How to Deal With Employees Who Are Always Late

Circumstances may justify the employee’s tardiness. If tardiness persists, management must take steps to ensure and promote punctuality across the team.

What happens if employees show up late?

Unforeseen circumstances, blunders, or personal difficulties, on the other hand, may cause a staff member to be late. These are usually isolated incidents that have no bearing on coworkers or management. An employee may be late due to a dead battery, a flat tire, or a family emergency, for example.

Management may be flexible as long as tardiness does not become a habit. When it becomes a habit, it becomes a problem. Being late costs the company money and sets a bad example for the rest of the team.

A paid employee who is five minutes late every day for a week has lost thirty minutes. The impact on the entire work system and on other employees who are already in the zone at work is almost unquantifiable.

For time spent doing nothing, the company compensates the employee. If the employee’s tardiness goes unnoticed, more workers may follow suit. When one of the team members is late, it feels unfair to those who have planned ahead of time to arrive on time. Others may be disappointed or discouraged about showing up on time as a result.

How to Deal With Employees Who Are Consistently Late

To avoid cultivating a culture of lax professionalism, it’s critical to recognize and address tardiness issues among employees. While most employees are prone to being late on occasion, persistent tardiness is detrimental to the business and an employee’s effectiveness. Corporation actions were more clearly defined before the pandemic and work-from-home protocols.

Nowadays, when dealing with tardiness, I’m more likely to consider productivity and the possibility of having this person work from home in order to prevent productivity theft from others.

Here are some ideas for dealing with a chronically late employee:

1. Take immediate action

If you notice a pattern of tardiness, inform the employee. The sooner you bring it up, the more you can show that this type of behavior isn’t acceptable in the workplace and persuade the employee to stop.

2. Establish clear guidelines

When dealing with an employee who is frequently late, be clear about what needs to change and what you expect in the future.

Explain what it means to you and the company to be on time (arriving ten minutes early). Present facts to back up your claims, such as dates and times. Avoid using ambiguous or subjective language that could lead to confusion.

In a meeting addressed to everyone, I sometimes set clear expectations and rely on peer pressure to get the late person to comply. Calling out and praising your early-arriving team members usually helps. “All right, Suzy, I know you’re always a half-hour early, and I appreciate it. You’re fantastic! Five to ten minutes early is ideal for the rest of you.”

3. A no-late policy

Include in the business handbook or policy expectations for when the workday begins and how many (if any) times an employee may be late before it becomes an actionable infraction. If tardiness persists, explain the disciplinary measures. It’s also a good idea to notify the employee in writing that the problem has been resolved and the consequences have been communicated. Include any disciplinary actions with caution.

This step should always be taken without the presence of an audience. Any disciplinary action affects the entire team, as I’ve discovered through painful experience — kindness and understanding work better — disciplinary action affects the entire team. We usually have the manager deal with the problems first.

4. The privacy should be respected

You don’t need to know why the employee is always late. When you meet privately, allow the employee to choose how much information they reveal. Be open to what they have to say. This safeguards their privacy while also preventing them from being late for work.

5. Agree on common goals

Encourage the employee to set personal objectives and goals after you’ve discussed the employee’s tardiness, including your expectations and potential consequences. If late arrivals are unavoidable, for example, they might be advised to take a shorter lunch break. Give them feedback on their goals and suggestions to help them achieve and exceed their own. Allow each team member to add their objectives to their calendar. A reminder from their Calendar can sometimes be helpful.

6. Maintain vigilance

Employees who are held accountable and encouraged on a regular basis may be able to break their habit of being late. Following up on your goals is the most effective way to avoid such mishaps. Encourage and motivate them while emphasizing the importance of punctuality.

7. Recognize good behavior

If you notice that the employee is improving, give them praise. It’s best to do this alone to avoid drawing attention to the reason for improvement. Keep it timely by complimenting the employee as soon as you notice the difference, if possible the next day.

8. Pay attention to and record conversations

Keep track of any interactions with a staff member regarding tardiness. This eliminates the possibility of misunderstanding. If you write it down instead of remembering it, your knowledge will be more orderly and accurate. Document the steps you took to identify and resolve the problem, as well as any positive changes in the employee’s behavior. This should be added to the employee’s HR file.

9. Implement a clock-in system

If tardiness is still an issue for one or more employees, a clock-in system may be beneficial to all employees. Digital apps and software can be used and monitored by all parties. Chronic tardiness can also be addressed with the use of a clock-in system.

10. Schedule meetings first thing in the morning

Personnel may be more likely to arrive on time if meetings are held early in the morning. This may also assist you in getting through the rest of the day. If you can’t do it every day, Monday or Friday mornings might be a good option.

11. Evaluate performance in terms of timeliness

Consider including punctuality in a performance evaluation for employees who have trouble getting to work on time. For issues that must be resolved quickly, the quarterly review process is ideal. Do you require additional vacation time? If your company’s policy allows for regular late workers, consider allowing for flexible work hours. Allow 15 minutes for them to arrive and 15 minutes for them to work.

This may help to resolve a long-standing issue that has been delaying their delivery. It may also promote mutual respect, comprehension, and efficiency. Consider giving everyone a flexible schedule if you give one employee one.

What should employees do if they are late?

You must communicate your expectations to your employees as a manager or leader. This includes informing them of what they should do if they arrive late. Here are some suggestions for communicating with employees about their tardiness:


If an employee is going to be late, they should notify their supervisor via phone or text. The boss will no longer have to worry about them and can focus on his or her work.


Inquire about an estimated arrival time when an employee informs their manager that they will be late. This demonstrates that the person wants to get to work as soon as possible.


Make it clear to an employee that they must complete their tasks on time, even if they are running late one day. The employee may have to adjust their routine or prepare to arrive at work early the next day if they have more than one item (getting there on time and having work due).

Learn more from Business and read How to Get Employees To Work Together.

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