Professional Culture: How to Deal with Lateness?

late employee

Professional Culture: How to Deal with Lateness?

What to do with the “latecomers”? How effective is issuing electronic access cards and subtracting minutes of lateness from wages or introducing the rule that every employee who is late should put $5 in a jar? What else can you use to discipline such employees: introduce talks to the manager, reprimanding, caricaturing, or maybe, not paying attention? Director of the MBA program “Innovation in Management” Emily Reid told CleverControl how and when to punish employees for being late.

First of all, of course, you need to examine the context of the situation, without which it is impossible to make the right decision. Each type of activity, every market situation, and each professional culture is unique. Therefore, we need to discuss how to deal with delays, in different situations where…

…where discipline is a prerequisite of efficiency

We cannot disagree with the fact that if an office opens at 10 AM the secretary must be ready to answer calls at 9:59.

The only sales clerk in a store should be present on the job from 9 AM to 21 PM if the information sign says so.

A pilot cannot be late for a flight.

As a rule, such a requirement of discipline, due to common sense, is easy to control, because it is clear, practical, and does not cause any doubts. When getting a job, the implementation of which will take place in clear time boundaries, the future employee understands that punctuality is his or her basic Key Performance Indicator.

Since the discipline, in this case, is directly linked to the quality of goods and services (and consequently to customer loyalty and economic viability of the company) there is no point in wasting time on caricatures, fines and other “tricks”. You can allow an employee to be late one or two times excusing it with force majeure or some unexpected circumstances, but the third time you are safe to dismiss him or her.

…where discipline is a manifestation of good manners

Every well-mannered person knows that making someone wait is impolite.

Equally impolite is to be late for a meeting with clients and with colleagues, or to the doctor’s appointment, or to a beauty salon.

All companies have their own cultural code: in some, they will hold the door before you and smile, in others – just mumble something in response to your “Thank you, goodbye!” The cultural code can and should be changed with deliberate action considering that politer people are nicer to be around.

It is nicer to talk to such people informally, make friends, get to know each other better and trust each other more if you are colleagues.

It is more pleasant to buy from them and listen to their promotional offers if you are their customer. This means that customers and partners will be more pleased to work with someone who has the “politeness of kings”.

Politeness pays off well, and respect for others’ time is a manifestation of politeness. Therefore, asking employees to comply with time arrangements is necessary, and it is also rational for obvious reasons.

Should you punish the colleagues who do not recognize this etiquette rule? Most likely, fines and reprimands will be useless. But it is, of course, necessary to talk directly about the fact that being late to meetings is unacceptable, as well as the fact that the employee’s inability to recognize company’s “cultural code” brings his or her future in the company into question. A punctual majority is the best helper in educating the unpunctual minority: when politeness becomes a generally accepted social norm, people will try to adhere to it to “be good.”

…where discipline is needed in order for employees to perform the work

If the performance of your employees is not directly dependent on when they start their day at 10:00 or 10:30, then why would you demand punctuality? Perhaps it is because you are generally not satisfied with the quality and quantity of the employees’ work and their attitude?

Clients count is less than it could be, sales are down. Sales managers, however, do not seem to care: they continue walking about the office as if nothing has happened, talking about how they will spend their weekends. You are not even close to commercial and other goals of the company… but which ones exactly?!

Alas, in companies without digitized goals and objectives the crusade for discipline often becomes manager’s way to say “You are working badly!”

As a rule, employees do not agree: they themselves believe that they work “fine” or even “well.” But it is ineffective to talk about work on the level of subjective assessment, it is necessary to introduce clear, obvious metrics that are recognized by both sides, for example:

We work well if:

– Each quarter, our sales grow for the “x”% value;

– Turnover of sales staff does not exceed the “y” value;

– Each month, we check the annual tasks plan to see that we adhere to the schedule: implement corporate projects at a predetermined rate, build business processes, test new products and so on.

Notice that in the example there are not only economic indicators but also indicators of planned in advance quality evolution of the company!

In this case, you should talk with the subordinates not like “Why are you late?”, but rather “What can we do to move forward in line with our ambitious plan?”

It is unlikely that the plan’s implementation depends on thirty minutes of work, right? It rather depends on the knowledge, skills and, of course, motivation.

That’s the point: companies need not so much “disciplined” employees but those who work efficiently. And managers are concerned not so much with the fact that the employees come to the office 15 minutes late, but the fact that they do not do enough. They do not commit themselves to work completely. But who does? Maybe children playing some entertaining game in a courtyard ? Perhaps. They do not need to be convinced to come to the game earlier, the problem is most likely the opposite – parents cannot drag them home.

Or take for example young “nerds” in a startup company who are trying to create something that no one understands but that thing will soon change the world? These guys come to their garage early in the morning, and they are not motivated by a desire to avoid the penalty for lateness.

We are unlikely to be late to the movies, an important lecture, or an interesting professional conference because we want to come there to have fun and get some knowledge!

Each of us at least once in our lives did something that we loved, and we all know that when you need to, you will come early to enjoy work. Therefore, companies should focus not on combating lateness, but on making the job conditions comfortable and productive and on finding people who truly love their profession, people who experience deep psychological need to work hard.

That is why in the world there are more and more companies, in which there is no penalty for being late, and moreover, the very notion of lateness does not exist. These companies have not set themselves the task of controlling working hours. Instead, they are trying to create the environment in which people want to be, stay, play, invent, and act!

We admire their culture and sometimes it surprises us: a friend of mine recently got a job at an American office of one multinational company. He comically tells the story of how he was not able to get any other answer to his question about his working hours except for “It would be great if you would come somewhere between eight and ten…”

He works hard to do a good job. He likes it.

His manager is only puzzled with how to get him to take more days off.

The company makes the maximum effort to select such employees as my friend all over the world, and to be attractive to them.

Such companies usually do not have problems with delays. But there are situations where…

…where the habit to control discipline is a manager’s psychological need.

It just so happens, that the function of control is the essence of the identification of the “manager”.

This kind of manager supports a strictly hierarchical – top to bottom – company’s model and knows that his or her basic management tools are frowning and commanding voice.

Sometimes it is not even because something goes wrong. The manager just believes there will be chaos the moment he or she relaxes.

Deprive such manager from the attributes of the authoritarian management style, get him or her to communicate with subordinates as equals and he or she will instantly feel weak.

Unfortunately, these managers often do not have any other managerial skills except “surveillance”. They are not engaged in the design of a business system, the development of a business strategy, do not study the customers or the industry and do not succeed as coaches for middle managers … Alas, this is the saddest and almost insoluble context of struggle with the struggle of lateness: when the manager is busy with discipline because… well, what else should he or she control?

“Management of lateness” has no universal set of the right tools. Softness in some situations turns into permissiveness, which costs the company its profits, customers and causes reputational damage.

Austerity in a different situation leads to hidden sabotage, concealment of knowledge, and petty revenge, especially if there are no objective reasons for such austerity.

At the same time, it is hard to find a less productive culture than the “culture of the kindergarten”, when the schedule is defined by the “adults” and the “children” are subjected to it.

What to do? Analyze the problem in all of its complexity, including corporate culture, business processes, hierarchy, and management skills. In this case only, you will be able to design the solution that will be effective for your company!

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