In business, there’s no such thing as fashionably late.
Yes, things may happen from time to time that keep you from being prompt. Things like miscommunications, location mix-ups, and traffic accidents. But if you’ve slipped into a pattern of making punctuality the exception and not the rule, it’s time to change your ways.
While it’s true that everyone is late sometimes, and occasional tardiness is usually forgiven, especially when there are extenuating circumstances, it doesn’t mean you get a free pass to show up wherever, whenever.
People know the difference between someone who arrives late every once in a while, and someone who can’t seem to get anywhere on time. Like, ever.
And do you know why? Because over and over again, you’ve shown them which kind of person you are. And they have no choice but to believe you.
Chronic Lateness = Excess Eyerolls
Being chronically late is a big trust destroyer. And resentment builder. And morale buster. None of which are good for business. When you don’t show up on time, you’re essentially defaulting on an agreement. For whatever reason, you decided it wasn’t important to hold up your end of the bargain, and that breeds resentment among those who did.
What this says to people is, “My time is more important than your time.” And “My needs are more important than your needs.” Or, even worse, “I’m more important than you are.” Can you think of a better way to build up resentment among your team? Didn’t think so.
Once you’ve established yourself as that person who doesn’t care enough to honor your commitments, people will start treating you that way. They’ll accept that you can’t be counted on, and adjust their behaviors accordingly.
To a chronically late person, this reaction might seem pretty great at first because it may feel that your behavior is seemingly accepted. But don’t mistake these coping mechanisms for approval.
“But nothing happens in the first 5 minutes.”
If you don’t show up, this is what happens in those first few minutes of the meeting: Eyes will roll. Colleagues will count on you not coming through, and brace themselves to pick up the slack. Over time, you’ll get invited to fewer and fewer things, leaving you with fewer opportunities to deliver value, solve problems, and show your worth.
In essence, you’ve just become your own worst enemy. And it’s going to hold you back.
Not all is lost!
Lateness is not innate. You weren’t born with it. It’s a routine that was established over time. All you have to do is kick the habit. But first, you have to look at why you’re always late.
Ask yourself if you have these thoughts: It won’t take that long to get there! I can squeeze these two more things in before I go! Parking is never a problem! I have time to stop and get coffee!
If this is you, congratulations! You’ve got that positive thinking thing down. But there’s a fine line between being optimistic and being delusional. If you find yourself constantly running late despite your great attitude and your best intentions, there is a disconnect between your vision and your reality.
Saying no to “yes”
Are you a people pleaser? How often do you say “Yes” even when the real answer is, “No, sorry, I don’t have time for that.” This sets you up to have too many things going on at once. In your resistance to saying no, you’ve overscheduled yourself to the point where you can’t possibly be on time. Or perhaps you let your last commitment keep you longer than it should have because you just couldn’t bring yourself to cut someone off, refuse that last cup of coffee, or leave an event that was running over on time.
Unfortunately, this emphasis on saying yes is making some very nice people seem like very big jerks. And that’s unfortunate for everyone.
Kicking this habit starts with learning to set boundaries— and sticking to them. Try working with a therapist, coach, or snuggling up with a boundary building self-help book like Where to Draw the Line.
Realism isn’t the same as pessimism
No one’s going to be there on time. Everyone always shows up late. If I get there early, I might have to talk to people or sit around awkwardly. This meeting is stupid anyway.
Pessimists often like to refer to themselves as realists. And if this is your reality, it’s no wonder you’re not motivated to arrive on time. How many times have you been dragged into something kicking and screaming only to admit afterwards that it wasn’t that terrible? Maybe it was even fun?
Yes, we’ve all been to our fair share of bad meetings, but getting there late doesn’t make them any better. In fact, this kind of behavior can actually raise the levels of tension and conflict in the group. In other words, you may be creating or magnifying your perceived reality by showing up late. Plus, you’re also creating a negative perception of yourself in others by appearing to be impolite, self-centered, and unreliable.
If you really want to be a realist, start using your power of observation to watch how your behavior affects your reality. Notice how things go when you show up on time or early instead of at the last minute or late. See how people react to you, and how it changes the course of the session.
If you’re feeling really inspired, try noting how things go if you show up early, and with coffee and doughnuts. Now that’s a reality we can all appreciate.
It’s time to bite the bullet (and beat it too!)
Be honest with yourself. If this article made you feel defensive or uncomfortable, you’ve probably got a problem with lateness. It’s time you move forward and show you value your time, and everyone else’s.
Need help with performance management, employee turnover, and HR strategy? Want to be a coveted employer of choice in the greater Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC area? Get in touch with Raffa. We love this stuff! And it’s what we do for our clients every single day.
Photo by alphaspirit