How To Manage An Employee Who Is Frequently Late

Operations & Training

By Brad Sugars

Chances are, as a business owner or manager, you have or will come across an employee who is regularly late. Such chronic tardiness is a key indicator –  there will be other bad habits from that employee that can spread to others in the office. Great management takes the right steps to fixing such issues and is crucial to employee development. Franchise systems are fortunate; they have strong networks of managers that have learned and can offer the central elements of managing perpetually late employees.

First steps

The first step in handling lateness, or any bad habit, is to confront the employee about the problem. Not addressing the behavior right away allows it to continue. While talking to any staff member, there are good and bad questions to bring up. In a lot of cases, supervisors are not asking good management questions. For example, they may ask, “Why are you late?” This type of question allows for excuses. Rather than setting up the employee with the opportunity to blame an external force, managers should make sure their questions include:

  • An emphasis on moving forward: “What needs to happen to ensure you’re on time to work?”
  • Detail-oriented phrases: “What is the next step to ensuring you’re on time to work?”
  • A timeline: “What is the next step to ensuring you’re on time to work beginning tomorrow?”

By asking these forward-thinking questions, managers can help put their personnel in the mindset of fixing the problem at hand, whether it is tardiness or missing a deadline.

Requiring frequently late team members to create a time log is another winning strategy to get them back on track. This forces employees to look at what they are accomplishing and the time it takes to complete tasks, resulting in an awareness of productivity levels, ultimately encouraging an on-time arrival. Time logs also allow the supervisor to oversee the employee until the bad habits have been resolved. Often, requiring a time log will encourage staff trying to avoid the task to arrive on time and stay on track.

One thing a manager should always avoid when an employee has created a work problem is trying to fix it. If an employee is late and misses an early deadline, the manager should not troubleshoot the issue. This can become problematic, as it does not help the employee learn. Instead, it actually teaches them they do not need to complete their tasks, since their manager will do it for them.

Impact of culture

An employee who is consistently tardy might have the perception that arriving late to work is okay and a part of the culture in the office or workplace. If it becomes a habit that is never addressed, other bad habits can form. The company’s culture should be reflective of the brand’s overall goal or mission, and all staff members should be aware of the mission statement. Once there is an agreed-upon set of values, it will encourage the company’s desired behaviors.

Many times, if a worker has developed multiple bad habits, it’s the result of bad management. People who are perpetually late are probably not satisfied with their job, and as a result, not eager to arrive on time. Managers must take a step back and look at what is making their employee not want to come to work on time.

Outside forces can cause the employee to be late. Perhaps the employee needs to drop off their child at school, or public transportation arrives just after the start of the workday. In these cases, a simple time adjustment of the employee’s workday is all it takes to fix the issue. Don’t overcomplicate it. If an employee drops off their kids at school and can arrive by 9:15 a.m. every day rather than 9:00 a.m. on the dot, just have them stay 15 minutes later in the evening.

Overly social

There are other bad habits often seen among employees. Similar to tardiness, these are easily manageable. Among the bad habits are employees that arrive on time but don’t begin their tasks until 30 minutes into their workday. When the first signs of this bad habit start showing, the supervisor should encourage that team member to make a to-do list before they leave each day, so when they get into work the following day, the highest priorities are already set out.

Another bad habit in the modern workday is extensive social media usage. While there are computer programs that block sites like Facebook and Twitter, many jobs require going on social media for work purposes. If this is indeed the case, make sure to limit employees’ minutes on social media for personal use, and monitor as needed.

Brad Sugars is the founder and CEO of ActionCOACH, a global franchise network of business coaches who seek to help others achieve their goals through business development.