Alright, fairly new manager here but have been listening to Manager Tools podcasts for some time now.

I work in a customer-service-oriented not-for-profit office. Very small staff (7 members), of which three report to me. I'm currently the highest ranking person (we're in an executive search process).

We have a problem with habitual tardiness - arriving at the office late, and coming back from lunch late. This is born out of our old ED - he saw his role as being to "get his work done," and that meant that he was never around for the follow-through on people being tardy. This has made it very difficult for me to coach my directs through the process of being on time because the head honcho wasn't here setting a good example.

Since he left, I've been trying very hard to set a good example through my own behavior, and last week I'd had enough of this constant lateness. We were short-staffed, and two of my directs went to lunch together. Thursday, they came back in 30 minutes late holding Starbucks (which leads me to believe that they were already 10 minutes late, saw Starbucks, and decided they didn't care), and then on Friday they were again 30 minutes late.

I made a non-productive, passive-aggressive remark to them about it on Friday, and they got defensive and argued with me about it. Definitely the wrong approach.

It's important to me that these people be at work on time each day not just because it's policy, but also because our constituents know when we're supposed to be here, and we deal with a heavy call volume from them that has to be handled by someone (usually yours truly) when everyone comes tromping back from lunch whenever they feel like it.

I also want the people that report to me to set a good example for the rest of the office. When one person is habitually late and isn't getting called out for it, I feel like that sets a bad example.

So, what do you think? I've considered implementing a policy - each time a direct comes in 10 minutes late or more, they accrue a "strike" or a "point" or whatever, with a set number of points leading to progressive discipline. I'd also like to require those who arrive late to make that time up at the end of the day.

I'm ready to provide feedback using the model. What advice would you give?

lindge's picture
Training Badge

Do you have some sort of service level agreement with your constituents to answer the phones during certain hours of the day?

Are performance goals (including coverage of phones) clearly defined for your directs?

From the information provided I'm inferring no feedback has been provided to your directs about tardiness up to this point? 

It sounds as though your team has certain goals that are not being met due to employees not being there to answer the phones.  I would start with feedback and set expectations (about phone coverage, hours being worked etc.) and if performance goals have not been set then would be worth establishing team as well as individual goals.  Then if folks don't meet the goals that's a separate discussion.

Depending on your team you may even want to ask them to come up with a coverage plan themselves to ensure phone coverage is being provided when it needs to. 

I would be inclined NOT to implement the policy you're considering at this point - sounds like it would get things off to a bad start / bad tone and where do you go from there?

SamBeroz's picture

Sounds like a perfect opportunity for some feedback.  I can almost hear Mark and Mike in my head: "Can I  give you some feedback?  When you're late getting back to the office after lunch here's what happens ..."  (Explain effects in accordance with their DISC profile for maximum effectiveness)

D - It makes it look like they are not invested in the company, that they don't want to advance.

I - How it's making them less popular with their coworkers and out of the running for workplace recognition.

S - How it's negatively affecting the other team members.

C - Not being able to manage their time makes them look sloppy which could call into question their attention to detail in other areas of their work.

Finally, ask them how they plan to correct it.  As it sounds like it's not isolated so you may want to listen to the Change Management cast: What's my Visual?  Is there a simple / cheap way to make the emotional case for change?  Can you create a visual on the it's impacting its having?

- Sam

gabriel's picture

I had a similar issue, but the root of the problem was a feeling of entitlement since we used to work overtime quite frequently. Here is my solution:

1. Better planning to avoid overtime.

2. Let people know that in order to avoid working overtime we need to work our full schedule. (nobody likes to work late or on weekends)

3. Create a game based on Tardiness, every time you are late, you get a point, 10 points, you get to pay lunch for the group :-)

I still have a problem with some people that just accepts paying lunch but at least they are not 30 minutes late, they are no more than 10. My next task is to attack lunch, most people take 1 hour but only report 30 minutes in their time sheet.

Hope this helps.


gabriel's picture


I'll assume you gave this feedback with love in your heart, even though at first sounded as a harsh feedback,  I think you have a point. I still think that sometimes, you need to adapt a technique to the environment you work in order to be effective, this is what I did and it worked for me. I probably try to use a more MT approach the next time to see how it works.

I am glad that you don't care when they go out for lunch and they come back, I do and the organization I work for does too. I think I'll use a pure MT philosophy to tackle the problem. Time to listen again to the feedback shows.