Ken Keller: How many chances do I give?


Dear Ken Keller,
I can’t believe that after all these years I am still dealing with employees that arrive late to work every day. It’s driving me nuts.

Setting aside the fact that I am an early riser by nature and that I own the business; other than me getting upset about it, or firing the worst offenders, what can I do? — Mark M.

Dear Mark,
Some people want a paycheck bad enough to arrive at their place of employment on time every day. Others simply don’t care if they arrive on time or not.

My advice is simple; put those that arrive late to work on notice that they need to start arriving on time or you will replace them with someone who will.

Then, start marketing for new employees – the kind of people that value what you value (arriving on time among other things). Don’t hide the fact that you are seeking replacements and allow your actions to speak louder than words.

Offer a referral incentive for any employee that successfully refers someone that you hire. Create a simple announcement and make sure every employee receives it. Chances are your good employees know other good people looking for work.

Another way to get the attention of those employees who are tardy is to send a letter to their home advising them of the seriousness of the situation and that any additional late arrivals will be documented and used in employee retention decisions.

My own belief is that when someone is constantly tardy arriving to their place of employment they are demonstrating that they really don’t want to be an employee of your company.

There are plenty of people who have what you want, but it may take some time to find them. Keep looking and remember that good employees will often do the work of three other people who would rather be someplace else other than your company.


Dear Ken Keller,

I hired a new manager to join the company. At 90 days I took him to lunch and gave him a formal performance evaluation. I had prepared the paperwork, including a copy for him, and my plan was to discuss it while we ate.

Instead of having a pleasant conversation, he got angry about how I rated him on a few things and was really upset that I had rated him on some areas that he did not know he was responsible for. He has a lot of potential, and I don’t want to lose him. What did I do wrong? —Richard W.

Dear Richard,
No one likes surprises. You might have provided the paperwork to him a few days in advance for him to review the information and ratings. At the same time you provided the information, you could have set the appointment date for a meeting in your office to discuss your ratings and how the two of you could work together to improve them.

Performance evaluations are not easy and you deserve a lot of credit for being proactive to do them with your employees. I do think you need to fine tune your execution on how to actually have the discussions to avoid having a good employee become upset.

Ken Keller is a syndicated business columnist focused on the leadership needs of small and midsize closely held companies. Contact him at [email protected]. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of this media outlet.

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