And why changing how you look at employee late behaviour is the key to unlocking more business growth!
The big late employee lie. Bruised egos. And why it’s time to fight back. If you really want to know why your employees are late, you have to be willing to delve deeper and further into the human psyche than ever before. And you have to be brutally honest about which problems you’re really looking to solve in your business.
WHEN EMPLOYEES ARE LATE FOR WORK OR MEETINGS
Are you irritated and aggravated when employees are late? You have rules and late coming policies to deal with this kind of thing, right? So why do some employees always seem to come late? Surely it’s costing you time and money, right?
Well, not really. There’s not much proof that it does. In fact, there’s more proof that your policies and punishments are what’s really costing your business. (But there is definitely a reason why you keep having bad meetings.)
See, when researching for this post, we conducted a search for actual scientific studies on how employee lateness impacts businesses (and specifically what it costs them). And guess what we found? Practically nothing. Nada.
THE BIG LIE ABOUT EMPLOYEE LATENESS
The best we could possibly come up with is this 2019 article in Inc.com that talks about a survey that “crunched the numbers” on what employee tardiness costs the US economy. But it was so vague, Inc.com decided to just express it as an indeterminate “billions per year”. And that’s because it’s not an actual study – they reference this blog post, which is a company that sells mattresses (because they wanted to blame tardiness on poor sleep).
And the only real and actual research that both of these quote is an article in the American Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)’s HR Magazine – but SHRM has since removed it from the internet (see for yourself when you click the link). Wonder why?
TARDINESS? IT’S ALL ABOUT PERCEPTION
Oh, but it gets better! In this recent study of employees coming late to work at a burger restaurant in Sri Lanka, researchers found that employees came late because of “late-night work shifts and non-flexible leave scheduling”. In other words, they were deeply unhappy with the poor working conditions.
“Now, ask yourself: if you work under such poor conditions that you’re too tired or can’t even bear the thought of being at work (on time), will more rules and punishments make you come to work earlier?“
And here’s the IMPORTANT PART: In the same study, the researchers recommended the owners can curb lateness by developing “a strict policy to prevent tardy employees” and do so “before the problem leads to other employee withdrawal behaviors like absenteeism and turnover.”
See what they did there? They blatantly ignored their own research, which clearly shows that people are unhappy with the working conditions (which the company is responsible for), and shifted the blame for the tardiness onto the employees. “Stricter policies” implies putting more restrictive rules in place over employees. Now, ask yourself: if you work under such poor conditions that you’re too tired or can’t even bear the thought of being at work (on time), will more rules and punishments make you come to work earlier? Sustainably? Even if the working conditions don’t change in any way?
Oh, and you can test whether the advice worked for the Burger’s Joint in Dehiwala or not – check out the polarising reviews on Tripadvisor, Zomato etc. It’s split right down the middle: Half of the customers absolutely love it (five stars) and the other half absolutely hate the place (1 or 0 stars). Which points to business inconsistency. BTW: See what it means when you get too many customer complaints.
THE TRUTH: WHY ARE EMPLOYEES LATE FOR WORK, REALLY?
So, what is all of this telling us? Well, we know there’s no solid evidence that employees coming late is bad for business. Yet almost every business seems to have a problem with the idea of people coming late – hence the policies etc. So, a question: Is it perhaps that we, as managers and owners (humans), are emotionally aggravated by disobedience?
Think about it: If your productivity and performance drop and you can’t figure out the reason why or fix it quickly, isn’t the normal human response to gravitate back to what you CAN control? And what’s the easiest thing to control: Your subordinates. They work for you, they HAVE to listen to you. So it’s fairly logical to assume that to get some semblance of control, you might exert extra pressure on your employees?
It’s human. But that’s probably what’s costing you productivity, not when who is where and why.
WHAT YOU SHOULD PROBABLY BE ASKING YOURSELF ABOUT EVERY LATE EMPLOYEE
So, what is the real reason for employees being late? Well, if you’ll allow me to make a bold statement right here: Occam’s Razor: Your employees are probably late because they don’t want to be at work. Either they hate their jobs, you or their working conditions. Either way, they would kill to be somewhere (anywhere) else right now, but they have to show up to get a paycheque, so they’ll eventually and reluctantly show.
“Occam’s Razor: Your employees are probably late because they don’t want to be at work. Either they hate their jobs, you or their working conditions.”
Too harsh? Deal with it, and move on. Because there’s a lot you CAN do to turn things around starting right now!
From the employee’s perspective, you should know that we have scientific evidence that the human brain is designed to give you the kind of behaviour that goes with coming late if the person is not happy in their job. It’s one of the most important insights any business owner or manager can have – and you can read all about it and test it on your colleagues right now, it’s called mental pushback.
BUT FIRST: WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN AN EMPLOYEE IS LATE
OK, given what we know, maybe a good place to start is to ignore everything you think you know, what you’ve been told about and all the systems you’ve inherited for dealing with employee tardiness. Maybe it’s time to:
- Stop thinking about “consequences” for coming late
- Stop dishing out “punishment” and “penalties” for being late
- Stop asking whether you can “fire employees” for being late
- Stop wanting to “write up” and “give warnings” for being late
In fact, STOP everything your gut tells you to do about employees being late. You’re probably having an emotional reaction. So just stop, because there’s one more important bit of info you need: Employee lateness is cultural.
Yes, it is. See this study that found that coming late is practically CONTAGIOUS. It’s a group thing. The study shows that new employees with no record of tardiness suddenly start coming late when exposed to a group that’s used to coming late. And vice versa. In short: employees coming late is cultural. So, address it as a company culture concern.
SO, HOW DO YOU ADDRESS EMPLOYEES COMING LATE?
Make work awesome! Realise that it’s a culture thing. The behaviour you’re seeing (coming late) is a symptom of underdeveloped company culture – see it as point 5 on our list of symptoms of a company with poorly developed or lacking core values.
Create and address your company culture, focus on building trust in your company and focus on creating more employee engagement and you won’t have to worry about monitoring employee lateness anymore – mainly because you’ll be energising your people to WANT to work because they’ll rediscover the JOY in what they do.
Good news! We are a change management company, and we specialise in helping companies discover, change and develop their Company Culture. We help companies get right down to their employees’ behaviours and use science-based organisational development to re-energise your people.
And we WILL SEND a team to your company RIGHT NOW to see how we can help you figure out what your core values are and should be – with no obligation from you! (Just book your assessment below).
Let’s figure out what’s going on, so we can help energise your people for your exponential growth.
ABOUT OUR #COMPANYCULTURE PROJECT
The more you look at it, the more of the common, everyday struggles we face inside our companies are related to our organizational cultures. Even the most apparent efficiency and performance obstacles we face come as a result of cultures.
That’s why we’ve tasked our #TeamCompanyCulture to talk directly to the issues we see in our businesses every day. Connect with the team via firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 071 918 3217.
You might also be interested in…
See the real business costs behind workplace exclusion.
Ever wonder why employees are afraid to ask for more clarity at work?
Save your bottom line! Find out why you’re paying too much overtime.