Hello all,

Once again I am asking for the wisdom of the group to help me with an issue. I am just starting to use the feedback model, must admit it is very difficult for me as I am a high C and very introverted. Am starting to use the coin tricks to force myself into giving positive feedback, don't always get through five coins, but working on it.

My issue is I have an employee who is always late. She just transferred into my department and her previous manager did not provide any type of feedback on this issue. I have mentioned in a meeting that I expect that my directs are at their desks working at their specific start times and I know she is pushing my limits as she was not impressed with the change to my department.

My question is: How would I best phrase the feedback? Tardiness really annoys me, but I know the feedback must not be about me. I do worry about the job getting done, and the effect it has on the other staff members who do try to get to work on time. I don't know how to phrase the feedback correctly without letting my personnel feelings get involved.

I know I am rambling and not providing a lot of information, but I am hoping the collective wisdom of the members will help me with this



WillDuke's picture
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I wouldn't give her adjusting feedback if you haven't laid the groundwork of affirming feedback first. Catch her when she's on time, and give her positive feedback on that instead.

[quote]I do worry about the job getting done, and the effect it has on the other staff members who do try to get to work on time.[/quote]
Even better, give her feedback on getting her work done. Does it really matter what time a person comes in or leaves if their work is done?

You don't mention her personality profile, so it's hard to tailor specifically to that, but that shouldn't stop feedback!

"Jane, can I give you some feedback? When you get your work in on time it shows everyone that you can be counted on. Thank you."
"Jane, can I give you some feedback? When you get your work in on time it helps the project stay on track. Thank you."
"Jane, can I give you some feedback? When you get your work in on time it sets a good example for the rest of the team. Thank you."

I read over this and it seems like I'm dodging your question about feedback on tardiness. Maybe it's my high I talking, but I think focusing on tardiness itself isn't effective. If I expect someone to accomplish X, and they do, 5 minutes in the morning doesn't matter. If I expect them in at 8:30 to man the support line, and they're late, then it's not late that I care about, but not getting coverage on the support line. Then my feedback sounds like:

"Jane, can I give you some feedback? When you aren't here for your scheduled time on the support line Bob has to stay late to cover for you. That's just not fair to Bob. What can you do differently?
"Jane, can I give you some feedback? When you're not here for your scheduled time on the support line our clients can't get support. Without support they start shopping our competition. What can you do differently?"

I'd say focus on the real problem.

maura's picture
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I agree with Will that in most roles it's about getting work done, more than it is about being at the desk at a certain time. That said, there are some roles where you need to be at your post at a designated time in order for things to work properly - for example, a call center or secruity type position, where the prior shift can't sign out until you sign in. Is it truly important for her to be at the desk working at a specific time? Or are you reacting to a pet peeve and feeling that she's testing you by showing up late?

If it's the former, great - listen to Will, he's very, very good at this. Feedback is more likely work long-term if you start by laying the ground by using affirming feedback - if at all possible, look for times when she is showing up on time, and give affirming feedback.

If it's the latter, then you have a different issue on your hands (ie, not entirely her problem), and feedback to her about her tardiness or timeliness might not be the most effective way to improve things. Seems like that's where building the relationship could really help.

US41's picture

Phrase the feedback using exactly the model from the podcasts. Use those words precisely. "Can I give you some feedback? When you are not at your desk on time in the morning when I expect you, that's not working out so good. What can you do differently?"

They argue.

"I see. Anyway, so what are you going to do differently?"

They might provide more argument.

"Yeah, yeah, I hear you. But what can you do differently?"

Stick to your point until you hear them say they will come in on time. Do not say it for them.

If you give the feedback, and they are still late, give more feedback, "When you come in late after I give you feedback about coming in late, then I get the feeling that feedback is not going to work or maybe you are not willing to try. What can you do differently?"

If it continues, ramp it up to the next level: "When you come in late repeatedly after multiple committments to be here on time, I start to think I need to make a change here (hint hint - their job is now on the line and you've created a record of their insubordination)

If they do it again, take your records of the feedback you provided to HR, and dismiss them. If they are insubordinate to this degree in your face, behind your back they are likely spreading ill-will everywhere and have become cancerous to the team.

I'm not sure I would pick this battle, personally, because there are degrees of late and some jobs don't really need a fixed shift start time for effectiveness.

Make sure that tardiness is ineffective and not just imperfect before you go here.

WillDuke's picture
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[quote]Make sure that tardiness is ineffective and not just imperfect[/quote]
That is exactly what I was trying to say. Great phrasing US41. Thank you.

jael's picture

I'm in IT and have worked in flexible hours environments since the mid-70's, so the concept of tardiness is not something that I can really relate to other than the following story.

Several years ago, I took a position at a small software house, and I very carefully asked during the interview process about their culture and work/life balance. The hiring manager flat out lied to me about flexible scheduling in the department this position was for, and I found myself in an environment that stopped just short of punching a time clock.

His excuse was that we were on the same floor as the call center and that our sr mgmt thought that since the call center people had to be there at a certain time, it wasn't fair to them not to see us sitting at our desks at 8:00AM sharp even though we were working nights and weekends as well as days. I stayed at that company for the 5 months it took me to find something else with the culture I was accustomed to.

You didn't give us any information about what type work this person does. If there's some aspect of her job that requires punctuality, then feedback as the others described is appropriate. If it's just that you have a clock-punching nature, perhaps you need to first look at what kind of results this person is producing.

tcomeau's picture
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My question is: How would I best phrase the feedback? Tardiness really annoys me, but I know the feedback must not be about me. I do worry about the job getting done, and the effect it has on the other staff members who do try to get to work on time. I don't know how to phrase the feedback correctly without letting my personnel feelings get involved.

Disclaimer: I don't care when my guys come in or leave, or even if they're in the office on any particular day, as long as they are making the meetings, concalls, or presentations they need to be at on time, prepared, and contributing. If you arrive at two minutes to ten for a meeting, I really don't care if you've been in the office for two hours or two minutes.

Feedback has three parts: Ask, Behavior, Effects. Start from the back.

What is the effect of this person showing up later than your expected start time? Does it mean phone calls go unanswered? Do other people need information from her to get started on their work? Does it mean she stays late (in order to "get her hours in") and thus the office lights stay on longer? (Hey, we're supposed to be more green-aware these days.) Does it create resentment among other staff members who do show up on time, and think she's getting special treatment?

Write down how her being at her desk at a different time affects the work and the people she works with? Make a list. Don't deliver the whole list at once, but have a list you can cycle through one or two at a time. Review the list with an eye toward picking things that suit [i]her[/i] DISC profile. ([plug]Premium content slide on "Improving your Feedback" is the perfect resource for this![/plug])

What is the specific behavior? Is she in the building, but in the restroom, or getting coffee, or chatting with a coworker? Is she not in the building, but she comes in consistently 15 minutes later than everyone else? Is she erratic, so you can't be sure when she'll be available for meetings or phone calls? You need to identify the specific behavior that is causing the effect.

Then ask for permission to give feedback. Don't "haul her in to your office" and keep a neutral tone. Feedback is ***not*** a reprimand. (Second time for that sentence today....)

Your feedback might look like:
Pauline, may I give you some feedback?

When you're the only one not at your desk at 8:00 in the morning, it raises my blood pressure because I feel you don't respect my rules. What can you do differently?

or it might be:

Pauline, may I give you some feedback?

Remember that the gate is supposed to open precisely at 8:00 each morning. When you are not at your station to enable your gate, it means that people coming through that gate will be delayed, and the people coming through are key to getting production started each morning. What can you do differently?

If your feedback looks more like the former, ask yourself whether you are focused on the right things to make your staff more effective. You may be, but it is something you should think about.

If your feedback looks more like the latter, then you should be giving feedback every morning at about 8:05, either affirming or adjusting, until you have an unbroken string of:
Pauline, may I give you some feedback?

I'm glad to see the gate was open on time this morning. It makes coming to work here easier for everybody when they can start on time. Please keep it up!

Let us know how you are doing!


BBundy's picture

Sorry if this has been answered before, how late is too late for giving feedback?

I was in my bosses office today at 9:17, when my direct came in, 17 minutes late, my boss just looked at me like a deer in headlights. I understand to some this is not a big issue, but to me and my boss it is (we are behind and every minute counts). I did not get out of the office for another 30 minutes.

I have avoided giving feedback so far, as this employee is working hard and late to try to catch up (but I am paying OT for this). I have praised the positive actions, but if the feedback on this is not immediate, is it too late to mention later or should I just mention it the next time it happens IE " When your late it give myself and others the impression you don't respect the rules of the workplace"

WillDuke's picture
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It's okay to give this feedback to him later.

Although I think the feedback you want to give isn't so much about the rules, but about productivity. As you say, the team is already behind. Him coming in late impacts that.

It's touchy though, with him staying late. Was he in last night very late? Only had 3 hours of sleep and still came in, only 17 minutes late? I don't have enough specific information to make a suggestion that you do or don't give feedback. :)

lazerus's picture

You must give the feedback whenever it's comfortable for both of you, but you MUST give feedback if it affects productivity. And, this is adjusting feedback. Nothing to worry about, really, and if your boss requires this behavior to change, then your job is to make that happen. The lateness of this person is may be more about rule-breaking than something else. If you are a rules-based organization, or a rules based manager (I am, I don't know how else to say that), for your org to get the results you need, the rules have to be followed. Perhaps this person could be encouraged, through coaching --> feedback --> O3s (I can't draw a circular diagram of this here) to come up with rules for herself regarding a window of time you guys expect her to start work.

If this is something like a retail store or a restaurant where customers are expecting a 10:00 AM opening or something, then your coaching and feedback will have an obviously different focus. The bottom line is, she works for you, she's late, you want that behavior to change, and feedback is the way to do it.

tcomeau's picture
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[quote="BBundy"]Sorry if this has been answered before, how late is too late for giving feedback?


I have avoided giving feedback so far, as this employee is working hard and late to try to catch up (but I am paying OT for this). [/quote]

I would be inclined to do it as soon as you both have a moment. If you need to wait so that you're not doing it in front of customers, for example, that's fine.

It's helpful to me that you mention you're paying overtime. That lets you make the feedback about effects beyond rules. Like this: "When you come in late, it puts us behind, and we have to pay overtime in order to catch up. That means we're less profitable, less effective, and less competitive. What can you do differently to be sure you're on time?"

And as soon as you get a positive response, give the positive feedback: "I've noticed you're working very quickly and very consistently today. That lets us catch up and deliver on time. I appreciate that. Please keep it up!"

Also, I would not hesitate to deliver the adjusting feedback where my boss could observe. I wouldn't draw attention to it, but I would excuse myself and take the 40 seconds to give the feedback, and then go back to what we were doing. If the boss asks, explain that you're using this resource, and why you find it helpful.

Finally, this is the case where the DISC profile might be helpful. I suspect based on your comments that you're a high "C" who will respond well to comments like "When you deliver an expense report that doesn't include receipts, you aren't following the correct procedures, and we need to ensure compliance." The same feedback will draw a snicker from my wife, who is a high "S". With her, the right comment is "When you don't include your receipts, the finance people have to spend their time chasing you down, which wastes their time and yours." She wants to cooperate; she's not so much on compliance.

So what is your direct's style? If they are high "C", talking about respect for workplace rules is the right approach. If they are high "S", point out how they're putting other people behind. If they are high "i", talk about how their peers feel about dealing with being late. If they're high "D", talk about the cost and impact on the bottom line.

But give the feedback as soon as you reasonably can.


jhack's picture

Have you asked why they're late so often? Could it be a child care issue, or a public transit issue, or is it just poor planning?


BBundy's picture

There are no issues that would effect them, other then poor planning. The directs in question do not take public transportation, do not have a extremely long commute and do not have any child care issues.

I have other directs that are in early, do not take breaks during the day, (the above directs smoke (other pet peeve of mine, sorry to all the smokers out there)), other than their lunches and I don't believe it is fair to them to have others abusing the system.