enough to not require Lines and Boundaries at all.

      People like me are amazed that there are other supposed Adults who need these things explained to them in the first place…but we grow up in different environments and different eras, and have different values.

      I want everyone to follow *mine* – funny enough – if I am the Employer and paying the bills.

  25. roshandyou

    Plain stupid. When will HR learn that they are dealing with humans and not automated robots.

  26. Confronting Reality Doing What Matters | Bolakovic3

    […] Confronting Late Employees | Crucial Skills – Confronting Late Employees. … let me congratulate you for confronting the problem early and … I think it seems that way to them so the reality check helps them to … […]

  27. Cari Phillips

    For some, being late isn’t an option. Judge me if you will for being tardy, but you will not find a more dedicated and loyal employee than I. One of my former bosses, who is also a friend, once asked why I was always late and I didn’t have an answer, but I do now. After 55 years of struggling to meet the deadlines and arrival times set by others, my doctor said, “I’d like you to take this test.”
    Even though I was prone to procrastination, forgetfulness and being tardy as a child, (and every grade school teacher checked ‘uses time wisely’ on my report cards) I never would have ever guessed that I suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. So take it from one who suffers the burden of tardiness no matter how hard I try to be on time, don’t judge someone’s ability, dedication or loyalty based on their inability to be on time.

  28. Been There

    I have read through all of these comments…and thank you Carl! I personally have STRUGGLED with this ALL my adult life. I have ADD…Diagnosed later in life. I’m 58 years old now. Yes looking back, I had it as a child. But no one picked it up because girls with ADD typically are the quiet ones staring out the window (not bouncing off the walls, out of my seat etc.)… I was never a problem to the teachers. School was hard, never doing really did that well. I got through college ok. My grades were so erratic. 10 years after college I went back to graduate school. I found something I could excel in. (**That’s the secret by the way for any of you who have children with ADD/ADHD…and are berating them because they “aren’t trying hard enough.”**)
    I am really good at what I do, (and I have worked in various work settings)…but hell… I have driven a few people crazy with being late! And, I am one of the few that will stay late almost all the time… I think because it tends to be quieter and I can get things done that don’t involve interaction clients, etc. (like paperwork!!)
    Medication, organizational strategies, certain nutrition suggestions and supplements do help. But it’s still a struggle. I know this sounds like B.S. to many of you.
    For years, I have heard people say to me, or around me that I don’t care enough, I’m not motivated enough, not organized enough, I’m selfish, narcissistic, etc, etc. It hurts A LOT to hear all these things!
    So, I don’t suggest ignoring it. Sometimes, a Flex schedule can be helpful.
    I do however suggest if you are interested, look up Dr. Daniel Amen, read up on what we know now through neuroscience. PLEASE read more about ADD/ADHD if you have kids with this problem…because they don’t like it any more than you.

  29. What to do if your employees keep coming in late - Planday

    […] tardiness is often a result of one of two things: a lack of motivation, or a lack of ability, each of which requires a different […]

  30. Staying Consistent

    For work/life balance, our associates are allowed to choose their set work schedules so not sure why they can’t come to work on the schedule they chose. Our disciplinary process doesn’t start until after the 4th occurrence so it’s accounting for patterns/trends. As a manager, I am currently dealing with associates that were transferred to my team who were never held accountable by prior managers, felt it was okay to come strolling in 15-30 minutes late, skip lunch to make up time, etc. Our company policy requires a minimum 30 minute lunch each full work day. I even had one associate say to me, “you get the production out of me, so why do you care?” She runs right below radar in quality and meets her production metric (doesn’t exceed) yet she feels she is entitled. It’s interesting to note that she stated in one of our meetings that if someone has a pattern of being late, then it needs to be addressed with that person. How can a manager hold someone who is consistently 10-15 minutes late accountable if you don’t hold the one who is 2-3 minutes accountable? If you choose an 8:30a start time, then you need to be at your desk working at 8:30a. I’ve had many conversations with our legal HR department and have been told we need to be consistent in adhering to our guidelines. IMHO, late is late. Everyone needs to be held to the same standard.

  31. cathy

    When nursing the oncoming shift is
    effecting the ones working. After 12 hours of hard work waiting for relief just makes you angry even when your only 3 min late

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