The gamification of tardiness

In general, those who work with me have glowing reviews. I'm good at what I do, I work hard, and I often deliver more than what was expected within the same window. However, my Achilles heel has always been being on time. I'm not talking about being late for meetings, but being late for the “start of work”.

It just never clicked. As someone who likes to question everything and never accept “that’s just how it is” as an answer, I have had a really hard time throughout my career coming to terms with exactly why I need to be in at a certain time. Yes, everyone else comes in at 9, but if I have no business or arrangements with anyone else and my absence won’t block anyone, then why does it matter if I come in an hour late and make it up with an hour after work? Why must my working times be perfectly aligned with those who do not need me in order to perform their role?

Whilst the reason will probably change depending on who you ask, recently I have found an answer that I can accept:


Technically, me coming in an hour later and leaving an hour later may not have a negative impact on how much work I get done, but it’s not about me and it’s not about my work. It’s not about respecting my manager, it’s not about following rules. It’s about your colleagues. It’s about the effort they all put in to get in on time, and it’s about not being the exception to the rule. Me being frequently late in environments where everyone was frequently on time caused conflict. Colleagues were upset that they put in the effort to be in early whilst I got to waltz in whenever and expect everything to be fine. I got complaints from my managers because my managers were getting complaints from my colleagues.

It started to become a thing. I was (and sometimes still am, reputation is a hard thing to change) associated with tardiness. I was constantly told that it was the only thing keeping me from the highest of levels. Something as simple as being on time. I never got it, and it was an issue for years. I tried to fix it, but never really felt the urgency or importance so I fell short every time. It never lost me a job or an opportunity as far as I know, but it did decrease my value as an asset.

Enter Grabble, armed with a Chief Time Officer.
Grabble is where I am currently. It’s also the place that has fixed my tardiness problem. At Grabble we make a conscious effort to have a great company culture, and part of that was assigning roles to people in the company to look after little things that add up to make a huge improvement. I’ll make a more detailed post about it in the future, but for now I’d like to focus on one of the roles that came out of that; Chief Time Officer. It’s a simple role really, make sure everyone is on time. Chris (CTO²) took on this role, and he made a single rule; If you’re late by even 1 minute, you have to do something (decided by him) as a punishment. Severity of the punishment increases with how late you are, and several outstanding punishments can be compounded into one, bigger, more embarrassing one.

This idea alone (not to mention all his other accomplishments) makes Chris a genius. It’s the gamification of tardiness. Being late stopped being an awkward shuffle in with silent judgement incoming from colleagues and became an event. To be late is to become a spectacle. A cheer comes in from colleagues as they turn to Chris, awaiting his sentence. People now make the extra effort, and it’s not uncommon to see someone rush in with seconds to spare, panting away, met with a cheer to appreciate the close call and effort.
Punishments have become a great source of entertainment, getting to watch the co-founder hijack a recruiter’s candidate while the recruiter stepped out for a minute or watching the pain of the head of growth as he gets a 7 day ban from table football for being 7 minutes late is oddly enough a great team experience and completely takes all the negativity away from someone coming in late (For those who were on time, at least). The occasional accidental lateness is now welcomed with smiles and anticipation of what the next punishment will be as opposed to silent judgement, and there’s so much more effort being put in to being on time in order to not be the one who has to embarrass themselves in front of the whole office.

My last punishment was about a month ago now. It was 3 punishments put together as I had managed to keep worming my way out of doing them for a few weeks, but fortunately my colleagues were happy to remind Chris of my outstanding punishments every day. Eventually the punishment was decided and I had the pleasure of performing the Disney classic “I’ll make a man out of you” in it’s entirety to the whole office, hand gestures and terrible dance moves included. Needless to say, I haven’t been late since!

Now, being on time has become a habit. Obviously things happen and from time to time being late is unavoidable, but what I like to call the gamification of tardiness helps keep the reaction to it light, whilst giving the team a nice opportunity to bond as well. As long as the punishments are light-hearted and embarrassing but not shaming everything works very well. So far we've had only good times come from this, everyone (including me, finally!) is now on time and there’s no more conflict stemming from people being late.

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