Employers are toughening up on tardiness it seems. This is according to a survey by CareerBuilder UK. The reason given for the extra attention to arrival times at work is the current difficult economic climate. I never thought I’d say this but hurrah for the recession! Anything that causes employers to sit up and pay attention to employees who consistently flout the rules can only be a good thing.

Note that I said consistently. I’m not talking about the one off occasion where you drive a single track country road to work and get stuck behind a tractor, or the time when your alarm clock decides not to go off at the appointed hour, or the time when your cat gets stuck in the cat flap (you might think I’m making that one up but it’s a real-life excuse for arriving late at work. Apparently).

Perhaps paying attention to their employees’ arrival times will make employers realise that there are always two kinds of employee – “us” and “them”. “Us”, well, we are conscientious. We care about our jobs, about the company and we toe the line. We feel bad on the odd occasion when we arrive late or we have a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day. We make up the time by working through lunch. We are the ones who are likely to come in when we’re sick because we know the team is short staffed and our customers and colleagues will suffer because of our absence. We know who we are and we recognise our kindred spirits in the workplace.

“Them”. They are a different breed. They don’t care so much about their jobs, about the company and about toeing the line. It’s just a job to them and it really doesn’t matter if they arrive late or take a long lunch break. They will happily take advantage of the boss being out to make a personal call. Or two. Lasting over 30 minutes each. But hey, at least the plumber’s visit has been arranged and they know now exactly what the plans are for Saturday night. As do the rest of the office. The other “thems” don’t really care – they’re too busy on the phone to their mates. Or getting in a quick supermarket shop online. For “us”, it’s a different story. We quietly seethe while trying to get on with our work. Or we get together with our kindred spirits and moan about “them”.

What really winds “us” up is the fact that our employers do nothing to stop it. “They” get away with it. No one takes them aside and has a word. No one tells them that they need to abide by the company rules, start turning up on time and stop taking the proverbial. What’s worse, “we” get no recognition for being the ones who do abide by the rules. It’s enough to turn “us” into “them”. If only we didn’t have a conscience.

Employers need to know this. They need to know that ignoring those who break the rules does not endear them to those who don’t. All employees need to feel that they are being treated fairly and consistently. A situation of “one rule for them and one rule for us” does not make for a happy workforce. So, if the recession is making employers realise who “they” are, those consistent unapologetic late arrivers, that’s great. Now all employers need to do is act on it.

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