What to do when chronic tardiness is a chronic problem

What to do when chronic tardiness is a chronic problem

Ask the dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year: A valued veterinary team employee is always late and we’ve tried talking to her with no success. What do I do?
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Jun 12, 2017

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Q. A valued hourly employee at our veterinary practice is consistently late to work and late to return from lunch. I’ve spoken to her and discussed the importance of arriving on time in staff meetings. She always apologizes and says she’ll do better, which she does for a little bit and then goes back to being tardy. Do you have any discipline suggestions that aren’t just sending her home for the day?

Our clinic had a chronic tardiness problem when I joined the practice. We tried the “talk 'til you’re blue in the face,” nice-gal approach to no avail. After several months of telling the team we were going to start implementing consequences, we announced a new policy: If an employee has more than three unexcused tardies in a quarter—a tardy being more than five minutes late to the start of a shift—then the employee is ineligible for a wage increase that year when wage reviews are discussed.

We have exceptional staff, but if the team can’t count on them to get to work on time, the whole clinic suffers. It only took one missed wage increase opportunity to straighten out the problem with the majority of the employees. One employee that was tardy 103 times in one year was terminated for that reason. For the enforcement to stick, you also need to make sure the management team, including the veterinarians, are leading by example.

Judi Bailey, CVPM, is the hospital administrator at Loving Hands Animal Clinic and Pet Resort in Alpharetta, Georgia, and the founder and president of the Georgia Veterinary Managers Association. She is also the 2016 dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year.