February 18th, 2015 / Insight posted in

Talk Business: Richard Cummings discusses the perils of ignoring poor timekeeping

In an article for Talk Business magazine, HR Insight’s Managing Director Richard Cummings warns employers of the dangers of overlooking repeated lateness among employees. Fired for being five minutes late I once dismissed a new recruit on day three of his employment for being late, it wasn’t the fact he was five minutes late that really bothered me, it was the fact he was clutching a Starbuck’s coffee as he casually ambled into the office. The logic behind my decision was this: I concluded that he just didn’t care. If he couldn’t be bothered to arrive on time, moreover, he deliberately made himself late by stopping for coffee (which he could have had in the office, for free), how would he ever care about his work. What the problem being 5 minutes late? The habitual five-past-niner may not be an issue for most employers but it does have hidden costs for a business, not in money, but in staff moral. Those who do stroll in late or even run in late (dripping in sweat) may be causing issues for their colleagues that managers aren’t even aware of. Those sly comments made at the water cooler about the phone ringing at a vacant desk may go unnoticed; even more direct comments may not get the message across. However, the day the seemingly unaware manager arrives to work at 9am and no one is at their desk, might be the day they realise there is a problem. Don’t let it get to that stage. The knock-on effect The vast majority of employees want to follow the guidelines and rules that managers and companies set in place. Despite what most people say in private, employees do like to be managed, or more to the point, want to know that managers are managing their colleagues. There are more complaints about peers ‘getting away with it’ than there are about managers being too demanding or unfair. Employees who continually have to put up with those who persistently run late for work will, over time, feel they deserve the same flexibility. They may not necessarily come to work late, they may not even leave early, but they will take longer lunches, stop for more chats in the office and leave the telephone unanswered. These passive aggressive tendencies are contagious and rapidly change the culture of an organisation, which in most instances are only reversible by changing the management. In worst case scenarios the situation can become so awkward for hard-working employees they exit the organisation. The sheer frustration at observing the daily slacker can be so irritating that your star employee never even complains, a quality which adds to their star status, but quietly starts looking for alternative employment. At this stage the outlook is bleak; managers can expect a future being faced with idle employees who never appear to be around. This all started because one employee couldn’t get out of bed and be at work on time.

The advice Managers should take time to note these behaviours or frequent occurrences and deal with them promptly. For those who are now becoming late starters the secret is ‘let them know you know’. A quick chat in the office to remind employee that they do start at 9am may be all it takes to rectify the situation. Managers will be hailed, for a short time any way, as being the people issue fixer by their currently disgruntled employees. Richard Cummings is Managing Director of HR Insight, the HR consultancy arm of Kingston Smith LLP. This article was published in the September edition of Talk Business – and link to the site. http://talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk/latest-magazine/