Zero Tolerance On Time Clock

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about time clock policy:

My employer has implemented an extreme time clock policy. Allowing for only a 1 minute grace when punching in or out. Progressive reprimands resulting in terminations of many hard working high seniority people.This is a stressful situation for those who enjoy their positions. It is a source of anxiety that is often carried into their home life. Insomnia and fear always loom. There is bullying harassment among a union workforce. What can be done to stop or remedy this? I know it is being used to get rid of higher seniority wages. Help please.

Signed, On The Clock

DearĀ On The Clock:

I can imagine it is frightening and upsetting to suddenly be told there is no lateness tolerance or leaving-early tolerance, if there has been leeway before. However, having a one minute tolerance–or no tolerance at all, is the policy in many workplaces. The idea is that people should be waiting to start on time not rushing in after start time. That’s difficult for many people but is a requirement in many businesses and industries.You say there has been progressive discipline up to termination of those who have been late. It would seem the threat of firing was not enough to get those people to work on time. The only explanation would be that it was not possible to be to work on time–that seems unlikely.

The other explanation is that punctuality became a line in the dirt drawn by both management and employees.Whether it is correct or not that this is a ploy to fire people, especially those with high seniority, it is clear there is tremendous distrust about the situation. You say this is a union workplace. I assume they will be responding in some way, if they haven’t already. If an employee in your organization wants to ensure they are not disciplined progressively they will simply have to be on time and not leave early. But what can you do to correct the situation that led up to that strict policy?Have you talked to your manager, another manager or HR about it? Consider talking to someone to get a bigger view of what caused management to respond so extremely.

Perhaps you can ask for an opportunity to talk about the harmful effects you’re noticing. You should also have some alternatives to suggest. How much tolerance do you think is fair for employers and employees? Would that harm the organization? Is there some aspect of the union contract that might have an effect on this? Is there some other issue going on that is making this worse or creating other conflicts? You may not be able to have an effect on that, but perhaps you could at lest understand it better and be better prepared to present a case on behalf of others.

If your union representatives are not responsive, consider contacting a higher level to ask if they could refer you to other organizations that have had a similar situation and see how they handled it.Consider also if this is a larger company where people higher up would not want the lateness policy enforced in that way.I’m afraid there is no easy answer for this situation. Employers have the right to have a strict policy and to enforce it. Employees can choose not to work where it’s so strict. But, finding a middle ground is going to take a lot of negotiation I imagine–and a lot of willingness to listen and understand on both sides.If you are taking a leadership role in this, you will need to find out where the union stands about it if you are a member. Then, identify the key people to talk to and start your program of efforts.Best wishes to you in this situation. You sound as though you could provide a voice of reason for both sides. Maybe you can be the one to bring them together. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.