how to deal with people who are always late

How to Deal with Someone Who is Always Late


Jim is a solid team member, but there is a problem.  He is unpunctual. He is often late, which causes problems among his team.  How to deal with people who are always late?

The Situation

Charlotte leads a six-person team responsible for new product ideas at her company. The team has been meeting regularly for the past two months.

Late to Meetings

Jim, a team member, has been contributing solid ideas. But he’s developed the bad habit of arriving late. Bringing him up to speed wastes the team’s time, and it’s annoying. Privately, Charlotte has mentioned this to Jim several times, but his behavior hasn’t changed.

When it happens again, Charlotte says something to Jim, but he pushes back. “Come on, Charlotte, I don’t know why you’re busting me on this. I contribute a lot of good ideas to the team!” Jim feels this more than offsets his being unpunctual.

How To Deal with an Employee Who Is Always Late?

Now, Charlotte feels she’s in a bind. Jim is a top contributor, so maybe she shouldn’t be so concerned. She doesn’t want to damage his enthusiasm. But Jim’s lack of punctuality is hurting team morale.

How can Charlotte deal with a team member who is always late in a Q4 way?

You Make the Call!

A.  Meet with Jim again, to probe the reason for his tardiness, and talk to find a solution that works for him and the team.

B.  Ignore the situation. Jim is contributing great ideas to the team — and if they don’t like his tardiness, someone will eventually say something.

C.  Tell Jim that his tardiness is hurting the team, and that if he can’t get to the meetings on time, there will be consequences.

How to Deal with People Who Are Always Late


Here’s Your Q4 Answer!

Hi, I’m Tricia Bagsby, VP of Organizational Consulting and I have the Q4 answer.

What makes a good team?

Ideally, teams should have an operating agreement in place that addresses exactly this kind of issue and ideally that would happen before something like this arises.

What constitutes a Q4 team operating agreement?

Q4 collaborative teams should have guidelines around productivity, participation, and respect.

So what’s happening with Charlotte’s team?

Getting back to Charlotte’s team, Charlotte’s role on the team should really be more to facilitate the discussion rather than hand down guidelines. Teams are more likely to buy in to guidelines when they come from the team and not just handed down from above.

My teams are so busy. Why spend our time together working on team guidelines?

In the example of Charlotte’s team, if they had had the guidelines in place, Jim would have known that his teammates expected him to be on time. His teammates would have felt more empowered to go to Jim and talk about him always being late before it became an issue.

What’s the Q4 answer?

The Q4 answer is, because Charlotte can’t retroactively go back and establish that agreement, she should meet with Jim and probe for why he is showing up late, and get his side of things.

What are some other good Q4 strategies to use with Jim?

Charlotte can also emphasize the benefits of being on time. Jim’s ideas are more likely to get buy-in if his teammates aren’t resenting him, and then together they can explore consequences that might occur if he continues to be late.

After getting Jim’s side of things, what comes next?

Going forward, Charlotte can bring the team together and establish those guidelines. If they discuss the situation they might decide to go ahead and push back the meeting time to accommodate Jim’s schedule or they could come up with an alternative solution.

To recap…

To recap Q4 teams should have an operating agreement in place. If you don’t have one, make it a priority to create one. It will save you some time and headache in the future.

Thanks for watching.

Beyond Dealing with Lateness

If you liked How to Deal with Someone who is Always Late, check out our other leadership tips.

You might also enjoy our Do Your Work with a Difficult Person Quiz.

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