It's a professional dilemma -- your top-performing employee outsells her colleagues, is loved by clients and is a manager's dream in all ways but one -- she never shows up to work on time. While it might be easy to overlook this one minor flaw, other employees could see the special treatment as a form of favoritism and become incensed by the behavior. Handling the tardy employee requires both tact and diplomacy to keep all workers happy and performing their jobs to the best of their abilities.
Consider the Circumstances
Ask your employee what makes her tardy. Maybe she has to take kids to a child care facility in the morning, carpools with a slow driver or tries to get to the gym for a workout so she can come to the office energized and ready to go. Find out what the situation is and work from there. Be open to the possibility of letting her and all employees with extenuating scheduling conflicts have some flexibility in work hours, such as later start times and later finish times.
Ask for the Employee’s Help
Top performers sometimes have an attitude that because of their high-achieving status, they should be afforded less oversight. To effectively deal with this attitude, talk to your tardy employee and ask for her help solving the problem. “We both know what a valuable asset you are; I appreciate everything you do for the company. Here's my problem -- every time you're late, other staffers accuse me of preferential treatment, and they're starting to revolt. Can you help me out and start coming to work on schedule?” This approach makes the staffer feel like she's doing you a favor rather than meeting a direct mandate.
Justify Tardiness for Performance
Some proactive employees are self-motivating, and they perform best when they get a wide berth and a lot of freedom from management. Many high achievers actually put in more work hours than other employees -- it’s just not always in the office. If this is the case, and tardiness is the only performance problem, consider letting the matter go. If other staffers complain, explain that the employee is fulfilling or exceeding her hourly quota, attending sales calls before or after work hours or taking additional projects home with her at night.
Follow Company Policy
Even though your top performer is a valued asset, if she regularly flouts the rules or negatively impacts colleagues with her tardiness, the potential exists that you could lose other valuable employees who resent your inequitable management approach. Counsel this staffer just as you would any other, making note of her habitual tardiness, reminding her of corporate policy and issuing a formal reprimand. If she continues to disregard the rules, put her on probation, suspend her, demote her or terminate her. This sets a precedent that policy is expected to be followed by everyone regardless of their circumstances or exceptional contributions.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.