Employee Tardiness: When is it Time to Put Your Foot Down?

worker checking the time

Dolly Parton sang about working 9 to 5, but the reality is not all employees work what has traditionally been that eight-hour workday. Some come in a little earlier, others a little later, some work overnight or evening shifts. 

But when an employee routinely and habitually comes in after her scheduled start time, what’s a manager to do? When is it time to take action, and what kind of action should be considered? 


1.) Consider your policies.

If the company’s policy includes any kind of language about schedules and start times, take a moment to review it. Does it state, explicitly, whether employees have a grace period of a few minutes at the start of each shift? Either way, it might be time to remind yourself, and your employees, what’s expected from everyone when it comes to arriving and being ready to work. 


2.) Track tardiness.

An employee who shows up a minute or two late every once in a while is not the same kind of employee as one who shows up five, ten, or thirty minutes late consistently. Keep notes on when an employee came in late to determine if there’s a pattern. Take notes and after a month, see what your research indicates. Now you’re prepared with specific examples and will be ready to share the information with your employee. 


3.) Have a conversation.

On a day that the employee has come in late, schedule or invite him to a short meeting. Make it simple, polite, and as considerate as possible. Mention that you’ve noticed a pattern of tardiness, then share your research on how often and how late the employee is tardy. Be respectful — this employee might have an issue at home, or a health condition, or could be trying to accommodate a changing child-care situation. Talking about it will provide an opportunity for the employee to explain their actions. If the explanation isn’t sufficient, it could be time to take other action. 


4.) Remind all employees of your expectations.

One tardy employee might breed others if lateness is not perceived as a problem. If tardiness persists, call an office meeting to remind all employees of what’s required of them. It could be the refresher they, and you, need to get back on the right track. 

If, after a period of time that makes sense to your company’s policy, the employee has not made improvements in their behavior, disciplinary actions might be needed. Termination should be the last resort, but as the boss, it’s essential to send a clear message that being in and ready to work on time is a company-wide priority. 


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Should you need temporary employees to help fill in the gap left by a terminated or absent worker, contact a staffing agency like Debbie’s Staffing to help keep your office running smoothly. There’s a team ready and waiting to help get the job done when you need them.