I have a staff member who produces brilliant work but is consistently late every single day. I can’t fire him because it will take months to find someone to fill his position. What can I do?
UPDATE: As this question has gained a lot of attention in the past couple of days, I’ve added further details at the bottom of this post.
I’m the manager of an IT Department in a small town. It’s taken me months and months to find this guy – his work quality is fantastic and he’s both a good colleague and a friend.
However, he is late virtually every single day. This is despite multiple verbal warnings. In the last month he has been over 10 minutes late 15 times, and between 5 and 10 minutes late 12 times.
My boss (and the owner of the company), with decades of successful business experience, sees it as unacceptable – as do I. I think if you look after the small things the big things start to look after themselves. But now I’m getting pressure from my boss that I’m not managing him well enough, so it’s reflecting badly on me too.
I can’t really threaten him with the sack, as if I did my department would struggle significantly for the next several months until I find someone to replace him. What can I do about the situation?
UPDATE: So it’s clear there’s a lot of controversy surrounding this question. With all due to respect to everyone who answered (I have read, and appreciated, every single answer), it’s pretty clear many of the answerers have not been in a position of management or responsibility like this. Sorry if that sounds snobbish – I realise that it does – but it’s mostly my fault for not clarifying some of the details around the situation.
Here’s some background on the department:
- We’re an IT Department for a service-sector company, not an actual IT company
- There are 5 of us, myself included, in the IT Department
- Everyone else in the business starts work at 9am. From the moment the clock strikes 9am our phones could start ringing with potential problems, issues, questions or queries. They usually don’t – but they could.
And the individual in question:
- He lives 15-minutes walk away from the office
- He has no kids, no ride-shares or public transport to deal with, etc.
- He lives with his girlfriend who goes to work at 7am every morning, so she’s not holding him up
Here are my problems with his lateness:
- I’m sat at my desk at 9am waiting to ask him questions with no idea what time he’ll be there
- There could be an issue that needs his immediate attention at 9am. Unlikely, but there could be.
- If one of those issues arose, and my boss phoned to me to ask what was going on, telling him the staff member responsible hasn’t turned up for work yet sets a bad precedent for my management of the team.
- It makes other members of the team feel they can turn up late as well, which only amplifies the above issues
- It’s really f***ing simple to leave the house 10 minutes earlier
Let me respond to the points that keep getting repeated:
“Just change his working hours”
“Does a few minutes late really matter?”
Practically speaking, no – not 98% of the time. But that doesn’t change the 2% of the time when I need him there at 9 on the dot due to either technical issues, morning meetings, unexpected situations etc.
“This guy is simply not a morning person”
“Rightly or wrongly, IT people don’t do well with rigid schedules”
Wrongly, in my opinion. Seriously, it’s a simple matter of leaving the house 10 minutes earlier. Let me repeat that: just leave the house 10 minutes earlier. That’s the bottom line – it is literally that simple. I personally can’t comprehend how someone can fail to do that day-in, day-out, whilst being so intelligent in every other area.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m lenient with him and this issue is not as big as many people are assuming (although I still feel I need to address the issue). If he wants an afternoon off, if he wants to go home early one day, even if he needs to come in a couple of hours late one morning I genuinely don’t mind, as long as he gives me notice so I’m aware and can plan accordingly. But every day I’m sat at my desk at 9am waiting to ask him questions and I have no idea what time he’ll be turning up.
“If you’re going to complain about a guy who does brilliant work coming in 15 minutes late then your company deserves to lose this guy”
“Stop working by 19th-century management styles”
There are lots of responses saying I “deserve” to lose him. Seriously? I’m surprised people are expressing such resentment at me for simply asking one of my staff, who gets paid a very healthy salary, leaves the house 10 minutes earlier in the morning.
Having said that, this is a small problem with him – it’s not that big a deal at all – but I would still like to address it for the reasons outlined above. If he keeps showing up late every day for the next 10 years I still won’t fire him because his work makes up for it, and I regularly give him feedback about how good his work is. But – it will keep holding other members of the team back, disrupting my plans and schedule (yes, only a small amount, but disrupting nonetheless), and impacting my management of the department.
Quora users are perceiving this as a bigger deal than it actually is to me (obviously, because it’s the focus of the entire question). But, it’s still a deal to me regardless.
“Have you asked why he is late?”
Yep, and he doesn’t even have an excuse for it. The guy is just a bit slack in punctuality.
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