Tired of the 'Late to Work' Excuses? Here's What the Best Bosses Do

By Robert Half on October 31, 2017 at 3:00pm

Talk to someone you supervise who’s perpetually late to work, meetings or events, and you might hear the excuse: I was just trying to get one more thing done, and then I hit __ (fill in the blank with phrases like “traffic on Highway 880” or "snooze").

Of course, “late to work” stories can get more creative, and they often do, according to CFOs in a new Accountemps survey. Have you ever heard this from an accounting or finance professional? “I was stuck in an elevator with a kid that pushed the buttons for all of the floors.” Or, “I got locked in the gas station restroom and had to wait for someone to get me out.”

Jump to the survey slideshow below, if you just can’t wait to read more real-life excuses.

Why does tardiness matter?

When someone is running late, whether it’s late to the office or late on a deadline, it affects not only their work but that of the people around them. Productivity in the workplace suffers, and even commitment to the job can come into question. Whether it comes across as laziness or carelessness, it fosters low employee morale. It can also go so far as to damage your company’s reputation.

Only one in 10 CFOs in the survey said they are OK with workers showing up late if productivity doesn't suffer. Forty-seven percent of respondents said tardiness on occasion isn't a problem unless it becomes a pattern. The rest (43 percent) said they believe workers should arrive on time so others can rely on them during set hours.

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Latecomer personality types

Research suggests that personality traits contribute to chronic lateness. One study found that Type A individuals tended to be more punctual than more laid-back Type Bs, who often underestimate the time it will take to complete a task.

Some psychologists also use labels to describe the types of people who are often late: Rationalizers (who blame outside influences), Absent-Minded Professors (forgetful), Adrenaline Junkies (who try to fit in more than what’s possible) and Rebels (who get an ego boost from keeping others waiting).

The antidote to untimely arrivals

As a manager or employer, you have a leadership opportunity here. You can either live with the annoying workplace behavior of missed deadlines and perpetual lateness, or you can do something about it. Here are three tips for helping your team members get on top of their schedules — and arrive on time.

1. Be an influencer

Bosses can set a good example by showing up at the office early and meeting deadlines. Some of your good habits might include these: Tack on a 15-minute buffer before getting anywhere. Limit distractions and refuse to stretch yourself too thin. Manage your meetings to start and stop on time. If you know you will be late to a meeting or other engagement, notify your team as soon as possible.

2. Offer flextime

Often, personal commitments are the reason people are late to work. To help staff avoid tardiness, address work-life balance issues. For example, consider implementing remote work arrangements or flexible scheduling. For many people, if they had a schedule that could deviate from the traditional Monday-through-Friday, 9-to-5 work week, they’d rarely be late again.

3. Teach time-management hacks

The techniques of time management are among the best strategies to improve punctuality and efficiency. Offer these tips to your team:

  • Log your activities — Conduct an audit of what you do over the course of a week. Categorize each item and look for patterns. Are you giving priority to the right areas, or are there inefficiencies? Productivity trackers like Toggl and RescueTime can help you see where all the time is going.
  • Use time-saving technology — The process of reconciling accounts is just one of those time-consuming tasks that can be automated. Consider this: More than half of U.S. companies (58 percent) and nearly two-thirds of Canadian firms (66 percent) rely on manual reconciliation of accounts, according to the latest Benchmarking the Accounting and Finance Function report. Updating your technology could help your staff become more efficient.
  • Prioritize your tasks — Think “first things first,” and at the beginning of each day, make a list of what has to be accomplished, breaking down large tasks into actionable steps. Think of it as a small investment that will pay dividends later.

So are you one of those managers who doesn’t pay attention to the clock or to the performance of those your supervise? Are you going to keep collecting excuses like the ones below? Have fun with that!


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