Taking a Hard Line on Employee Lateness Can Pay Off!

Topic: Culture, Job AttitudesJob Performance
Publication: Human Performance
Article:  Employee lateness behavior: the role of lateness climate and individuals lateness attitude.  
Blogger: Benjamin Granger

Many organizations go to great lengths to curtail employee lateness (showing up tardy for work) and for good reason – it can cost organizations billions of dollars in productivity a year.

In order to better understand why lateness occurs, Elicker, Foust, O’Malley, and Levy (2008) investigated (1) organizations’ lateness climates and (2) employee attitudes about lateness as joint predictors of actually showing up late for work.

Elicker and colleagues collected lateness records from two organizations and found that employee attitudes about lateness strongly predicted actual lateness behaviors when employees perceived their organization to be lenient (being late is NOT a big deal) about lateness. But, when employees perceived their organization’s lateness climate to be stringent (You better not be late to work!), employee attitudes about lateness did not predict lateness behaviors very well.

So what does this mean for organizations?  Elicker et al.’s findings suggest that although employee attitudes about lateness are important, the organization’s lateness policy has a substantial effect on actual lateness behaviors.

This knowledge places the onus not only on the employees, but also on the organizations themselves! Clearly, some lateness is beyond employees’ control (e.g., car accident, traffic jam), but Elicker et al.’s findings may encourage some employers to take a harder line on employee lateness (e.g., strictly monitor lateness, include it in performance reviews, ensure that company policy is in accord with lateness norms).  According to Elicker et al.’s findings, this can make employee lateness much less frequent.

Elicker, J. D., Foust, M. S., O’Malley, A. L., & Levy, P. E. (2008). Employee lateness behavior: the role of lateness climate and individuals lateness attitude. Human Performance, 21, 427-441.