One of the most challenging problems employers face is trying to “cure” chronic lateness.
They often come to me seeking a magic solution to this seemingly intractable problem.
The reason it’s so difficult to solve is that people who are chronically late to work tend to be late to everything else in their lives as well.
It’s generally a personality trait with psychological underpinnings that have no easy explanation and are difficult to change.
Many leaders attempt to cope with chronic lateness by punishing the employee. This almost never cures the behavior. In fact, even if they’re fired and go work somewhere else, the behavior rarely changes.
Others attempt to accommodate the lateness. This also doesn’t cure it, and can cause morale problems for other staff who feel management is coddling the tardy person.
Rather than delving into the causes of the chronic lateness, your best bet is to do the following:
1. When recruiting new hires, delve deeply with the applicant into the value they place on prompt attendance. Ask references about their track record in that area. Screen for the types of values that make for a good employee generally.
2. Have a written policy in place that deals with lateness. Make sure all applicants and current employees read and acknowledge the policy.
3. Document lateness and follow through on the consequences in your policy. This is a critical step. Many leaders overlook lateness the first few times it happens, which makes it more difficult to document the entire pattern.
If you don’t highly value prompt arrival at work, then don’t create a policy around it.
If you do, make sure the policy is clear and fair. Then stick with it. You’ll avoid wasting a lot of your time later in trying to solve a relatively unsolvable problem.