Kingston Smith

5 minutes late for work: You’re fired

I once heard of a new recruit being dismissed on day three of his employment for being late. It wasn’t the five minutes he was late that really bothered the manager, it was that he was clutching a takeaway coffee as he ambled into the office.

The logic behind the manager’s decision was that the new recruit just didn’t care. If he couldn’t be bothered to arrive on time, and deliberately made himself late by stopping for coffee, how would he ever care about his work?

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 morale. Those who stroll in late (or even run in late sweating) may be causing issues for colleagues that managers aren’t even aware of.

Whispers at the water dispenser about a phone ringing at a vacant desk may go unnoticed. More direct comments may not even get the message across. However, the day the seemingly unaware manager arrives at work at 9am to find no one in might be the day that the manager realises there’s a problem. Don’t let it get to that stage.

Generally, employees want to follow the guidelines and rules that companies have in place. Despite what people may say in private, employees do like to be managed, or more to the point, want to know that managers are managing their teammates. We hear more complaints about colleagues ‘getting away with it’ than managers being too demanding or unfair.

Employees putting up with those persistently late for work may come to feel they deserve the same flexibility. They may not necessarily arrive late or leave early, but they may take a longer lunch or leave that phone unanswered.

These passive aggressive tendencies are contagious and can rapidly change the culture of an organisation. Sometimes, this is only reversible by changing the management.

Worst-case scenario, employees feel so frustrated with the situation that they leave.

By this stage, the outlook is bleak: managers faced with employees who rarely appear to be around. And all because one employee couldn’t get to work on time.

As a manager, you should take time to note these behaviours or frequent occurrences and nip them in the bud. To deal with those who seem to be slacking, the secret is to let them know you know. A quick chat to remind them that they do start at 9am may be all it takes to rectify the situation. You’ll be hailed as being the people-issue fixer by any currently disgruntled employees.