How many alarm clocks would it take to demonstrate the number of times your employees have been late to work — or that you’ve been late yourself? Is it commonplace — or out of place — at your workplace?
A new CareerBuilder survey on worker lateness shows that 15 percent of workers are late to work at least once a week, though that number is down from 16 percent in 2009 and 20 percent in 2008. It appears the recession has been a likely cause of the downward trend in lateness — though it hasn’t made it disappear altogether.
For the most part, surveyed workers shared a variety of “standard” reasons for being tardy:
- Thirty percent said they were delayed by traffic.
- Nineteen percent said they were late because of a lack of sleep.
- Nine percent blamed bad weather for their tardiness.
- Eight percent said there was a delay in getting their kids to daycare or school.
- Other common reasons included public transportation, wardrobe issues or dealing with pets.
Other workers, however, offered more creative excuses for being late to work — here are the best of the best (er, worst of the worst?):
- Read between the (facial) lines | “My Botox appointment took longer than I expected.”
- Feline fury | “My cat attacked me.”
- The Keanu Reeves Defense | “I was delayed due to public transportation (employee produced a note signed by “The Bus Driver”).
- No breakfast in bed that morning | “I didn’t get any sleep because my boyfriend’s wife threw me out of the house.
- Channeling Nicolas Cage | “My car was inhabited by a hive of bees and I couldn’t use the car for two hours until bees left.”
- D’oh Nuts | “I knew I was already going to be late, so I figured I’d go ahead and stop to get donuts for everyone.”
- “Ready to pull a Britney | “My hair was hurting my head.”
- Karma Policing | “My Karma is not in sync today.”
- It’s not me, it’s you | “I’m not late — the company clock is wrong.”
What’s your attendance style?
Although the excuses above are “outrageous,” that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not true. Either way, 1) tardiness issues appear to be on a downswing, and 2) most bosses understand that life sometimes gets in the way of work — though 32 percent of employers surveyed said they have terminated an employee for being late. Are you one of those bosses?
As Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder, says:
“Whether it is a result of fear associated with the economy or just a shift in attitude, workers over the last few years are doing a better job of managing their schedules and getting into the office at the designated time. While workers will sometimes be late due to circumstances out of their control, they need to be aware of their companies’ tardiness policies. Regardless of the reason, workers who are running late should always be honest with their managers.”
I would also turn that around and stress that as a boss, you should be open and communicative about policies and preferences for work tardiness.
- Let your employees know what your expectations are in the case that they are running late to work. Open lines of communication will mean more respect from your employees — and fewer headaches for you. And chances are, if you trust and respect your employees, they will return the favor.
- Make sure employee handbooks and guidelines are readily available to employees — and offer to answer any uncertainties or get employees in touch with the person who is able to answer their questions if you can’t.
- Give your employees the benefit of the doubt – they may be stuck with an ornery puppy, exhausted from being up all night with a screaming child, or going through a rough personal time. While these reasons don’t mean you need to give them free reign to do whatever they want, listening to your employees and trying to compromise a plan that will better fit their lifestyle while still satisfying your business requirements is a win-win in the long run: Better work/life balance = happier employees = better business.
What are the most unbelievable late-to-work excuses you’ve heard from your employees — or that you’ve used yourself? Do you think lateness really matters, as long as employees get the work done, and done well?