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9 Steps to Address Tardiness in the Workplace

16 February 2022

There is usually a valid reason when employees report late for work. If it continues more regularly, then the responsibility to discuss the tardiness lands on the supervisor or manager’s hands.

Most people would do their best to arrive on the dot. This does not get rid of unforeseen circumstances that might lead to a person’s tardiness. When this happens occasionally, it’s not a cause of worry for the managers or coworkers. There are times that a colleague would be late for work because of a vehicular incident. The management should be lenient with incidents like this; it just becomes a problem when someone is perpetually late.

Why? Because it costs the company some money. It will lose productivity and when left unsolved, it may serve as a bad example to other employees. According to Indeed, when an employee is even five minutes late, that’s already 30 minutes of lost work for the whole week. That time is being paid by the company which means it’s not being returned by a person’s absence. Other employees may follow suit if the late employee gets his or her way without being sanctioned. If they show up on time, they might expect to be incentivized for following the rules.

You have to create a culture with a regard for professionalism so this tardiness issue must be addressed in one way or another. First, you need to identify what the problem is in order to create a solution. Again, an occasional tardiness is excusable but when it becomes habitual, then it might cause a problem in the workplace and your employee’s performance.

Below are some ways on how you could deal with an employee who’s always late.

Get to the root of the matter as soon as possible.

1. Get to the root of the matter as soon as possible.

Do not wait for the perfect time and address the issue right when you’ve noticed habitual tardiness. Talk to the employee right away and make it clear that showing up late for work is not a behavior you and the company would tolerate. Offer tips and encouragement for the employee to stop being late for work.

Clear your expectations.

2. Clear your expectations.

Do not make confusing remarks to your employee who’s always late. Make it clear what exact behaviors you do not like and how you want them to behave according to the company’s policies. Make sure to use words that would offer an exact explanation of why being early or on time matters for the company. Do not base anything on guesses, present the facts including recorded late dates of the employee. You don’t want to be misunderstood so never use terms that are subjective or vague and may just lead to a misunderstanding.

Cite a tardy policy.

3. Cite a tardy policy.

Make sure the employee knows that this is not a personal attack and that he or she is being reprimanded for violating a policy in the company handbook. Make them read aloud the rules for being on time. They have to be reminded of the start of the workday and how many times they are allowed to be late before the HR department files a warning, and then after, a suspension. Do not miss out on any details on what sanctions they will face if they continue to be tardy. Have a signed document or make sure it’s in writing (probably, an email proof) that the issue has been discussed and that the consequences for being late are clear. In your email or official document, the disciplinary steps must be laid out.

Respect the privacy of your employee.

4. Respect the privacy of your employee.

Although there’s a tardiness issue, your employee is still entitled to his or her privacy. There is no need for you to do some digging into why he or she has been habitually late for the past months. Of course, you may open the table for sharing but it’s entirely up to your employee how much information he or she is willing to divulge. There shouldn’t be any judgment on what they say or don’t say. It’s still a professional space so privacy is valued and at the same time, you are able to let your employee know the disciplinary measures for his late record.

Discuss how you’ll be moving forward.

5. Discuss how you’ll be moving forward.

The tardiness has been addressed. Your employee knows what he or she will receive if it continues. The next step is for you to help your employee set goals for professional improvement. For instance, they might come out with a suggestion themselves, probably having a shorter lunch break for all your late days. Once you know what their actionable step is, share your feedback on how to achieve the goals and offer ideas of your own to help the worker employ good habits and exceed their personal expectations.

Have regular check-ins.

6. Have regular check-ins.

The conversation doesn’t end after this discussion on tardiness. To encourage a perpetually late employee to come in on time, regularly make them feel that they are heard, supported, and valued. This may be the same approach on how you could avoid future happenings like this. Follow up with them, know how it's going, and then focus on your goals as well. Showing you care about their improvement may be the best way to avoid further incidents. Be encouraging and supportive while emphasizing the importance of being on time and their progress toward that goal.

In these regular check-ins, do not forget to compliment them for the job well done so far.

Keep a written record of every related conversation you had with the employee.

7. Keep a written record of every related conversation you had with the employee.

Don’t rely on memory about this tardiness issue. To avoid miscommunication, make sure that you have logged in every conversation and that it’s easy to go back to once you need some pertinent information. It will keep everything organized and you would stay factual during evaluation or a future event that would require you to pull out this file. Write down what steps you did to address the issue and note as well the positive changes in your employee’s behavior after meeting with them.

Implement systems that would make employees come on time.

8. Implement systems that would make employees come on time.

Have a clock-in system in place if perpetual tardiness persists among your employees in the workplace. It’s easy to track and be accessed by both you and the employee. You may also schedule morning meetings, those that begin the day for everyone. This is a great motivator for employees to show up on time for work. It will also help everyone be productive for the workday ahead. You may do these on selected days of the week. Consider offering a flexible working schedule if the company allows it. They may come later than the prescribed time but have to work the minutes that they were late. Lastly, set an example. Don’t be late for a meeting you scheduled and show your employees that you value their time as well.

Invest in your employee’s efficiency.

9. Invest in your employee’s efficiency.

Employees are sometimes late because they are avoiding the work at hand. If you can help them be more efficient with their work tasks, then by all means do so. Buying ergonomic furniture is one way to help them be more productive at work. Another is to always cheer them on and offer positive reinforcement.