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Always Late: Tardiness on Your Team

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Occasional tardiness—a little lateness on a regular basis—can be easily overlooked, especially since 69% of workers who arrive late will stay late to make up the difference. Often it has its root in a problem that is strictly temporary, from a car that won’t start in winter to a child who awakes with a fever.

But regular tardiness shows a disregard of how tardiness affects others: patients, the team as a whole, and yourself as the healthcare team leader. One of your duties as a healthcare team leader is prevent repeated tardiness on your team, especially when it affects the health, safety, and stress levels of others.

Enroll the Tardy Team Member in Success

When faced with repeated tardiness, take these steps:

  • Respond when repeated tardiness first appears. You will save yourself a buildup of anger which is counterproductive in any discussion, and save your team from resentment. 
  • Show your awareness of the problem. You may not need to keep an extensive list of late days; a pleasant “good morning” when the late team member arrives will make them aware that you are aware. That attention might be enough for the tardy team member to self-correct.
  • Ask. This is the single most important step you can take. While countless psychologists analyze tardiness until the cows come home (which is probably well before your tardy team member), you need to ask the tardy team member, calmly and compassionately, to discover what it really going on.
  • Make sure the tardy team member understands the effect of tardiness. You may need to quantify: “If you are 20 minutes late for every meeting with our 5-member team, over an hour of time is wasted every single time.” “If you aren’t here to greet the first patients, someone else has to step in and that person can’t do their job.” 
  • Brainstorm solutions. Give the tardy team member a chance to brainstorm solutions, including acquiring better time management techniques, working on stress reduction, or trying out a more flexible work schedule.

Enroll Team Members in Success: From Avoiding to Solving Tardiness

Tardiness is likely to disappear once it is named, asked about, and approached from the viewpoint of solutions. You may find, for example, that the mere offer of flexible hours decreases tardiness, increases productivity, and lowers stress for the employee.

But as a healthcare team leader, you must have a consistent policy. 

  • Set your expectations around time during the hiring interviews: this is the work schedule and you are expected to arrive on time. Make sure the consequences are known.
  • Repeat the policy whenever you are dealing with a sudden flare of tardiness. 
  • Never set separate standards for high performing or very likable team members: that’s a recipe for team dissatisfaction.
  • Handle problems and solutions privately. Never publically address a team member’s tardiness or their accomplishment in learning to be on-time. Like most human resource issues, this is a private matter.
  • Make the team part of the solution. Within the limits of privacy, explain the solution you have arrived at for the tardy team member: “Lou will be arriving an hour late for the next month but will then return to a regular schedule.”


Occasional tardiness is part of the human condition. Traffic accidents will happen. Alarms won’t go off. But regular tardiness has the potential for tearing apart a team as resentment, stress, and poor performance build-up. JB Partners, LLC, draws on decades of experience to outline the five steps in preventing repeated tardiness and the five steps in responding to it—the most important being: ask. 

As the team leader, do you find it difficult to address problems like repeated tardiness? JB Partners is ready to analyze the problem onsite and bring practical solutions leading to long-lasting results. Contact us today.

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