Chronic lateness can affect the productivity of your whole team. How do you stop the rot?

Emily is one of your employees. She is frequently late to work and it’s becoming a habit.
Everyone gets held up now and then, but if left unchecked consistent lateness has the potential to affect both your team and the business itself.
Prompt attention to the issue is vital. Your employees are not only judging their colleague’s behaviour, but your response on behalf of the leadership team.
The question is, when should you talk to Emily about bad behaviour? What should you say to minimise the fall out?
If this is frustratingly persistent and affecting the business, one of your reactions might be to let Emily go. But this should only be considered as a last resort, after proper performance management.
Step 1: set up an informal discussion.
Have you discussed with Emily why she’s late? If this doesn’t always happen, it can lead to assumptions and miscommunication.
Open up the dialogue with a statement such as, “Can we catch up later? There are a few things I’d like to discuss.”
Be mindful not to jump to a conclusion about her reasons for being late. She could have an ill family member to care for or may be experiencing a personal difficulty.
Step 2: practice the conversation.
It’s a good idea to ask another business owner in whom you confide or a mentor to practice this conversation with you. They can help you walk through possible scenarios and responses so you’re not caught off guard during the discussion.
Step 3: conduct the meeting in a private space.
An office or other private location ensures you can’t be overheard or seen by other team members walking by.
Step 4: be specific during the discussion.
Providing detail helps the employee see your point of view and reduces possible misunderstandings. It’s also an opportunity to emphasise your business’ “culture of care” to bolster loyalty and motivation.
“I noted that you were late four out of five days last week. Arriving late can impact the whole team and our clients. Is everything ok?’
Step 5: provide Emily with the opportunity to explain.
It may be a personal or delicate matter. Being a good listener in this situation can encourage your employee to work with you.
“My mother has a terminal illness and I need some flexibility to take care of her.’
Step 6: explore a solution.
When a reason has been given, you’re able to explore a mutually beneficial solution. There are numerous arrangements you could consider offering Emily:
• start late, finish late. If Emily needs to come in later, ask if she can stay later to make up the hours. For example, 10am to 6pm instead of 9am to 5pm.
• remote working arrangement. Can Emily work from home in the mornings to encourage flexibility while still performing? For example, 9am to midday working from home, and then midday to 5pm in the office.
• part time work. Would going part time possibly work in this situation? For example, Emily could work from Monday to Wednesday, and take Thursday and Friday off.
If it’s important that an employee arrives at a particular time and there is no way to accommodate change, or it’s simply a poor reason, communicate in clear terms. State that this is an expectation of the job, that it was explained when you hired them, and that this is written into their contract or letter of employment.
If the hours of work are outlined in the Employment Contract, make reference to the specific section in the Contract where it clearly states the terms of employment hours.
Step 7: confirm what you agreed on.
Make sure you verbally confirm that you both agree on how you will proceed.
For more pointers on following up in writing download the How do I talk to an employee about their poor performance? e-book
Prompt attention to the issue is vital. Your employees are not only judging their colleague’s behaviour, but your response on behalf of the leadership team.