How to Deal with Tardiness in the Work Place

While union strikes and mentally disturbed employees going amok may hog the headlines, these are rare events. Tardiness still causes the most headaches in disciplining workers. The reason tardiness is problematic is because it is so common and its effect is enormous in the long run.
The lack of urgency saps the will to fix the problem. Catch an employee committing theft and there is no problem deciding to terminate him as long as there is sufficient evidence. On the other hand, tardiness, especially in the Philippines, is considered commonplace. While there is usually a prescribed penalty, there is a tendency for employers to be too lax in accepting excuses.
It may not seem something to worry about, but the total value of the lost productivity is substantial since it is a frequent occurrence. There are two schools of thought here. One believes in the strict adherence to the scheduled time in order to establish discipline. The other focuses more on results regardless of the time used to accomplish the job. Either method may work depending on the type of business and the personality of the employees.
Jobs that are heavy on creativity are likely to be successful using the more liberal method of emphasizing accomplishments. While those whose performance is tied to hours worked would function better in the conventional mode of strict time monitoring.
The problem is that the two types of jobs frequently co-exist in a company. This may cause demoralization, for example, to people with fixed hours when they see others arriving at ten in the morning, for example. Legal problems can also result if discrimination is proven. Here are some tips that can help those responsible in drawing up a company’s tardiness policy:
Consider the nature of your business in drafting the rules on tardiness. There are businesses where tardiness could severely disrupt operations. Examples of these are when work must be done as part of a team, such as operating a large machine that needs several persons. In this case, the tardiness of one person will force other employees to be idle since they could not run the machine.
Determine both the legal consequences and the effect on morale when allowing certain categories of employees to be exempt from the rules on tardiness. While it may be logical to give more lenient schedules to some types of employees, you must consider the negative effects, too. The justifications must be clearly explained to minimize complaints. Consider if this may violate existing CBAs, especially if there are unions.
Plan for the effect on key personnel that are tardy. It is ideal to say that you will implement the rules consistently. But if it will lead to the termination or resignation of your top sales person who is bringing in half of your sales, you must be prepared for the consequences. You may rather tolerate rampant tardiness than low sales. Remember the old saying “Burn not the house to fight the mouse!”.
Be careful in increasing the grace period allowance. Many companies allow a few minutes’ grace period to give some slack. This usually ranges from five to fifteen minutes. While being strict to the last second may work for some, there are those who believe that it sends a message that a company is unreasonable. On the other hand, I found out that increasing the grace period does not necessarily reduce tardiness. We once had a twenty-minute grace period and those that usually come ten minutes late just arrived at ten minutes after the grace period.
Have comprehensive written rules that deal with the problem. Since tardiness happens again and again, it would be a wise to think of the best policy to adapt. Have a list of both allowable and non-allowable excuses. Even the most unreasonable company will excuse you if you have to rush your child to the hospital. However, there are situations that are not so easy to decide. This is when a pre-made list would be of help. Just make sure you state that non-allowable excuses are only a partial list.
Use biometric devices to monitor time logged. Unless you are the one that opens and closes the office, it would be better to invest in modern technology instead of relying on old-fashioned time cards. This would lessen the chance of cheating on time.
Have training on time management. One of the major reasons why people are frequently late is their poor time management practices. Improving this will have the added advantage of improving their overall productivity. However, unless you have an excellent training department, it would probably be better if you have your personnel attend an outside seminar from a reputable provider.
Be the role model. It would be difficult to make your subordinates comply if you yourself are guilty of tardiness.
Be aware that tardiness may be a sign of deeper problems. Being late often, along with frequent absences, could be a sign that the employee is no longer happy in his/her job. This is all the more likely if the person was not like that before. Do not be caught by surprise, and try to probe the reason for the discontent.
Tardiness costs companies a large amount in lost productivity. It must not be allowed to be part of your company culture. All it takes is some planning and decisive leadership to bring tardiness down to insignificant levels.

*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.