how big a deal is employee lateness?

A reader writes:

I manage an exempt employee who is frequently late: 15-20 minutes late at least once a week. He has a long commute that can be unpredictable when it comes to traffic, but after a year working here I don’t consider traffic a valid excuse. When I mentioned the lateness, he said in his defense that he stays late, which he does — but at the same time, he works slowly and cannot always finish his work within regular hours. I’ve started documenting these late arrivals and I offered him the opportunity to change his start time, to which he gave a noncommittal answer. This employee is not a top performer and I’ve recently talked to him about performance issues.

My question is whether it is worth making an issue over 15-20 minutes when an employee is exempt. There are no time-sensitive tasks that require him to be at his desk at a specific time, but I find lateness annoying. In the context of other performance issues, small things that annoy me seem magnified, so I wonder if I am making this into a bigger deal than it should be.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 445 comments… read them below }

  1. PersistentCat*

    it me. I’m this employee.
    People who value being ON TIME ALWAYS hate me. I’ve never figured it out, even when I was taking the bus. I was just lucky that when I ran late with the buses that I could sometimes afford to uber instead…

    1. Enough*

      Had a boss (one of the partners/owners of the company) who was always late by 15 minutes. As I lived around the block from him I knew there was no reason for this. Official start time at the office was changed from 8 to 8:30. He was still 15 minutes late. Although he was never late for meetings that started at 8 am.

      1. BigRedGum*

        That’s me. I changed my official start time to 9 am but I have never actually made it here at 9.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This is a priority kind of thing, along with a possible bit of power play involved since he was the boss.

        It’s not that he couldn’t be on time, he just didn’t feel that it was necessary so he made that executive decision to stroll in 15 minutes late unless there was a specific meeting in place.

        It’s pretty typical for executives/owners to roll around like this.

        1. come on*

          I think this is quite a jump. Not everything is a power play when someone in management does it, the way people on this site like to claim. Sometimes people in positions of power are just really bad at leaving and arriving on time, too.

          1. AnnaBananna*


            As an ex Boss, who was always late, I can attest that now that I’m an individual contributor, I am still late just as often. It’s a personality thing, not a trivial politics thing.

          2. Oh No She Di'int*

            As a boss myself I’m actually going to have to agree with TMB Lynch on this one. I’m not saying that that boss or any boss wakes up and sits there thinking “Ok let me just sit around for an extra 15 minutes so I can stroll in late as a show of power.”

            But if a boss is inclined to be a late “type”, and there is no one is there to call them on it or force them to change their ways, it ends up being a de facto expression of power, even if it’s not intended that way. They can make the decision not to prioritize being on time, with zero consequences. Doesn’t necessarily make them an asshole, just someone who is exercising the power they in fact have.

            1. come on*

              I honestly think this is putting too much thought into it and making an issue out of something that is not in fact an issue. I have never once thought my boss coming in later than me was a de facto expression of power just like they never thought me coming in later than them was me being a bad employee. You know why? Because people got their work done and are adults who don’t watch the clock and make wild assumptions about power based on said clock watching.

              1. Pantalaimon*

                In your case, the de facto expression of power is not making a big deal out of it when anybody’s late.

                1. pancakes*

                  Why should it be a big deal for those of us who do good work and don’t need to do it at a particular time or at the same exact time daily? I can’t stand presenteeism, to the point I have less respect for people I see it in.

          1. Door Guy*

            It’s only frustrating if they are calling you out (or worse writing you up) for lateness after they stroll in late. I had a very toxic job do that. If you punched in more than 5 minutes late you were written up no excuses. Really burns when 2 shifts later they stroll in almost 2 hours late with a “Oh, my alarm didn’t go off, tee hee”.

            They actually demoted me for being 10 minutes late, I went from Assistant Kitchen Manager to Cook. The reason I was 10 minutes late? My wife worked there as well at the time and we only had 1 vehicle and a toddler. They kept her an hour late so she got home late to hand off the keys and baby. When I pointed that out to them, they told me it wasn’t their problem. They then rattled off things I wasn’t doing that I was supposed to be, which I was able to reply that they had never trained me on them (orders, scheduling). Their comeback was “We never scheduled training because we were afraid you wouldn’t show up, we need workers who come to work.” I’d been late 2 times in 6 months (this was my 3rd), the latest being 15 minutes, and had never called out on any shift.

      3. Alfonzo Mango*

        These people are a mystery to me. I get that it’s not intentional harm, but I don’t understand where the time goes.

          1. Emily S*

            My friends and I like to use the expression, “Sorry, I got stuck in a time warp,” when that happens.

          2. LawBee*


            Part of it for me is dyscalculia. I have no sense of the passage of time, so I can look at the clock and see I’ve got 45 minutes before I have to leave, then look at it again and I’m late – but it FEELS like only a few minutes have passed.

            “Set an alarm!” Yes, that works sometimes, but also I have no sense of time passing so the period between the alarm going off and me getting in the car can be 5 minutes or 15, or 30.

            1. OhNo*

              Time blindness also frequently occurs with issues like ADD. Much like dyscalculia and dyslexia, a lot of adults who weren’t diagnosed as kids don’t realize they have it.

              I’ve met a lot of people who thought “being late” was just part of their personality, only to find out that it was a symptom of something else – myself included.

              1. AnnaBananna*

                As someone with adhd and a complete and total lack of understanding time, I need to admit that even when I was medicated (and symptoms under control), I was still experiencing time slippage regularly. Because remember: when medicated our focus finally works. But then we’re so focused on what we’re doing we don’t notice time.

            2. Musereader*

              I have the same problem, so i have 3 alarms and i use snooze to cut my morning routine into 5 or 10 minute increments. 1st alarm is wake up at 6:45 and snooze twice for 10 minutes each. Must be out of bed by 3rd sound of alarm at 7:05. 30 mins for teeth, toilet shower and breakfast 2nd alarm is 5 minute snoozes 7:35 for getting dressed 7:40 is get bag ready and childs clothes for the day 7:45 child out of bed into buggy 7:50 is out the door and 7:55 is be at bus stop then alarm dismissed. Get to mums house hand over child, chat and dress child. 3rd alarm 8:15 is get ready to leave 8:20 is foot out of the door 8:25 be at bus stop for bus to work. I have similar routine with extra snoozes and extra alarm times for days where i have to dress and feed child before we leave for a day out and such.

              Before this i would likely get up but loose so much time that i would be scrambling at 7:50 to do everything and miss the 10 minute bus and have to walk 20 minutes instead.

              1. Usagi*

                That’s awesome that you have everything down! I think I personally would get confused between alarms, I’m not an organized person at all.

                Also, not really relevant, but I got weird looks from my coworkers when I laughed out loud because I read that you took “toilet showers.”

              2. Avasarala*

                I do a less intense version of this (though I respect and admire your schedule). I use a series of alarms to tell me when it’s time to go.

              3. Seeking Second Childhood*

                I have a series of alarms like that for key things including workday leaving. I know it’s hard on my co-workers, but without those I have been late getting home to a child. (She’s now old enough it’s fine, but a few years ago it wasn’t a good thing. )

              4. ChimericalOne*

                Whenever this topic comes up, I always plug my Talking Timer & Stopwatch app — you just can’t beat a stopwatch announcing the time that’s passed (in whatever intervals you like! I have mine set to 30 seconds). With alarms, I’m likely to start ignoring them, or forget what time I set them for. With my stopwatch, I know when I’ve been in the shower for 2 minutes, for 2 minutes & 30 seconds, for 3 minutes, etc. It really keeps me grounded in the actual time passing.

          3. Laila*

            I just adopted guinea pigs and need to feed them, clean their cage, and squish their little FACES in the morning so that’s my excuse.

          4. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yep! I’ve tried getting up 10-20 minutes earlier but I inevitably end up just taking 10-20 minutes longer to get ready as a result.

        1. Chili*

          Random things! I was like this for work until I started taking the bus (which requires me to show up at a set time each day lest I wait 30 minutes for the next express bus). A lot of times what was going on was I would actually complete my basic daily routine early and then try to squeeze in a little something extra that ended up taking longer than I thought.

          “Oh, I have five minutes until I need to get going, so I’m going to do something slightly more complex with my hair”
          10 minutes later…
          “Yay! Hair looks so nice!”
          *looks at time*

          1. Choux*

            Ha, I’m the exact opposite. “I only have five minutes until I need to get going?! I have to leave now!”

            My therapist actually had me practice being late to things that didn’t matter, like meeting a friend for lunch (only like 5 minutes late), because I would regularly show up to places like 30 minutes early for fear of being late.

            1. merp*

              Oh man this is me, I had to actively tell my roommate once when we were travelling – “you know I’m anxious when feeling late, I know this annoying and rationally that what we’re going to doesn’t have a specific time, please tell me I’m doing the thing again and need to chill.” Practicing is a good idea, honestly, I should try that.

            2. Mel_05*

              I used to be this way too. I still am a little bit. Probably because my family was late EVERYwhere growing up. I would get to my college classes half an hour early and just work on my homework in the empty room.

              I still generally get to work 10-15 minutes early, sit in my car and read.

              1. ren-ren*

                Are you me? My parents could spend hours getting ready to leave the house, all while telling us, “We’re leaving any minute now!”

                I was early to every lecture in college, and now I inevitably show up earlier and earlier to work to the point where my start time is usually around 6:30.

              2. JessaB*

                My sister once shouted at me, my sister in law is always late to things, my sister is pretty well on time, I’m what my sister calls pathologically early. I’d arrived to take sil somewhere and called when I got there not to make her rush but just to let her know I was out there in case she happened to shockingly be ready. I was 15 minutes early.

                I get the freaks when I think I’m going to be late to something.

            3. AnnaBananna*

              You’re so my mother. And I’m the opposite. You can imagine, then, what it’s like when I’m getting ready to go shopping with my mother, who is picking me up on the way, only to answer the door still in a towel and running around like a crazy person. I’ve even told her that whatever time she thinks she needs to leave by, to add an extra 30 minutes, but she still ends up early.

            4. Mimi Me*

              I have a compulsion to be on time or slightly early that stems from being raised by a parent who was always late. I can’t even list all of the things I missed out on as a child because my mom was late: birthday parties, school activities, theater events (tickets she paid for to see Annie when I was 8! She wasn’t ready to leave until an hour after the show had already started!) As a result I am 100% not flexible when people are chronically late. I don’t care what the reason is for it. My time is as valuable as any other person’s and I won’t invest it in a friendship, employee or event that is consistently late!

              1. Blerpborp*

                My best friend is an on time person for the same reason -chronically late mother, which I’ve witnessed since we’ve been friends since 2nd grade- but she is luckily a bit more flexible with other people (such as myself, not really an always early or late person, kind of all over the place) because not everyone is intense about timeliness as she is!

            5. londonedit*

              This is me, I’m always early. I’ve spent a lot of time sitting in pubs waiting for the people I’m meeting to show up, because even if I force myself to get there at 7:05 if we’ve said ‘about 7’, everyone else will get there at 7:15. I build in a ton of time for getting to work in the morning, because sometimes there are delays on the Tube, but 90% of the time this means I get to work 15 minutes early. I absolutely hate the feeling of running late, so I do everything I can to avoid it.

              1. Media Monkey*

                me too. i think in london tho, since most people are relying on a somewhat shaky public transport system, everyone can be late sometimes and normally walking in late is met with “oh yeah, i heard there was an issue on the central line” or whatever. tends to mean you are super early for meetings or when you have a train to catch!

            1. Another Sarah*

              I think for me, I always feel like I’m rushing and not getting things done properly – rubbish hair, pick up breakfast on the way to work etc, so if I find I have an extra five minutes, it gives me a chance to do something properly – i.e. not rubbish hair.
              But then it takes too long because the reason I have rubbish hair is because I’m rubbish at hair and then my extra time window is gone and then some.

            2. MayLou*

              For me, it is a combination of feeling like being early to stuff is inefficient (I know that objectively it is not! But this is the same mindset that means I have had to very laboriously learn that it is okay to buy two boxes of cereal at once, instead of waiting until the day I run out before I buy new cereal – my brain has a weird definition of inefficiency that believes the smallest possible margin is best) and also a little bit of anxiety-induced inertia/resistance to change. Switching tasks is really hard for me, so it’s often only panic about running late that gets me moving. I’m working on it, especially now that I’m working full time (but thank goodness my boss is understanding and my job is flexible).

          2. char*

            I feel this. No matter how early I get up, my morning routine somehow expands to fill all of the available time until I have to rush to walk in the door of the office exactly at 9. Which is a problem because I have a daily standup meeting at 9 that I am inevitably 2 minutes late for.

        2. PersistentCat*

          I mean, I also have a flex schedule and core hours in a role that is non-customer facing. I never miss meetings, though occasionally 1 will run late enough I’m late to the next (especially since I’m not senior enough to push back on meeting times).
          At the same time…my chronic tardiness was one of the factors in my adult diagnosis of ADHD. I already had a role with the accommodation built in (flex schedule), but it bothers me that even when *I* am setting my start time, I’m late, even when no one is setting meetings or waiting to talk to me outside of core hours.
          Mornings are hard; if I don’t put my keys in my bag, my bag next to my purse, everything I need for the next day next to the door, I can’t FIND anything in time to leave on time. Or I get caught up watching the news. Or I’m reading an interesting article in the economist and then it goes to the next page…you see how this ends. Time sucking activities. Different everyday. Alarms help some, then I get used to the alarm & autopilot turn it off. Yadda. I don’t make excuses, it’s definitely a me issue. But I intentionally screen for jobs where this isn’t a deal breaker
          I’m also a “slow” worker on tasks outside of my natural strengths. I still meet my deadlines, however, and when a previous boss was going at me about that slower-than-he-wanted tendency, I asked him to communicate clear deadlines so that I plan appropriately. His response was to be fast in all things…like wow, now we’re having the ADA accommodations convo that I don’t want to have, but is evidently necessary. Even without a ADA protected disability, that was a poor response by the manager to ANY employee. Clear time frames & expectations shouldn’t be an accommodation, they’re part of being a good manager.

          1. Tau*

            Yeah, I am late to work every single day. It’s just that no one notices, because we have a flexible start and I’m an early bird – so I try to arrive at 8, arrive at 8:15-8:30 most days and 9:00 on days when my morning routine goes even more wrong than usual, and watch my coworkers start coming in around 9-10:30. But if I had to take a job where I needed to be in the office at X on the dot, I’d almost certainly end up fired. And if I ended up in a job where there was no business reason I needed to be in my seat at X precisely but the boss demanded it anyway… I’d be fairly annoyed, especially because I would also need to have the disability accommodations convo I do not want to have. (Autism, not ADHD – I think – but similar principles apply.)

            1. TooTiredToThink*

              For years I had a standard 8-5 job – and thankfully I didn’t have to clock in at my old job because I was ALWAYS late. New job we have staggered start times – so I was able to pick the time that I had always suspected would be perfect for me. Even though my commute is now 5 times longer than it used to be; I am maybe more than 5 minutes late no more than once a month (and even then – this is when everyone is late because traffic got backed up).

            2. PersistentCat*

              Absolutely, Tau.
              I referenced JAN and the PsyD who I worked with for the accommodations I would need for work/school (non-traditional student), and the work accommodations are simple things that good managers already do or things I was already screening for myself in an “ideal” work environment.

              Now, mind you, that boss is the one who fired me for going to the doctor too much for other health issues that made me slower at work, despite my repeated question of “should I get intermittent FMLA paperwork to you?” (response: you’re salary, as long as you get your hours in, it’s fine. 3 months later, we’re firing you for performance, but we haven’t discussed your performance, despite the written accommodation request for monthly performance check ins…), and I’m not saying LW is that boss.

              What I am saying is that this letter doesn’t actually state that the employee is missing deadlines. Just, slow to work. And they stay to finish their work. So…what does that matter? Some things take different people different times to complete. I can create a complex spreadsheet in an hour. It takes me 3 hours to do data entry, because they are different things, and 1 requires a lot more active attention to detail & error checking (data entry).

              LW, be sure you are communicating clearly your expectations for the role. Also be sure that if you have a timeline in mind for a task, you are communicating it. You’re saying he’s a poor performer, but by which metrics? Be objective and clear. Write them down for both you and the employee for later reference. If the employee isn’t able to meet those objectives after that sort of discussion, and they haven’t flagged an accommodation need or asked for support…move on with your PIP process. But the late thing should not be in that discussion unless you have evidence that it would address the performance issues at hand, especially if you aren’t applying that universally or it’s part of a larger problem.

              He’s not getting overtime for staying late to finish up his job, so why ding him if he’s already going to not leave until he’s finished whatever is essential to finish?

            3. ChimericalOne*

              Autism & ADD/ADHD are often comorbid (I’ve got both, myself), so it may very well be both!

        3. OneWomansOpinion*

          Not intentional harm? Come on. It’s not harm at all. OP even said Boss was never late for meetings i.e. when it really matters to be on time.

          1. Crivens!*

            Definitely not harm in this case, but I can see the argument for general harm from people who are frequently very late.

        4. Kendra*

          Not sure about other people, but for me, my time sense is extremely erratic and unreliable. I have a tendency to focus on one thing to the exclusion of absolutely everything else, and then when I come back up for air, it could have been two minutes or two hours, and I won’t usually know which until I check the clock.

          When all of that focus is on, say, a work assignment, it can be a huge asset, because I can plow through things and get massive amounts done without getting distracted. But when it’s on, oh, reading articles on job advice websites (or doing chores, or whatever!) instead of getting ready for work, well…not so good.

        5. Door Guy*

          For me, it was always getting sidetracked. I’d be awake, showered, dressed, lunch packed and on the counter, and I just have 1 thing I need to do before I can leave, like hop on the computer and pay the mortgage while I’m thinking of it. Then suddenly 15 minutes has gone by as you checked on something else, or saw an email, or what have you.

          That, or I need to kill a bit of time because I’m ready too early, and suddenly now I’m running late.

        6. yala*

          A big symptom of ADHD is “time blindness”–it’s really hard for us to judge how much time is passing, how much time something will take, etc. Couple that with another common symptom, executive dysfunction, and, well…we don’t know where the time goes either.

      4. Sparrow*

        Yeah, I admit that I’m pretty much always going to be 10-15 minutes late, regardless of start time. I’m super punctual for non-work things, so my theory is that it’s the subconscious manifestation of me not wanting to go to work, ha. But, critically, since graduating I’ve only had jobs that don’t rely on a specific start time, and I’ve always been a high enough performer that literally no boss has ever said anything to me about it. (Knock on wood.)

        1. DataGirl*

          I had a professor who said basically this- there is a kind of employee who doesn’t like the feeling of being told what to do so is chronically late as a small rebellion. I definitely think this applies to some people I know.

        2. Mornings are so hard*

          Ooooh, this has been me for the last several months. I’m not a morning person at all, so getting in exactly at 9 has always been a struggle–but fortunately my office is pretty flexible and in general, as long as you get in between 9 and 9:30, you’re fine. But lately I’ve been feeling sort of stuck and burned out and bored at my job, and I find myself self-sabotaging in the morning. “If I get up and shower now, I can catch the 8:30 bus and make it to work before 9:30,” I say, as I continue to sit at my home computer mindlessly scrolling.

          I am also, fortunately, a high performer who gets consistently glowing reviews, and when I do need to be at work for an early meeting I will pull myself together enough to be there. So my lateness isn’t impacting my work or others, generally speaking. But I do worry that my early-bird coworkers resent me rolling in as late as I do. (No one’s said anything, so I try not to worry TOO much.)

          1. Alexandra*

            I absolutely get this. At a new job or something I’m excited for, I’m ten minutes early and leaving the house bang on when I planned.

            Now that I’ve been here three years and am getting a little bored, I’ll only make the effort to be properly punctual if I have a 9am meeting or have something specific in mind to work on from the moment I land. It’s really hard, and I notice it in all facets of my life – if I’ve been dating someone a little while and the spark’s not really there, boy am I always distracted by any and everything at home when I should be getting ready to go.

        3. Librarian1*

          Yeah, I’m usually about 15 minutes late and it’s mostly because I just don’t want to get out of bed or go to work (depending on the time of year – now that mornings are darker and colder I’m having a harder time motivating myself to get up)

      5. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        Same here. 15 minutes late everyday. Asked my boss who lives a little farther away than I do if it’s a problem. It isn’t a problem…for me. The little quirky annoying things I do don’t bother my boss because she respects the work I do when I’m here.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      As long as you’re on time for meetings, it shouldn’t be a big deal when you start.

      My core hours are 9 – 3. I may start checking emails at 6:30am, roll into the office at 8:30, or finish up that report at 6pm. Per reviews, I’m a good performer (top 25%); per audits, I get my stuff done. As long as people can reach me on Slack 9 – 3, nobody cares about the timing of it.

      OP, that flexibility is *hugely* valuable to me, to the point that a tactful version of ‘what’s your butts-in-seats philosophy’ is a key question for my next job interview. I won’t take one with no flexibility. A flexible approach will enlarge your candidate pool, which helps you get better employees. So please let it go. With this employee, focus on performance, not timing, unless you can draw a direct line (eg, he missed a meeting).

      1. Ashley*

        I love core hours. I think it can really help companies set expectations of when people must be available and what can be flexible beyond that. It doesn’t mean you can schedule meetings and expect attendance outside of that, but between core hours you should be working.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          Yeah, I’m sorta starting to look for a new gig and really need a good, tactful way to ask about this because mornings are my weak point, hands down. I will get everything done before you need it, I will stay as late as necessary but if you want me in a desk at 8am (especially if it’s ‘just because that’s the start time’ and not because you actually need me there for a task or meeting or whatever) I will fail you horribly, no matter how much I don’t want to.

    3. Derjungerludendorff*

      I have the same issue. For some reason I can never be on time without putting in real effort (and even then, it’s close).

    4. juliebulie*

      No, I’M this employee!
      I stay late too. And the later I stay, the more I get done. Which makes me not want to be early.

      The more flexible my employer is, the better work I do. With this employer, I’d be so fired. And I’d be bummed. But then my next job would be so much better!

      1. valentine*

        the later I stay, the more I get done.
        I think OP could come around to seeing this as a plus and, if you psychologically needed to be late, they could mentally adjust your start time. But their employee wasn’t performing well, and I’m wondering if that just seemed like too massive a pile to tackle, though it’s where the focus should be.

        1. Emily S*

          There are members of my extended family who we routinely give false start times for family events, because we know they’ll always be 30-45 minutes later than whatever time we give them. It’s much easier just to tell them a time 30-45 minutes earlier than we mean than to try to change who they clearly just ARE as people.

          1. Nobby Nobbs*

            We used to take bets on my uncle’s arrival time. We’d block Thanksgiving morning out by hours. It was a pretty great laugh. (As for me, a lifetime of dealing with ADHD and the resulting lack of an internal clock has made me… pretty reliably punctual, actually! Probably comes from all the practice I get at actively thinking about time.)

            1. pancakes*

              Watching the clock to see whether someone sticks to a timeline that isn’t the slightest bit work-related does not seem like a fun way to spend a holiday to me!

          2. Daisy Avalin*

            Yeah my dad runs on ‘I’ll just finish this before I leave, oops where did the time go?’ time, so if I’m arranging to meet him I always have to tell him a time at least an hour before we actually need to be wherever. And he is/we are still late at least 30% of the time!

          3. Filosofickle*

            My SO’s sister shows up HOURS late to holidays. It’s bananas. And everyone sighs and takes bets on when she’ll show and lets the food get cold. If it were up to me, I’d eat without her! Not to be mean but because it just makes sense. She can be as late as she wants, and there will be food left for her when she gets there.

            1. texan in exile*

              Oh yeah. I no longer wait for late people. I was at the BMW factory tour in Munich. At noon on the dot, the guide walked in. She looked at her clipboard and looked at her watch. She said, “Ja, not everyone is here but is noon and the tour starts so we go.”

              Which was fine with me. Why should the punctual people be punished?

              1. pancakes*

                Characterizing waiting a few minutes for a tour to kick-off as punishment seems a bit much to me. Waiting to eat while food gets cold, sure, that’s punitive, but if the only punishment is someone’s yearning for rigidity not being fulfilled for a matter of minutes, the punishment is self-inflicted in my view.

        2. juliebulie*

          The employee might be able to do a better job if they weren’t stressing out over punctuality. It sounds as though employee maybe gets more done when working late.

          Or, employee might be a total slacker. It’s definitely worth ruling that out first.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yeah, the office is so nice and peaceful when everyone’s gone. All you morning birds and family people can leave early and I’ll happily stay late so long as I can come in late.

    5. Nope, not today*

      yep. At a previous job my boss solved me getting in around 8:10 for an 8 am start time by changing my start time to 8:15…. I then usually didn’t make it in until 8:25. Its just how I am in the mornings, I can generally be on time to things that start 10 am or later. If I have an 8:30 meeting I will make EXTREME efforts to be at work on time, wind up rushed and stressed and running to my office at 8:27. It’s a thing I haven’t mastered, and mostly don’t care to master it at this point in my life. It would be nice to be on time every day but the extra stress over it isn’t worth it, and any place that was a major stickler about it wouldn’t be a place I’d likely last long (or want to stay). Luckily my job is fairly flexible, and as I am a good performer otherwise no one is bothered about it.

      1. Zillah*

        It’s a thing I haven’t mastered, and mostly don’t care to master it at this point in my life.

        I’m not sure that this has ever occurred to me as an option and the idea of not killing myself over being on time for every single thing even if it doesn’t actually matter and then hating myself when I’m inevitably late has lifted a huge burden I didn’t even realize I had. Omg.

      2. Another Sarah*

        Yeah I’m the same – I’m a contractor now and it’s always my first interview question, because if I need to be on time for meetings or whatever I will, but there is absolutely nothing in my job that requires I work at any particular time as long as I do actually work.
        I’ve still gotten in trouble before because even though those expectations were set before I agreed to take the job, a business decided to unilaterally dictate that I get in at 9 on the dot after six weeks of “oh that benefit of getting in between 9 and half past that you asked for, you actually intend to do that?” And this was a place that offered flex time to its permanent employees too?
        I consider that a bait and switch – if I agree to a long trafficky commute on the basis they aren’t going to nickel and dime me and then they do, that’s bad practice on their part, not mine. I stayed in that job for far longer than I should’ve done, the time thing was just one example of how they were dysfunctional in all sorts of ways but I felt obligated to stay and help the nice people who worked there instead of taking the initiative to just leave myself. I ended up burned out, stressed and had my last contract terminated a few weeks early because even though I was reassured that my work performance was great, they wanted someone who would come in at 9.
        I won’t do that again. If someone is more worried about ticking imaginary boxes than the actual work I do, it’s not a place I want to work.

    6. Spreadsheets and Books*

      I’m not this employee – I’m early, if anything – but most of my coworkers are. It does not matter in this office because people are treated like adults who can get their work done by deadlines rather a consistent emphasis on butts in seats. I don’t understand hyperfocusing on start time, provided people aren’t showing up an hour late regularly, for exempt employees without coverage issues.

      But I also work in NYC where commuting is a big WTF question mark at all times, regardless of chosen route. Commuter train delays. Traffic in tunnel. Subway problems. There’s a lot of leniency related to start time because it’s no one’s fault if their normal bus takes three hours to get through the Lincoln Tunnel.

      1. ellex42*

        My last several jobs have been like this – less emphasis on actual time spent in the office, more on getting the work done. Which I appreciate, as whether you drive or take public transportation, Pittsburgh is a city where you can leave 10 minutes early and get to work 15 minutes early, or leave 30 minutes early and get to work an hour late. One little fender bender can screw up traffic on multiple routes going in multiple directions, especially if you work in the downtown area, since the topography creates a lot of bottlenecks.

        I did have a job where so many people took such egregious advantage of lunchtime and breaks that management installed time clocks, but as long as you put in your hours – get there 15 minutes late, stay an extra 15 minutes – you were okay. But that place had toxic management and toxic employees, and a 15 minute break would regularly be stretched to half an hour.

        1. Kotow*

          LOL that’s so true about Pgh! Because the city at one point decided it made sense to give you 300 feet to cross over 4 lanes to your exist and if you miss it, you’ll spend the next 15 minutes circling around to get back on track. It should only take 20 minutes maximum to get from my North Hills home to my office, but in bad traffic it takes up to an hour!

    7. PopJunkie42*

      Haha yup. I am 10-15 minutes late every day. I do typically work through my lunch a lot or stay late to make up what’s needed. I’m salaried. Nobody cares. I know I can be on time (if someone schedules a 9am meeting or something) but I hate the stress of worrying about it and I’m not a morning person so I hit snooze a lot.

      Workplaces that worry about this needlessly are awful. I’m a super high performer in a senior role and I work extra when I need to. Not making me panic about being in at 9:00 on the dot (and bigger picture – trusting me with my own schedule and not forcing me to check in all the time) is so worth it. I had a job about six years ago in this same role/title and it was an “8am or you’re fired” kind of place and it was so completely infantalizing.

    8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I have always been this employee. It is what it is. I cannot predict my arrival time to the minute. This is why I tell recruiters that I cannot do strict hours. If I get in trouble for being 15-20 minutes late once a week, regardless of how many hours per week I put in – that’s strict hours. Does OP’s workplace state it in their handbook and communicate it to the job candidates that they do not offer flexible hours? because that is how they appear to operate and, since in a lot of fields this is a rare situation and not a default for a workplace, people need to know.

    9. [Cloaking Device Engaged]*

      I feel you. My first job (at a financial institution in a large metro area), my commute was by bus. 90 minutes each way. However, the problem was the morning bus. My options were
      Bus A – scheduled to arrive 20 minutes before my start time.
      Bus B – scheduled to arrive an hour and 20 minutes before my start time.
      Buses being buses, they occasionally ran late. Boss was none too happy and suggested I take the next earlier bus. I asked if I could punch in early or if I’d have to twiddle my thumbs for 80 minutes a day. I remained steadfast in my “you’re not getting that much of my free time” until I got put on report. I decided to try to buy a car, so I applied where I worked… and was turned down because I was on report.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        Not strictly related, but this reminds me of when I used to work for a for-profit technical school. I was hired into a “recruiter” (sales) position, because they always needed more people in that dept (and I was desperate for work), but I’m not in any way, shape, or form a salesperson. So, when a registrar position opened up a year or so later (for which I was both better suited & better qualified), I applied for it — but was told that, since I was “not in good standing” for not hitting my sales numbers, I couldn’t be considered for another position, even though it was very unrelated to what I was doing & would’ve been a much better fit. My direct supervisor himself said he thought I’d be great for the role, but it was company rules.

        They ended up getting shut down, so it’s just as well. But still.

        1. [Cloaking Device Engaged]*

          Ugh. That righteously sucks. I’m sorry you had to deal with that, on so many levels. (I’m a friendly, talkative, outgoing person, and I can think of refrigerator boxes I’d rather live in than work sales.)

    10. vlookup*

      This is me, too. I’m both generally a few minutes late to everything and DEEPLY not a morning person, and with that combination I have always found getting to work on time to be an epic, ultimately futile struggle.

      Fortunately, this is largely a non-issue at my current job, where I come in late, stay late, and nobody seems to care. It would be hard to sacrifice this flexibility — a job with a nonnegotiable early start time approaches being a dealbreaker for me.

    11. pamplemousse*

      I am this employee too. For some reason, timeliness (at work and elsewhere) is something that it’s really, REALLY tough for me to prioritize if there’s no obvious reason that I need to. It’s partly hardwired — I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult which means executive functioning stuff is tough for me, even with medication, due to years of accumulated habits. And I’m a night owl whose ideal sleep schedule is 1:30 am-10 am.

      But… If I have to be there, I’m there. I ran a 7 am meeting daily for 6 months and was never more than 5 minutes late. I go to workout classes with hard start times and I might be the one sprinting in the door, but I make it about 80% of the time. I’m actually pretty punctual at social events, at least when I know there’s a tight schedule (dinner reservation, friend with a 2-year-old in tow who has to go down for his nap in an hour, etc). I push it at airports but I’ve only once missed a flight.

      I’ve finally decided that timeliness is something that I just have to try harder at than other people, and it’s logical for me to expend that effort only when I have to. I do wonder how much executive functioning I’d spend on being on time every day if I ever am in a role where I have to do it.

      1. pamplemousse*

        Also can I just say how much I appreciate that this thread is not overrun by people who are not like us saying “I don’t get it. Why not just leave earlier?” / “Being on time is hard for everyone, you just have to try harder.” / “Wake up 15 minutes earlier.” / Etc. Maybe a first in internet history!

        1. ChimericalOne*

          Agreed. Threads like this are usually overrun by people scorning those of us who struggle with timeliness. I’m like you — I can make it if I have to (usually), but it takes a LOT of work. I’m rarely late to social things (if there’s a schedule, as you said) and I’m especially paranoid about being late to the movies (so I make us show up 40-50 minutes early, minimum — my only way to guarantee I’m not late!), but mornings are rough. I’ve been late to a handful of things that I really regret (a job interview once, a flight once), but I generally can handle one-off things. For me, the hardest part is trying to do the day-to-day. I can be there at 9:00 sharp on Monday, but by Tuesday it’s 9:03 and by Wednesday it’s usually 9:15 & so forth. Luckily, I’m able to work from home a couple days a week, though — that usually is enough to help me get “to work” on time!

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Agree, it’s wonderful! At this point in my life, I would’ve been happy with the majority of the comments not being “They are being late *at* you”, “This is disrespect”, “His being late is a power play”, (which I have all seen thrown around before and am VERY tired of), but this is several steps up from my best expectations!

      1. [Cloaking Device Engaged]*

        Ironically, one large branch of my family -IS- Swiss, and it’s still like pulling teeth to be on time.

  2. Sans Serif*

    How’s it going to help if he’s there’s on time every morning but still finishes his task slowly? After all, he does stay late, so he’s probably putting in the same amount of time others are. If he were doing everything well, would you still care about his lateness?

    I would totally ignore when he gets in. That’s not the problem. See if you can work with him to figure out how he can get things done faster, if he truly is slower than others.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      This. I think the lateness buries the lede when it comes to this employee. So he comes late and stays late — is it an issue? Is coverage needed? I feel like the OP would have said so if that were the case; otherwise, come late stay late, the issue is work not getting done at the rate it needs to be.

      1. fposte*

        Right, I think the OP is thinking of lateness as a significant component of the employee’s problematic performance, but whether it is or not, there’s no point on focusing on the lateness factor if there’s something else that you really want to change.

      2. Mediamaven*

        So, I think it adds insult to injury if he’s late every day though. It’s like, bare minimum be in the door on time and show that you are dedicated and ready to improve. If I had a low performing employee who was late every day? Bye.

        1. JM60*

          “show that you are dedicated”

          You can be dedicated in spite of briny tardy. IMO, arriving on time is only indicative of dedication to the degree that it’s important to the job. For most exempt jobs, it usuallyshouldn’t be that important.

            1. fposte*

              Right, but those two things aren’t necessarily connected. He’s doing poorly, and he always wears sneakers. Is this a position where it’s a problem where he wears sneakers? Then address it. If it’s a position where it isn’t? Then the sneakers don’t matter–focus on the performance aspect.

              1. Elsajeni*

                I will say, if we were talking to the employee, I would probably say, “Hey, now is the time to tighten up your game generally; spending a little effort on the petty stuff like timeliness or dress code gives your boss one less thing to be annoyed about and can be a way to convey Dedication and Taking It Seriously while you’re working on getting your performance up to par.” But as far as advice to the boss, absolutely they should let it go and focus on the performance issues.

                1. Laila*

                  Agreed – I think optics do matter here. I would certainly notice if a low-performing employee was also regularly late and not following dress code. It may not be directly tied to performance, but it’s additional info to add to the pile.

        2. Close Bracket*

          So you need to separate the insult and the injury. If lateness is a problem, it’s a problem for everyone (in the same, role, obvs). Solve the thing that is the actual problem, defined as the thing for which there is a measureable impact on the work.

          1. Zillah*

            Agreed – if you get yourself into a mindset where lateness is the problem, it’ll carry over in how you’re looking at everyone else, the message everyone else takes away re: flexibility, and impact your ability to deal with the performance issues themselves.

      3. OneWomansOpinion*

        Right, it sounds like the boss is a beancounter who doesn’t know how to coach the OP on actual performance issues. So they’re focusing on easily quantifiable stuff like lateness instead.

      4. RUKiddingMe*

        Agreed. I think his performance is the real issue and OP is just additionally irritated by the tardiness.

        I hate the whole “butts in seats” thing anyway when it’s not a real necessity.

        I say that as an ON TIME (i.e. “we have to be there in an hour, it’s a 15 minute drive…we should leave…….10 minutes ago[!!!!] come on let’s go, let’s go, let’s go…” person.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      To put it another way, what would the LW’s attitude be if he arrived punctually every day no matter what and left at 5:00, and his productivity was the same? If the LW would be OK with that, then this looks like obsession with irrelevant trivia. If the LW would still complain about his productivity, then again, his coming in late sometimes is irrelevant.

    3. Ted Mosby*

      Agree, esp. because 15 minutes in the scheme of a whole work day is a tiny dent, and it sounds like he’s making it up anyways. If he is a slow worker, an extra 15 minutes a day probably won’t fix that.

      1. The Bean*

        Right. If he arrives at 8:55 AM four days a week and 9:15 AM one day a week, and stays late until 5:45 every day, for example, it’s not arriving at 9:15 once a week that is causing problems necessarily.

    4. Witchy Human*

      I see it as a bowl of green M&Ms. (Musicians put small, ridiculous things in their riders just to make sure that venue managers are reading them–if they ignore your little specific requests, they’re probably also ignoring your big, important ones.)

      If your employee is willing to shrug off/ignore something you’ve specifically cited as an issue that needs improvement, it’s the attitude that’s a problem. If they’re not willing to work on the small thing, you’re probably not going to have much luck pushing for overall improvement either.

      1. AuroraLight37*

        That’s a good point- the boss has said, “Look, I want you to get here on time,” and he’s still showing up late on a weekly basis. That says to me that he’s not listening when Boss tells him that something matters to Boss.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Eh, I’d be cautious about making that assumption. If it matters to boss whether I wear black shoes or grey (in a salaried professional role, not a uniform-based one)…that doesn’t inherently mean that’s an important request that I should feel obligated to take seriously. Bosses are perfectly capable of getting hung up on irrelevant details, and I’m far too independent to immediately accept “Boss cares, therefore important” as a valid presumption.

          My guess is this employee is probably looking at it similarly to what I’ve described – yes, Boss thinks this matters, but employee knows he is putting in his full 40, so why cater to Boss’s nitpicking around start time absent serious consequences for not doing so?

          That’s why I really agree with Alison’s suggestion to focus on the performance issue rather than the lateness. The lateness is easier to address, so OP is focusing on it – but addressing that alone isn’t going to turn this employee into a high performer. It’s just gonna turn the whole thing into a misdirected tug-of-war.

          1. Mainely Professional*

            When you’re working with an employee who is struggling in performance, seemingly minor things like lateness begin to take on importance. It’s arguable in this instance that the lateness itself is not important, but it is a symptom. I think you might be unique in feeling like you don’t need to take requests (however minor) from your boss seriously, and other bosses may not be as forgiving as yours?

            Sure, focussing on it is misdirected, but it’s not incorrect. From the bosses’ perspective: You’re not a top performer? You take too long to complete work? And you’re never on time? Pick ONE. Fix it. Show me I should keep you on board. What’s the easiest to fix? Being on time. And you won’t fix it? Now I’m really annoyed.

            1. Federal Employee 765234*

              Except is being on time the easiest one to fix? OP says the employee has an unpredictable commute. Sometimes that’s just the case. The other option might be to end up being 20 minutes early four days a week just so they’re on time the fifth day.

              Aside from that, of the things you mentioned (poor performer, too long to complete work, sometimes late), it seems like being late is the least important of them (and wouldn’t matter at all if the other two things weren’t issues). You shouldn’t keep someone on board just because they come in on time. It’s placing the emphasis in the wrong place and we do it because tardiness is an easy thing to quantify. It’s not subjective and it’s easy to instruct an employee to fix (just come in earlier!!). Whereas something like not having good written communication is much more subjective and much harder to explain to an employee how to fix.

              Being late is a red herring. This employee would not suddenly be a good employee if they came in on time. They have issues that are completely divorced from the exact time they come into the office. And I say this as someone who hates, hates, hates being late.

              1. Zillah*

                Except is being on time the easiest one to fix?

                This! I think that people who automatically assume that being late is the easiest thing to fix genuinely don’t understand how lateness often works. That would be the hardest thing for me to fix, not the easiest.

                1. Mainely Professional*

                  I get that there are people who can’t be on time. (I mean, I don’t, but I get that it’s a thing.) Substitute any other seemingly minor issue (because I do believe lateness is a minor issue for exempt employees) that the employee cannot get done: wearing a name badge, signing emails with the correct signature, finishing their filing by the end of every month, not by the 5th of the next month…whatever. The point is you fix those kinds of things when you’re on the ropes.

                2. pancakes*

                  @Mainely Professional All of those other examples—wearing a name badge, using the right signature, etc.—are entirely within an employee’s control. Public transportation and traffic are not. Nor are they consistently predictable in many places. And a poor performer who turns up precisely on time every day is still a poor performer. Focusing on their arrival time seems rather pointless to me unless it’s critical to their work (opening a shop, answering phone lines, etc.).

              2. Mainely Professional*

                “The other option might be to end up being 20 minutes early four days a week just so they’re on time the fifth day. ”

                Yep. That’s precisely what I’m suggesting. Unpredictable commute means you leave even earlier, even if that means you’re 20 minutes early. And it’s not about keeping them on board *because* they come in on time, it’s because you want them to come in on time and they have heeded that. That they are able to address things that are issues AT ALL. If you’re asked to wear your name badge and you don’t, and you’ve been told to do it, and you’re otherwise in trouble…well, maybe now is the time to wear your name badge and demonstrate that you’re on board with doing what you’re told to save your job.

                1. Federal Employee 765234*

                  But this isn’t the employee writing for advice about a manager who is a stickler for being on time. The OP is the manager and is asking if employees being on time is something worth being concerned about. It doesn’t sound like there’s a business reason this employee needs to come in 20 minutes early every day just so they’re not sometimes 20 minutes late. The employee might be wise to do it if they’re already on thin ice, but a good manager (and it’s the manager asking the question here) will make a purposeful determination about whether or not being on time 100% of the time or just 80% of the time really matters.

                  The manager should address the performance issues that matter and not the ones that don’t. So the employee comes in early every day and is never late. Is there any reason to believe the performance issues go away? Doesn’t sound like it. And now all the manager has done is take away flexibility from the employee without addressing the real issues.

                2. J.B.*

                  A different manager at my workplace was obsessed about people being “on time” and it was so weird. People could flex their hours so someone might say I’ll start at 8 and the other I’ll start at 9 but he would do laps to make sure people were there at that precise time or else chew them out. As though he had nothing else to do or no other yardstick to measure performance…

                  I am not an on time person and it really doesn’t matter for what I do. And some days with my live wire kids a few extra minutes to enjoy silence at home before leaving helped me stay sane. I once told the big boss that life was too short to work for on time obsessed guy. And I can write really fast and get stuff done, but not if you police me every second.

                3. pancakes*

                  I’m curious how often you use public transportation. It’s often the case that people trying to pad their schedule to make room for transportation delays don’t get to choose being 20 minutes early rather than, say, a full hour early. I visit Maine every summer and I know perfectly well there isn’t subway service there, nor much in the way of trains—I don’t think you’re being realistic about how those work elsewhere.

            2. Close Bracket*

              “When you’re working with an employee who is struggling in performance, seemingly minor things like lateness begin to take on importance.”

              Yes, but you have the ability to change the importance that things take on. Why are you prioritizing something that you perceive as being easy to fix? It’s not even something that needs fixing, and it’s not necessarily easy.

      2. Derjungerludendorff*

        True. But like the M&M’s, the lateness would not be the actual problem. It’s their refusal or inability to take feedback from their boss and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Focusing on the lateness would still be the wrong approach.

        1. Mainely Professional*

          Yes. You don’t ignore the little things when you’re already on shaky ground as an employee.

          1. pancakes*

            Some people do, though, in which case the question is how their manager should handle the matter. Arbitrarily assessing all little things as being of equal importance probably makes sense in some circumstances but not in others.

      3. Aquawoman*

        I could not disagree more. The fact that I have no interest in jumping through some micromanager’s arbitrary hoops does not equate to me lacking interest in doing my job well.

      4. BethRA*

        The alternative reading on the lack of green m&m’s is that the venues actually did understand that details about wiring and rigging were more important, and so put their focus there. So, for most people, running a bit late may just mean they’re focusing their energy on…work.

        If the work’s not ok? Yeah, that should still be the focus, and not green m&m’s. I think we like to latch on to lateness/m&m’s because it feels concrete and easier to get your head around than things like the quality of the product.

      5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        The M&Ms thing is something Van Halen put in their contracts because their stage show was unusually complicated, physically, and they needed to be sure that the arena crews had read the actually important instructions. You can’t usefully tell the people you’re working with “it’s very important that you read all the instructions,” because people who were going to skim or assume they knew what the document said are likely to say “OK, will do” (which is easy) but still not read everything.

        When the consequences of people not reading and paying attention to the entire contract can range from the show not going on to possible serious injury, it’s worth building in that sort of check. However, it’s unusual for the stakes to be that high.

        It’s worth asking whether a given situation is one where someone being late to work can cause major problems, minor ones, or no actual problem beyond being irritating for the person who did get to work on time. “You need to be on time, so Fergus doesn’t have to stay past the end of his shift” is a real problem, though its importance varies; Fergus grumbling because someone he doesn’t work with directly may not be a problem, or at least not one that should be addressed by telling Murgatroyd to be sure to get to work by nine.

    5. RabbitRabbit*

      My husband had a coworker who was nearly always just short of 5 minutes late – 5 minutes is when a penalty was enforced, but being on time (not 1-4 minutes late) was expected regardless. It was definitely an attitude thing with him, and it was just more obvious in his start time. He was better at covering up the other failings in his work. Since the employee is non-committal about changing his start time (fixing the ‘problem’) and has problems meeting work expectations, I don’t think it’s anything that can be fixed with changing start time because that’s not actually the work issue.

      1. Boomer*

        My husband works for a small, family owned company. The owner is several states away, but his son is on site as the general manager, and the son’s wife works in one of the production areas as ‘just another employee’ (but that’s another story). His boss, the son, recently went on a tirade about how tardiness and people coming in late/leaving early was costing them huge amounts of money, and is the sole reason for the company’s struggles. So…employees now can take PTO only in blocks of 8 hours, and supervisors have to write up employees for being even 1 (ONE) minute late. Except the boss won’t write up the production employees that work directly for him because he’s afraid of confrontation, and won’t allow any women to be written up because they’re all friends with his wife, and he doesn’t want her to yell at him. It’s a sad, sad situation.

    6. annony*

      Yeah. Focus on the actual problem (low productivity) and not the lateness. Since you wouldn’t care if he was late if his productivity were better, it could send the wrong message to other employees and make them worried about being late. Additionally, even if he fixes the problem and is always on time, you still have the actual problem which is that he is slow. It could feel like you are moving the goal post on him.

    7. Mama Bear*

      Agreed. If it’s not the gist of the problem and he’s on time for client meetings and such, then focus on the other issues and not this seemingly low-hanging fruit. Just today I left “on time” and got caught up in a backup from some road construction. I’ll shorten my lunch and stay longer and make up the time. I appreciate a manager who doesn’t micromanage my time.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I agree with you, Sans.

      I have worked for many clock watching bosses. They got less work out of their employees because the employees had zero respect for the boss. Picture: Workplace is equivalent to a fire and every morning the boss is checking time cards or watching the door. The place is (figuratively speaking) burning down around everyone and the boss is counting the minutes or even seconds that people are late. Meanwhile, there’s a natural gas leak, there’s diesel fumes, and other safety hazards, then there’s broken machines, lost components and other workflow stoppers and all the boss can think about is a person is 30 seconds late. People laughed at the boss.
      Don’t turn yourself into someone people laugh at, OP.

      I can do it, I can be exactly on time day after flippin’ day. My solution was to leave an hour early for a 35 minute ride. This was because of the many, many things that could go wrong along my route. I think it probably averaged out to about twice a week there was some type of problem. I know for a fact that I put so much energy into being exactly on time that I was probably less productive over all. But hey, I was on time.

      Going after a person for not being on time only makes sense in places where time is micromanaged. So if there is constant commentary on arrival times, time clock punches and so on, it becomes a useful tool for not dealing with the main issues. One place we had a person who could get violent. Instead of firing him for scaring his cohorts we fired him for being late. He never knew we started watching him because of his violent talk and gestures. We got him out with no harm or upset to anyone.

      Unfortunately, time clock watching does not describe what is going on at your place and you are almost stuck with dealing with performance issues. If you want to motivate yourself here, tell yourself that his peers NEED you to step in here. They already know he is not pulling his weight and they are wondering how much longer you will let this go on.

  3. Artemesia*

    The big giant cowbell ringing here is not that he is 15 minutes late once a week — who cares unless there is some immediate issue like clients waiting or trying to reach him or important meetings he disrupts — the big giant siren going off is that he isn’t getting his work done. THAT is the thing to focus on. You might even need to fire him but not for lateness, but for not being good at his job.

    1. Shadowbelle*

      OP said the employee is “not getting his work done within regular hours”, not that he isn’t getting it done at all. OP did not say that the employee was missing deadlines.

      1. GooseTracks*

        OP said: “This employee is not a top performer and I’ve recently talked to him about performance issues.”

        1. Shadowbelle*

          But that’s not the same thing. “Performance issues” does not mean that the work is not getting done. It may be getting done, but not to a specified standard. We only know what the OP has said, so it’s not fair to extrapolate and make assumptions about what the OP means by “performance issues”.

    2. Consultant Catie*

      I agree with you. I manage someone in this same situation. We’re in an environment where we’re working on client site where butts-in-seats are fairly important, but a swing of 15 minutes is no big deal. BUT, when you combine known performance issues that you’ve talked about before with lateness issues, I think that’s where you get into the territory where you have to have a conversation about the larger pattern. That way, it’s not that you’re necessarily worried about the 15 minutes (because with a top performer you’d probably let it slide), but you’re worried about the larger trend of the employee not being able to handle the fundamentals like being on time and meeting deadlines.

      In this case with OP, that’s the conversation I’d have.

    3. pamplemousse*

      Yeah. I can see how the lateness gets bound up as part of his [waves hands] whole deal if he’s a subpar performer, in the same way that working remotely sometimes can, even if the office is flexible overall. My office is super flexible and is never going to ding an excellent performer on sometimes drifting in at 9:45 or even 10:15. And it’s not like I mention punctuality as a strong point for an average or underperforming employee.

      But if an employee is struggling, “They’re not even here on time!!!” can seem like it’s part of a bigger picture. Still, Allison is right that the performance is the thing to address, unless there’s a hard-to-pin-down but real effect that not being on time has. (One example: sometimes it’s the only reliable free time for a manager to informally catch up with direct reports, and having to catch someone later in the day, while only a minor annoyance in the scheme of things, can actually slow things down. But we don’t know for sure that’s happening here.)

  4. we're basically gods*

    It really sounds like the employee being late isn’t the main problem, here. The main problem is that the employee is underperforming overall; 15-20 minutes are unlikely to make a huge difference.
    (Of course, I may be biased, because I love it when coworkers I don’t need information from are late– it means I get the office space to myself!)

  5. Fiddlesticks*

    Considering that half the people I work with who aren’t exempt may come in on time, but spend their first 15-20 minutes getting coffee, going to the restroom, chatting with coworkers, arranging their lunch in the fridge…and no one bats an eye…I think getting one’s panties in a twist because an EXEMPT employee comes in 15-20 minutes late is a little silly. The guy is required to do his assigned work no matter when he comes in or when he leaves, unlike his hourly peers. The real issue is apparently slow work or other performance issues. Focus on that.

    1. Lois lane*

      But….is the employee in question doing the 20-minute start-the-day routine when he does roll in?

    2. BigRedGum*

      In my office, we roll in when we get here and then spend time doing the good morning thing. sometimes a lot of time. i got here at 9 today and it’s 10:44, and here I am doing this. but i always get all my work done and my work doesn’t impact anyone else’s work, and i am a high performer. i kind of really enjoy my job.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s your setup, so I get it. But lots of places are militant about not spending their first 15-20 minutes doing those kinds of things. Lots of places want you there and settled in your desk by starting time, you have to come in EARLY to have enough time to put your coat, purse, lunch away and get a cup of coffee, etc.

      1. Rugby*

        Are you talking about exempt or non-exempt staff? In my experience, it’s not at all common to require that among exempt staff and judging by the comments here, that seems to be other people’s experience as well.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I’m talking about non-exempt, since that’s what the comment was about. Saying that “nobody judges” an hourly employee if they spend their first half hour or so dillydallying and all that jazz.

          Exempt staff here all have flex schedules with a whole lot more than 15-20 minutes to work with. It goes along with the idea that we expect them to stay late once in awhile, so why would we nitpick if they’re later here and there. It all balances out.

          1. Fiddlesticks*

            I didn’t mean to say that “nobody judges” a non-exempt or hourly employee who dilly-dallies in the mornings. Actually, there’s probably more judgment, if there’s any at all, because the hourly worker is getting paid for the goof-off time and will have to be paid overtime to work longer to finish up work that doesn’t get done during the regular day. The exempt worker is just going to have to stay longer without extra pay to finish his/her work.

    4. Mae*

      I’m an hourly employee and I’m required to do my assigned work no matter what time I come in. Of course, I’m expected to be on time, unless I’m scheduled to be off. The issue is he doesn’t complete his work even if he stays late. It’s not an exempt vs. non-exempt employee issue, it’s an employee under performing issue.

      1. Shadowbelle*

        The OP specifically said that the employee does not always complete his work “within regular hours” — not that he doesn’t complete it. I read this as the employee does complete his work and stays late to do so.

        1. Mae*

          I took it to mean that even if he does stay late he doesn’t complete his work. So even if he works a “regular” day of 8 hours, he still doesn’t always get done. The lateness is a red herring. The real issue is the work is not getting done.

    5. TiaRachel*

      Yeah, this. “Work the job not the clock” goes both ways.

      I’ve had several jobs where I was scheduled to start later, got minor hassle for not being there earlier, and watched my co-workers take half-hour coffee/smoke breaks while I worked through.

      And then there’s the boss who really, really wanted you to be at work 15 minutes before your shift started so he wouldn’t worry that you’d be late.

  6. WorkIsADarkComedy*

    OP, suggest you give some thought as to why you were focusing on the late arrivals rather than the overall performance. Is it because arrival time is more black and white? That may be easier to grapple with, but easy-to-grapple-with is not the criterion that will solve your problems.

    It may take some digging to address the underlying issues, but it will be worth it in the end.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Good point about “arrives after 9” being crystal clear and “works too slowly” being amorphous.

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      I noted above that my husband had a (former) coworker with the same problem of chronic lateness. It was easier to obviously show the pattern of lateness than it was to nail down his other sneakier ways of shirking duties and carrying out time theft (they were non-exempt).

      1. WorkIsADarkComedy*

        If your goal is to dismiss a problematic employee, yeah, something black and white like arrival time works great.

        If your goal is to improve performance, not so much.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          And in this case, the problem was that they were expected to be on time, but the penalty only came at 5 minutes late. It was set up that way to not penalize employees for occasional mild tardiness due to unavoidable problems. Instead this guy came in 1-4 minutes late daily out of passive-aggressiveness.

          1. pancakes*

            It’s flat-out aggressive-aggressive by my standard to be watching someone’s timing closely enough to pin down a range of 1 to 4 minutes unless they’re working on something where precision is extremely important. On the level of a rocket launch.

      2. LQ*

        I think this is so often whey lateness gets leaned on. It is really nice and clear. It plays well when you are looking to have good solid documentation, it works well when you have an unemployment case because you have a bunch of times and days and you can detail it easily.

        If someone was really awful and unredeemable in the job, sure, go ahead, but know in your heart that you’re doing the lazy thing instead of the right thing. Sometimes it makes sense because the fight for the right thing is too hard. But you should still know.

  7. Lyudie*

    I’m not sure I understand why this happening for a year means traffic is not a valid excuse. It’s not like traffic is going to improve, if you’re in an area like mine that is constantly growing, it’s only going to get worse.

    I’m with the others that lateness isn’t the issue, personally I don’t see 15-20 minutes as a big deal if it doesn’t mean he’s missing a meeting or some other deadline/event. I honestly don’t even pay attention to when other people come in unless it’s so late that it is obvious, like rolling in at 10:30 when everyone else is already working and on their second cup of coffee.

    1. Senor Montoya*

      I think the OP means, after a year the employee should know that traffic is an issue at least once a week and should plan accordingly.

      1. Lyudie*

        Oh I think I see what you mean, he could be leaving a little earlier to allow time for random snarls/accidents on the freeway/etc. That does make sense.

        1. CMart*

          Yes, that was my take. I figured out less than 2 weeks after moving to a new house that my old working hours just weren’t going to work. I would leave earlier and earlier and still get to my desk anywhere between 8:02 and 8:25 when I should have been there at 8. Traffic was either “bad” or “really, really bad” and I was getting increasingly pissed off at needing to allot 50 minutes to drive 5 miles.

          So I just moved my hours to start earlier/end earlier to miss the traffic. Now it only takes me the proper 15 minutes to get to the office and I’m on time/early more often than not. A year is a long enough time to have been able to figure out that something needs to change.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          I dream of living somewhere that leaving a little bit earlier solves one’s commuting woes. DC traffic laughs in the face of anyone’s plans, and the Metro, well, good luck.

          My natural arrival time at work is 9:15. I told me new boss that on Day 1. Doesn’t matter if I leave at 7:30 or 8:15, the commuting gods decided 9:15 is my assigned time.

          1. Kesnit*

            I was about to bring up DC traffic. I lived and worked in that area for several years and no commute was ever the same. Leave house at 5:50 to catch 6:00 bus. Bus show up any time from 6:00 to 6:10. Ride to Metro station varies with traffic. Wait on train platform 5-15 minutes for train. Hold at stations to let a train ahead of you move. Some days I showed up 15 minutes early. Some days I would run from the Metro to minimize being late.

          2. lemon*

            Yes, thank you.

            Leaving earlier to combat traffic doesn’t work because traffic isn’t a consistent, predictable thing. In major metro areas, something unpredictable happens at least once a week that causes you to be late even though you left early enough to deal with regular traffic. I can’t plan around the police finding a dead body on the subway or a truck crashing into three lanes of traffic or whatever the mishap of the week is.

          3. Lora*

            Oh, word. Boston area here. If you can shift your arrival / departure times by three full hours, there’s a chance you might have predictable traffic, but yesterday there were no less than three tractor trailers, plus a pickup truck and its trailer, on fire, in the middle of the interstate at 6am. Even better, the MBTA considers vomiting on the train a Medical Emergency for which the commuter train must be stopped and an ambulance called to pick up the unfortunate soul trying to drag themselves into work with norovirus or whatever, so there’s at least a one-hour delay about once a month for that.

            And that’s before you get into the 10 feet of snow, ice storms, lack of parking, an overly-bright ray of sunshine causing train tracks to warp, Police Actions etc. I have no idea why we have offices at all anymore, commuting in major cities is so terrible you’d think they’d want us all to work from home.

            1. Dagny*

              Yeah, Boston traffic is special. The complete collapse of the Commuter Rail since 2015 makes train travel unpredictable. It’s amazing to see people go from being sticklers about punctuality to “please be in before 10.”

          4. Zillah*

            Yup. When I lived in New York, I would specifically leave early when I had a meeting, and then the train would get stuck in the tunnel for 40 minutes.

            1. Chocolate Teapot*

              I sympathise. Where I live has just totally changed all the bus routes to accommodate major building work. What should have been a 15 minute journey maximum took me nearly 40 yesterday morning, and it looks like we will be stuck with it for another year.

          5. Blerpborp*

            Yeah, there is the regular traffic I encounter everyday that makes my commute 45 minutes but then once every couple of weeks one of the 2 major highways I take will have an accident and it may take me an hour and a half…so I’m supposed to leave an hour and a half early every day in case of the occasional traffic accident? Maybe some people do that (and I DO do that if I have a specific thing going on that is time sensitive) but I value my sleep too much for that!

      2. Senor Montoya*

        I understand the OP’s irritation — I have colleagues who live on a route where traffic is terrible if they doesn’t get out of the house on time. (Leaves at X time or before: no problem. Leaves at X time plus 10 minutes: terrible problem, will be late 15 to 45 minutes) All but one of these colleagues manages to get to work on time; the one always leaves at X+ 10 or more, and thus is often late. This has been going on for several years. Most of the time it doesn’t affect anyone else, so no harm to anyone — except to her, because she has a reputation as “always late”, and thus has lost out on opportunities she’s really wanted, but which she will not get because the opportunity requires timeliness and others do not want to work with someone who is not reliably on time.

      3. Rugby*

        This is how I understood it as well. But leaving earlier to account for possible delays would mean that he will end up being early most days which doesn’t seem fair unless he is also allowed to leave early too.

        1. Queen of the File*

          This is the thing for me. If my boss wanted me to be in every day at x o’clock I would need to be 45 minutes early most days, to head off any not-predictable-but-still-happens-more-often-than-you’d-like major transit meltdowns. That’s an awful lot of free time to kill at/outside the office if I’m not allowed to start/leave work early.

      4. ElizabethJane*

        How do you plan for that though? Maybe this is a regional thing but I’m in Chicago. I used to drive to work – it was 17 miles, took about 45 minutes. I gave myself just over an hour for my commute. But about once or twice a week something ridiculous happens and it would double my commute time.

        I can’t plan for “On Tuesdays there’s an accident”.

        I guess I could allow double the commute but I’m not going to get to work 60 minutes early 90% of the time just so I’m not 20 minutes late 10% of the time, especially when that “lateness” doesn’t matter.

        1. Mel_05*

          Yeah. I had a very long commute for years and on a commute there’s just no way to predict all the little things that could happen and make you late. I left early enough not to be derailed by minor things…and I was still late sometimes.

          I just made up the time and no one cared.

      5. Gumby*

        Which makes sense if you know which day traffic will be bad. Most of the time if my commute is abnormally long that is because of an accident and my fellow commuters refuse to schedule those things or give prior notice so…

        If the proposed solution is “leave home 30 minutes every day so that the one day that there is an accident you will still be on time” that seems like overkill for a position which does not involve coverage, etc. If you are peeved at someone coming in 20 minutes late once a week, I assume you would also find it vexing if he leaves 20 – 30 minutes early 4 days a week when his morning commute went as expected. So now you are requiring about 2 hours of “overtime” every week to avoid being 20 minutes late one day (while still getting the full number of hours in).

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      I agree, especially if traffic is inconsistent and unpredictable. It would be one thing if he was late every day, sure – then he needs to change his schedule. But if it’s about once a week, and not always on the same day, then I can understand the resistance on his part to permanently alter his schedule if a majority of the time it works. I assume he’s driving in, but if his commute involves public transportation at all, changing his morning may be pretty difficult, and definitely not worth it for the ~15 minute delay once or twice a week.

      Echoing everyone else who has said to focus on his performance issues rather than his start time.

    3. cheese please*

      Some managers just get very annoyed by lateness and their point of view is “if you live in a city where traffic can sometimes make you 15-20 minutes late, you should plan to arrive 20 minutes early so that you are never late” but I’m not sure if those same managers let you leave 20 minutes early if you arrived at 7:40 vs 8am

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        I had a manager like that. “If you get in early, that’s on your time. But you can’t leave early, that’s company time.”


      2. Jellyfish*

        Not in my experience. I had an 8 – 5 job where I was really expected to show up at 7:30, take short or no lunch breaks, and under no circumstances could I leave before 5:00.
        I left at 5:00 on the dot because traffic got steadily worse the later I stayed, and I got the side eye for that too.

        The higher ups also complained when they had to pay overtime because I worked 45 hour weeks.
        It was all quite irritating. Now that I have a job where I can come and go with little oversight, I’m happy to show up early or work late as needed.

      3. Lynn*

        Probably not and that’s the annoying thing. Clockwatching managers end up with people unwilling to go the extra mile.

        My mom is a retired manager and is horrified than in my office we can come and go as we want to as long as work is getting done and you put your hours in. In her mind, an 8 hour day is the minimum one should work every day. Even though I sometimes work 12-14 hour days, in her mind I’m just supposed to suck it up. When I don’t get paid OT, no thank you.

    4. Marni*

      My interpretation of that is the idea that a year is long enough to figure out the traffic patterns and to allow for them. While I agree with everyone here that it doesn’t sound like this particular lateness is something to be focused on, I do agree with the concept that in a job where punctuality is actually important, I would cut someone some slack when they are starting out and still figuring out their commute. But once they’ve been there a while I’d expect them to know how to allow for traffic and leave home earlier if necessary.

      1. Shadowbelle*

        But that doesn’t address the issue that Cheese Please raised (and was my immediate reaction as well). The only way to deal with highly variable traffic is to leave early enough to get in early — and in some locations, that can mean half-an-hour to an hour early. I’ve lived in at least three major metro areas where that would be the case.

        Let’s say that normal business hours are 8 – 5. Those hours put you smack in the middle of rush hour. In order to make absolutely certain you arrive by 8, you have to plan to arrive by 7:15. Does that mean that on the days when there is no traffic and you arrive by 7:15, is the manager going to be fine with you leaving at 4:15? Or is the manager going to get fussy about you leaving early?

        In my own not-inconsequential experience, when a manager wants to you to arrive by a certain time, they really mean “any time up to then, but not later, and you can’t leave early no matter when you got in.”

        1. Choux*

          Well, you wouldn’t start working at 7:15 – you’d do your own thing for 45 minutes and then start working. I used to do this when I worked retail and aboslutely HAD to clock in at a certain time. There was one day when it took me 20 minutes longer than usual to get to work – so from then on, I left 20 minutes earlier every day. And then I’d just sit in my car for 20 minutes, or in the breakroom and read or whatever. Because I damn sure wasn’t getting out 20 minutes earlier.

          1. lemon*

            But what do you do if you don’t have a car to wait in?

            I had a job where I had to plan to be 30-45 minutes early in order to consistently be there on time. I took public transportation, so didn’t have a car. There were no restaurants, coffee shops, or stores nearby, so if I did get there 30 minutes early (which happened often), I had to just walk around outside until the business opened. That sure was fun when it was 10 degrees out or raining or snowing.

            1. Choux*

              I’ve been in similar situations. I no longer have a car, and I worked a retail job where I didn’t have a key to the building. I’d often get there super early before anyone with a key showed up. I just walked around. To me, the anxiety over being late was worse than whatever weather I had to deal with.

              1. lemon*

                I’m glad you were able to deal with it, but it doesn’t work for everyone.

                I hated having to waste a half-hour of unpaid time just wandering around because my boss would flip if I were even a minute late. It wasn’t the best neighborhood, and because I’m a woman, I didn’t feel safe walking alone. I only lasted a year and quickly started found a new job that allowed more flexibility. My boss was sad when I left and told me, “But you’re so good and reliable!” If you want good employees to stick around, don’t hassle them for being a minute late every once in a while.

                1. pancakes*

                  In addition to those concerns, it seems outlandish to me for any boss to expect people to turn up for work 30 min. or more early when wages have been stagnant for most people (in the US, at least) as long as they have. People generally aren’t paid nearly well enough for the work they’re scheduled to do. Adding additional time at no cost is galling.

          2. Le Sigh*

            Then honestly, I’d like to be paid for burning up that much of my time every day. There’s not much difference between sitting at my desk doing nothing until 8am, and actually working–either way, work is obligating my time. That’s 3-5 hours a week I could be sleeping or going to the gym or whatever else. Once and awhile? Sure, things happen. And yes, if you have a job where being on time actually is important, well, then I guess you’re stuck.

            But I don’t have to clock in at a specific time (and it sounds like OP is in the same boat), and I’m not going to twiddle my thumbs and waste my time because my managers has a “thing” about start time in a city with commutes from hell.

          3. Jadelyn*

            But that’s still an extra 45 minutes of your time you’ve lost out on, just for padding’s sake. That’s 45 minutes I can’t be getting some extra sleep, or 45 minutes earlier I have to go to bed which means there’s some stuff I can’t get done in the evenings anymore. I don’t think that’s a reasonable sacrifice to expect someone to make.

            (Not to mention, there are bosses who will get upset if they see you’re there early but not starting work early. Just the other day I read a guy online complaining that his best employee arrives 15 minutes early and then sits in her car and reads for 15 minutes before coming in, and he was upset that she wouldn’t just come in right away and get started, even though she was hourly and had a scheduled start time.)

          4. Dagny*

            Do you have kids?

            Because there is no reason to sit around the workplace, doing nothing for 45 minutes every day, when it’s 45 minutes earlier that you have to get your kid out the door, 45 fewer minutes you get to spend with your family every day, 45 minutes that you can’t spend building a fort or watching cartoons with your kid.

            They want you there 45 minutes early, they can pay you for it.

    5. Policy Wonk*

      In the DC area even with the best of intentions and early departure from home the commute can be a nightmare. This Metro line is delayed, that train or bus isn’t running, there’s an accident on the Beltway. Even my best former-military-on-time-means-five-minutes-early employees are often late once a week. I agree with other commenters that the late arrival isn’t the real issue, but wanted to put in my two cents that if you live in an area like mine yes, you can be late once or twice per week even with the best laid plans.

      1. Mama Bear*

        No lie. Today folks had to contend with an overturned mango truck on the Beltway. Who can plan for that?

      1. Federal Employee 765234*

        Except that the only way to compensate for traffic is to always leave an extra half hour early. There’s no magic way for me to know that there’s about to be an accident on the beltway or that there’s about to be a track issue on the red line. So if I compensate for traffic every day, I arrive at work a half hour early four days a week and on time once. That doesn’t make sense for a job where being in your seat at 8:00 doesn’t actually matter.

        1. Another DC'er*

          Me, I come in an hour early every day. I HATE traffic. But even with the extra hour buffer I’ve been late once or twice when there is a fatal accident and the road has to close for helicopter medical evac, reconstruction etc. And I wasn’t able to do that when my kids were school-age, because the day care center/school weren’t open that early. Given your repeated question, I’m guessing you don’t live in an area like this because, at least in DC, no matter how you try to compensate for variance, it doesn’t always work.

          1. Le Sigh*

            I think Mike’s comment was a little more rhetorical and was getting at the point you made about how you can’t really compensate for variance, esp. in cities like DC.

            Also, you come in an hour early, but can you leave an hour early? I’ve met a lot of nickel dime bosses who won’t let you leave early even if it’s feasible, even if you came in early. So then you’re just burning up time.

      2. Aquawoman*

        I don’t understand the idea that he should be able to compensate for traffic. How is this guy supposed to know that today is the day there is going to be an accident on the beltway?

      3. Zillah*

        I envy people who can just compensate for commute shit like it’s straightforward. I’ve had commutes that took anywhere from 50 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how the MTA was feeling that day. “Compensating” would mean waking up at least an hour easier… and since I’m not a morning person, that made me measurably less productive on days when I did do that.

        1. Le Sigh*

          Honestly, over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that if you run an office in a city like NY, DC, whatever, you just need to cool your jets about start times (again, unless it’s a meeting, or a role where punctuality actually matters). If you do business in cities with unpredictable commutes that regularly make CNN headlines for how bad they are, just write it off as a cost of doing business here.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        Wonderful, if you could get the DC metro to send me a list of the days they plan to be on fire or to single-track, I will plan around them.

    6. ssnc*

      this person might have responsibilities, like dropping kids off, that prevent them from getting on the road before a certain time, so figuring out traffic and adjusting accordingly might not be a valid option.

      also, traffic delays arent predictable, even with public transportation

  8. BigRedGum*

    if an exempt employee gets all their work done and isn’t hindering anyone else by being late (like, they don’t have customers who are waiting for them), WHO CARES? I never understood this.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*


      I now, barrrrrf. But “face time” is a thing that really matter to certain folks.

      1. Fibchopkin*

        It does, but I would argue that it shouldn’t, and we should actively push back against that kind of nonsense because it’s frankly difficult to work with and for people who focus more on whether something appears to be correct and proper rather than whether the work is getting done and how well it’s getting done.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Things have gradually changed over time. I look forward to a time this isn’t a thing.

          I generally push back against anything that read as treating adults as children. The way I also do this is to self select out of environments that don’t fit my vision. People put up with it and in the end, as long as enough people agree with it and another large chunk just deals with it…yeah change is very slow.

          I’ve only now broken the walls down around the age old “we offer PTO but actually taking PTO is frowned upon” in the last couple places I’ve been within leadership. It’s all about getting more of our like mindedness within leadership in the end, which is why hands are so tied in the first place.

      2. 1234*

        That’s such a true statement. OldJob had higher ups that firmly believed in “butts in seats.” Never mind that on most days, no actual clients came to the office to visit. Even after a major snowstorm where trains/busses were delayed, we got emails that said “please do your best to come into the office.”

        A couple of us made it in – One girl said she walked since the buses weren’t running and the streets had already been plowed. I only lived a few blocks from the train station and my train was running and my street was plowed so I went in. Another girl got into an Uber to get to work. It took her a long time to 1- Get that Uber and 2 – Actually make it to the office because everyone was on the road due to public transportation not working.

    2. Senor Montoya*

      The issue for this OP is that the employee isn’t getting their work done and/or not working up to standard (I assume that what OP means by performance issues). So the lateness may be more irritating in this case. Although still not the real problem.

    3. Anne Elliot*

      I think a fair number of people do care, if for no other reason than the employee is not meeting the commitment he or she made to be in the office by a certain time, and to some people (of which I am one), it doesn’t look great. Other employees who come in on time can resent it: I have to be here by 9, which doesn’t he? I can manage to be here on time, why can’t he?

      I’ve dealt with this issue myself and had to overcome my personal views on those who are chronically late, admitting that it is largely irrational and if it doesn’t impact their work, is not a hill to die on. But I think it’s a bit too far in the other direction to imply there’s no reason at all to care about being on time.

      1. Anne Elliot*

        Replying to my own comment to add: The way I made peace with this for one employee, was to mentally adjust his hours forward by a half-hour _in my own head_. Viola! He was consistently ten minutes early (instead of 20 minutes late)! I know and knew it was my own personal mind game, but it helped me let go of my aggravation about the issue.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        Right. And there are also jobs where being there at a certain time IS required, either because of meetings, customers, phones, relieving the previous person if it’s shift work, or whatever else. It’s not clear from this post whether this is that kind of job, though.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Oops, just noticed it’s not a role that requires being on time for one of those reasons.

      3. Mediamaven*

        I agree with you. I’ve lightened up a lot over the years and don’t nit pik it but I still expect people to be in at a certain time. This concept of employees (especially new employees fresh out of college) making the rules because they think working hours is an archaic concept is out of hand.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Are…are you assuming that all of us arguing against draconian butt-in-seat policies are “new employees fresh out of college” for some reason? I can’t figure out where you’re getting that part of your complaint.

          Because I assure you I, at least, am in my 30s and not “fresh out of college” anymore, and from what I’ve gathered from most of the regulars around here it’s mostly seasoned professionals in these conversations with only a few “new to the workforce” folks commenting on discussions like this.

          And for that matter, nobody is arguing that “working hours is an archaic concept”. We’re arguing for treating adults like adults and giving flexibility unless there’s a real reason not to. You’re wildly misrepresenting the nature of this debate.

        2. Zillah*

          they think working hours is an archaic concept is out of hand

          I mean… aside from the fact that I don’t think most of us are fresh out of college, I’m not sure that the sanctity of “working hours” is really a hill to make a stand on when many people do things like answer work emails well into the evening.

      4. Aquawoman*

        Why does there need to be an “on time” for people who have no specific reason to be there at 9 vs 9:15? He’s there for 8 hours. Why isn’t it get there between 7 and 10 am and leave no less than 8 hours later?

      5. Missy*

        As a late person, I would actually be on time if I could pick my start time. I naturally wake up at 8:15 AM. Getting up earlier is a struggle for me and tends to make me take longer with everything and have more morning mishaps.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      In this case, it seems (to me) more like OP is bothered by their performance but can’t quite figure out how to measure / track it, so they’re being distracted / focusing on something that is easily measured, and fits into OP’s ideas of ‘what an business should be like’. I didn’t get any dogmatic ‘Must Be Here Becauuuuusseee’ vibes from this letter, more a ‘something’s bugging me, this is the first thing that hits my consciousness.’

    5. AnotherAlison*

      I care. My time if valuable, too, and I don’t want to play the guessing game of is this guy here yet. If I have meetings that start at 9:00 and an immediate issue to discuss with you, it’s frustrating to have to keep looking if you’ve arrived. Maybe OP’s employee works in a total vacuum, but I’ve had two project team members like this, and it was a lot bigger deal than they thought. They thought if they answered my question or a client question at 10:00 instead of 8:00, so what, but people characterized them as “non-responsive”. In their mind, their work isn’t time sensitive because they don’t need input from others, but others need time-sensitive input from them, and they don’t understand the issue. (It’s been an ongoing, exhausting issue for a while now!)

      1. Zillah*

        You’re talking about being late to meetings, though, which is a different issue. I’d also argue that if waiting a couple hours for a response is such a big deal, that’s something that should probably be addressed on its own – there are plenty of reasons someone might not get to an email first thing in the morning even if they are there at 8.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          What if it’s not the late employee’s meetings? I worked on a team that supported very important people; we weren’t assistants, but we provided them with necessary information so they could do their jobs. I had a supervisor who used to roll in at 1130, and more than once I had to deal with a frantic SVP who needed a small piece of info asap but had emailed my supervisor and hadn’t heard back. I– and they– cared when she wasn’t on time or close to it.

  9. Ludo*

    If you change his start time he will just start being 15-20 minutes late after that

    That’s how late people work

    1. KHB*

      It doesn’t sound like he’s even a “late person,” though. He has a commute with unpredictable traffic. That’s a thing that happens in the world, and in a position that doesn’t require down-to-the-minute coverage, it’s not a big deal.

      Suppose you put your foot down and told him that he must leave the house early enough to start work by 9:00 AM (or whatever), come heck or high water. Then four days out of five, he’s going to be there 20 minutes early. Is that any better? I don’t see how it is.

      I agree with everyone else that the problem to focus on here is that he’s not reliably getting all his work done. If the exact minutes of the day that he spends working are not important to the nature of the position, they don’t need to be part of the conversation.

      1. Joielle*

        Yep. If he had to be there for meetings or customers or to relieve a previous shift, then yeah, you’d expect him to be there 20 minutes early most days to avoid being late ever. But if there’s no real reason for a specific start time, then that’s silly.

    2. Just Another Manic Millie*

      “If you change his start time he will just start being 15-20 minutes late after that”

      Not necessarily. I once had a co-worker who showed up around 9:20 AM every single day. He was supposed to start at 9:00 AM. No, he did not stay late. He always ran out the door at 5:00 PM. One day, he confided to me out of the clear blue sky that he was always late because he had to take his kids to his in-laws before he came to work. He said that his wife couldn’t take them, because her company would get angry at her if she got in late. But at our company, no one cared, he said. I asked him why he didn’t leave his home earlier. He said that he didn’t see why he should, because he got paid just as much for showing up at 9:20 AM instead of 9:00 AM, and no one ever said anything to him, so why bother getting in on time?

      Someone must have overheard him talking to me, because a couple of days later, the owner told him that since he was always late, his hours were going to be changed to 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM. (Yes, told, as opposed to the LW, who offered the employee the opportunity to change his hours, an opportunity he declined.) And then the owner shouted, “And if you start coming in later than 9:30 AM, your hours will be changed to 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM! Don’t you think that’s fair?” My co-worker felt forced to agree that the owner was fair. But, unlike what Ludo said, he never came in after 9:30 AM after that.

      1. Zillah*

        Sure, I guess, but IME, most people who are chronically late are not doing so to game the system.

        1. Just Another Manic Millie*

          “IME, most people who are chronically late are not doing so to game the system.”

          Funny you say that, because Circe, a co-worker at another company, was chronically late and she definitely was “gaming the system.” She also told me that she found out that she was paid just as much when she got in late as she did when she was on time, so there was no incentive for her to be on time.
          Circe was the receptionist. She was supposed to make the coffee and call the answering service when she got in. For some reason, she hated making the coffee and calling the answering service, so when she happened to be late one day, I was told to make the coffee and call the answering service. So she found out that when she got in late, she didn’t have to do the tasks she didn’t like doing, plus she got paid just as much as if she had done those tasks.

          The coffee couldn’t wait, because the owner drank it, and you just couldn’t tell the owner, “Sorry! You’ll have to wait for Circe to show up before you can have your coffee.” And the answering service couldn’t wait, because people really needed their messages ASAP. Plus, a few years ago, Medusa started working as a receptionist at that company while I was on vacation. I came back to work on her fourth day. She was late. I asked the office manager if I should call the answering service, and I was told no, that it was Medusa’s job, and she should get used to doing her job.

          Medusa finally showed up, and I was stunned to find out at 3:30 PM that she hadn’t called the answering service for messages. I asked her why she didn’t call, and she said, “Prudence told me that if I came in late, you would call for messages.” (Since I was on vacation on Medusa’s first day, Prudence was the one who trained her.) I ran to the office manager and shrieked, “Medusa didn’t call the answering service! She said that Prudence said that I would call if she came in late.” I could see the office manager get angry, so I quickly said, “If you remember, I offered to call the answering service, and you specifically told me not to.” The office manager’s anger quickly disappeared, and she smiled and said, “Prudence would never say anything like that. Medusa must have misunderstood her.”

          So I guess that she set Medusa straight, but she was unwilling to take a chance with Circe, because every day at 9:00 AM, I would have to go see the office manager and say, “Circe isn’t in yet. Would you like me to make the coffee and call the answering service?” The office manager would say yes. Then I would say, “Okay. But please keep in mind that when I make the coffee, I’ll be away from my desk.” I always had to say that, because there was a strict rule that either the receptionist or I had to be out in front every single second, except for emergencies. Emergencies were such things as the office catching on fire, or someone bursting in waving around a gun or a knife, or having to give someone the Heimlich Maneuver, or making the coffee. Giving someone a very important fax was not an emergency.

          So Circe didn’t have any incentive to get to work on time. She was always late when I was there (after she figured out that she could avoid her tasks by coming in late), and I’m sure that on the days that I didn’t go in, someone else had to cover for her.

          I have a feeling that there are a lot of people out there gaming the system.

  10. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I would shelf the late issue and deal with the fact he’s having performance issues.

    When you toss on these little nitpicking things that are under your skin due to their bigger picture issues, it all gets diluted along the way. So focus on the fact he is struggling with speed of getting things done in a timely fashion and other performance related issues.

    Then once he gets that fixed, you may really not care about the late arrivals here and there.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      This exactly. If you have issues with someone’s performance, you tend to see other ways in which they may be sub-par, but that may not be especially problematic. And then your mind tends to focus on these little things because the other issue is so big it seems overwhelming and you are getting upset about the little things so you don’t have to focus on the other things. The elephant in the room is his performance, not being late once or twice a week.

    2. Ted Mosby*

      Totally agree. I just had a friend get a bunch of feedback and the thing his boss started with was really inane, and he kind of tuned out the rest. Once you have in your head that someone is nitpicking you about unimportant things, you just don’t listen to their feedback in the same way. If this guy isn’t missing meetings or disrupting coverage (which I assume you would have mentioned?), and you’re fine with him starting later (given that you offered to change his start time) then what time he starts doesn’t effect his work. I think mixing important feedback about his work with a pet peeve you have that doesn’t effect his work is going to confuse the situation in terms of what is truly critical.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        The only time I was ever “written up” was by someone who pulled out every single random thing [many were months old and resolved!] so I just zoned the heck out [and immediately found a job to replace that job because no thanks, bro!].

        If you have a problem, address it specifically. So we can set up an action plan to fix it and bring us back around to the right page. Don’t just throw the kitchen sink at a person unless you really want them to walk away with their fingers in the air.

  11. Falling Diphthong*

    If starting tomorrow he always arrived on time–while still staying late to finish work, working slowly, and having other performance issues–then you would really be in the same boat you are now. Just minus the irritation of him hitting your one particular pet peeve.

    The lateness doesn’t matter, in this job and context. The bad performance does. Focus on that.

  12. She's One Crazy Diamond*

    Question – would anything change if the chronically late employee had an ADHD or other executive functioning impairment diagnosis? Would that fall under ADA or no? Asking because I have ADHD and I can either be inappropriately early or slightly late but never exactly on time despite trying my whole life. Fortunately my boss doesn’t care too much, but it could matter if I get a new job.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You could try to bring the ADA into it but it’s pretty standard that a company doesn’t have to change schedules as an accommodation, since it’s often seen as a hardship and therefore not reasonable depending on their setup.

      It reminds me of people with insomnia who cannot get to sleep at night, so they have a hard time getting to a job that starts at say 8am, when they cannot sleep until 5am ever. Yeah, you don’t have to give them a new schedule unless the company decides it’s acceptable to them.

      1. KHB*

        But what about in a case like this where the employee’s exact schedule/punctuality demonstrably doesn’t matter, beyond the manager’s personal preferences/annoyances? That seems to me like the very definition of “reasonable accommodation.” I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t know the answer to SOCD’s question, but I’d find it very interesting (and, I won’t lie, very satisfying) if it turned out to be illegal for a manager to demand an employee with ADHD to be punctual to the minute when the nature of the position doesn’t require it.

          1. KHB*

            I’m sure I would. But isn’t that why we have laws like the ADA to begin with? To push back against some of that?

            1. Close Bracket*

              Well, no. You don’t get accommodations out of core job functions. Say you want to be a mover, and you can’t lift 40 lbs, and you want an accommodation saying that you don’t have to lift 40 lbs. The ADA will not back you up on that. Lifting 40 lbs is a core job function. That is where the “reasonable” part of reasonable accommodation comes in.

              If the reason you cannot get to work on time is ADHD and getting to work on time is a core job function, then you cannot use the ADA to ask for an accommodation to get to work late. You can hire a lawyer to push back on whether being at work on time is a core job function, but your employer also has a lawyer who is arguing that it is. So, don’t assume that asking for an accommodation is always going to work. Employers are *very* good at keeping within the letter of the law.

      2. Observer*

        Well, it would depend on the job. In the case of shift work or coverage based work? Definitely likely to fall under “undue hardship”. But an exempt employee whose work doesn’t require precise coverage could easily argue that this is merely a personal preference on the part of the manager.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It depends on facilities issues as well.

          Lots of rented space has specific hours in place that are not to be fudged if you’re set up to be on the premises only between certain periods of time. It’s to avoid people living in their office space.

          Automated timers for closure are a thing as well. So you cannot simply just stay in the office after 6, you have to go, your FOB is done and the system is alarmed.

          1. Observer*

            That’s true. But also not all that typical. The point being that it’s simply not the case that changing schedules is generally not something that’s on the table. Sometimes it’s not, but very often it is.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            Still depends on the job. Sure, there are many, many situations where it would be hardship, but there’s a lot where it wouldn’t.

            Crazy Diamond – I can’t remember any tactful scripts for ‘are you a butts-in-seats manager’, but that’s an important question for any job interview. I need to figure out a good script for it, I’m thinking about my next job hunt. I am totally open to suggestions…

            Also, forgive me if I go astray, but: I have friends with ADHD so I read about it when I see it, and there was a cool article about how standard brains can start with a verbal end goal ‘be ready for school’, imagine the picture of what that looks like, and work backwards, but ADHD brains struggle to form that end picture. So they recommended taking a picture of what it looked like, and having the kids use that as a check list. I’m actually going to start this with my kid, who is struggling with some organizational stuff as he heads into middle school. Just putting it out there because it seems like a newer strategy than the standard ‘have a place for everything and use it.’

            1. Alexandra Lynch*

              I have ADHD, and I can do that technique.
              I have to write it down.
              “Commute takes an hour, so that’s 7 am. Get dressed, 15 minutes. Hair and makeup, 15 minutes. That’s 6:30 am. Breakfast, 20 minutes. That is 6:10 am, and I can’t eat the second I roll out of bed, so we might as well say 6 am.”
              The other side of that is that if I manage to do this for a while and show up on time, if I do anything different it will throw me off. Never mind if that early morning phone call from my mother only lasted ten minutes and was in the time where I’m sipping coffee and regarding my toast dubiously, it will still mess me up. Anything messing with my routine will throw me off.

              This is one of the contributing factors to why I don’t work outside the home. The baking I did today didn’t care if I got it started at 8 am or 10 am, and it won’t really wreck anything if I don’t get it done at all today. (Except I won’t have cookies this weekend.)

              1. Jadelyn*

                Yep, this. And I have to get pretty specific sometimes – not just “breakfast, 20 mins” but “fix a cup of coffee, 5 mins; make toast, 5 mins; microwave a breakfast burrito, 90s; sit down and eat, 10 mins” otherwise I’m going to underestimate the actual time needed. Plus, I am so so so unbelievably bad at estimating how long something takes. My sense of time passing is awful, so even things I do every day I have a hard time remembering how long they actually take. (This is bundles of fun, when it comes to planning work projects, let me tell you. Will this task take me ten minutes? All day? All week? Who knows? It’s a surprise!)

                And +1000 for the routine thing. Even if the interruption doesn’t actually cause me time problems directly, it still throws off the rhythm and I will struggle to get it back and can almost guarantee I’ll be running 5-10 mins late by the time I get out of the house.

      3. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        I have ADHD (and 2 school aged kids with ADHD) and suffer periodically with insomnia, and getting to work at a specific time is challenging. The type of work I do doesn’t require me to be in the office at a specific time, as long as I am mostly there during “core work hours”. Flexibility around work hours is something I specifically ask about when I interview, but I realise it’s not possible for everyone. At the same time, I’ve realised that if I don’t create some type of schedule for myself, and try to stick to it, I will roll in stupidly late every single day.

        1. azvlr*

          Do you find your morale sinking enough to affect work performance in roles where being on time was required (but not crucial)?
          I’m asking, because I wonder if that could be what’s going on in OP’s world.

    2. Zillah*

      I think that flex start times are common enough that it probably would make sense to screen for that, if possible? (Also, same here.)

    3. Important Moi*

      Is LW supposed to ask the employee if they have ADHD or other executive functioning impairment diagnosis?

      1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

        I don’t think they’re allowed to ask that, but the employee can voluntarily disclose.

    4. Close Bracket*

      You would have to ask HR whether that counts as a reasonable accommodation. It would be a Big Deal, and the answer might be no, even if there were no impact to work. I’ve asked for simple things as accommodations for mental health issues, and it went so poorly that I wish I hadn’t. It all depends on your HR, though.

  13. CupcakeCounter*

    Not really sure how traffic was a reasonable excuse at the beginning and not now. Traffic is unpredictable no matter how early or late one leaves. Since this is a person with performance issues who does not have a valid reason to be butt in chair at 8:30, leave the arrival time out of things and focus on the real performance issues.

    1. fposte*

      I agree that it doesn’t matter in this case, but I would accept a traffic excuse from a new employee that I wouldn’t accept repeatedly from somebody who was now familiar with the commute.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yep. It’s also the frequency factor when the traffic excuse is brought up.

        We have tankers over turn sometimes and it shuts down the interstate and then you’re stuck…waiting to be released from the utter hell that is being trapped in morning rush hour!

        Then there’s just “oh traffic was heavier today but I just left at my normal time, didn’t even bother to check the road report, la de da.” or “Oooooooh I forget it was Seafair and they close the bridges for the Blue Angels…I’m like “Yeah, no you need to be more proactive, the ice is starting to thin around you as you speak.”

        Everyone is late due to traffic at least a handful of times a year but again, you’re expected to be aware of the commute in front of you and to look at the GD traffic report to see if you need to leave at your regular time or if you should get out of there fifteen minutes earlier.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          And then there’s ‘I left early so this morning that they hadn’t re-opened the highway from the overnight drunk driver who managed to crash doing 100mph, flip over the barrier into oncoming traffic, lose the engine from their car and *walk away*, to be apprehended on the nearby feeder street.’

          That was my poor team lead’s situation yesterday. (Our area has one main feeder road, a 6 – 8 lane divided highway, traffic gets heavy by 7:30am / 3:30pm, and there’s almost always an accident by 8a/4p, but this one was… unusually thorough.)

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Yeah, there are the normal “traffic is backed up, there are fender benders everywhere!” and then there’s this kind of thing.

            I’m relieved it was just a mess that closed down the highway. Unless it’s a spill that requires them to keep the area evacuated or if it’s all lanes are obstructed from pieces of machinery all over the place, the only reason they close a highway around here is for a fatality. That can result in hours upon hours of detours. Which backs up all the side streets and other major roads of course, causing extra extra extra delays.

        2. Liza*

          Not all traffic incidents make the reports though, and if you are already on the road once a snarl up occurs, then there’s often nothing to be done. A broken down car in a bad spot can cause a tail back for half a mile.

          My commute is often an hour to travel 10 miles. At the point when I leave, Google usually predicts that I’m going to be 20 minutes early, but the tiniest thing can clog up the little city streets heading for the ring road, and next thing I know I’ll be crawling along in almost stationary traffic and wind up 10 minutes late. Sometimes unpredictable really IS unpredictable. I have pushed my leaving time earlier and earlier, but I would REALLY struggle to get up any earlier. (I take medication in the evening, and the side effects leave me groggy in the morning.) Fortunately, work are understanding.

          1. De Minimis*

            I’ve noticed the same thing, the last place I lived with significant traffic the traffic report really prioritized certain routes over others, and mine was rarely mentioned unless it was a major incident.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I think what’s key is understanding the environment around you. There are plenty of pile ups that can happen, been there, done that over the years. So I do understand that it’s often unpredictable, this area has some of the worst traffic in the country thanks to Amazon and Boeing ruining our lives like that.

            But really, it’s easy to forgive and shrug off a situation like yours because you’re constantly trying. And you’ve shown willingness to try to adjust but it’s not within the cards for you. That’s crucial in the end.

            Also in the end, as long as you’re an employee that’s doing well in your duties, it’s less of an issue and people overlook it. If you had issues completing your tasks and being difficult, you would be giving them an easy out to just release the cord and terminate you in the end.

        3. ...*

          Yup its just the difference between “late people” and people who are sometimes late. “Late people” are def a thing. They will be later no matter where and when something is happening. People who are sometimes late normally arrive on time but also experience random events that cause lateness.

      2. Meg*


        I commute 40 miles one way. There are three major routes I can take that, without traffic, I can get to work in the same amount of time. If there is an accident on one of those routes, traffic on the other two are jacked up.

        I live in one of the fastest growing cities in the US. If anything, my commute has gotten worse over time, not better.

        Add in weather, construction/road work, school buses (both traditional and year round), and major events, traffic is literally unpredictable.

        1. Alexandra Lynch*

          Right now everyone’s grateful for the arrival of winter, and the closing of Construction Season.
          My city has a main interstate ringing it, and three interstates intersecting that, and the Powers That Be decided heavy road work was necessary on both the interstate running straight east-west through the city AND a loop of the ringing interstate from the 3 o’clock position through to the 6 o’clock position, and a chunk up by the 11 o’clock position. We unfortunately lived just south of all this and worked just north of the ring while all this was going on, and his commute has been, to say the least, interesting. Sure, he can take another route if it turns out they’ve narrowed the interstate to one lane of traffic, but only if he knows in advance, and for all he knew, that bit was five lanes and moving smoothly yesterday. It’s been stressful. I’m actually sort of glad that he’s not going to renew the contract he’s on now because of the commute. I think they’re going to start up again next spring.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Either my husband has been juggling the same nonsense you have, or there are two Circle Cities with ridiculous construction issues. (We live at 1 o’clock ish, right outside the intersection of the ring highway and the northbound highway, and he works by the airport.) It has been EXHAUSTING, for damn sure.

  14. Chrome*

    I also have an unpredictable commute. On average it takes 50 minutes, I give myself a full hour. Most of the time I get there ten or fifteen minutes early, on some occasions I waltz in a half-hour late or more–but I’m rarely late more than once or twice a month. OP’s employee is late more frequently than that, which is an indication he needs to schedule himself a little better.

    I’m fortunate in that my boss undergoes a similar commute, and is very understanding. I’m not in a position where it’s a real problem if I’m not in my seat at 8am, and the lateness is truly unavoidable unless I start building in an unreasonable amount of time into my commute. I’m also a high performer, which goes a long way toward encouraging generosity. Other people in the company have been fired for lateness.

    I think the OP would be a lot more willing to overlook this issue if they were otherwise a good employee. I’m a bit torn–it’s OP’s prerogative to make lateness a sticking point, but I do in general agree with Alison’s idea to stick to performance issues instead. But at the same time, the employee has already been spoken to before about lateness and been given options, but instead keeps coming in consistently late. It’s something that should be taken into account when viewing the employee’s worth overall.

    1. Chrome*

      There was actually one time where I was in standstill traffic and I texted my boss like, hey, I’m gonna be super late today.
      He texted me back, “look to your right.”
      There he was in the lane next to me. We played rock-paper-scissors until traffic moved again.

    2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Yup, I had a similar commute but via mass transit. 90% of the time, I got to work early. 9% of the time, I got to work by the skin of my teeth on time. 1% of the time, I got stuck behind a disabled train and was 30 minutes to an hour late.

      One time, when I was taking a commuter rail, I got to the train station and the next train sign said, “6:30 am train, 255 minutes late.” There’d been an accident on the tracks and train service was basically canceled that day until they did the investigation and cleaned up the wreckage.

      1. Chrome*

        Uggh, how frustrating. There’s been days where I wake up and traffic’s already reporting bad due to snow or whatever, so I just take a personal day. No point in spending three hours trying to get into the office just to have to fight through it all again to come back home.

      2. ElizabethJane*

        I was on a train that hit a person once… we were just stopped, between stations, for 3 hours. There’s absolutely nothing you can do about that. Then they dropped us off at a random station and it took another hour for the next train to show up (since all of the others were also full) and get us the rest of the way there.

        1. Very Anon for this*

          I had that about a month ago – only the person deliberately stepped in front of the train just before a full and busy platform……it was ugly, and I felt so bad for the train driver.

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Oh yeah – I have that too because I’m on public transit. 90% of the time I’m definitely early (15 plus mins), 9% of the time I’m there right on time. Then there’s that 1% of the time when major havoc has happened and even though I’ve allowed for some delays on the transit there is no not being late………people, your car isn’t going to win vrs the train – just stop for the signals.

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      “But at the same time, the employee has already been spoken to before about lateness and been given options, but instead keeps coming in consistently late.”

      This is the sticking point for me – I get everyone’s arguments that flexibility is better, but to me this speaks poorly to this guy’s ability to take feedback. He has been made aware that he’s doing poorly in general and that this one issue is particularly annoying for his boss. He’s been offered a very straightforward solution (change his start time) or alternatively he could change when he leaves the house. And yet he hasn’t done any of that and has continued to do something that know annoys his boss while also performing poorly in other ways. To me the issue isn’t the lateness per se, it’s the unwillingness to take action on a pretty simple issue.

      1. Consultant Catie*

        I agree with you. If the employee is aware of the items on their “I need to fix this to keep my job” list, and one of them is being on time, that should be one of the first things they try to fix. It’s about the optics of doing your best to address known issues.

  15. Rebecca*

    I once worked (exempt employee) at a company where the CEO would check our computer log-in times and count them as arrival times. One morning I got hung up at a nasty traffic light outside our office park and logged in at 8:32 instead of 8:30. Later that morning, I got pulled into a room about my “tardiness problem.” So, people that get hung up on grown adults being 15 minutes late for their exempt job are people that I find sort of annoying.

    That said, it’s not the lateness that’s the problem here. It’s the work not getting done in a timely manner. If he’s staying late and still not getting stuff done, arriving at some arbitrary time isn’t going to fix the issue. Address the work problem, not the arrival issues.

  16. iglwif*

    Yeah, the lateness is really really not the issue here. I think you’re right that it’s annoying you so much only because he’s otherwise not doing a great job — and I also think it’s both the least important issue to focus on and the least likely to make any real difference if resolved. Buddy is not a good employee, or at least is not doing well in this particular role, and that’s the thing that matters, not that he’s occasionally a few minutes late.

    In a more general sense, I would take really seriously Alison’s point that unless people are arriving late for *things that actually matter* — like, meetings and appointments and phone calls with customers and such — this is really not something to stress about with salaried employees! The focus should be on getting the work done and doing it well, not on timekeeping, and IME making a big fuss about on-time arrival for an otherwise good employee is a good way for managers to ensure nobody takes them seriously.

  17. anon4this*

    It’s only lateness for arrival time (unless being “on time” is critical to the role), which is something that “early birds” value and no one else.
    There’s a ‘nother explanation for how this 8am-5pm time nonsense negatively impacts growing children, circadian rhythms, learning, and response time. For me, learning how arbitrary the 8am start time is, and how it’s simply a holdover from an ancient USA agricultural society back in the 17-19th century that need daylight time to work in the fields, is the reasoning for all this, and nothing more, confirmed I need to listen to my body when it says its too early.

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      My pre-teen kids start school at 7:40am and my daughter, the early bird, copes just fine. My son, the night owl, really struggles. And I, also a night owl, also struggle. It just seems stupidly early.

      1. anon4this*

        I would think a lot of people struggle with early/near dawn waking times, especially in a time period with artificial lighting. Why not give kids the options (or employees the option) to come to work early or late, whichever makes more sense for them?

  18. CoffeeforLife*

    Unrelated, but now I want an update on the employee who was fined $90 for being late (link above).

  19. #1 The Larch*

    OP didn’t include what kind of work is being done or if he is exempt/non exempt. If they are in a client-facing role or in a role that provides coverage to other employees, then excessive tardiness IS an issue. In my role, which is client facing, I always come in early to open the office and get everything ready so that when we are open to the public I am ready to work and receive clients, regardless of traffic/weather/etc. Planning your arrival time is necessary in those particular roles.

    1. The Tin Man*

      Except that OP says it is an exempt employee and “There are no time-sensitive tasks that require him to be at his desk at a specific time”

    2. Observer*

      Actually, the OP does mention that they are exempt. And also makes it pretty clear that this is not a coverage type position. So none of that’s relevant here.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      It’s all right there in the letter…”My question is whether it is worth making an issue over 15-20 minutes when an employee is exempt. There are no time-sensitive tasks that require him to be at his desk at a specific time, but I find lateness annoying.”

      The issue here is that he’s apparently not getting his work done, not that he’s late – that’s just an annoyance for OP. And sometimes, no matter how well you plan, traffic can screw everything up. His REASON (it’s not an excuse) is very valid, OP’s annoyance is not. Treating your employees like children and clock watching is a sure fire way to get the bare minimum out of them, and have them resent you.

      1. #1 The Larch*

        whoops, I guess I didn’t read it well after all. Today is NOT a good day for me. *wishes to redact comment*

  20. rubyrose*

    I agree with others that the real issue is his performance and the emphasis needs to be there.

    But have you considered core hours? As in, normally you can start as early as 7:00 am and work as late as 7:00 pm, but you have to be there from 9:00 – 3:00 (lunch break only exception)?

    I’m remote, we have team members in 3 US time zones, and this method works great for us. The hours are based on the client time zone. This means that I (mountain time) have to get up earlier than I would want to support my east coast client, but everyone knows I am in at 8:30 am eastern and gauge questions and meeting accordingly.

    With performance concerns, do you really want this guy working late consistently without you there? Is he spinning his wheels because there is no one there to ask questions of?

    1. Becky*

      Yup–my company has core hours 9:30 to 3:30. two of my coworkers come in at 7:30 and leave at 3:30, I come in at 9 and leave at 5.

    2. Allonge*

      Core hours – combined with a flexible bandwith – are great! I am a punctual person and love, love them. More relaxed mornings (and afternoons, for that matter).

      They allow for the basic principle of being on time, which is to arrive early. People who like me find it easy to be on time manage because they plan to arrive early, not because they have a magic timewarp tingie!

      That said, for people who don’t have the “time sense” that is needed for this, I see them being late for the core hours that start at 10, just as they would be late for a 9 am start on the dot.

      We have a stand-up meeting at 10 three times per week. Late Colleague walks in at 10:05 usually, goes to her office to drop her things, turns on her computer, makes coffee(!) and joins the meeting at 15 past. What do you do with that?

  21. KatyO*

    I think it depends on the industry you work in. If it was a call center and this employee was required to be logged into a queue to field incoming calls, then being late is a major issue and could result in termination. If you can be more flexible, I’d say it’s not that critical; however, it seems like this person isn’t such a great employee for other reasons.

    I had a similar situation about a year ago. The employee was always late due to “traffic” yet others in their area were able to make it on time. The employee was not a good performer, was getting complaints and worked slow. In these cases, it makes me think the person just has no drive and/or desire to do a good job…which then makes me wonder why I should keep them on the team.

    If your workplace has the ability to be flexible, no big deal. I would be more concerned that this is one sign of a pattern of poor work ethic…or just a sign that this job is not a good fit for this person. It would definitely concern me and I’d be more likely to watch their work closely to ensure it doesn’t become a bigger issue that impacts the company and other employees.

  22. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    Being client-facing would be a clincher for needing to be on time.

    But also, there are internal “clients” as well. If other people are being held up in the office due to the tardiness, then that’s something to address.

    Or it’s an optics thing … chronically tardy co-workers can infect a team with resentment and with additional tardiness and/or disregard for time. It doesn’t have to do so, but if that’s a concern, then I’d address it that way.

  23. Fibchopkin*

    “And many good employees highly value flexibility, and may even change jobs to find it.”
    This. So much. I actually started the job search to leave my last job after I got a performance review in which my boss (part of the C-Suite) said “As always, your performance, innovation, initiative, and dedication exceed expectations. You are frankly one of the best employees I have ever managed, but you’ll never progress beyond your current role (senior manager- about 2 steps below executive level) if you can’t consistently come in by 8:30 every day.” I was so, SO frustrated! Way back when I started the job, actually, even before, in the first-round interview, I very explicitly discussed my need for morning flexibility because I have a kiddo in a special school and my spouse and I split drop-off and pick-up duties. I do the morning routine, my spouse does the pick-up and homework routine. Both she and the CEO said from the very beginning that they were happy to accommodate employee schedules, and as long as I was averaging about 40 hours per week, they expected and allowed exempt employees to flex their schedules a little. Not too long after I started, I found out that although the CEO was very sincere when she said this- she too had a school aged special-needs kiddo during much of her career and considered 20 minutes here and there or occasional long lunches to attend parent-teacher conferences as par-for-the-course – my boss did not feel the same, but couldn’t outwardly contradict the CEO’s policy on flexibility. Throughout the years, I’d occasionally get comments from my boss like “We wondered if we’d see you today” even though I never, ever came close to using all my vacation or sick time and averaged around 50 hours per week. I continued to remind her of my specific situation and gently said things like “Thank goodness guarantees flexibility and accommodation for parents of young children! It certainly makes my life a little less hectic.” I’d been working there a little over 4 years when I got the review where she made the exasperated comment about how awesome I was except for the occasional unpredictability of my exact morning arrival time. Four months after I had that review, I accepted a new position at another firm even though I loved pretty much everything else about that job. I get that this is not the same situation for OP, since the employee in question in not a top performer, but honestly, when OP says “but I find lateness annoying” even though the employee in question has “no time-sensitive tasks that require him to be at his desk at a specific time,” it makes me wonder if other employees are noting this inflexibility as well. If I heard that my manager was nickel and dimeing another employee on 20 minutes of flexibility in a morning schedule, even if they weren’t doing it to me, it would give me serious pause.

    1. Dasein9*

      Yep! One of the best things about my current job is that people come in as they get there and the work gets done. Many of us take public transportation, and even leaving very early doesn’t get us there any earlier. Many who drive leave the office every 3 hours to move their cars as a way of taking advantage of free parking spots. It gives a nice structure to the day.

  24. Sunday Morning Fever*

    This is timely for me. I have an employee who typically does a fine job. But, she does have moments of things sliding and when it happens, it also starts to affect her attendance at the office. She’ll frequently call in late or take sick days (usually at the start or end of the week). I’m not sure if it’s officially a pattern, but it’s starting to feel like one. I would talk with her about it, but to be honest she’s very sensitive to feedback — either becoming argumentative or sad about any criticism, which makes me loathe to have these conversations with her.

    1. fposte*

      That in itself is a problem that really needs to be dealt with. She has to be able to accept feedback to be an effective employee.

      As long as she’s within her allotted sick days and she’s not causing other people significant extra work, I’d let the sick days go. Focus on the sliding work and the problem with receiving feedback–but do manage her on these problems.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Yep – as Alison says in the next letter, if you aren’t giving people feedback, they may not know why they’re not advancing / getting raises / etc. Maybe ‘I have an impression that when you see a problem with a deadline, you give up. I’d like to see you handle that more proactively [insert examples of what you want, like ‘tell me’ and ‘reprioritize’]. Do you have any other ideas on how to manage that?’

  25. Catherine Tilney*

    I think that if the employee cannot consistently get to work or finish their work on time, he just may be lousy at time management. I’d stress how he can improve on this, too, as well as general performance issues.

  26. Nanani*

    Lateness that affects other people – like delaying meetings or missing important calls or not opening the customer-facing desk/phone line/etc on time – should definitely be cause for discipline. If part of your job is to BE THERE at X oclock, then X+15 minutes isn’t doing your job.

    But that’s not the case here, so stop policing arrival times and focus on the things that actually matter. Butt in seat is not a measure of productivity.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Yeah, and even then it behooves a boss to utilize their common sense in enforcing it. One of my bosses used to say of our coverage staff: I need you to all be here on time, because if you are not, the person you are relieving gets stuck here, and we have to scramble to cover, which isn’t fair to your coworkers. But if you are running late, don’t drive unsafely to make up time and get into a car accident, and don’t call in late while driving unless you have a hands-free device.

  27. Alex*

    As someone with a long, unpredictable commute, I sympathize with this person. My commute can easily vary by like 50%. I’m not even a chronically late type person–it’s just that I take public transportation and there have been times when the bus is 45 minutes late. I can leave 30 minutes “early” but still get there late. I’m grateful that no one cares what time I get to work most days (and also, most people I work with ALSO take public transportation and are more or less in the same boat).

    I’d ask yourself–is his 15 minutes being late in the morning CAUSING his performance problems? Probably no, right? Since you say he still can’t finish his work even when he stays late? So, asking him to be on time would be giving him the false impression that he could improve his performance by being on time, when really, the crux of the problem is that he’s not doing good work regardless of when he gets there.

    1. Observer*

      So, asking him to be on time would be giving him the false impression that he could improve his performance by being on time, when really, the crux of the problem is that he’s not doing good work regardless of when he gets there.

      Exactly! You have a performance issue. Deal with it – and do it directly and unambiguously.

  28. Kathryn*

    Yes, I’m this late employee. To be fair, half the time it is subway related, it’s an abysmal state right now and very counter motivating because there are mornings I’ll try really hard to be punctual and it gets torpedoed by the train. Other times, it’s just life. I don’t see why people fixate on it when it’s not necessary to job function. My role requires a lot of flexibility—events after work hours, being available on weekends, very early and very late calls with Asia—which I’m fine to do, it’s what I signed up for, but don’t get on my case when I’m not in my seat right on the dot. It honestly feels terrible and breeds resentment.

  29. WantonSeedStitch*

    To me, it seems that the lateness isn’t important in and of itself, but combined with the performance issues, I can see it being an optics problem. The fact that he’s coming in later than everyone else isn’t a huge deal if he’s getting his work done, but if his coworkers see that he’s coming in late AND not finishing things, it makes it look like he’s not committed to pulling his weight, and that can build resentment in the people who come in on time and get their work done. I would want to address the performance issues from a time management perspective, and I’d also want to tell him that until his performance issues reached a certain level of improvement, I would want to see him on time every day, and have him send an e-mail or call if something out of the ordinary and unpredictable happens that might make him late (train breakdown, etc.). In general, schedule flexibility for adequate and high performers is fine, but when poor performers are taking advantage of flexibility, it looks like they’re just getting away with working less.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Ooooh. I missed that this is about a once-a-week thing, not an everyday thing. Traffic can definitely be unpredictable now and then, and even if you leave ten minutes earlier, it doesn’t always mean you’ll arrive ten minutes earlier! I would lay off the lateness issue in that case. Everyday disregard for schedules can look bad when someone’s underperforming, but I feel like if you’re generally punctual and sometimes a little late due to traffic, that’s not the kind of thing that coworkers are going to get irate about, even in an underpeformer. So stick to the performance issues. Tell him how important it is to accomplish his tasks in the timeframe of the work day, and set up a plan for improvement on that.

  30. AuroraLight37*

    I sympathize with your annoyance at the repeated lateness, but I think the real problem here is less that and more the overarching performance issue. He’s not finishing his work within regular hours. I am working on the presumption that he’s not overloaded here, because that would be a different situation. It sounds like it’s time to have another talk with him, this time clarifying if he is in fact overloaded, and if he’s not, what he can do to get his work done on time.

  31. Jaydee*

    If this employee is staying significantly late regularly due to their workload/inefficiency (not just staying late once a week for the 15-20 minutes needed to make up for late arrival the same day) they may be legit exhausted and struggling to get in on time as a result. This makes the lateness a symptom of the larger problem of slow work. So that’s the problem that needs to be addressed (which the LW clearly knows).

    A couple of things that the LW could try:
    – Work with employee to identify what is causing the slowness. Is employee getting distracted talking to coworkers, getting pulled off-task by interruptions, underestimating how long tasks will take and then having to rush to finish them at the last minute? Have the employee keep track of their time for anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. Once an hour, have them write down what they did that hour in a brief but quantifiable way (sent/responded to 6 emails; made 3 phone calls to clients; wrote summary and first section of monthly llama report – 2 pages; started researching new teapot glazes, interrupted by Fergus with question about spouts, back to glazes 15 minutes later)
    – If the issue is underestimating time to do things, have the employee actually write down an estimate for how long it will take to do each thing and then, after doing it, write down how long it took. That should help the employee improve the accuracy of their estimates and also help you see things that are taking way longer than they should and address that issue.
    – Be sure that you and anyone else who is assigning work to this employee are clear about expectations of what the finished product should look like and when it should be done. One of my coworkers is AMAZING at this, and I tell her as much because I appreciate it so much.

  32. Observer*

    OP drop the punctuality issue.

    Choose your battles, because your resources are not unlimited. This is a battle that, even if you win – and you might not – is going to distract from the more significant issues.

    You’re employee will miss the message their overall performance needs to improve, either in quantity or quality. In other words, not only will focusing on arrival time not help you, it WILL actively harm you.

    Any good employee that knows what’s going on is going to react negatively in ways that could be harmful to you. Either they are going to be annoyed in general about your harping on punctuality for no good reason, or they are gong to be mad that this guy is always behind but you’re busy with his 15 minutes in the morning rather than the really big problem.

    What SHOULD you do? Start addressing the performance issues and make sure that his shortcomings are not having a negative impact on the rest of your staff.

  33. Gaia*

    To me, it really depends. There are some jobs/careers where being on time really does matter. There are others where it really doesn’t. If it matters for the role, address it. If it doesn’t, let it go.

  34. ElizabethJane*

    I’d honestly ask if it’s even worth having a set start time at all – I commute via train and I’m in my office at 8:15 every day because that’s my morning routine. But sometimes I stop for a breakfast sandwich and sometimes I catch a later train and show up around 9. I’m not sure that I’m really “late” on those days, just later than I normally am. I’d probably be annoyed if my boss tried to instill a start time for no particular reason – it would seem micromanage-y to me.

    And barring extenuating circumstances I’m here when I have an early meeting scheduled or otherwise have a concrete reason to be in the office at a specific morning time.

    1. Joielle*

      Same here. Usually I’m at the office by 7, but if I want to sleep in or stop for coffee or go to the gym, I might not get in until 8 or later. Nobody cares. The official rule is “be here by 9, work 8 hours, half hour unpaid lunch, honor system” and that seems to work just fine. I have a few coworkers who try to be here by 9 but sometimes roll in at 9:15 or so, and that really does not matter either. If you take a longer lunch or leave a little early one day, you just make it up another day.

      Something about this letter really rubs me the wrong way. Personally, I would not work for a boss who was as inflexible as this OP. I get that this OP is at a BEC stage with the employee, but they’re being pretty un-empathetic and focusing on things that don’t matter, which are not great traits for a boss.

  35. New Jack Karyn*

    LW, you are Jerk Eating Crackers with this guy. Focus on the work, not the once a week lateness. If a high performer had the same tardiness pattern, would you be irritated about it?

  36. Midwest Writer*

    I have spent my entire career in newspapers, where the expectation is that you’re generally available any time of day, any day of the week. I’ve always had regularly scheduled things to cover at night, so I’ve spent 20 years enjoying a fair amount of flexibility about when I absolutely have to arrive at the office. (I’m very, very rarely late to an interview or meeting; but I regularly stroll into the office 20 minutes later than I plan to on mornings where there is nothing specific waiting for me.) So I had the hardest time understanding why my mom (an elected official in a small town) was so hard on her employees for being 10 minutes or so late. But for her office, as government employees who actually did need to provide window coverage to assist city residents, it really did matter that people got to work on time. It was moderately weird to me. I also think that most offices should just adopt a rolling start/finish time, because it treats people like adults — you know what you need to get done, you know when you need to be there, so let them work out some of the details. (And I say this as someone who has worked with hard deadlines all of my career, too. Press time is pretty nonnegotiable.)

  37. blink14*

    I hate being late, and yet I am often about 10-15 minutes late in the morning, because of traffic, construction, accidents, etc. I could leave earlier, but I’m not a morning person, and combined with chronic health issues, I struggle to get up as it is.

    On the flip side, outside of my lunch break, I don’t take long breaks during the day (the usual bathroom trips, kitchen visits for a snack or drink, etc), and I always get as much work done as I can during the day.

    Would I like to not be late? Yes. But the city I live and work in is notorious for increasingly bad traffic congestion, and even on the days I can pull myself together enough to leave 10-15 minutes, I am usually late. Traffic is a never ending nightmare here.

    1. Becky*

      The highway and exit that is the most direct/fastest route to my work is undergoing major construction right now and the traffic pattern changes unpredictably from day to to day–as in one morning the exit was suddenly in a different place and was one lane instead of two. And then the exit lane disappeared so the single lane exit backs up onto the highway instead of being in an exit lane…
      Generally it is still faster than alternate routes, but when there’s an accident its all up in the air.

  38. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

    So he is finishing his work 15-20 minutes after regular work hours are over? In other words, is he actually doing 8 hours work in 8 hours, just time shifted by the amount he is late by?
    If so, let it go.

    I wouldn’t even bother with arranging for a change in regular hours, since, as others have pointed out, this can often lead to just being 15 minutes late after the new start time. (I have a theory about this – it’s subconscious. My mum is a prime example: tell her she has to be somewhere for 10am when it takes 30 minutes to get there, and she will *always* find something to fill up every second until approximately 9:45. Tell her that she has to be there at 9:30 and she will be busy until 9:15 etc. It’s almost like she completely misjudges travel time – it’s a mental block that she isn’t even aware she’s doing it – because she’s a perpetual passenger (never learned to drive). We’ve taken to telling her an earlier start time to stand any chance possibly arriving on time!)

    1. Vermonter*

      It’s maybe not what’s causing your mum’s lateness, but if anyone else is struggling with this problem: it can be an ADHD thing. If something starts at 10, then an ADHD brain won’t think to do it until 10 – the in-between times, like commuting or getting ready, get lost.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        Huh, that thought never occurred to me before. She is easily disctracted by things – nipping to the loo before leaving and twenty minutes later we’re wondering if she’s fallen in! But it’s gotten worse as she’s gotten older, so it might not be ADHD…. She was never late for work herself (she’s now retired), but she would be extremely worried about her kids being late – she once work me at 5am on a Thursday so I wouldn’t be late for my Saturday retail job (she’d gotten the days confused – this was during the summer holidays, so I grumbled *a lot* and went back to bed until noon!)

        My dad is the one who says she stumbles over travel times, mostly because she’ll say “oh it only takes ten minutes”, when he knows full well through experience that it takes 40. Apparently everything (up to and including London, Manchester, and Glasgow) is only an hour away by car! (For non UK readers, we are actually an hour from Manchester, but Manchester to London is two-plus hours by *train*, and my dad doesn’t own a hypercar!)

        1. londonedit*

          We’ve become convinced in recent years that my mum has some sort of ADHD thing going on. She also does the ‘nipping to the loo before we leave, then twenty minutes later we’re wondering whether she’s fallen in’ thing – everyone will be ready, we’ll ask her if she’s ready, she’ll say yes, and then she ‘just’ has to do one/two/thirteen other things because she gets distracted from the task at hand. She can’t sit still for more than five minutes, and her brain always seems to be thinking of fifteen different things at once, so it’s hard to have a conversation with her or tell her information that she’ll actually retain, unless you’re 100% sure she’s totally focused on what you’re saying.

    2. iglwif*

      My mum does something very much like this–chronically underestimating travel time–but she’s been driving for, as of this 2019, 63 years. Like, I will say to her, we are going to this thing that starts at 3, we need to leave by 2:30, and she’ll claim it only takes 20 minutes so we don’t have to leave until 2:40, and at 2:40 she still doesn’t have her shoes on and can’t find her car keys.

      I on the other hand have never learnt to drive and get places on foot or by public transit, and I’m rarely late in my own city because I so much hated always being late as a ride-dependent elementary-school kid that I developed a habit of always allowing more time to get places than I think I’ll need. Sometimes I’ll still arrive late for things, but it’s almost always because of a horrendous transit foul-up (one time it was an unexpected sinkhole on my bus route!) that nobody could have predicted. In unfamiliar places I rely on Google Maps or similar to estimate travel time, but then leave extra time because YOU NEVER KNOW. (Yes, I have some anxiety around being late for things.)

      Not sure what my point was here except 1) sympathy for dealing with your mum’s lateness issues because mine is the same, but 2) I don’t think it’s because she doesn’t drive :)

  39. Varthema*

    The long commute is pretty key here. If he’s late once a week because of traffic, that means that his morning routine gets him to work on time 4 times out of 5…so in order to compensate for the 1 out of 5 times that the traffic is out of control, that means he’d have to start arriving at least 15 minutes early every day. That may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re already getting up at, say, 5 am, having to get up at 4:45 am might suddenly feel like a dealbreaker for him.

    Focus on the performance issues.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This assumes that he has to get up earlier? Sometimes you just need to leave earlier and you can figure it out by listening to the road reports that most places have available. I check the trip advisor website for our area each morning to know if I need to deal with extra craziness or not.

      Also for me, I know that Wednesday is notoriously busy. I assume it because less holidays are mid-week, lots of people take Thursday/Friday or Monday/Tuesday off to have a long weekend but usually those of us in the 7-6 world are going to head to work on Wednesday. So I assume on a Wednesday, I should leave earlier.

      There is an issue here though if he has morning obligations. I can imagine this happens for folks who have school aged kids, getting caught up in back up traffic at school and you can’t just always drop a kid off early if you’re getting them there as early as the early program starts kind of thing. But if it’s just that he’s not interested in being proactive and checking road reports, leaving early on certain days where traffic is obviously being a brat, then yeah…he still needs to learn to be more responsible with getting to work on time all days of the week.

      You shouldn’t be that attached to a morning routine, the employer should be flexible of course but the employee needs to show flexibility on that end as well.

      1. Varthema*

        I do get it if there’s one particular day a week where traffic is longer, like Wednesday – at that point, yeah, you should estimate. Changing your routine based on a daily happenstance though – how leisurely is your morning routine that you can just leave a bit earlier? Mine pretty much involves showering, dressing, eating basic grooming, bagel to eat on the way and out the door. By the time I find out that something’s wrong with my commute, it’s too late to do anything about it unless I decide to go in my pajamas.

  40. Not Today Satan*

    Managers that fixate on this kind of thing are the worst. I understand that it’s easier to document or measure a late arrival than general incompetence, but being treated like a schoolgirl being sent to the dean for this type of thing is the biggest type of thing to send me on a job search.

  41. Help Desk Peon*

    I was JUST thinking this morning that I’m so glad my boss doesn’t care that I’m sometimes 15 minutes late. Most days, I’m 20 minutes or more early, but with school buses/weather/construction there are days that leaving the house 5 minutes late snowballs into my whole drive taking 30 minutes longer. I’m exempt, and more than make up that time dealing with stuff over lunch, in the evening, and occasionally on a weekend or holiday.

  42. bubba g*

    Thank god I don’t manage anyone, because I am a real stickler about timeliness. I am always at least 10 minutes early to doctor’s appointments, etc. Fortunately, my husband is also always on time.
    However, I don’t buy in to the idea that most people who are late are rude and self-absorbed. Some people seriously just can’t get places on time, but are good workers and otherwise lovely people.
    With my sister, I tell her the “out the door” time when we are together (she lives overseas), and she totally gets that because she must leave her house at a certain time to get her daughter to school and start the day with her medical practice (and she’s never late seeing her patients), but socially, she always underestimates the time she needs to get ready, do an errand.
    I understand that me being such a stickler about time is my issue, and mine alone, and if I really need someone who’s always late to arrive on time, I simply give them an earlier arrival time. I know that doesn’t work in the work environment, but focusing on my issues about timeliness, instead of being frustrated with others, really helped me. It’s an inborn personality thing that’s really hard to change, always being late/being a stickler about time.

    1. blink14*

      I used to be that person who would start panicking if I wasn’t 10 minutes early, even being on time wasn’t good enough. Then one morning, in a hurry to rush out the door when I was already past my usual time to leave for work, I fell down some stairs and ended up with a bizarre and severe ankle injury that took like 8 months to diagnosis and a full year from injury to surgery date. And I was more late to work than I would’ve been had I just calmly walked down those stairs.

      I now tell myself that being 10 minutes late (for most occasions), is better than suffering from a severe injury. Being a little late is better than spending a year recovering from surgery. Now, my “late” ranges from 5 minutes early to 5 minutes late. I still panic when I’m running really late, but for the most part, I’ve given myself permission to be a few minutes late. Except for doctor’s appointments – I always aim to be early, even if its like 30 minutes.

  43. Ban the BCC*

    “I dont consider traffic a valid excuse.”
    Ok, this attitude is why I left my last job. My commute was 45-70 minutes depending on the day and the amount of highway traffic. I cant plan for that tractor trailer roll over that shuts down a highway, forcing me and 300 other people to take back roads. I cant plan for motorists that slow down for sun glare. I cant always plan for construction. This seems like a petty power play type of manager.

    1. blink14*

      Totally agree. A few weeks ago there was a major accident with a car and a train that effectively cut off my “cut off” road. I had to backtrack and then cut across the city in a different way, this being after I sat in traffic for about 15 minutes because literally no one could turn around and there were no other turns until the main intersection. I ended up being 30 minutes late to work.

      This morning, it was a crane blocking a lane on my way to work, backing up traffic, and I was 10 minutes late. It happens. Even when my commute was 15 minutes driving, it would often become 20-30 minutes just from stupid traffic delays. You can’t depend on a public transportation schedule or a driving route to be 100% on time, it will never happen in most places.

    2. Aspie AF*

      The first big snowfall of the year here often brings traffic to a standstill. There’s a big hill on my commute, and my 15-minute bus ride turned into an house and a half one year. I let my employer know as soon as I could, and they were understanding – it wasn’t just me, of course, but if they hadn’t been I’d be job hunting too.

  44. Becky*

    When I mentioned the lateness, he said in his defense that he stays late, which he does — but at the same time, he works slowly and cannot always finish his work within regular hours.

    I’m not entirely clear on what is meant by “cannot always finish his work within regular hours”. Is he completing his work and meeting deadlines? Or is he missing deadlines?
    If you need something from him by the end of day is it clear if you need it before YOU leave or if it is okay to complete it by the end of HIS day which may be later than yours?
    Does it mean he is not able to complete all his work in an 8 hour work day? Or that he is completing work late in the evening when no one else is there meaning it is outside of regular work hours but is still complete?

    If he is not able to complete his work in an 8 hour work day it could be a performance issue or it could be a staffing issue. If he is working on Tasks A, B and C, but C requires input or assistance from someone else and he doesn’t get to C until everyone else is gone then he needs to reprioritize when he knows he will need other resources on a task.

    You really need to focus here on the performance issue because that is the bigger problem–not being a little late once a week. As others have said, I don’t see any evidence from your letter that being on time 100% rather than 80% would fix the issue of work not being completed.

    1. Old Cynic*

      I absolutely agree with Becky. As long as deadlines aren’t missed, what difference does it make if it takes him 8 hours to do the work or 10 hours? It’s his own time he’s impacting if he’s staying late.

      1. ele4phant*

        Well, I’d care if it takes someone ten hours to do the work that should take an average worker just 8.

        That’s a recipe for burnout. I’m not going to let someone toil away consistently long hours because it’s their time. Someone always working long hours is a symptom of something that will grow and become a bigger problem if I don’t get to the bottom of it.

        Assuming he does need more time than I would expect – I’d want to understand why. Is it a worklaod issue, do you have too many competing demands? Is it a prioritization issue? Is it a gap in skills that training could fix? Are you waiting around on other people before you can move forward? Do we fundamentally underestimate what a task should require? Or is it truly a bad fit and they aren’t up to the job?

        Now, if he’s still generally working 8 hours, it just so happens he works later because he starts later? I mean that really depends, are other people waiting on him? If someone wants to work a non-traditional schedule, as long as they are still working a reasonable amount, and they aren’t impacting anyone else, and they are reasonably responsive, that’s fine.

  45. Under_the_gun_all_the_time*

    I think lateness wouldn’t be an issue, but when coinciding along performance issues, I think the OP is looking for the employee to put in additional time to correct the performance, which includes being early/or on time as well as staying late until performance is up to par.

  46. MissDisplaced*

    “I don’t consider traffic a valid excuse.” Sorry, but you’re wrong.
    I have a 1-hour morning commute (I leave promptly at 7am) but I only live about 20 miles away from work. Yes,
    TRAFFIC IS THAT BAD! Normally, and most days, I get there just before 8am. But if there is ANYthing, rain, snow, accidents, wind, debris, deer, you name it, I might not arrive until 8:15 or even 8:30. Some days, there is simply no moving. When those things happen, I’ll stay until 5 or 5:30pm, or skip lunch (it’s rare I even get a lunch–so my company usually gets an extra 30 minutes OT out of me each day because of that anyway).

    You are missing the bigger picture.
    If there are issues about this employee’s work not being done on time and they’re blowing deadlines, or not done in a satisfactory manner, those should be the focus of the issue. Not butt in the seat.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      If there’s weather, you should be leaving early since you know that it’s going to impact your commute. You’re an adult, who should be able to flex your own time to get places on time when necessary.

      Yes, other incidents and accidents aren’t something you can plan for but you can indeed leave early if it’s raining and you know everyone is going to be going extra slow.

      1. Aspie AF*

        I would have to leave before I wake up in order to do this sometimes – the right weather conditions have turned my 3 mile commute into an hour and a half.

      2. MissDisplaced*

        Nope. Sometimes you can’t leave any earlier. In fact a lot of people cannot leave for work any earlier because of many factors.

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          And sometimes needing to be 30 minutes earlier does not mean I need to leave 30 minutes earlier, but more.

          I used to work at a place where I started at 9:30. Because I don’t drive, I used to take the subway and transfer between lines. If I wanted to make it there at 9:30, I would be fine leaving home at 8:30 and making the transfer at 9:00-9;10 most of the time (I’d be 5-10 minutes late sometimes, but it wasn’t the rule). If I had to be there at 9:00; I would have to leave at 7:30 the latest because sometimes the trains were so packed I literally couldn’t get in.

      3. ele4phant*

        Yeah, if it’s about the weather, you can anticipate that.

        But sometimes there’s an accident and you can’t plan for that.

        I take transit, and sometimes a bus has a maintenance issue or a driver got sick and they couldn’t find a sub, and a bus outright doesn’t show and you have to wait for the next one. You can’t anticipate that.

        Stuff happens – when you are sharing infrastructure with thousands of other people you can’t reliably control for every factor every day. I don’t think its fair to always build in a ton of buffer time “just in case” its one of those days. At least if you are an exempt employee. If he was hourly, or if there is a client meeting or deadline that MUST be met, than yes, be overally cautious and leave super early, just in case. But day to day – this isn’t something I would get in a fuss about.

        I would get in a fuss if he wasn’t meeting deadlines or he consistently needed more hours than one should reasonably need to do his job.

      4. A Non E. Mouse*

        I cannot leave earlier. The doors literally don’t open until 6:45 for me to drop off our youngest.

        And that is 45 minutes before my start time, with a 30ish minute commute. I’m just going to get there when I get there. Most of the time early, small percentage “on time”, tiny tiny percent wildly late due to cows on the road (actually happened).

        I’m exempt and if anyone gave me some BS about not seeing my shiny happy face at 7:30 some morning everyone in hearing range would know exactly how I felt about that.

    2. James*

      When I lived in Southern California I’d leave at 4 am to get to the office at 6 am. I’d leave around 3 pm, and get home between 5 and 6 pm. If there was a major accident, travel times could vary as much as two hours. I lived 30 miles from the office, and there were no practical alternatives to the 405–the other routes were worse!

      Then you have my dad up north, in the Great Lakes region. He was driving in to work one day, stopped to get a cup of coffee at a gas station, and a police officer informed him that if he went one mile more he’d cross into a county with a Level 3 snow emergency in effect. That means it’s illegal to drive, period, unless you’re an emergency responder. Dad did not make it in to work that day! I don’t want to say that was routine, but it was a chance all employers took during the winter.

      Sometimes things happen on the road, and if an employer isn’t flexible enough to handle that, I have to wonder what other problems that employer has.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        SoCal is one of the worst areas. I well remember one night around Christmas and it took me 4 hours to get home from West LA to Hermosa Beach. Sepulveda was a parking lot.

        It’s not quite that bad where I live now, but I’d guess that at least one of 10 working days, you will be late by 10-15 minutes. Sometimes, even once per week, much like the employee mentioned. And it wouldn’t really matter if you left 15 minutes early. I once had a week where there was an accident on the exact same stretch of road every day for about two weeks due to weird construction patterns and rainy days. But other days, you’ll get there 20-30 minutes early. You just never know what it’ll be.

  47. Nini*

    I had a manager that did this is me, and I quit over it. I was exempt, always stayed late to make sure I was in the office for at least 8 hours, and was otherwise doing a great job, but he insisted that everyone be in the office at exactly 8 am. He didn’t care that I was staying late, didn’t care about the reasons why. There were no meetings to attend, no work that had to be done at exactly 8 am. He just wanted a butt in a chair at 8 am because he was a morning person, and he didn’t care that other people might not be. I left for a place with more flexibility, and I’ve never taken a job that micromanaged time in the office ever again.

    OP, the point of hiring someone on an exempt status is that you’re paying for their WORK, not their hours. If you want to monitor the exact hours they work then hire hourly employees and set shifts. As for this employee, focus on the issues affecting the work he’s doing. If the lateness isn’t impacting his work, then it’s not an issue to focus on.

  48. cheeky*

    If he were an hourly, non-exempt employee and this affected business, I’d say it needs to be addressed, but if the lateness is just a pet peeve for you, then it’s probably not worth raising, absent more serious issues.

  49. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    For positions that require you to face a client, answer phones, etc. I’m a stickler for being on time when you’re told you need to be here.

    For all other positions, I want you here when you say you’ll be here. I loathe showing up or staying late for something, and then get a last minute call that something came up.

  50. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    OP: Yeah, the problem isn’t that he’s late once a week, the problem is that you’re frustrated as heck with him. Focus on the real problem areas, try not to let your aggravation needlessly bug you.

    Re: Punctuality mattering at jobs: In my experience, the jobs that were the strictest and punitive about lateness were always also the most menial and the lowest paying. It didn’t matter if there was a specific reason that someone had to be in by their start time on the dot, by gum, or if it honestly wouldn’t make a difference. It was really mind blowing for me when I finally had my first job where I didn’t have to grovel and beg forgiveness because I got stuck behind a train on my way in.

    True confession: I once had a coworker (NOT a boss or supervisor, a totally equal coworker) who was driven absolutely BATTY by anyone who wasn’t 5-10 minutes early. I found out from my boss (who probably shouldn’t have told me this) that said coworker kept trying to file complaints about me because once or twice a week I might not make it to my desk until 8:32 or 8:33. I was so offended that I went a total jerk route and, from that day on, made sure that I walked into the office at 8:31 on the dot.

    1. Important Moi*

      I’m seeing this very late. Why was your co-worker unable to file these complaints? Was your job time sensitive?

      I’m not in management or HR, but if I were I would let them file and have the filings become a part of their “permanent” record.

      Yes, I’m late too….sigh

      1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

        She was unable to file them because I wasn’t violating any company policy (which specifically gave us a grace period of 10-15 minutes, and even if we were later than that we just had to call to notify someone), and 2 to 3 minutes in no way impacted my job or anyone else’s ability to do their job so… they weren’t going to discipline me for it. I… can’t think of any place where 2-3 minutes would be worthy of official complaints meant to have a coworker disciplined?

  51. Autumnheart*

    Lateness by itself isn’t necessarily an indicator of a problem for an exempt employee, assuming that was the only negative in an otherwise solid performance. But if this person is underperforming in general (and it sounds like he is), then being late might be part of that.

    Lateness as a performance issue is a moving target, so I would avoid using that to address an overall performance concern. I would focus on things like missing deadlines, and not being available to collaborate with other employees during core hours. It’s less about “I find lateness personally annoying” and more about “Other people need you to be here, and have the work done so they can do their part.” Because that’s what gets impeded when someone isn’t at work on time and doesn’t finish things on time.

    I think there’s room to be flexible about both of these things, but when someone is taking advantage of that flexibility, to the point where they’re dragging down the bar (presumably other exempt employees are conscientious about their availability and deadlines), then that can be addressed with “You are not performing to the basic level we expect for this role, and these are examples of how you’re not doing that”.

  52. PretzelGirl*

    If it doesn’t affect business I would let it go. I have an hour commute. Traffic can be super unpredictable. Sometimes I am right on time, other times I am early and a few times a week I am late. I generally leave on time, but even a person pulled over on the side of the road can derail traffic (keep moving people!!!). Now that winter is coming (said in Game of Thrones voice), it will get worse. People drive like they’ve never seen snow in a region that gets it 4-5 months out of the year. There’s not much to be done, I honestly I really don’t feel like leaving 2 hours before I start, because then I would be sitting around twiddling my thumbs for an hour.

  53. Yikes*

    Re: traffic. I once had a commute where I could either leave when I did and risk potentially sometimes being up to ten minutes late, OR leave like ten minutes earlier but miss so much traffic that I would be 30 minutes early and have to wait to be let in the office. Then one day I was running 30 minutes late, and discovered if I waited it out a bit, I missed rush hour entirely and got to work five minutes early.

    Anyway, I think being focused on this time of lateness when it’s not actually impacting anything is super dumb.

  54. Lady Kelvin*

    I’m 15-20 minutes late for work EVERY DAY. I can’t drop kiddo off at daycare until 7:30am and it take 35-40 minutes to get to work from there. Then I have to leave at 4:30pm on the dot to make sure I am there before 5:30 to pick him up before they close. It is what it is, and it’ll only be until he moves into the toddler room when they are open from 6-6 (their infant classroom has special hours). Then, some mornings the world conspires against me and I’m even later. Today my alarm clock decided to sleep in an extra 45 minutes, so we left 10 minutes late to begin with. Then there was an accident in the tunnel so it added another 20 minutes to my commute.

  55. Alice*

    OP, not to be blunt but I quit a job because of a manager like you. I used to work 9:30-6:30, usually, and I thought there was no issue with it (even though general office hours were 9-5) because I was staying so late every day finishing everything. My manager eventually revealed that she was supremely annoyed with me and insisted I should arrive at 9 on the dot. I complied. I also started leaving at 5 and eventually found a new job and moved on. There were many other issues in the workplace, but that’s the issue that caused me to take a good look at my manager’s priorities. If you care more about the hours than the job, then you should pay workers hourly.

    1. cncx*

      yup, same. also the ones who make you getting there early a hill to die on never seem to be that worried about you staying late.

  56. Liz*

    Work needs to be more flexible in general. How many jobs out there have exactly 8 hours of work to be done, five days a week? Very few. Even client facing positions have down times or extremely busy times. Work ebbs and flows, sometimes you may need a 9 or 10 hour day, sometimes work can be completed in 6, or maybe even less days during the week. Bosses have this mentality that they’re paying for your presence for a set amount of time, when they’re really paying for work to be done. Put more emphasis on work production and outcomes, and way less on how an employee behaves within a ridged work system.

  57. Liz*

    Work needs to be more flexible in general. How many jobs out there have exactly 8 hours of work to be done, five days a week? Very few. Even client facing positions have down times or extremely busy times. Work ebbs and flows, sometimes you may need a 9 or 10 hour day, sometimes work can be completed in 6, or maybe even less days during the week. Bosses have this mentality that they’re paying for your presence for a set amount of time, when they’re really paying for work to be done. Put more emphasis on work production and outcomes, and way less on how an employee behaves within a ridged work system.

    1. Rayray*

      Exactly. I hate the 8 hour a day, 5 days a week schedule. It’s ridiculous that you could finish your work at 4:00, but now you have to sit there and pretend to be busy until the clock hits 5:00 – the time determined by your employer that you get to leave. So much time gets wasted trying to make it seemike your work took 8 hours. People work slowly or pretend a project is taking a long time, when what’s actually happening is that they’re sneaking in playing games, chit-chatting with coworkers, reading and commenting on blogs (Hi!) in between bits and pieces of the task. Now, if I knew all I had to do was finish the necessary tasks before I went home, I’d work on them without the act of pretending it took 8 hours. Then, I could leave earlier in the afternoon and attain to personal needs. And let’s say it was busyand those tasks would put me at a 9-10 hours. Fine with me, if I got to head out at 2:30 on a slow day, I’d be fine to have a longer day now.

      1. Rayray*

        And just another thing I remembered which is relevant –

        My roommate works for a non profit that offered flex days as part of the package since salaries were on the low side. Then, I suppose the big guys got together and decided they would offer those flex days anymore. Some employees were super accustomed to it, and it was arranged they could work longer days and still get those every-other-week flex days. Guess what happens now? Those people finish all their tasks and either stare at the wall, nap, play games etc until they’ve hit the time that they have physically been present in the office to amount for the right amount of hours to put on their time card. So they’re not necessarily being paid for 10 hours of work, rather paid for the work they got done in 8< hours and then because they sat their butt in a chair for the remaining time period.

  58. Old Cynic*

    I absolutely agree with Becky. As long as deadlines aren’t missed, what difference does it make if it takes him 8 hours to do the work or 10 hours? It’s his own time he’s impacting if he’s staying late.

  59. Not a Blossom*

    It irritates the daylights out of me that some people in this office are constantly late, especially because we can set our own hours. Pick a time that works and be reliable! However, I only say something when it matters. Late enough to miss a meeting or an interview? We are going to have a talk. Lateness that doesn’t affect anything? I’ll just roll my eyes internally and mentally move back their start time in my head when scheduling meetings because at the end of the day, it’s not hurting anything.

    TL;DR: I understand the OP’s frustration because it annoys me too, but no good can come from being strict about this when it doesn’t affect the business.

  60. Rayray*

    Interesting how employers will cry if someone is a few minutes late but when they want the employee to stay late, messing with their personal schedule? Oh, that’s totally fine.

    It needs to go both ways. If you refuse to be reasonable and not budge on their start time, then do the same for your employee. Why should anyone stay late to help you if you can’t be helpful back and give them just a little flexibility on their start time?

  61. Catsaber*

    15-20 minutes late maybe 1-2 a week….that sounds like my long-term goal. I am about 20-30 minutes late every single day, because 1) I have small children to get to school 2) traffic is totally unpredictable 3) sometimes I just can’t get up that early.

    My boss doesn’t care one bit and just told me earlier today I am one of the best employees he has. I do not stay late – I have to leave at a specific time every day to get my kids – but I work efficiently, and most weekends I spend about 30 minutes or so doing some work on failed database jobs (I work in IT), so it all balances out. But most importantly, I’m a good, reliable employee, and my job doesn’t require me to be here at a certain time, so my boss really doesn’t care about my lateness. Point is – the lateness is not the real issue.

    *Today I was EARLY by some black magic. And it was wasted because I couldn’t get my computer dock to work with my laptop!!! I spent almost 30 minutes trying to get that dang thing to work.

  62. LawBee*

    I have not consistently been “on time” for a job in decades – since I started working at the exempt level. It’s never been an issue for me, and honestly at this stage in my life I would be very annoyed if my boss made an issue of it. It’s also not something I’ve ever worried about. Some weeks I hit the 35-40 mark (whichever that particular company requires), some weeks I don’t, but the work always gets done on time.

    1. LawBee*

      GRANTED I am starting a new job in a couple of weeks, so we’ll see how that goes, haha. But this leopard isn’t likely to change her spots.

  63. Clementine*

    Are there actual performance issues? It sounds like he is getting everything done by staying late as necessary. Is there too much work to finish in one day? Does he enjoy the peace and quiet to finish tasks after everyone else has left? Is he doing objectively worse than his peers?

  64. TXAdmin*

    I have been at my job and lived in the same home for over 2 years and I consistently find random, unpredictable traffic issues that make me late for work by 10-20 minutes at least once a week. They are never on the same day, never in the same place and because of the nature of my commute (I lived almost directly 11 miles north of my work but the only routes go on either side) I can’t re-route myself and still arrive on time. This morning I drove the 10 miles from daycare to work and it took me 52 minutes. Yesterday the exact same drive took me 21.

  65. Junior Assistant Peon*

    It sounds like this guy is willing to stay late to make up the time, and the real issue is that he’s not getting his work done.

    I had an employee who seemed to have excuses to leave early awfully frequently. I started documenting them, but soon after, I unexpectedly came into work about 2 hours early one morning and found him working. I decided he didn’t need to be watched after that.

  66. Heat's Kitchen*

    For *most* professional, salaried jobs, the time one gets into work should not matter as long as:
    A) The employee shows up for meetings/obligations that do have a specific start time
    B) The employee is overall getting their work done

    Focus on the employee output, not the day-to-day comings and goings of these employees. Now, if like this OP, the employee does not always get their work done, maybe a more rigid schedule is necessary. But do that on an as needed basis, not as the general rule.

  67. 1234*

    While I haven’t read every single comment, has OP taken a look at this guy’s workload? Is he staying late because he is overwhelmed with work/putting out fires all the time? Is his workload reasonable?

  68. Close Bracket*

    “There are no time-sensitive tasks that require him to be at his desk at a specific time”

    Then there is no problem

    “but I find lateness annoying”

    That’s a change you can make yourself. Work on being less annoyed by lateness. It’s not a sign of moral turpitude.

    It sounds like you are at eating crackers with the performance and that is magnifying your issues with lateness. Separate those two things. Focus on things that impact work, and let the rest go.

  69. Angelinha*

    Does this office have an official “start time” that he’s late for, or is this start time just the start time that you get there? You say “There are no time-sensitive tasks that require him to be at his desk at a specific time” which makes it sound like there’s no set start time. So when you say he’s 15-20 minutes late….what time exactly is he late for?? This does not sound like an issue. The other things do! But not this. Plus he’s exempt. I would let it go.

  70. kel*

    Part of the reason why I left my last job was the arbitrary “butts-in-seats” approach. I was exempt, did not have morning meetings, and clients communicated with me via email or pre-scheduled face-to-face meetings. I always received top remarks in my performance reviews and my manager never had anything negative to say. It truly did not matter for my job whether I was there at 9, 9:15, or 9:30. Not to mention, I frequently stayed late to finish projects, meet with clients who had non-traditional schedules, and staff department events.

    When my manager brought this up with me, I explained that chronic pain + an unreliable public transport system makes my mornings a bit unpredictable, and she offered to move my start time to 9:30. I sort of felt like she was missing the point, and asked if arriving at a precise time was a core function of my job. Her answer was “No, but HR requires that everyone is here at their designated start time.” I understood that this was out of her hands, accepted the later start time, and began job searching.

    In my exit interview with HR I explained that one of the reasons I was leaving was a lack of flexibility on their end— I was willing to be generous with time at the end of my day but did not receive any flexibility in return.

    Anyway, I know my situation is different from OP’s employee, because that person’s work is suffering. Just offering up this anecdote in case there are any “butts-in-seats” people reading these comments.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I hate this mentality!
      As I’ve said, they never want to “see” that people often arrive early or work late or extra hours. But they sure as shit SEE when you’re not there at precisely their normal start time and it bugs them. Whether that matters in your job or not.

    2. Mediamaven*

      In that job or your next job did you confirm that they would allow you to come in at any time? Did you agree to a specific start time when you started?

  71. The Happy Intern*

    Just because an employee doesn’t need to be at their desk right at their start time, does not mean that other people who work with them don’t need them to be there. Not only that, it isn’t fair to the people who do show up on time and get paid the same as this worker. I worked with someone who was not on time ONCE and wouldn’t be ready to start work until almost an hour past the start time and left early to catch the bus, so even though we got paid the same, she worked a solid hour less than me every single day – that’s not fair.
    You also mentioned that they’re not a top performer so there’s no justification in you looking past this infraction. Plus, if they’re blatently disregarding the start time, I’d be concerned what else they’re blowing off as that was also a pattern with my coworker.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      He doesn’t leave early though. He stays late to make up the time. Which by your logic makes it fair.

      1. The Happy Intern*

        Yes but he only does that because he’s too slow to do his work within normal hours which defeats the purpose of staying late to make up for a late start

    2. pamplemousse*

      If it’s the case that people who work with him need him to be there, though, then his manager can absolutely raise it as a performance issue. It might take a little legwork to go from a vague “Bob isn’t here and that’s annoying” to “Joan wanted to talk to Bob about his teapot stain formulation before her 10 am meeting, and he wasn’t here so she had to wait until 2 pm” but it’s definitely doable.

  72. CheeryO*

    I guess I’m biased because I work in a butts-in-seats type of job, even though I’m technically exempt and don’t have any super time-sensitive duties, but I think being 15-20 minutes late once per week is a lot. Once a month for an accident or crazy weather, maybe a little more if you take public transportation, sure, but weekly? That’s someone who needs to leave a little earlier. I could see giving flexibility to a good performer, especially if they stay late often enough to offset it, but I don’t see why it can’t be addressed as part of his performance issues.

    1. Observer*

      Why SHOULD it be part of the performance improvement? Punishing your staff for being naughty is not a good way to get the best out of your staff. Unless the punctuality is actually affecting others or your ability to manage the person, it should not be tied to productivity.

  73. Lifelong student*

    Reading through the comments it appears that people who are consistently late offer excuses. I admit that I hate consistent lateness. It seems to me that it is disrespectful to others- it implies that no one else’s time has value. It implies that only the person who is consistently late is important. Does it matter in a specific circumstance- perhaps not- but it does matter in the total evaluation of the late person’s attitude towards others.

    1. Observer*

      Nope. It’s just not true. You are attributing motives and thoughts to people that simply are not there. And, it’s a really, really a bad idea to do that.

      If someone’s schedule is having a negative effect on others, that is ABSOLUTELY a problem and should DEFINITELY be addressed by a manager. Calling someone disrespectful because they don’t meed some arbitrary standard is what is truly disrespectful.

    2. HotSauce*

      I feel the exact same way. Especially about work. Like why even have work hours at all if it “doesn’t really matter”? Just come in & leave whenever you want to! If that were the case I’d take a 3 hour break in the middle of the day to go home & have a nap. I feel like I’d be much more productive if I did.

    3. PersistentCat*

      Mmm. Well, are these chronic late people in your life dismissive of your time with their attitude, or are you choosing to interpret the action of being late as being late *at you*?
      I only ask because my 90 year old grandmother cancelled our planned outing (that was planned to be loosey-goosey and last an entire afternoon) because I said I would pick her up around lunch time after a task was done. 11:30 came around, and the task wasn’t done. 12:00 came around, task not done. Task was changing brakes, essential to my transportation to her place. I checked in with her at each of those points to tell her the latest ETA by the mechanic.
      She chose to cancel and to be upset that I had a task to complete that ran late “because she had plans”. That’s fine, to be expected. But those plans commenced at 7PM, after dinner. And we didn’t have a set start time.
      What I am getting at is that most of the early/prompt people in my life are better at figuring out the “play”/”transition time” in their schedules in a way that I simply cannot. Like, medically proven, cannot.
      What I can do is communicate upfront that I will do tasks in a certain order, and provide rough estimates ahead of time. If someone has a strict timeline that day, I reschedule with them for a day that’s more convenient for them.
      I update people the day of if there are hiccups, as with my brakes. It took the shop 3 hours for a job they told me would be 1 hour.
      I have zero intention to disrespect people or put my own needs ahead of others; often, in fact, I do more last minute, time consuming work to help the people I know then I have received back, because I will miss things to make sure their fire has been put out.
      I’ll also miss things because it took me 30 minutes to find my wallet or keys before being able to leave the house. But I’ll let you know if I’m struggling with that!
      Grace has got to go both ways in my friendships. I’ll drop everything for you; maybe work with me when I try to keep us in contact doing an activity we should both enjoy.
      With work? I put out fires, I’ll be there for 17+ hours without a break or food if it’s needed to meet a deadline. Sure, I’ll also be late…but always responsive to emails, always in contact, and really, always down to take on the next monster project. My boss and direct reports know and respect this & we all work together to keep our department running smoothly. No disrespect anywhere for anyone.

    4. Anon Here*

      It depends on why they’re late and how they handle it. I can be disrespectful or it can be an honest mistake, or completely beyond their control.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      (laugh/cry) I just commented upthread about how much I loved it that the discussion didn’t devolve into “he is being late *at* you/this is disrespect”. This’ll teach me to read to the end before jumping to any conclusions!

  74. Ophelia*

    Once upon a time, on a messaging board far, far away, the term “BEC” or “Bitch Eating Crackers” was termed. It came from this meme ( that I think is appropriate here.

    “Once you hate someone, everything they do is offensive. ‘Look at this bitch eating those crackers like she owns the place!”

    OP, you are frustrated with the lack of productivity from this employee, and you know it’s getting close to time to cut them loose. And now you are so frustrated that everything about them bothers you and you will nitpick. That’s okay! That’s human nature. But acknowledge that you have reached BEC stage and recognize that 10-15 minutes late when this employee doesn’t have a client-facing job really isn’t a big deal. Like Allison said, if it wouldn’t be a problem any other time, it isn’t really the problem now.

    1. Dasein9*

      Thank you. I was trying to figure out what was getting auto”corrected” to “eating crackers.”

  75. Sharon*

    I live in a city with horrendous traffic. I am totally insane about being on time for things, but I am frequently the ONLY person in the office until at least 10AM. I really think it’s down to the office culture. I had another job (everyone was salaried) where the start time was 8:30 and the manager would lock the office door at 8:31. If you weren’t there, you had to take the day off without pay.

    1. Rayray*

      Jeez Louise, did you also need to ask for thr hall pass to use the bathroom? Say “Present” during roll call? Line up at the water fountain for drink breaks counting to three as each person took their turn?

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My first job out of college was like that. They locked the doors at 8:00. They could let you in at 8:01, but you’d get written up and your manager and your manager’s manager would get in trouble for your lateness. It was not customer-facing work and there was no shop-floor conveyor, time-sensitive work, or even meetings that would have explained having to be there at 8:00. It was also the least productive job of my entire career. This being not in the US, no one had a car and most of us walked the 30-40 minutes to work. Everyone would run through the door panting and sweating at 8:00, sit around and catch their breath until 8:15-30, then get to the morning tasks like doing our hair and applying makeup (we had a large wall mirror and a communal curling iron in our office) while the men were sitting around shooting the breeze. Once that was done, it was 8:45 and time to start making tea for the entire group, at 9AM we all sat around a communal table drinking our tea out of our communal kettle… At around 10AM, we’d finally get to work, noon to 1 was lunch, 3PM to 4PM the afternoon tea, and at 5 on the dot, everybody left, because they’d come in at 8 on the dot and were not about to stay an extra minute! Ahhh strict hours for no apparent reason. Got to love them.

  76. HotSauce*

    Genuine question for the chronically late: if you know you can’t be at work at 9:00 on the dot why not shoot for 8:45, or even 8:30? I’m really not trying to be snarky here, I’m one of those people who always shows up 5 minutes early because I hate rushing around & I like to be able to have time to use the bathroom & fix a cup of coffee before I start in on my work for the day. I am truly baffled by people who are chronically late. Also, I get really mad when someone tells me they’ll meet me at a specific time & then show up 15 minutes after that time. To me it says “I don’t care if you had to wait around for me, my time is more important than yours.” I know that’s not really what they’re thinking, but it just feels disrespectful, especially when they pick the time. Typically if someone does that to me a few times I’ll stop hanging out with them.

    1. Important Moi*

      Genuine response. I wouldn’t ask you to speak for all “people who always shows up 5 minutes early” so I’m not speaking for all people who are chronically late. I’m speaking for me. I am truly baffled by people who are always early. No snark.

      “if you know you can’t be at work at 9:00 on the dot why not shoot for 8:45, or even 8:30?” If I could do that effectively and consistently, I wouldn’t be late in the first place. The reason I can’t? I guess it’s an area where I fall short.

      I’ve accepted that people can choose to stop hanging out with me. Honestly, I’ve never missed one person who made that choice. We tended to have “philosophical” differences on other matters as well. They assumed malice as the only intention for…everything really. They would say we could, would and should agree to agree but somehow only MY opinion needed further dissecting as their opinion was correct.

    2. MissElizaTudor*

      It depends at least partially on what’s causing the lateness. If it’s actually traffic related, then yes, planning to get there earlier might help. But if it’s something like an executive function issue, it is less likely to be helpful. Some people’s brains just don’t deal with time the same way as yours, for instance. Some people are dealing with depression that makes it hard to even get out of bed, much less get somewhere earlier. Some people can’t “lie” to themselves that way (if 9 is the time they’re expected to be there, 8:30 is actually earlier than necessary). And so on.

      It might be possible for someone with problems like that to do occasionally with great effort, like if they have an important 8am meeting with an hour long commute, go to bed at 7pm the night before and set alarms every ten minutes from 3am to 6am, or just not sleep at all. But that doesn’t make it a realistic approach for day to day things.

    3. PersistentCat*

      Oh HotSauce, you have no idea. I do plan to arrive early. And sometimes I even succeed in being early. I aim for 30-15 minutes early; I’ve set clocks fast, set alarms, tried routines, check lists, let Google Assistant stalk me so that I get traffic updates and “leave by” appointment reminders based on current traffic…

      And yet. Still on time or late. Because the cat was sick, because I forgot something important (my ID and/or purse has occurred), because I’ll “just do 1 last thing”, because I was responding to a influx of emails, texts, answering a call…
      The reasons are numerous, and folks that deal with these things with grace & don’t allow it to influence their ability to arrive to the next thing on time are an utter mystery to me as well.

    4. pamplemousse*

      Because it doesn’t work that way. I’m a frequently late person. I promise it is not because it has never occurred to me to leave earlier or try to get there earlier than I need to be.

      You say your question is genuine, so here’s my genuine attempt to list things that appear to come naturally, or at least with less effort, to someone who is Good at Time. (And I’m 32 years old, a successful professional, and in the middle of the road on untimeliness):

      —Understanding how long things take. I have a horrendous sense of time. I think my morning getting-ready routine takes about 20 minutes. I think it adds another 15 minutes if I make and eat breakfast. I am pretty sure that drying my hair and putting on makeup adds 5-8 minutes. I think my bus commute takes about 20 minutes. (I know, for some reason, that walking takes 30) and that walking to the bus stop takes about 2 minutes. These are things I do EVERY DAY, and if I underestimated by 20% for each, you’re suddenly talking about real time. Yes, there are clocks in my house. Yes, I own and often wear a watch.

      —Understanding where the time goes. I have finally accepted that if I go to the gym, I will be there for an hour. I do not understand how this is possible given that my workout takes me 36 minutes, and all I do at both ends is change and maybe rinse. But I have accepted that if I want to go to the gym, it is going to take an hour, so that’s what I plan for. Except that at least once a week I believe that THIS TIME it will take at most 45 minutes, because seriously, how does changing my clothes take 24 minutes, that makes no sense!

      —Time optimism: Related concept. I WANT to do all the things, one time I was able to get through the grocery store in 10 minutes flat and spend 40 minutes total on my run, I wnat to do both things tonight, ergo they will take me 50 minutes (even though most of hte tim, I want to go to the grocery store and also go running

      —Accounting for variability. OK, so, I could go through my day with a stopwatch. (I own an ADHD handbook that recommends this.) But then I’m convinced that my shower always takes 8 minutes, making breakfast always takes 15, etc. Except then one day I decide to wash my hair twice or get lost in thought and, oops, now my shower is 15 and I’m late.

      —Remembering what you need to build in time for. I usually wrap up my work between 5:45 and 6. So it shouldn’t be a problem to meet a friend at a bar 10 minutes away at 6:15. Except that after I wrap up my work, I pack up my stuff, and I usually go to the bathroom, and I pick a podcast to listen to while I’m walking, and sometimes a coworker interrupts me right on my way out, and the elevator is slow, and I remember something I forgot to do earlier in the day that needs to be done, and oh god it’s already 6:15 and I’m still at my desk, I’m such a jerk, I’m sorry!

      —Waiting (social angles). I think part of my lateness in some situations is social anxiety — I don’t want to be the first one there. It’s too conspicuous; what if I do something wrong; what if the only other person there early is someone I don’t know very well. (I have a friend who always says, Oh, I can meet up early! and it drives me crazy and causes me so much anxiety, because it really feels like moving the goalposts.)

      —Waiting (just the patience part). Being early to something just feels like wasted time to me. I know I could spend it doing the same clicking-on-my-phone I’m doing at home, yes. But not planning to be early allows me to imagine that I’m going to be productive right up until the last minute before the thing starts.

      Yes, I could get better at these things with a lot of work. I am better than I used to be. I also have a life with relatively few complications (no long drives, no kids, no pets) aside from a job where fires to be put out pop up semi-frequently. Yes, when I really have to be somewhere on time I can do it. Yes, it is inconsiderate to constantly be late to social occasions. It is totally OK for you to want to associate with people who want to be on time.

      But it’s not as easy as “just wake up and leave 10 minutes earlier.” I got up at 7 am on Monday, a full hour earlier than usual (yay daylight saving time!). I can usually get out the door in about 40 minutes. And somehow I still didn’t leave the house until after 9.

      1. PersistentCat*

        pamplemousse, thank you. that’s life with me.

        Not every chronic late person has ADHD. But…I think most chronic late people have some element of executive dysfunction, whether it’s at a level that disrupts their quality of life or not, or rises to the level of being a disability.

        I even believe that most chronic late people can fix their “late ways” if they want. I just know, from my personal experience, that the “fix” is exhausting and isn’t rewarding. In fact, it pulls away from my job performance due to the amount of energy it took to be “on time” to everything.

        It relates to the spoon theory, or at least, so the subject matter experts I’ve read/spoken to say. And if you have anyone in your life with ANY kind of disability, I think understanding the spoon theory is pretty beneficial to understand their exhaustion and efforts.

        1. pamplemousse*

          yeah, I have ADHD and this is me *when I’m medicated.* but I think people can definitely struggle with time awareness and management without having or needing a diagnosis.

          it’s definitely worse for work — I’ve gotten a lot better at being on time socially and while traveling — but I think that might be just because work is something I do almost every day in the morning, when being on time is hardest for me.

    5. Loves Libraries*

      I agree
      It’s rude to constantly keep others waiting. Usually people who keep friends waiting don’t miss airplane flights. On time arrival can be done.

      1. Varthema*

        True! If I saw friends as frequently as I flew, I would be three hours early every single time and I would have no friends since we’d only see each other three or four times a year.

        Executive dysfunction is not something I’m proud of or like and is actually at the center of a great deal of self-loathing. I (we?) do have coping strategies. I arrive at work half an hour to forty-five minutes early each day, for which I am unpaid, because I know that if I aim for 10 minutes early I likely won’t make it one time out of eight. I plan to arrive at the airport three hours early *every time* and I set multiple alarms for myself the day of flying. But these coping strategies require a ton of mental effort and, to be honest, wasted time. If I did that for every single appointment in my life, I would probably just stay home and be a hermit.

        As a caveat, I’m not an extreme case – half an hour is already way too much; I’ve never been one of those who keeps friends waiting for literally hours (shudder). But if you’re going to take 5-10 minutes personally, we’ll probably never be close.

    6. Anon Today*

      Genuine answer for this individual chronically late person:

      I have a constellation of chronic health conditions and live in a city notorious for terrible traffic. This is how this set of circumstances contributes to how extremely difficult it is for me to be early or on time for work that starts in the morning.

      I have a sleep disorder (delayed sleep phase disorder), ADHD (which is often comorbid with sleep disorders), and two diseases which have flares and triggers, moderate-severe asthma and migraines.

      So what happens is this. I’m supposed to be at work by 9.
      My natural state:
      I don’t get sleepy naturally until about 2am. If left to myself I will normally sleep from about 2-10 am and be perfectly happy that way. If I go to bed earlier, I still won’t fall asleep; it feels like going to bed in the middle of the day for me, unless I am already significantly sleep-deprived. Additionally, I get a natural boost of productivity around 9pm and feel like it’s a great time to tackle a personal project like writing, sewing, re-organizing the kitchen cabinets, etc. At the same time, my ADHD means that once I start that project, I get completely absorbed in it and time ceases to exist for me until I look up blearily and discover that it’s like 4 am and that’s why my head hurts. It also means that I resent going to bed, because it’s BORING and what I’m doing now is FUN and I don’t WANT to stop. And that anything I start doing, I either underestimate or overestimate how long it will take, and don’t realize how long it’s been. So when I go to wake up in the morning I’m working on a tiny amount of sleep and hit the snooze a bunch. And lack of sleep makes ADHD symptoms worse, so all morning I will get distracted in the middle of things and before I know it, I’ve been in the shower for 20 minutes and when I get out there is still soap in my hair.

      Then I have to take my meds. Every morning I have to take five different medications and every night I have to take three, and there are three that I have to carry with me each day as rescue meds or for mid-day dosing. Some days my asthma is acting up, and I need to take medication and wait a little for it to settle down before I leave, or it just slows me down even further. Then I have to get dressed, and find the thing I want to wear that I can’t find, and probably get distracted by a stray thought or the cat having barfed on the rug or whatever and losing another ten minutes there.

      Then once I get in the car I am subject to all the normal vagaries of traffic in a large city with bad traffic and poor public transit options.

      So, I hear you say, this all sounds like excuses to me. Take responsibility and do what you have to do so you can get in on time! In fact, this is what I say to myself, too. Being that late and seemingly unable to fix it was shameful and agonizing to me because I would TRY AND TRY and still fail. It was easier to cultivate an artsy/absent-minded professor persona than to admit that I was working REALLY HARD and still not succeeding.

      So I started going to doctors. I currently have 4 specialists. I see my asthma specialist once a month because my asthma has been resistant to treatment. I see my PCP once a quarter and my sleep specialist once a year. I see a psychologist for ADHD management and coaching twice a month.

      I take one ADHD pill in the morning and one in the afternoon. Asthma treatments morning and night. Melatonin and light therapy to try to combat the delayed sleep phase. A HOST of behavioral treatments. Managing my doctor appointments, tracking symptoms and triggers, and doing all my health management is essentially a second job that I have to pay to have and can never quit, and it’s physically and mentally EXHAUSTING. And that’s before I start worrying about stuff like having a social life, spending time with my family, fitting in physical activity or volunteer work or church, cleaning the house, paying the bills, taking the cat to the vet, and all the other stuff you have to do that isn’t getting work… not to mention doing the ACTUAL WORK.

      So with all that work and effort, this is how it works for me now:
      I have worked with my doctors to experimentally shift the timing and dosage of my ADHD meds so that I get a “med crash” around 11 pm that makes me feel artificially sleepy. I take melatonin to emphasize that. I try to get to bed by midnight so I can be working on close to 8 hours sleep instead of close to 6 hours.

      In the morning I have seven different alarms with names like “get up,” “you should be in the shower right now” “you need to be getting dressed” and “seriously you’re now already late.” I keep my first ADHD pill by the bed with a bottle of water because it takes about a half hour to kick in, so hopefully if I take it at my first alarm I’ll be able to focus and not forget things by the time I have to be out the door. I have a designated spot for my keys, purse, lunch, and computer bag to help me not forget them. I have a whiteboard on the back of the front door where I can leave myself notes if anything is different (I need to go to a different building or take something special or whatever.)

      I have “sleep and morning routine” as an ongoing priority with my therapist and we check in on it every two weeks to see what solutions have helped and what hasn’t, and tweak my approaches. I also spend a lot of time recording symptoms and triggers, keeping track of medication schedules, and getting treatment for my other health issues, because when they flare up the slow me down and make it harder to fit everything in.

      I now am senior enough (team lead/deputy chief level) that I am able to largely avoid meetings that start before 10 am, and my workplace has flexible schedules so that I work remotely all but two days a week, which helps immensely. Unfortunately, our core hours start at 9, and I find it extremely difficult to address all these converging root causes well enough and all at once to get there by then. All of this time, money, and effort spent has been met with moderate success, in that I am now 15-20 minutes late most days rather than 45-60. I continue to work on it.

      I am widely regarded as a “rock star” at my job. I am frequently awarded performance bonuses, get the highest possible ratings, get nominated for special training and professional development opportunities, etc. I lead several projects of high strategic importance. I work extremely hard to mitigate the limitations of my disability and I’ve come up with many techniques that, combined with really staying on top of my medical care, have helped me to maintain very high levels of work performance when it comes to my actual work product. But I am very fortunate: I have excellent health insurance, make a comfortable living, have a supportive spouse, and my boss and grandboss both value the health and well being of their employees and are very understanding of my need to take a half day once a month to go get a biologic drug administered for my asthma, or work some extra days at home because I am coming off a migraine and can’t tolerate the drive in to the office yet, or whatever.

      My lateness has nothing to do with other people and my level of respect for their time. It’s about the massive number of balls I have to juggle to keep myself going, the limited amount of energy I have to do it with, and the tradeoffs I sometimes have to make in terms of priority. I can be on time to a limited number of early things, like flights or very important meetings, because I have to plan them like the invasion of Normandy and start preparing for it far in advance; I just literally don’t have the ability to do that every day unless I were to give up doing pretty much anything else.

      I hope this helps those who do not have executive function or other disabilities to realize how complex something as seemingly simple as lateness can be for those of us who do, and help you not to attribute emotions to us that we simply don’t feel. A person with a broken leg can’t keep up with you in a footrace, and a person with a broken executive function can’t be effortlessly, consistently on time. It’s not some kind of power play or attitude problem or sign of “disrespect” or “inconsiderateness.”

  77. Important Moi*

    Genuine response. I wouldn’t ask you to speak for all “people who always shows up 5 minutes early” so I’m not speaking for all people who are chronically late. I’m speaking for me. I am truly baffled by people who are always early. No snark.

    “if you know you can’t be at work at 9:00 on the dot why not shoot for 8:45, or even 8:30?” If I could do that effectively and consistently, I wouldn’t be late in the first place. The reason I can’t? I guess it’s an area where I fall short.

    I’ve accepted that people can choose to stop hanging out with me. Honestly, I’ve never missed one person who made that choice. We tended to have “philosophical” differences on other matters as well. They assumed malice as the only intention for…everything really. They would say we could, would and should agree to agree but somehow only MY opinion needed further disecting as their opinion was correct.

  78. Sarah*

    Being late once a week only? I’d say that’s pretty good lol. I would let this go if it doesn’t impact work or co-workers. I’m bad at being on time myself, but otherwise still consider myself to be diligent and a hard worker (feedback I have received).

  79. Tim*

    While it seems like it’s a very common attitude here that sticking to a schedule isn’t important, I honestly don’t understand it. Even if you don’t have any time-sensitive tasks yourself (and I find it hard to believe that there are any jobs that NEVER have any time-sensitive tasks), people you work with are bound to have them, and sometimes they’re going to depend on you being available at times when you’re supposed to be. I find this very different from flexibility, at least how my workplaces have done it – if I know my coworker won’t be in the office until 1pm today and I need a response from her on something, it’s pretty straightforward to work around this, but if it’s a complete mystery when she’s going to show up it’s impossible to plan my own day efficiently.

    And frankly, I’ve never had a coworker who was consistently late but was good at replying to emails, updating their calendar, getting requested information in a timely manner, etc. It’s often not a fireable offense on it’s own but it’s a symptom of being a low performer, and it sounds like that’s the case here too.

    1. PersistentCat*

      My schedule flexes around “core hours”, which is the schedule you speak of. Unless I’m out the entire day, I am always at work during those core hours (all dr appts or what have you are outside those core work hours). Is my calendar going to show my arrival time that day in the office? No…but it indicates my core hours & if I’m available during them. My core hours are 10-3; I’m normally at my desk by 9 to do whatever, and get in at 9:30 at the very latest; I often work until 7. My boss starts at 6, works til 4. I have techs who cover production; there are 4 staggered shifts with start times at 5AM, 8AM, 12PM, and 4PM. Due to the nature of the work, the hourly techs can’t really flex their hours in the same way, and if they left production unsupported for more than an hour outside of a true emergency, production would be held up & it would be a performance issue, and handled accordingly.
      My job doesn’t cover production, and is salary besides. My boss makes early morning calls, I make the evening ones. It works for us, and for our company.
      I also field urgent requests/time sensitive requests; certain items have to be done within 3-4 hours of the request, etc. I meet those deadlines.
      People who want me to drop everything to deal with their minor request instead of sending an email or simply waiting until my calendar is free (do this now! uh, I’m on my way to a meeting, so…no?) are pretty rude people. I’ve only met like, 2 people like that…but it definitely an issue.
      Basically…”late to work” means different things to every company. We’re a 24/7 operation. We can definitely afford some flex, provided all key business decisions are made and deliverables completed on time.

    2. Ele4phant*

      So I can see your point, if he was coming in at really random hours and you never knew when to expect him.

      The fact is he is reliably making it to the office at a consistent time, it’s just about 20 minutes after the formal start of office hours. It’s also not “that” late, it’s one thing for a person to be unreachable for hours, another to know he won’t answer first thing.

      Being consistently in 20 minutes late might still be a problem, it depends on his job and what his coworkers need from him. It might also be a problem only some of the time, if a client wants to schedule a meeting right at 9, he better have the good judgement to make special efforts to get their on time or earlier.

  80. Anon Here*

    I struggle with arriving at a set time. I think it’s an ADHD thing for me. I do things like missing my train stop because I’m making up characters for a short story I want to write. Or impulsively taking a “short cut” that adds an extra thirty minutes. Or spilling coffee all over myself. I’m That Person. I’m kind of in-the-moment and disorganized. Sometimes, the disorganization leads to being early. It can go either way.

    I’ve had some success with aiming for an earlier arrival time. Like 8:00 instead of 9:00. Then, when I’m early, I treat it as a pre-work break – relax with coffee and breakfast. But sometimes, I’m just too discombobulated(sp?) for that to work. I’ve been avoiding doing anything social where I need to meet someone at a certain time. It never works. Work is slightly easier because it starts first thing in the morning.

  81. phedre*

    I have a really hard time getting to the office on time. I always intend to leave my apartment earlier, but between my ADHD and difficulty estimating how long things will take, most of the time I always end up running late. Thankfully my employer doesn’t care. I’m exempt, senior level, there’s no time-sensitive or critical reason for me to be there exactly on time, and I’m not inconveniencing anyone. My boss knows I do great work and manage my workload appropriately, so she let me adjust my hours to 10am-6:30pm. On the few occasions I have a 9am meeting, I absolutely make sure I’m on time so that no one is left waiting on me, but for some reason I have trouble getting to work earlier on days when I have nothing scheduled.

    I’m a big believer in letting staff arrange their schedules to best suit them if possible (obviously not every position can be flexible – some of our office assistants have set schedules because they need to cover phones), as long as they’re available for most of core business hours. I’m not a morning person and I tend to be much more productive in the afternoon/early evening, so it’s better for my employer to let me be flexible with my hours because the quality of my work is better and I get more done.

  82. Coffee Cup*

    I can’t imagine being an exempt employee (I am not American but I understand what that means pretty well thanks to this blog!) with no need to be at my desk at a set time, and who regularly stays late, with a boss who was recording my arrival time and making 10-15 minutes an issue. It honestly sounds like a nightmare.

  83. Linda Evangelista*

    As someone who lives in an area notorious for traffic problems, yes, traffic continues to be a valid excuse forever. I’m really thankful to be exempt in a flexible office.

  84. Enginear*

    Tardiness an issue? Nah, I wouldn’t say so. I know someone who literally lives 1 mile away from work and comes in an hour late. I live 30 miles away and I’m on time. We’re all salaried so ehh, not my issue.

    1. Enginear*

      Granted, he always makes an excuse as if he needs to prove to us / justify why he was late. I don’t care dude; I’m not your boss lol

Comments are closed.