Bruce Tulgan is the new Tom Peters.
Howard Jenkins, Chairman and CEO (fmr.), Publix Super Markets, Inc.
Jul 29, 2014

Management Challenge #5: When Employees Have a Hard Time Managing Time
Excerpted from The 27 Challenges Managers Face

Before you engage in any tug of war over time-management with any of your employees, first make sure you really understand the true time requirements of the jobs in question. In certain jobs it is critical that employees be faithful to a very precise schedule: Those are jobs where the employee’s physical presence at a specific place and time is essential to his/her work. It might be a factory where shifts are timed to keep the production machinery working around the clock. In retail, somebody needs to be there to open the store, first thing, and close the store, last thing, not to mention in between when customers might want to shop. In a hospital, you need coverage all the time because you can’t have patients there without health care providers. Whenever “coverage” is the critical time management factor, everybody has much less flexibility, so everybody needs to work harder to make it work.

There are other jobs where the key is to be available at a moment’s notice, such as doctors, police officers, and firefighters. On-call work is the extreme on both sides of flexibility. Whenever one is on call, the employee’s time is not really free. Yet on-call arrangements allow employers to be leaner in their staffing while maintaining coverage and, at the same time, they give some employees more time at least “almost off.”

Still many other types of work have the potential to be much more flexible. Lots of work can be done by mutual appointment, for example, real estate sales or financial advising. There is increasingly more work that can be done really anytime as long as it’s done by a certain deadline, for example web design or data analysis. Even work that requires considerable interdependency can be done on a flexible schedule as long as those who are working together remain in regular high-quality communication.


What about the employee who is chronically late, leaves early, wastes time and/or takes too many breaks?

There’s a good chance the employee would benefit greatly from some aggressive coaching on time-management.

  • Setting priorities is usually step one in most time-management programs and seminars. If you have limited time and too much to do, then you need to set priorities—in order of precedence or preference—so that you control what gets done first, second, third, and so on.
  • Maintaining an old-fashioned time log is the way begin to understand how they actually use their time inside and outside of work. The tool is simple enough and the idea is that an individual keeps track almost minute by minute of what she is doing. Use the data from the time log to coach the person to look for opportunities to eliminate time wasters, put priorities in order, make a realistic schedule, and live by it.
  • Talking through what it is going to take for that person to come in a little early, stay all the way until the end of his scheduled work obligations, and focus on work the whole time. Talk about it in no uncertain terms. Spell out what’s required.

Are some employees insulted or annoyed by the explicit focus on the petty details of living by a schedule? Perhaps they are. But almost always they start coming in on time, staying all day, and taking fewer breaks, at least for a while. A lot of employees will be genuinely grateful for your helping them understand how they are using their time and get better at living by a schedule.


Free Online Training with Preorder

Bruce’s newest book, The 27 Challenges Managers Face, will hit the shelves in September. Here’s your chance to be one of the first to benefit from this important book and, for each book purchased, receive Bruce’s 59 lesson video training course It’s Okay to Be the Boss for free! (A $59 value). Find out more!

Coming to bookstores everywhere September 15 from Wiley/Jossey-Bass.

Preorder Now!


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I guess I should warn you, I’m going to be focused on my forthcoming book for the foreseeable future. The 27 Challenges Managers Face: Step-by-Step Solutions to (Nearly) All of Your Management Problems is coming out in September! There is so much in the book, I’m just going to keep offering previews of the concrete management problems and step-by-step solutions to those problems. Click here for a digital sampler. I hope you like the previews enough to order the book for yourself and every manager you know. If you really love it, maybe you will go to Amazon and give me a great review… In any case, I’d love to get your feedback. Please let me know what you think.

Until next time…

Stay strong!


P.S. Check out this advance review of my new book by Human Resource Executive’s Kristen Frasch.


Human Resource Executive

The 27 Challenges Managers Face

July 28, 2014

Huffington Post

The Challenge of Coming From the Outside to Take Over an Existing Team

July 20, 2014

Training Magazine

The People List: “The People List” is a running list of all the key people with whom you need to be engaged in a one-on-one dialogue right now

July 18, 2014


The Challenges of Being a Branch Office Manager Newbie

July 14, 2014

Portrait of a young City banker

July 9, 2014

Progressive Grocer

Expert Column: Management Challenge #5

June 26, 2014

QSR Magazine

Starbucks Makes the Grade: Coffee quick serve invests in higher education for employees.

June 2014

Progressive Grocer

Mgmt. Challenge #1:  From Peer to Leader

June 23, 2014

Welding & Gases Today Online

Meet Generation Z

June 21, 2014

Convenience Store News

Going From Peer to Leader

June 11, 2014


Use Your Time Wisely

This video is from lesson #9 in the course “It’s Okay to Manage Yourself”


Bruce has two free webinars coming up in August!

For human resource executives:

Human Resource Executive’s Webinar Series

Building a Better Boss: Engaging Managers to Inspire and Engage Workers

August 13, 2014  2:30PM

Click Here

For the accounting profession:

Advance 2014 Accounting Career Summit

Developing Superstars: A Playbook for High-Potential Young Talent and the People Who Manage Them

Thursday, August 14 at 11:00am

Click Here