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Handling a Chronically Tardy Employee
By Michael C. Dennis, MBA, CBF

A number of factors can result in a situation in which an otherwise conscientious employee will be late for work on occasion. Employers do not normally see occasional tardiness as a serious problem. However, a chronically late employee can be a serious problem for a manager, and a drain on the department's resources, and a strain on the morale of co-workers. A chronically late employee can be:

  • A distraction

  • A bad influence on co-workers [who may emulate his or her inappropriate behavior if they see or if they believe there are no consequences for not arriving on time.]

  • The cause of an uneven flow of work, and missed deadlines

If not addressed promptly, an employee who is only occasionally tardy may become chronically late - and a worker who was typically only a few minutes late may arrive progressively later. A supervisor should address the tardiness problem head on. Some potential solutions include:

  • Schedule staff meetings first thing in the morning.

  • Establishing deadlines for assignments for first thing in the morning.

  • Warn the employee that tardiness will factor negatively into his or her next performance review and compensation increase.

  • Assign the problem employee to less desirable work, less prestigious work, or work on a less desirable shift.

  • Issue and document a verbal warning.

  • Issue and document a written warning.

  • Demote the employee, temporarily or permanently. If permanently, a decrease in compensation is usually appropriate.

  • Suspend the employee for one or more days without pay.

  • Terminate the employee [since a chronically tardy employee reduces the effectiveness of the department and disrupts its smooth operation].

One final thought: A supervisor should also keep a record of all discussions, correspondence [including e-mails] and warnings relating to a tardiness problem. The supervisor should include times and dates of these discussions, as well as details relating to the tardiness problem including dates and arrival times.

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