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How to Effectively Deal with an Employee Who is Consistently Late

Aug 18, 2021

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According to a recent study, employee tardiness affects their productivity and that of the organization as a whole. Most people have been late to work a couple of times in their lives for reasons like terrible traffic, public transport issues, or bad weather.

However, it can be a problem when employee tardiness becomes a pattern. The incurred tardiness can impact the organization’s effectiveness and lower the morale of other employees. Therefore, specific actions need to be taken to improve the employee’s attendance status.

If the issue does not get resolved, it could lead to employee termination. Of course, you don’t want to lose employees that easily, but you also do not want them to do as they wish. Fortunately, there are several things that you can do when you notice chronic tardiness in an employee.

Why Do You Need to Deal with a Tardy Employee?

Before anything else, you have to define what you consider as being employee tardiness. It should be based on your company policy on how you can tell that an employee is tardy. Will you consider someone delinquent if they have been late for 2 hours or more in a month? Is it tardiness when a staff has been late 12 times in 30 days?

You can tell if an employee has attendance problems depending on the specific rules you set. Of course, the rules may vary from company to company, depending on the guidelines set by the management.

Now, to answer why you need to deal with a delinquent employee—the reason for this is to be able to call out a bad habit as early as possible. If you fail to deal with the issue earlier, it could get worse as time progresses. Not calling the staff to attention may cause them to think that being late is not a problem in the company.

Also, there is a likelihood that other staff members may get bothered by these occurrences or be influenced to show up late for work sooner or later. Consequently, the quality of work might decline, and the employees may become more neglectful with other company policies.

Employees are compensated for their work for the company, and work hours should be complete. Therefore, when employees are consistently late, they steal valuable company resources, like time and money.

How Can You Deal with a Tardy Employee Effectively?

Employees coming in at work late indeed disrupt the flow of work. This is especially the case if their expertise is needed for a particular task. Thus, there is a need to identify the problem and address it before it becomes a severe issue.

There is no standard formula that you can follow when dealing with staff with attendance problems. What may work for one employee may not work for the other. Nevertheless, there are several tips you can follow in dealing with chronic tardiness in the workplace.

1. Address the Issue Early

Several unexpected things may contribute to employee lateness, including traffic, family issues, bad weather, etc. However, it is unacceptable when an employee consistently shows up late to work.

In this case, you need to address the situation early through dialogue and let them know that their behavior is not acceptable. You can schedule a one-on-one talk with the employee but ensure to keep a cool head.

Make your expectations clear on what being on time means to you. Let the employee understand the difference between your expectations and their behavior to find a solution for the tardiness problem.

You can also run short workshops about punctuality and tardiness to address the issue objectively. In doing so, this may serve as a wake-up call to other staff getting to work later than their regular schedule.

2. Keep Attendance Records

These records may serve as evidence when you talk to the erring employee. It would be best to show the employee records of their lateness and realize the pattern weekly, monthly, or quarterly.

Having enough records can help you handle the situation more appropriately since the staff will not dispute what you have on paper. They can’t deny the accusation or claim that you are unfair and unjust with your decisions with the records. Besides, it will help encourage the employee to improve on their behavior.

3. Implement a Time Tracking Software

Similarly, time tracking software can help an employee who is always late to keep track of their time. The timeclock manager will give them insight into their lateness, which can motivate them to want to do better.

4. Set a Clear Guideline

It is essential to set clear guidelines on lateness, especially during the onboarding period of new employees. Make sure that employees know what you expect from them when it comes to time and attendance.

Detail their working hours and let the employee know whom to report to in case they run late. Do not forget to include any potential disciplinary measures resulting from their frequent tardiness. Also, you can send monthly reminders to remind the employee about the existing rules set in the company. If you update your procedures, make sure that everyone gets a copy of the new rules before they are to be implemented.

Something else that you should consider is setting a reasonable schedule for the employee’s work hours. You cannot expect an employee who just finished working the night shift for several days to come to work early the following day after abruptly changing their schedule. Set reasonable schedules in advance and communicate these properly.

5. Seek to Understand the Larger Problem

Why does the employee keep on being tardy despite all the reminders and private meetings? You need to find out the root cause when the pattern continues. Is the employee having a hard time because of family responsibilities in the morning? Is the transport system in their area unpredictable?

Is the employee not getting enough rest because they have to juggle multiple jobs, or might it be because of school requirements? Is it because of medical issues? Is the employee experiencing childcare difficulties?

Yes, talking to someone who seems not to be learning enough is genuinely disappointing, but you have to allow them to air their side. Remember to approach the situation with compassion and understanding.

If they are getting overwhelmed by the schedule, maybe changing their work shifts to a more convenient and later schedule might help. Any adjustment that can be made will be enough support to the employee and can reap positive results.

6. Clearly State the Consequences

Another way that you can deal with employee tardiness is by creating a policy that addresses the consequences of lateness. You might consider setting up penalties for employees that show up late for a specified period.

Some actions that you can take to discourage lateness include sending the employee a warning letter, reducing the bonus amount, or docking their pay. You may also need to set realistic deadlines to motivate the employee to get to work on time.

However, when creating the penalties, make sure that you consider any concerns of unfair employee treatment. A good tip is to ensure that the policies apply company-wide regardless of the position of the staff in question.

The rules and consequences should be followed consistently, whether the delinquent employee is a manager or a regular employee. Otherwise, inconsistency can lead to employee complaints or, worse, disrespect.

7. Reward Punctuality

If there is a consequence whenever an employee gets late, then going to work on time should reap the rewards for them. Rewarding positive behavior will become a pleasant experience for your employees. Moreover, behaviors that result in pleasant feelings tend to be repeated.

Be creative as possible when rewarding punctual employees. Will employees with good attendance records receive a free meal? Are they going to have extra pay as a bonus? Will they be qualified for an award with more significant cash incentives if they win? Do your research on the types of rewards that will keep employees motivated to come to work early.

When other tardy employees see that positive behavior gets rewarded, they too might get encouraged to change their habits for the better. Recognize the efforts of employees who are trying to remedy their attendance issues as well.

8. Practice Patience

As much as you want to see instant change, you need to remember that no human being can change overnight. Thus, you need to be patient and believe that the delinquent employee will progress and correct their behavior.

Set a clear deadline for them and believe in their capacity to change. Appreciate any genuine effort to do better, as this will motivate and make them more accountable.


Handling employees with tardiness problems is never easy. However, it pays to keep an open mind about their different situations and enforce a standard policy for everyone. Also, you can make punctuality official by including it in the employee performance review and compensation.

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