I saw an interesting post online recently which posed the question “how much should lateness be tolerated?” I can’t cite chapter and verse from it but what surprised me most of all was the feeling that the writer was suggesting that, as employers, we need to cut workers a little slack to be late on a semi-regular basis. This was particularly emphasised in the case of (everybody take a deep breath…) “Millenials” where it was suggested that enforcing strict timing rules may lead to disengagement and, ultimately, the employees seeking another professional home.
So… hang on a minute… employers shouldn’t hold their employees accountable to reasonable deadlines for fear that the workers will quit? Workers can turn up when they deign to do so and achieve their work-related targets at a pace that suits *them* rather than the businesses?
Come on… that’s the inmates running the asylum!
Is lateness ever acceptable?
Yes – if the lateness is due to something out of the individual’s control.
We’ve all been there – traffic jam, train cancellation, or simply being at the mercy of somebody else who can’t get out the door in time, but you’ve got to give a little leeway when the person in question isn’t entirely in control of his or her own destiny. However that doesn’t mean you need to give this leeway indefinitely.
As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. If the person in question continually lays on excuse after excuse and seems like the unluckiest person in the world, what with traffic jams, flat tyres, missed busses and so forth, there’s a pattern that the latecomer is failing to react to – and that’s not good enough.
THREE REASONS WHY YOU SHOULDN’T ACCEPT ANY FORM OF LATENESS
1. It shows a lack of respect for you.
Did you turn up on time? Do you deliver on your promised targets by the agreed deadline? Of course you do.
So why shouldn’t other people?
Your time is valuable and I have no doubt you work hard to ensure you perform at the best level you can. If somebody with less experience is taking a paycheque (or even guidance or training) from you and can’t at least mimic your behaviour, what does that say about the esteem in which they hold you?
Turning up late regularly means you’re at the bottom of his list of priorities. Missing targets that force your department or team backwards suggest his commitment to success doesn’t match yours. Why should you have to carry this sort of dead weight? If he doesn’t respect you, your work or your rules, find somebody who will. They’re out there.
2. It demonstrates an inability (or unwillingness) to forward plan realistically
I’ve been late for a few meetings in my time. Despite having left a clear extra twenty minutes on a journey, I might meet with road-related mishaps and there’s no way of predicting this. Still, what I do next mitigates it. Firstly, I make sure to pull off the road and phone the person I’m meeting to explain the situation and set realistic expectations of what’s going to happen. Secondly, I learn from the situation and don’t repeat it. If I travel that road again, I make sure I leave even earlier. The next time I meet that person, I make damn sure I get there early because late twice-in-a-row is not the way to move forward.
Somebody who is continually late, whether it be in terms of getting in at the right time or hitting deadlines, is not learning from his or her mistakes. That’s an attitude issue, right there. Refusal to learn a lesson doesn’t make for personal nor professional progress.
3. It sets a dangerous precedent within your company
Above all else, this is the key point. It’s tempting to sometimes brush away lateness if the person in question is otherwise a good performer. “He hits all of his targets, so I’ll overlook him wandering in 10 minutes late a couple of times a week…” That seems pretty harmless on paper and in the isolated case of one person but what happens when others within the company see this and conclude that lateness is acceptable?
They’ll start doing it, and you’ll have to try and explain that you cut the person who outperforms them some slack, then there will be accusations of favouritism, one rule for some, another for everybody else… and it’ll end in chaos. Do yourself a favour and lay down a clear line from the word go. As long as you’re setting reasonable and realistic expectations in exchange for the salary you pay, you’ve every right to expect people to adhere to your rules. Even if a majority of your workforce are generally conscientious people who perform well and work hard, the minority will latch on to any opportunity to point a finger and say “if they can do it, so can I…” irrespective of their own performance.