How do I motivate someone who values his time significantly more than money to come to work on time?


I'm looking for a strategy to negotiate punctuality with an employee who is quite skilled. However, I fear that docking his pay may not have an impact because he values his own time more highly than the potential cost of coming to work late. I have considered giving him the boot, but it seems too soon to take that course of action.

Management Employees Human Resources

asked Feb 20 '12 at 08:58
14 points
  • Not really a startup question, and not a lot to go on, but I presume you value him highly enough to want to keep him. Have you tried to find out _why_ he's coming in late? It might not be fashionable to say so, but some people are just awful at mornings (those with ADD for instance). Can you accommodate flexible hours, or is it extreme enough to be a real interruption to the office? – Matt 12 years ago
  • How does this have 3 up votes? No mention of whether the time he comes in has any impact on productivity, no mention of why it matters that he comes in "on time" whatever that vague term means, and has very little to do with startups. – Umassthrower 12 years ago
  • Not related to startups. Looks like a good topic for the workplace se site. – Mhoran Psprep 12 years ago
  • I realise it is not directly start-up related, however, it is in a start-up context, and this StackExchange seems best fit for this. – User2436 12 years ago
  • Many of the answers here attack the requirement, understandable, but not answering the core issue being about negotiating a time requirement when money is not a bargaining chip. – User2436 12 years ago
  • It's NOT a bargain as in "if you do XYZ, then I'll do ABC". If you want to motivate him then find a compelling reason for him to be there. For now he doesn't have a reason for being on time that makes sense to him. Just don't fire the guy because imagine what effect that will have on others in your startup; never fire the smart guys cause it's a sure sign of a dumb manager and in the end nobody wants to work for a dumb boss and everyone good will leave. Just motivate people by giving them something to do that will make them feel important. – Frenchie 12 years ago

4 Answers


Is the problem that he is just coming in late and that you like punctuality (in which case YOU should consider adapting) or does his coming late make a difference in the overall output?

Plenty of people think things should be done a certain way and expect others to do it that way. That's unfortunate because a) it may not be the best way and b) may be the person would be less productive doing it another way than their way.

Put the situation in context. Does his work involve teamwork where people interact often, in which case punctuality is important?

I measure work in 3 ways. 1) a person must have spent time doing it (ie, no copy-paste, last minute fluff), 2) there must be some sort of visible transformation (you should be able to visually see the ouput), 3) it must be usable by others (ie othewise it's just a hobby or a feel-good).

So if the person produces work and, assuming the context doesn't involve lots of teamwork, why would you want to alienate someone with skills???? People often try to change others; it never works. Try to help others better understand themselves. In a start-up, go for skills; the rest is just politics.

answered Feb 20 '12 at 10:50
4,166 points


I would agree with the two other responders - why is his punctuality an issue?
There are certainly lots of good reasons to want a team member to be on time, but for most skilled workers flexibility is also important.

Either way I think the best approach is to have a talk with the employee and take the time to explain why he should try to be on time. Hopefully he will see your side of things and change his behavior. In addition to the conversation I would suggest following up in writing in a very direct way outlining your expectations.

At least that will make sure the expectations are clear, so if you did need to take further action you will have laid a firm foundation to do so.

answered Feb 20 '12 at 12:03
111 points


What exactly do you gain from the employee coming early to office or at a particular given time? Mostly, if you are a start-up flexibility of time is one of the most important factor, which gains good working resources and relations, as most people wish to come in when it is off-peak hours and they can travel in comfort, if given the choice.

Usually what I have used for making people come in at a reasonable time is to make a Scrum meeting take place early in the morning (reasonable time would be around 10AM), which is made compulsary for the employee, so also ensuring that they are in office atleast by that given time.

If the employee is constantly coming in late, and also not doing his work on time and in the desired fashion, then better to let the resource go; as definitely the person is not jelling into the team and/or does not like the work he is doing!

Best strategy would be offer some kind of an incentive to the employee - like asking him to hold a responsible post and/or ask him to mentor someone else with whom he has to hold a meeting early as to start the work for that person. So, although the senior might be doing his work properly, he will be obliged to make sure that the junior person is also at the same level and hence has to assign the work early enough.

answered Feb 20 '12 at 12:48
161 points


The critical question is, who is negatively affected by your employee's lack of punctuality?

If customers are being impacted, you need to address that process issue. If your team member has an attitude that time commitments don't matter, you're probably going to have to reassign duties or move the individual out of the role. If their attitude is positive, it's just that they struggle with mornings, then this is a team issue and you should look for a solution from the team as a whole.

If colleagues are being impacted, you need to help the constructive conversations to happen if they aren't already. Don't just jump in to what may be a situation with hidden complexities, because 'fixing' one apparent problem may not be constructive, and it certainly sends the message that you don't trust the team to work without your intervention.

If only you are being affected, step back. Lateness winds you up because it's visible. But we all know that no-one is productive 60 minutes of every hour, all hours of the day. For me, if someone does the job above expectations in half the time, I'd rather reward the results than turn that person into a time-keeping target-scraper any day.

answered Feb 20 '12 at 20:17
Jeremy Parsons
5,197 points

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