Move early on late­ness

Don’t let tar­di­ness be­come chronic prob­lem

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

IF we’re hon­est with our­selves, we can ad­mit that each of us has a hot but­ton word, phrase or ac­tion that sim­ply sends us off on a tizzy. My hot but­ton is the word late. In other words, I ab­hor an em­ployee who is con­tin­u­ally and chron­i­cally late for work, late to sub­mit re­ports, late to re­spond to cus­tomer needs and late to com­mu­ni­cate with their col­leagues or their boss for that mat­ter. It’s al­most as if they live by an­other clock as there just isn’t any sense of ur­gency in any­thing they do.

Some­times late­com­ers even have a sense of en­ti­tle­ment and so you’ll find they rarely apol­o­gize for their ac­tions. They don’t seem to re­al­ize the im­pact their chronic late­ness has on col­leagues and on the or­ga­ni­za­tion as a whole. For in­stance, col­leagues who are work­ing on a team project be­come frus­trated when an in­di­vid­ual is con­tin­u­ally late with their share of the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. In other words, one late­comer causes the en­tire team to be late and on oc­ca­sion pushes the team to­ward a sense of emer­gency with re­spect to meet­ing a dead­line.

Late­ness is more fre­quently re­lated to em­ploy­ees who are chron­i­cally late in ar­riv­ing at work. This is ex­tremely frus­trat­ing for both man­agers and col­leagues and over time, this late­ness will cause a gen­eral de­cline in mo­rale, es­pe­cially if em­ploy­ees per­ceive the late­comer as re­ceiv­ing pref­er­en­tial treat­ment. Af­ter all, peo­ple re­sent hav­ing to wait for col­leagues who are late and they re­sent be­ing di­rected to fill in un­til the late em­ployee ar­rives. Re­sent­ment can build to a fever pitch es­pe­cially if their col­league be­comes a chron­i­cally late of­fender and even more so if the man­agers are per­ceived to do noth­ing about it.

So, why isn’t this sit­u­a­tion dealt with more ef­fec­tively? From my ex­pe­ri­ence, I be­lieve the rea­son chronic late­ness is not well man­aged is that the man­ager is not com­fort­able dis­ci­plin­ing the em­ployee. They may be re­luc­tant to con­front the em­ployee be­cause the in­di­vid­ual may be per­ceived to have valu­able skills that are not eas­ily re­placed. On the other hand, the in­di­vid­ual may be a long-term em­ployee who out­ranks the man­ager in se­nior­ity and they are thus re­luc­tant to deal with the is­sue. Or, the em­ployee may be per­ceived to have po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions at a higher level. Fi­nally, in most cases that I am aware of, the man­ager is sim­ply not com­fort­able deal­ing with con­flict.

Yet, the trick is to not let tar­di­ness turn into chronic late­ness and the only way to stop this be­hav­iour is to nip it in the bud, so to speak. It doesn’t take long for an in­di­vid­ual to be la­belled as tardy but be­fore you move into a dis­ci­plinary phase, ask your­self how you de­fine late — is it five, 10, 15 min­utes or half an hour late? How do you de­fine chronic? Then, ask your­self if be­ing pre­cisely on time is crit­i­cally im­por­tant, es­pe­cially if the in­di­vid­ual leaves later at the end of the day. Track the in­di­vid­ual’s late­ness and con­firm there is a pat­tern and if so, be­gin to ad­dress the prob­lem.

Re­view your HR poli­cies — check your HR poli­cies for guid­ance on how to man­age tar­di­ness. Some or­ga­ni­za­tions will tol­er­ate late­ness up to 30 min­utes prior to de­duct­ing pay. Still other or­ga­ni­za­tions specif­i­cally state how many late sit­u­a­tions will be tol­er­ated within a six-month time­frame. If you are un­cer­tain of your pro­ce­dure, meet with your HR man­ager and/or a se­nior man­ager and de­velop a crit­i­cal path to re­solv­ing the late­ness is­sue.

Ar­range for a frank dis­cus­sion — set a meet­ing with your em­ployee and di­rect at­ten­tion to their pat­tern of late­ness. Be con­crete by de­scrib­ing spe­cific dates and times. Ex­plain to the em­ployee how their be­hav­iour is af­fect­ing their col­leagues and the busi­ness as a whole. Ask if there is any­thing the em­ployee wishes to share with re­spect to a per­sonal is­sue that may be caus­ing the late­ness. Ask how you might be able to as­sist with their sit­u­a­tion. In­di­cate to the em­ployee that their late­ness is un­ac­cept­able and will not be tol­er­ated. Fi­nally, in­di­cate that your dis­cus­sion is the first step in the dis­ci­plinary process.

Coach for time­li­ness — many em­ploy­ees who are chron­i­cally late are also poor man­agers of their time over­all. They are un­re­al­is­tic about and/or are poor judges of what time al­lo­ca­tions are re­quired for dif­fer­ent tasks. They may pack too many things in their sched­ule prior to ar­riv­ing to work. Dur­ing your dis­cus­sion, in­volve them in de­vel­op­ing a so­lu­tion. Help them de­velop real­is­tic time­lines with re­spect to their tasks such as drop­ping chil­dren off at day­care. Teach them to ar­rive early so that they are never late.

Mon­i­tor and doc­u­ment — while it may seem to be a nui­sance, it’s im­por­tant to mon­i­tor and doc­u­ment the sit­u­a­tion over a pe­riod of time. This is be­cause as you move to­ward more for­mal dis­ci­plinary pro­ce­dures, doc­u­men­ta­tion is very im­por­tant. Be sure to in­form the in­di­vid­ual they are be­ing mon­i­tored and state specif­i­cally what your ex­pec­ta­tions are for time­lines.

Pro­ceed to for­mal dis­ci­pline — if an em­ployee has had suf­fi­cient warn­ings and ver­bal dis­ci­pline meet­ings, you will need to be firm and move to the next steps in your dis­ci­plinary process. Typ­i­cally, or­ga­ni­za­tions ap­ply a fivestep dis­ci­plinary process, be­gin­ning with the first ver­bal dis­ci­plinary meet­ing. Stay fo­cused and con­sis­tent in the ap­pli­ca­tion of your process, be sure to fol­low up each and ev­ery time there is late­ness. Be sure to doc­u­ment each step.

Over­all, it’s im­por­tant a man­ager rec­og­nize deal­ing with chronic late­ness will more than likely take sev­eral months to ad­dress ef­fec­tively. It is also im­por­tant for the man­ager to be a role model and to stay cool and calm as they progress through the dis­ci­plinary process. If you as the man­ager con­tinue to be un­com­fort­able con­fronting the prob­lem em­ployee, then seek as­sis­tance from man­ager col­leagues, write out a script for each meet­ing and do not stray from this doc­u­ment. Stay pos­i­tive and keep in mind that help­ing a tardy em­ployee to rec­tify their be­hav­iour most of­ten reaps good re­wards.

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