Tardiness, Insecurity On The Rise? Or Is It Just Those Darn Millenials Again?

One in five workers is late to work at least once a week, up from one in six a year ago, according to the results of a new CareerBuilder survey. Excuses range from traffic, to kids, to lack of sleep, to having to stay home to keep a pet snake warm. (No joke.)

A leadership consultant in Pennsylvania says that the lateness could be a natural defense mechanism.

“When stress hits the hot button, we are prone to go back to behaviors we learned as kids for security and survival,” Sylvia Lafair, president of Creative Energy Options Inc., told HRE Online. “Those who are coming to work later and later were probably those who were tardy for a school test or sports practice when they didn’t believe they would make the team.”

Helping employees become aware of what they’re doing may be enough to counteract those behaviors, she says.

Counterpoint: Organizational psychologist Billie G. Blair says it’s just a generational thing. “Millennials have spent most of their youth interacting with data and technology. They fail to see a reason for the prescriptive borders around when work begins, in other words, a 9-to-5 job. In their view, work begins wherever they are, so tardiness doesn’t resonate with a younger generation.”

If this is your view, rather than try to box these round pegs into the oh-so-square 9-5 timeframe, embrace it, she says. Give up the “notion of tardiness” and make it easier for employees to get their work done wherever they are. Don’t be “the school teacher who checks them in at the beginning of the day and out at the end of the day,” she says.

Managers and HR: How do you feel about tardiness? Employees, do you feel a pang of guilt sneaking in at 9:15, even if you’ve been on your Blackberry during the whole train ride to work?