I know I’m late but it’s only ten minutes and I can stay over if you want. I got kids, you know. My sorry excuse for a babysitter, she’s lucky she’s fam, or she’d be fired. She’s always standing me up, making me late. I figured you would understand.

When an employee lives in daily instability and doesn’t have enough resources to make it through the day, time is viewed differently. In an environment of instability, decisions are based on relationships, survival, and entertainment. Thus, time is given to relationships. A great deal of an employee’s time is spent solving problems, making personal phone calls, dealing with life issues, and just surviving the day. The electricity was turned off due to nonpayment. I wonder if our neighbor will let us use her extension cord again. I’m not sure where dinner will come from tonight. The employee is thinking about not letting her kids go to bed hungry. In daily instability, people give up work for these immediate needs and relationships that support them outside the workplace. It is just a job, not a career. I can find another job that pays similar. Time is given to the demands of the moment, the value of entertainment, or the need for survival. When an employee lives in daily instability, time is measured emotionally; did that meeting feel like it was an hour long?

When an employee lives in daily stability and has enough resources for today and the short-term future, they make their decisions against achievement and work. An employee with an achievement mindset knows the value that businesses place on timeliness. Businesses depend on employees being on time so shifts are covered, phones are answered, the production line keeps moving, and the front office is operating well. In stability, time is allocated to tasks and is measured abstractly, in minutes, hours, days, and weeks.

To survive in daily instability, one must rely upon nonverbal, sensory, and reactive skills. To survive at work, one must use verbal, abstract, and proactive skills. Society and the workplace have normalized to stability and planning. Many entry-level employees who are living in daily instability are not thinking about abstract, proactive skills.

Businesses operate from a mindset of stability. The expectation of an employer is that employees will be at work and ready to work on time. Managers who know that employees live in the tyranny of the moment, try to make ends meet every day, and operate with different hidden rules (the unspoken cues and habits of a group) have the opportunity to mentor, provide time management training, and figure out the cause of tardiness and see what workarounds exist. By doing so, managers can stabilize a business while also making their employees more successful.

To learn more about stabilizing your entry-level workforce, check out the book Workplace Stability: Creating Conditions That Lead to Retention, Productivity, and Engagement in Entry-Level Workers.

Click here for Workplace Stability at a Glance.