Chronically late.

Strolling in at the crack of noon.

Full of excuses.

Quite frankly, the whole situation is a serious pain in the neck.

While you may not be experiencing one now, you certainly will at some point in your management career. Some might be easier to cure, others not so much (or not at all).

As experts in employee time and attendance, we know that buying a time clock alone isn’t going to fix it.

So, if buying a quick fix is out, what strategy can you use to manage tardiness in the workplace?

  1. Nip it in the bud.
    Sounds simple right? Interrupt the pattern before it really gets going. The trouble with this is identifying the behavior before it has gone on so long that you’ll need to do more than a pattern interrupt to stop it. The best idea is to speak to every employee that shows up to work late, unless of course they come up to you first.
  2. Establish an attendance policy and disciplinary protocol.
    Also, make sure that you have an attendance policy in place so that they will know how you will escalate the issue should it become a habit. To quote Pat Parelli, you should “ask, tell, then promise.” In terms of management, that means acknowledge the situation and ask them not to do it again; the “tell” is the write up; the “promise” is dismissing the employee. The amount of time that you spend in the “ask” and “tell” phase is up to you and your company, but make certain to consistently apply the policy to all of your employees.
  3. Understand why your employees are late.
    Maybe they have children that they need to get to school. Maybe their car broke down. Maybe they think of their work schedule as flexible. Whatever the reason, it is difficult to manage a problem effectively without knowing the root of it. If an employee has a legitimate reason for being late consistently, determine if there is room to adjust their schedule to accommodate them.
  4. Document. Document. Document.
    Please forgive the repetition here, but it underlines how important documentation is in managing employee attendance, particularly in the case of problem attendance. Documentation is what helps your company remain compliant. This is also where having a time clock or attendance management system comes into play as documentation is covered by either option.

In terms of managing the tardy employee, there is no quick or sure-fire way to correct the issue. But, with patience, understanding and a strong set of attendance policies, an answer will eventually present itself.

Written by: Terra Pugh is a writer for Time Masters, a leading provider of employee time and attendance systems for more than 15 years. For more information on managing tardiness or for time and attendance systems, please feel free to visit the Time Masters website at

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