I’m the manager of an IT Department in a small town. It’s taken me months and months to find this guy—his quality of work is fantastic. He’s both a good colleague and a friend.
However, he is virtually late every single day. This is despite multiple verbal warnings. In the last month, he has been late over 10 minutes 15 times, and between 5 and 10 minutes late 12 times.
My boss (the owner of the company), with decades of successful business experience, sees my colleague tardiness as unacceptable as I do. I think if you look after the small things, the big things start to look after themselves. But now I’m getting pressure from my boss that I’m not managing my colleague well enough, so it’s reflecting badly on me.
I can’t really threaten him with the sack, for my department would struggle significantly for the next several months until I find someone to replace him. What can I do about the situation?
Does It Matter?
I coach CEOs and business owners frequently, and one of the first bad habits of management expectation that I work on with new clients is getting them to understand that, for many positions, “getting things done” and “doing things right the first time” are the most important values.
Being a clock-watcher is often not important unless you are working with retail labor where the store must hold certain hours, assembly labor where the line cannot go on unless all are on the line and ready to go, or other non-exempt positions where monitoring time is important.
In your case, if your computer programmer is doing great work and he is brilliant, what does it matter what time he comes to work?
Here is a real world example from my own past businesses:
I had a young college CS graduate working for me, he was wicked smart and a gamer, and he periodically came in late. He often came in at 11 a.m. some mornings. It bothered my sensibilities that he came in late frequently. So one day, I pulled him aside to talk about my concerns and inquire what was going on for him and why was he frequently late.
He said, “I’m sorry, last night I was up gaming until 4 a.m., and I was tired. He said further, “But truly, the reason I come in late most mornings is because it is so distracting to work here, I get most of my work done after everyone goes home and it is quiet.” And he truly stayed at the office some nights until 11 p.m. or midnight.
So I said to him, “OK, you are such a great valued player for us, let’s make the environment better for you. You now start work every day at 11 a.m. and can stay as long as you like to get things done. Just get it all done.” He said, “Great.” And the result? He was solely responsible for software design. He’s a coding genius who allowed us to change our business model from a 9% GM to 68% GM within months.
We were literally printing money through the applied acts of his genius. Now, what would have happened if I had been a time-clock stickler?
What Would Happen:
A year later, I sold that company for a record multiple on Recurring Monthly Revenue (RMR) at closing (multiple not to be disclosed), and it was an awesome day. I remember coming back in and stroking him a personal check from proceeds of the sale. He was that good.
Then something terrible happened. The new owners had a time-clock mentality handicap, which required him to start coming in to work early, and he said, “The culture has changed and now sucks, and I am quitting.”
Was it at all necessary that he come into work early for him to get his work done? No, so he quit. The new owners just did not understand how to get the most from their great people. And they paid for a resource that left them shortly after acquisition because they did not understand how to manage people.
I have other stories of similar management understanding and helped them get the most from employees from which they produced wins similar to mine. We are not working with robots, but human beings, and when we understand how to motivate our employees, they can do great things. It’s a core part of creating a culture that works productively and gets things done right the first time.