Being Late to Work is Not a Big Deal!

How poor attendance practices can jeopardize a talented employee’s career.

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | July 27, 2017

A talented employee appears successful with a new house, a nice family, a good-paying job, and a bright future ahead.  The one problem is that he’s often late to work.  His manager has spoken with him about this on several occasions, but he continues to be late on most mornings.

The manager finally decides to take formal corrective action.  He meets with the employee and presents him with a “first written warning.”

The employee obviously resents this action and insists, “When you’re good at your job, being late to work is not a big deal.”  Nevertheless, he realizes he’s in violation of company policy and pledges to correct the problem.

Unfortunately, the employee is late again just two days later and receives a “second written warning.”  This warning includes a “final notice” that if the employee is late to work again and proper procedures have not been followed—he will be terminated.  The next morning, the employee walks in 15 minutes late to the weekly department meeting which started first thing at 8 AM.  An hour later, the manager calls the employee in to his office and terminates him.

This story is a classic example of the poor work attendance practices of some employees.  They cling to the steadfast belief that being late to work has nothing to do with their job performance and thus, will not impact their careers.  If you think about this from a career development perspective, if you allow yourself to be habitually late to work, you are indulging in a high-risk behavior that could result in serious consequences.

These employees risk losing their jobs, their ability to support their families, and any financial progress that may have come with steady career advancement.  Ask yourself:  Would you be willing to sacrifice a promising career and risk unemployment just for the sake of arriving late at work?

Why should good attendance be important to you?

Employers don’t want an employee who is often late or doesn’t show up for work.  As for career opportunities, employers are hesitant to advance employees who are unreliable in attendance.

A poor attendance record also leaves a bad impression with other employees who may begin to view that employee as being unproductive, unreliable, and even lazy.

Aside from problems of perception, poor attendance practices can strain relations with other employees.  Why?  Because employees who arrive early and are ready to work on time resent having to “fill in” or “cover” for a habitually late employee.

How to Have Good Work Attendance

Good work attendance may not be easy for some, but it’s not exactly rocket science.  Decide you’re going to make being on-time for work a priority and take immediate action.  Pre-plan steps such as:  Go to bed at an appropriate hour, get the sleep you need, wake up at whatever hour necessary for you to have plenty of time to get ready, leave home with time to spare, arrive at work early, and be ready to start on time.

There will be situations where an employee can’t make it to work on time.  In those cases, it’s best for the employee to call a supervisor or manager to let them know that he/she will be late and the reason for not coming in on time.

A good work attendance record is in the best interest of your career.  Moreover, if good attendance is important to your employer, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it needs to become important to you.


David Cox


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