Occasional tardiness is unavoidable. Traffic delays, for example, or unexpected personal problems affect everyone from time to time, so business owners shouldn't overreact every time an employee shows up late. But habitually tardy employees are a burden on the rest of the team. For instance, if an employee always shows up an hour later than everyone else, others must make up for that employee’s share of the work.

Impact on Productivity

An employee who often strolls in long after others have begun working is disrespecting both his colleagues and the business owner. Further, if the employee who is late needs to be there for a project to begin, everyone on the team is held up. Bottlenecking means one employee’s tardiness slows work for everyone. In extreme cases, bottlenecking can be financially devastating for a company, according to the book “How to Manage Problem Employees,” by Glenn Shepard.

Impact on Morale

If the business owner doesn't stop the tardiness, other employees will grow dissatisfied. It's not fair that they show up on time and are considerate of others on their team while tardy employees get to flout the rules without getting punished. As a result of the growing dissatisfaction, rifts can develop among employees and morale can plummet. Team spirit will dissipate, and meaningful collaboration will become difficult as resentments stew.

Impact on Discipline

Some business owners might be leery of appearing too strict, but laxity can have many negative repercussions in the workplace, jeopardizing the whole team. If employees believe they can get away with being habitually late, they might begin to feel they can get away with other bad habits as well. For example, if a business owner doesn't assert her authority by reprimanding or punishing workers who habitually show up late, other workers might start leaving early, taking longer lunch breaks or otherwise ignoring their scheduled responsibilities. The lack of discipline might even cross over into other areas. For instance, employees might take management’s inaction as a lack of concern and begin to pay less attention to customer service and work quality.


Act decisively to stop rampant tardiness. Draft a clear policy and enforce it whenever necessary. For example, warn employees that frequent tardiness will be cause for dismissal. Require them to notify you whenever they will be late, and follow up to ensure their reasons were legitimate. Positive reinforcement also can promote timeliness. For example, offer rewards to employees who always show up on time.