What can I do about a colleague's perpetual lateness?
Five to 10 minutes after the start of our weekly meetings, coffee in hand, he waltzes in and usually says something like: "What did I miss?"
When we collaborate on reports, he pushes back the deadline for his part, which must be completed before mine. I then have to rush through my portion of the work, which sometimes means working overtime, to respect the project's delay.
This is more than an annoyance. It is disruptive and unproductive. And frankly, I feel that it is very disrespectful of my time and me.
Successful organizations, that have the benefit of punctual employees, strictly enforce the One, Two, Three Strikes and You're Out, policy. It's a pretty simple procedure but it requires documentation discipline and diligence, to dissipate the behaviour before having to dismiss.
Unfortunately, some employees feel that lateness is unrelated to their performance. They do not realize the ripple effect that their tardiness may have on others.
As you have described, lateness can be even more frustrating when the culprit is your level peer and you are on the receiving end of the lateness effects, without the ability to discipline.
You are right; a chronically late colleague displays incivility. The underlying message seems to be that his time is more precious than yours. This behaviour is disrespectful and does have negative, even costly consequences, on the entire team. It interrupts the flow of work and is therefore counterproductive. It creates resentment and time is lost mulling over it.
In North America, being punctual is being there at the exact time. There is no such thing as "fashionably late," especially in business.
When visiting other countries there may be varying grace periods or habitually stretched start times. That is not the case here. An appointment, with internal colleagues or external clients, follows the agreed upon schedule.
- If you are the person chairing the meeting try starting the meeting at an off-hour, like 9:07. This unusual time will prompt your tardy colleague to take a double look at the start time. An off-time should make him more aware of his timeline and by doing so prompt him to be punctual. He may even speak to you about it to make sure that it was not a typo. Seize that opportunity to stress the importance of all being present and on time, to maximize productivity.
- Another trick is to assign the note-taker role to the last person that comes into the meeting. Give the last person to arrive a notepad, iPad or whatever your team uses to record the gathering. When the late employee comes in and undoubtedly asks: "What did I miss?" pass him the pad; so he may read the transcript. At the same time, assign him the task of continuing the notes. It is now his responsibility to make and distribute the meeting log. Make this a common practice and you will soon see the usual stragglers coming in a few minutes early. Nobody will want to be the last one through the door to be tagged "the note-taker."
- If you generally, otherwise get along with this person, try speaking to him in private. Make sure to give details as to how this is affecting you in your work and how it impacts the team's productivity. Do not point fingers at him nor whine about this not being fair. Remember the number one rule of the Bill Gates urban legend, 11 Rules of life from a supposed commencement speech: "Life is not fair, get used to it." I'd like to add: "Deal with it." And that is exactly what you are doing by stopping this behaviour.
- Should you not be able to resolve this on your own and need the support of your superior, prepare for your conversation with documented evidence of the dates and times of his late activities and the effects they have on your work.
Lastly, if the tardy one is your boss, take a deep breath and enjoy the extra time to yourself.
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When you gotta go, you gotta go -- so don't let your awkward boss stop you. "We shouldn't feel uncomfortable, it's your body's function. If you're that uncomfortable, try flushing the toilet to mask the sounds," says etiquette expert Pat Stonehouse. For the embarrassed and awkward fellas who don't want encounters at the urinal, she recommends avoiding the bathroom at "busy hours" or using another facility away from your boss's office.
Remember when you were a kid and someone farted and everyone had to touch their nose to prove it wasn't them? This is probably not the most practical way to do it in your 30s, but most of us still feel a little bit shy about letting gas go. "It happens. Just say excuse me and let it go. If you're having a gassy day, remember it's normal and you're not being rude," Stonehouse says.
The next time you decide to gossip about your boss, just imagine someone saying negative things about you. "Keep your mouth shut. Praise publicly and criticize privately. You don't have to agree with everything your boss says but vent it somewhere else," Stonehouse says.
For those of you who believe in love at first sight, falling for an employee or boss can happen in the workplace. "It's a bad idea to date your boss but you have to decide if you want to take the risk and if it's worth it ," Stonehouse says. She says if you're attracted to your boss, consider transferring to another location or letting your boss know you would be interested another time.
When it comes to getting hammered, Stonehouse has one rule to keep in mind: Keep it at a two-drink maximum. "More careers have been ruined by drinking than any other way. When we have too much to drink we become relaxed and we say and do things we wouldn't normally think of doing and saying," she says. "What people don't get is that they're not being judged from 9 to 5 but anytime you have a client present."
Sometimes things are better left unsaid, especially if your boss overhears you talking about getting stoned and robbing your neighbour. "This is too much information at work. We all get to know people really well at work, but there are certain things we can keep in our personal lives," Stonehouse says.
By 2012, most of us know that tweeting or uploading anything you were embarrassed about back them will probably come back to haunt you. "Anything you post is not private. Be careful you don't say anything about your boss or who you work for -- you don't need to make venting public," she says.
Silence is golden in some situations, but if you're stuck in the elevator with your boss with nothing to talk about, there are ways to avoid it. "It's better to say less than too much. Comment on things that won't get you in trouble and be happy with what you're doing at your company," she says.
There's nothing more frustrating than having your boss forget your name or confuse you with another co-worker. "When people have a large staff it's difficult to remember names. If it really bothers you, you have to somehow make them remember your name in a positive away," Stonehouse says. For example, if you're at a work function, introduce yourself to your boss again.
There's a fine line between someone who is overly friendly to someone who is just plain creepy. "How silly can we be in the days of sexual harassment -- a boss shouldn't be touching his or her employees," Stonehouse says. If it does bother you, Stonehouse suggests addressing it politely and letting your boss know you are not comfortable. If it continues, you have the right to contact human resources.
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