LateIf you are an employer and you have employees, at some point, you probably are dealing with employees who are late for work.  A 2012 survey by CareerBuilder indicates that 26% of workers admit to being late at least once a month and 16% are late once a week or more.

Most employers understand that things happen.  Life sometimes creates situations that are beyond an employee’s control.  It becomes a problem when the behavior happens again and again, resulting in the employer taking action.  CareerBuilder reports that one-third of hiring managers reported that they had to fire someone for being late.

Aside from the more traditional reasons workers are late for work, some employees do have some interesting reasons for not being at work on time.  Some of those “reasons” we have been given are:

  • I’m too tired from doing laundry last night.
  • Tell them I have to go to the Dentist… I don’t have to go to the Dentist; I’m just tired from staying up too late.
  • It’s snowing (but it wasn’t).
  • I have a court date that I didn’t know about.
  • I’m at Starbucks close to the work site and I’ve decided I’m going to be late.
  • I decided to go to Vegas for the weekend and I am still in Vegas.
  • I forgot I was being baptized today. 
  • The person said they were bored and can’t stay awake.
  • There is no one to watch my dog.
  • My bumper fell off and I had to stop and put it in my car.
  • My spouse never came home with the car.
  • I was pulled over for drinking and driving and was arrested.

Regardless of why the employee was late, there might be some good reasons these people are not engaged with your organization.  That’s really what it boils down to a lack of interest in working for your organization.  So, why are they not leaping out of bed each morning and getting to their work station early?

  • Mandatory overtime requirements leaving no life balance with their family.
  • No support from co-workers.
  • They don’t like their job because it is boring.
  • They don’t like their boss because they are demanding and take all the credit.
  • They are burned out from no time off or vacation.
  • They are bored because of no work challenges.

When people are rolling into work late again and again, it could be a sign of a much bigger problem.  Many managers feel that they are just not motivated, which leads to non-specific answers to the problem.  In contrast, knowing what the problems are changes the question from, “How do I motivate them?” to “How do I improve their performance?”  Understanding this concept leads to specific actions that can be taken.

Personal Problems  It is the mother of all reasons.  There could be a whole host of things the employee indicates they are having problems with: sick kids, car problems, family issues, death in the family and personal issues.  The list can get quite long and these types of problems are not hard to detect on the job.

Personal problems at work create all kinds of challenges.  It causes tension, frustration, and anger, which ultimately will affect fellow employees as well as customers.  Sometimes, you don’t even know there is anything wrong because the person experiencing the problem will appear to be very calm, at least on the outside.  Sometimes, the poor performance is permitted by the manager because of the personal problems.

Whether you know about them or not, there are often performance issues that appear.

What Can You Do? 

  • First, you need to recognize that home life is becoming much more important to people.  With the increase in single parents, it creates a lot of challenges for the parent.  But understand that sometimes a manager, by permitting personal problems to be a reason, creates and allows poor performance to continue.
  • Permit the employee time off to handle their personal business.  Allow them to start early, stay late or leave early on other days to tend to their business, but it should be planned in advance.  Ask them to make up the time at a later date when it is convenient for them.  Allow them to use their vacation and/or sick time.
  • Emergency-related time off can be much more of a problem, but it is critical that a manager respond to this kind of request as a top priority.  Arrange for work coverage; re-organize the work or whatever it takes in order to address the nature of the employee’s emergency.
  • Make yourself available to people to allow them to discuss what their problems are with you.  Sometimes, just talking about them helps people come to a solution.  Help them find professional help when necessary.  Do not play amateur psychologist as you will fail.
  • Discuss the problem and determine if you can help the problem go away or direct them to assistance.
  • Explain that there are really two problems.  Their personal problem and the poor performance.
  • Explain that you understand that personal problems do not go away overnight, but the work problem needs to be resolved quickly.  “I may not be able to help with the first, but how can I help with the second?”
  • Ask for their cooperation.   Most often they will respond in a very positive manner.
  • Determine what problems you and your company can live with as reasons for poor performance.  Managers should have a standardized way to handle these kinds of situations in the workplace.

If you are considering a flexible schedule to help engage employees, consider the following tips.

  1. Be consistent: The policy should outline who is eligible for flexible schedules.  You need to make sure you stick to that policy.
  2. Coordinate: Make sure everyone is aware of the policy.  Make sure they know who is using it, and in what capacity.  
  3. Communicate: Make sure you talk openly and honestly about the policy and make sure to address any concerns employees may have.  Keep an open mind to any comments and feedback.
  4. Check in: Make sure to meet with your employees on a regular basis to evaluate how things are going with the policy and make changes, as needed.

Do you have any other tips or unusual reasons for an employee being late?  How about feedback?  Please leave your comment below.