How to Deal with a Chronically Late Employee

This blog is brought to you by the girl used to always be late to everything. It’s a trait that was passed down to me from my parents whose parents passed it down to them. No matter how early I woke up, I was physically unable to walk out of my door in time to arrive punctually to work. It was awful and embarrassing, and I hated it, but it’s something I’m working really hard on, and it’s something I was unable to change without my boss having a discussion about it with me.

Because I have this issue, and others I know have this issue, I will assume that at least some of you reading this have an issue with one of your employees always showing up late. So, how do you deal with it?

Thankfully, Jaqueline Whitmore outlined seven steps you should take to get a habitually late person to show up on time in her article “7 Steps for Getting the Chronically Late Employee to be Punctual” for Entrepreneur.com.

“When you own your own business, you rely on your employees to help you run your company efficiently. If an employee is consistently late, others in the company start to notice, oftentimes causing frustration and friction,” she writes. “Sometimes being late is unavoidable, depending on the circumstances. However, chronic tardiness requires intervention before the behavior becomes a serious problem.”

Witmore goes on to give us seven tips.

  1. Identify the behavior. While everyone has legitimate reasons to be tardy every once in a while, it’s not acceptable for someone to show up late most of the time. “When a staff member consistently shows up late, he’s essentially not respecting your time, or his own,” she writes. “That’s when you need to decide if your employee’s behavior is worth condoning or reprimanding.”
  2. Be proactive. Whitmore recommends not letting an employee’s excessive tardiness go so long that you react in anger, as you are tired of the behavior, not the person. “Deal with the situation as soon as you see a pattern arise; then be proactive,” she writes. “Schedule a time to talk and address the issue one-on-one. Bring documentation of an employee’s tardiness into your meeting and ask him what is preventing him for reporting to work on time.”
  3. Verbalize your disappointment. Most people tend to be disappointed in themselves when someone they respect is disappointed in them. “When a team member doesn’t follow through on a commitment, explain the consequences of his actions,” Whitmore writes. “If he is late to a client meeting, say something like, ‘The client waited ten minutes for you to arrive. I had to ask Ashley to fill in for you.’ Perhaps the employee doesn’t realize (although he should) that his behavior affects his co-workers, as well.”
  4. Come up with an action plan. Take into consideration that your employees excessive tardiness may be due to a medical condition. “In that case, you may want to make an exception and suggest a later start or a more flexible work schedule,” she writes.
  5. Respect a person’s privacy. Especially when disciplinary actions might be necessary, it’s always best to have that difficult discussion in private. “Explain your concerns, cite specific examples and then solicit feedback,” Whitmore writes. “Allow the employee to absorb what you’ve said and respond. Practice effective listening. Your employee will be more apt to respect a fair, honest and forthright approach.”
  6. Clearly outline the consequences. Whitmore suggests developing a policy that addresses the consequences for tardiness. “For example, if your employee is occasionally late, ask him to make up that time,” she writes. “If he is consistently late, you may choose to issue a written warning, dock his pay or decrease any bonus he receives.”
  7. Reward improvements. It’s always best to reinforce positive change through praise, and if you notice your employe has altered behavior for the better, you should say so. “Your simple acknowledgement will let him know he’s on the right track and will also show him that you appreciate his efforts,” she writes. “You’ll be surprised how a few kind words go a long way.”

I know these can be very difficult conversations to have, especially if the employee in question is a solid worker. As someone who used to be that employee, I know addressing the issue is necessary. I also know that following the above steps will let your employee know that you really care and value his or her contributions to the team. Also, if the employee is able to change his or her behavior, it will heighten the  level of mutual respect between the two of you. 

Katie Devereaux

Katie Devereaux

Resume Coach and Blogger at Dental Temps Professional Services
Katie Devereaux is a writer and editor, who graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism. She has written for several publications in Florida, Alaska and Illinois.
Katie Devereaux

About Katie Devereaux

Katie Devereaux is a writer and editor, who graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism. She has written for several publications in Florida, Alaska and Illinois.