Employee lateness can be a frustrating occurrence, especially if it is chronic. What many supervisors may not realize is that, while some lateness is clearly excusable or inexcusable, it can also be the result of poor management. If habitual lateness is common, the human resources department needs to carefully examine the potential reasons before immediately resorting to discipline.

Low Morale

Morale is a major deciding factor when it comes to lateness. Some managers favor a draconian leadership style, coupled with a narcissistic attitude. Combine that with poor compensation or workplace bullying, and employees will have plenty of reasons to not want to show up on time -- or miss work altogether. Human resources departments need to have strict policies regarding not only lateness, but professional conduct, as well. Managers need to take an active interest in their employees, rewarding good performance with advancement, bonuses or thanks. At the same time, lateness should be addressed professionally, with emphasis on helping the employee improve. A good way to approach this would be to say, "I noticed you don't show up on time. How can we prevent this?" The emphasis on a collaborative approach gives the employee some input and may reveal underlying morale issues.


Illness goes beyond the flu or a migraine. Chronic lateness can be a sign of serious mental issues that even the employee may not be aware of. Burnout, for example, can have major mental and physical effects. Employees who are forced to work long hours or are voluntary workaholics could work themselves into depression, chronic fatigue or physical pain. As a result, they will find it difficult to motivate themselves to make it into work.


Some employees will feel that they are highly valued to the point where they "own" the workplace. In other words, they may believe they are irreplaceable and therefore above the rules. This can be especially problematic if a manager is chronically late for that reason. Managers need to enforce equal discipline for tardiness and follow their own rules. Failure to do so can cause resentment and a loss of respect from fellow workers.


Everyone experiences serious problems from time to time that could in lateness. Family emergencies, poor weather conditions or car accidents are not something that an employer should find fault with; however, employees must notify their supervisor as soon as possible out of courtesy and responsibility. If they fail to do so, simply ask how they are doing and remind them to call in from now on.

Minor Circumstances

Sometimes, lateness is caused by circumstances beyond an employee's control. Traffic jams, car problems or public transit issues are just a few things that workers cannot avoid. In cases like these, it is again important for management to show understanding and flexibility. Failure to do so can make the employee feel oppressed or afraid, resulting in low morale and, in turn, less productivity. The only exception is if a chronically late employee seems to constantly encounter these same minor obstacles, as this could be a sign that he is lying.