I honestly believe getting employees to change their attendance and punctuality behavior is one of the hardest things ever. Today’s reader is having the same challenge.
Showing up late to work is a big issue in our company. We do adjust an employee’s pay accordingly if they’re late and issue warnings. But it doesn’t seem to change their behavior. Any advice?
Here’s the thing. If an employee knows what time they are supposed to be at work and they don’t show up at that time, that’s an attendance issue – for the employee. If an employee is counseled about it and still doesn’t show up at the right time, that’s an accountability issue – for the company.
Any time an organization creates a policy or procedure, they are saying, “This is the way we want you to do it.” They are also implying that there are consequences if you don’t do it that way. The consequences don’t have to be disciplinary. It could take the form of a conversation, having a perk revoked, etc. The idea is, if the employee doesn’t want to suffer those consequences, they will follow the policy.
But if a person doesn’t follow the rules and nothing happens to them, then there is no reason for employees to follow the rules. For example, in the reader’s note, you could assume that adjusting the employee’s pay isn’t significant enough to warrant a change in behavior. It’s probably more of a PITA for the company to make the adjustment. It also sounds like the warnings aren’t significant, because they haven’t changed the behavior.
What we don’t know in this scenario is, if employees accumulate a certain number of warnings will the consequences increase to the point that their position with the company is in jeopardy.
I’ve been in this situation a few times in my career. Especially when the labor market is challenging, like it is becoming. Time to fill an open position is getting longer. Managers are concerned that, if an employee leaves, there will be no one to replace them. Or that they will personally have to assume extra work because it’s taking so long to find good employees. And they’re already stressed out.
So what do they do? They don’t hold employees accountable. They let it slide because they don’t want to deal with the possibility of losing an employee. But sometimes the situation can get out of control.
First what happens is, at some point, frustrations reach a peak. Someone is usually made an example of. It’s messy and ugly. Feelings are hurt all around. And, we won’t even get into any potential lawsuits that might arise.
Next, other employees figure out that they will not be held accountable and start testing the system. True – not every employee is going to this. But we all know there will be employees who will. Without trying to sound melodramatic here, the more employees who test the system…the more impact it has on your company culture (and not in a good way.)
This is why holding people accountable is so important. From the beginning. All the time.
If managers are concerned about the amount of work they will have to deal with if an employee is held accountable for their actions, assure the manager that a plan will be put in place to get the work done. The work can always get done. Priorities can be rearranged. Deadlines can be adjusted.
But at the point in time that managers stop holding employees accountable, well…the game changes. What other policies will employees not be held accountable for? You can see where this is going…
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I’m really glad that this HR Bartender reader brought up this issue. It’s important to recognize when a situation is an accountability issue. Organizations could spend a tremendous amount of time focused in the wrong direction and not address the root cause of the problem.
Image taken by Sharlyn Lauby while examining the Gainesville 34th Street Graffiti Wall0