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late employee

Late Again?! How to Reprimand the Chronically Late Employee

Employee tardiness is an issue that plagues many businesses. In fact, data from a study on CareerBuilder found that “Nearly one quarter (23 percent) of employees admit to being tardy at least once a month on average, with 15 percent admitting to arriving late at least once a week.”

When left unchecked, this can disrupt operations, hinder productivity and hurt profitability. Here’s how to reprimand the chronically late employee.


Document the Behavior

In today’s litigation-happy world, it’s quite conceivable that an inevitable termination because of chronic tardiness could lead to a lawsuit. Make sure that you maintain careful documentation of an employee being late.

This provides concrete data to point out whenever you ultimately confront your employee. Rather than simply saying, “You’re late a lot,” you can point out specific dates and times to highlight the problem pattern.


Have a One-On-One Meeting

Whenever you’re reprimanding an employee for any reason, it’s usually best to keep it confidential. As soon as you realize there’s a trend of tardiness, call the employee into your office or other private location where you can discuss matters and get to the root of the problem. Don’t wait for the issue to get even more out of hand. Instead, be proactive and quickly come up with a solution.


Explain Your Disappointment

Once you’re face-to-face with your employee, go ahead and call out their behavior. Use your documentation to identify the specific instances of tardiness, and explain that it’s unacceptable. You might also want to explain the negative impact it’s having on your business (e.g. hurting productivity and creating stress on your other employees because they have to pick up the slack).


Get to the Root of the Problem

In some cases, employees are chronically late because of a lack of personal responsibility and professionalism. Other times there may be an underlying issue that they’re suffering from and needs to be addressed.

For example, maybe a single parent is consistently tardy because her child’s daycare opens at a certain time, causing her to be late. Or maybe someone has a serious health condition that requires numerous doctor visits. Whatever the case may be, get a full understanding of what’s going on before issuing any formal discipline.


Develop a Plan of Action

If an employee has a legitimate reason for being late, figure out how to tweak his schedule or adjust his hours to accommodate his needs. If someone is late because of an oversight on her part, be firm and let her know that this type of behavior won’t be tolerated.

A written reprimand that explains the issue and outlines the consequences is clear and provides documentation. Be sure to state what will happen if the tardiness continues. Check out this written reprimand sample from The Balance’s website if you need guidance on this process.

The chronically late employee can quickly become a burden to your business. Once you know there’s a problem, it’s important to promptly address it to prevent things from escalating. By following these steps, you can come up with an effective remedy and reduce future instances of tardiness.


How to Develop Employee Discipline Policies

Developing employee discipline policies and having a plan of action is important. Not only does it define proper behavior and reduce problems, it protects your business from potential lawsuits. It can also help establish a positive company culture where individuals respect one another and stay productive. Here’s a basic overview of how to develop employee  policies.


Address Common Behavior Problems

To begin, you need to know which types of negative behavior employees most commonly engage in. While there are often unique circumstances, behavioral problems typically fall into the following eight areas:

  1. Attendance
  2. Performance
  3. Safety
  4. Harassment
  5. Equipment/materials
  6. Substance abuse
  7. Theft
  8. Violence/threats

When developing policies, you should keep these areas in mind and determine what your approach will be if an employee crosses the line.


Create a Code of Conduct

The next step is to set your expectations. This involves defining what’s acceptable and unacceptable behavior and at what point there is the need for discipline. It’s important to be specific when creating a code of conduct so employees understand exactly what’s expected of them. For instance, it might be acceptable for an employee to be five minutes late on occasion, but 30 minutes is not acceptable. Ideally, you will create an employee handbook that goes over your expectations to eliminate any misunderstandings.


Develop a Response Procedure

Now you must figure out how you will respond to an employee who breaks the rules. There are several factors that impact how you should respond, but the two most important are the severity of the offense and the number of prior offenses an employee has had. You would definitely handle a situation where someone was a no call, no show differently than if someone directly threatened another staff member.

Accordingly, you need to decide how to respond to misbehavior and the severity of discipline for each offense. It’s also important to have some type of appeal procedure where an employee can state their case. This doesn’t need to be anything elaborate, but there should be a fair hearing where you take their input into consideration before taking disciplinary measures.


Determine Disciplinary Steps

The key to effective employee discipline is being consistent and developing standardized procedures. This ensures that discipline is dished out fairly to everyone and should prevent any possible legal repercussions. Proper discipline usually follows four essential steps:

  1. Verbal warning – You meet privately to discuss the issue and give an employee a chance to explain. This typically involves first-time and/or non-serious offenses.
  2. Written warning – This is meant for repeat offenders or more serious offenses.
  3. Suspension – If a person keeps engaging in problem behavior, this is often the logical next step.
  4. Termination – Firing an employee is a last resort and reserved for situations that cannot be rectified in any other way.

After determining your approach, you should make it clear to employees what they engage in negative behavior. An effective way to do this is to simply include disciplinary measures in your employee handbook.

Rather than waiting for a problem to occur, developing employee discipline procedures is proactive and can prevent many issues from happening in the first place. And when discipline is inevitably needed, you’ll have an effective template in place to streamline the process.

Photo by Son of Groucho