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.


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