Nursing Talk

Dear Cassandra,

My supervisor is distressed because I am frequently “running late” to work. Sometimes I am fifteen minutes late. Sometimes I am an hour late for my shift. My supervisor even gave me a Written Warning. I always call the office to report that I am running late. What does it matter? What can I do?

Running Late in River Forest  


Dear Running Late,

Say you are an hour late for work. This creates a domino effect. The nurse on duty or the caregiver cannot leave until you arrive. The caregiver may need to go to work. If you are late, the caregiver may miss his train and be late for work. The nurse on duty may have appointments scheduled for after work. If she cannot leave on time, she may be late for her appointments. Your being late also disrupts the client’s schedule.

Every time you are an hour late for work, you have wasted the opportunity to earn an hour’s wages. This is called lost productivity. You are throwing away money.

Why are you constantly “running late” to work? Finding the reason is critical to solving your problem. Was the problem traffic related? Were you stuck in traffic because of an accident ahead of you? Did your car have a flat tire? Was the problem weather related? Were the roads bad because it was snowing? Was your garage door frozen shut?

Maybe you have a problem getting dressed for work. I knew a woman who felt she had “nothing to wear” to work. Her closet was full of clothes. She would put on one outfit, look at herself in the mirror, and then take off the clothes. She would repeat this process three or four times each morning until she found the “perfect” outfit. Needless to say, she was often “running late” for work.

Maybe you can blame a dog. One employee said that her dog failed to wake her up on time. Another said she was walking down the street, and a big dog assaulted her and stole her purse. Another employee had a little white dog who thought he was Superman. He would grab the Christmas tree skirt and tear through the house with the tree skirt flowing behind him like Superman’s cape. Each morning she would let him out in the back yard so he could “do his business.” He wanted to play, and he would refuse to come back inside the house. Catching this little Superman made the employee late for work many days.

According to an ABC Good Morning America Web site, the following types of consistently late individuals have been identified: Rationalizer—blames other factors, like their children or spouse

Absent minded professor—is forgetful

Deadline-driven adrenaline junkie— enjoys the adrenaline rush associated with pressure

Rebel—defies authority, gets a psychological high by keeping others waiting

The article gives the following tips for improving behavior:

Plan to be early. Add a 15 minute buffer to your commute.

Learn to tell time. Set a timer to ring when it is time to leave the house.

Learn to say, “No.” Reduce the activities and responsibilities in your life.

Don’t be a perfectionist. Agonizing and obsessing over details only contributes to lateness.

Limit distractions. Turn off the radio and TV.

Get out the door. Don’t go back to do “one more thing.”

Make up a threat. Tell you friends that, if you are late for dinner, you will buy wine for everyone. The possible expense may motivate you to get there.

If your supervisor has given you a Written Warning, he considers your “running late” a serious problem. You need to find a way to change this pattern of behavior.


Note: First published on American Home Health's news, January 2011.

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