Every office has one.  You know, the employee that is MIA at the start of every work day.  That lone desk chair without an owner at 9:00 while all other desks are filled with productive employees. Whether they are the stealthy type and slink into their cubicle unbeknownst to you while you are brewing your morning coffee, or they stride in confidently 20 minutes after everyone’s punched in as if nothing is wrong, the bottom line is they are LATE.  Chronic tardiness is a tricky issue to deal with as a manager, as the correct course of action and reprimands varies on the severity of the issue and frequency of the infractions.

Another difficult facet of lateness to consider for managers is if the tardiness is a result of a lack of clear expectations on their own part.  Maybe you have conveyed the wrong office culture and guidelines to that employee, or maybe they have misinterpreted the times you have let it slide as an unspoken acceptance of their new clock-in time.  Regardless, being late to work is unprofessional, and can even affect the morale of employees.  Other coworkers might see dismissal of tardiness for one employee as being unfair, or they may begin to resent the late-comer if they are hindering them from progressing on projects they are a part of.  Thus, tardiness must be addressed promptly before it becomes habitual.  If possible and depending on the circumstances, it is best to try and remedy the situation by eliminating the lateness from the employee rather than eliminating the employee from the organization.  However, if all efforts fail and the employee shows no signs of adjusting their behavior, that might be a reflection of their motivation and dedication to the company and its policies, and it might be time to cut ties.

To help guide you through the process, below is an excerpt from a Small Business article by Robert Vaux on steps to deal with tardy employees.

Step 1

Speak to the employee about his tardiness, in private and with an eye on resolution rather than confrontation. Note the problem and ask what might be causing it. The employee may have things going on in his life creating the tardiness, or may not have realized that he was coming into work late. Allow the employee to talk about it, and then mention that it is more of a concern at this stage than a problem.

Step 2

Ask the employee to come up with ways to avoid it. In some cases, she may be able to stay late to make up the lost time; if you have the flexibility, you may suggest adjusting her hours to better meet her needs. Or if it’s a temporary thing — such as a street closure on her driving route that necessitates a longer commute time — suggest speedier alternatives, or show some flexibility in her schedule. By allowing the employee to come up with possible solutions, you convey your worries about the tardiness while still providing her with an opportunity to contribute, instead of just being told to shape up.

Step 3

Consult your office’s official policy on dealing with employee tardiness. If the employee doesn’t correct the problem, or continues being tardy with new hours or a similar arrangement, you may need to take punitive action. It could be anything from a written warning to docking pay to flat out firing the employee in the worst circumstances. Circumstances vary, but whatever steps you take, ensure they don’t expose the company to any legal or discriminatory action. Follow your state office policy to the letter.