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Six Smart Ways to Control Tardiness

Updated on February 23, 2010


A common headache for every supervisor is to start work in the morning by having workers arrive late with the excuses that are probably true ("I overslept), to those that are suspect ("I fell asleep in the bus and missed my stop"). Valid excuses or not, controlling tardiness is crucial, since laxity in enforcement of working hours encourages an even greater degree of non-compliance by habitually tardy workers. It also can create resentment on the part of punctual employees, who make the necessary effort to report on time.

On the other hand, there are sound reasons why strictly follow­ing a firm policy on working hours isn't the answer. First of all, there are times when being late is unavoidable. For example, with working parents it's only reasonable to expect that a last-minute household crisis will cause an employee to be late on occasion. Even something

as simple as the daily commute can cause difficulty when a parent has to drop a child off at school or day care. So even though tardiness has to be controlled, it's important to be flexible in responding to justifi­able problems that make it difficult for workers to be on time. The following guidelines will help in this regard.

1.  Holding periodic meeting about tardiness isn't likely to be the answer. Frequently, it will only cure the problem temporarily. For a week or two, everyone will tend to arrive on time, but you will soon find workers slipping back into the habit of coming in late. Therefore, deal directly with those people who are tardy. Expect to be told why they were late, and what will be done to cure the problem in the future.

2.  Don't be negative when you confront employees who are late. Some people are hesitant about speaking to a boss about some personal circumstance that's causing them to be late for work. Say something such as, "Art, you've always been one of my reliable people, but for the past few days you have been late every morning. Is there some problem causing this that we need to talk about?" This gives the worker an opening to level with you about the reason for the tardiness. Then, you can jointly reach agreement on what can be done to avoid being late in the future..

3.  Workers should be told how exceptions to the established time and attendance policy will be handled. This will prevent resent­ment from other workers whenever a temporary exception is made to accommodate an employee who is having a problem. Of course, if workers are going to be allowed to deviate from normal working hours on a regular basis, it's best to have these provisions in the formal company policy. Otherwise, it may be viewed as favoritism or special treatment for some and not for others.

4.  Even though you may work longer hours than any of your subordinates, try to set the standard by being punctual in the morn­ing. Workers tend to take cues from their boss, and if the boss comes in late, they will soon follow suit.

5.  Be practical in dealing with tardiness issues. For example, someone who works late consistently shouldn't be criticized for occasional tardiness. However, someone who arbitrarily adjusts their own hours by working late and coming in late is setting a pattern

for other workers to follow in establishing their own schedule. This, of course, shouldn't be condoned.

6. Above all else, it's important to be realistic in dealing with tardiness, since the reasons can vary widely. For instance, some younger workers may be tardy for no better reason than simply not knowing and observing the basic responsibilities associated with employment.


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