Certain people make it a point to arrive “fashionably late” for social events. It stems from a psychological quirk to make them feel important, as if the party doesn’t begin until they arrive and everyone is awaiting their grand entrance.
Certain people make it a point to arrive “fashionably late”
for social events. It stems from a psychological quirk to make them feel
important, as if the party doesn’t begin until they arrive and everyone is
awaiting their grand entrance. (Professional psychologists tend to view this as
a counter-reaction to low self-esteem.) I know people like this and I suspect
most of you do too.
Tardiness in a social setting is easy to shrug off. Early
arrivals simply mingle with one another and enjoy getting first crack at the
tastiest hors d’oeuvres! In a large gathering few people will even notice when
the self-styled life of the party gets there.
Stakes are higher in the business world. Showing up late
inconveniences customers and other business associates. Productivity suffers
when employees show up late for work. In my line of work, missed deadlines make
it hard to meet printing schedules and create more work and headaches for
Tardiness in all of these aspects has always been a pet
peeve of mine. Throughout my career I’ve taken pride in getting work done on
time and in my ability to manage time effectively. To me it’s an aspect of
professionalism that goes hand-in-hand with talent and initiative. I also
believe the quality of work diminishes when you’re scrambling to produce
something at the last minute. Haste makes waste.
Moreover, it’s simply not smart business to annoy customers,
prospects and other business VIPs by showing up late. It’s easy enough to get
your work crews out of the habit simply by docking their pay and holding
tardiness against them in performance reviews.
But what if the problem rests with you, the boss?
Bosses tend to be very busy people constantly chasing around
and dealing with phones calls, subordinates and superiors. Yet I don’t buy that
excuse. A boss’s job performance ought to be evaluated in part by how well he
or she manages time. People who are too harried to get things done on time
shouldn’t be in charge of anything.
Everyone at one time or another shows up late due to
circumstances beyond their control, but it doesn’t take much observation to
notice that certain people tend to be chronically late. They always have an
excuse - traffic, last-minute interruptions, sudden emergencies, etc. Yes,
sometimes the excuse is legitimate but when these excuses arise over and over,
it becomes clear that the underlying cause has more to do with personal habits
than outside interference.
Tardiness sends a message that the latecomer’s time is more
valuable than that of other people. That’s not an impression you want to give
to customers, prospects or other business VIPs - or to subordinates. Employees
take their cue from the boss’s behavior. Being on time is a sign of competence.
It shows people you are able to manage your time, and that you show respect for
that of others.
When being late is unavoidable, the sensible thing to do is
call ahead and inform whoever it is you have an appointment with that you’ll be
late and by how long. This is a matter of common courtesy as well as smart
business. And, if you’re late by even five minutes, make it a point to
apologize, even to subordinates.
Chronically late people seldom do this. They become so
conditioned to arriving late they regard it as the natural way of doing
business and assume everyone else thinks the same way. It’s also because they’d
be making so many apologetic phone calls it would slow them down even more.
Let’s take a look at some of the causes of this tardiness
You intend to keep appointments on time, but as the workday progresses
situations arise that you simply didn’t anticipate. When it happens over and
over, it’s a sign you need to analyze and reorder priorities. Distractions are
the rule more than the exception in business, so you have to assume they will
arise and organize your activities accordingly.
• Skewed priorities.
Time management is about ordering priorities and judgment calls as much as
anything else. Is it necessary to meet someone face-to-face, or can the
business at hand be handled just as well over the phone or via e-mail? Which
activities are critical to do right now and which can be put off till later? If
you do judge it important to meet someone in person, then elevate that meeting
to priority status above everything else.
• Self-delusion. Stop
fooling yourself about how long it
takes to get from one place to another. What might be a 15-minute drive at noon is likely to take twice as long
during the morning or evening commuter rush. Get in the habit of calculating
time to arrive 10-15 minutes early for appointments, leaving some leeway for
unexpected traffic jams. If there are no delays, you can use the extra time to
decompress with a cup of coffee and catch up on paperwork or check phone/e-mail
• Procrastination. Putting
things off till the last minute is bound to cause delays. When you finally get
around to tackling the unpleasant task you’ve put off, a dozen other pressing
duties may occur at the same time. So don’t leave difficult issues for last.
It’s better to tackle tough tasks first, because if you need extra time to deal
with them, items that get pushed back will be of lower priority. Dealing with
easy issues first often leads to spending more time on them than warranted in
order to avoid the more difficult ones.
• Micromanagement. Tardiness
tends to go hand-in-hand with micromanagement. Learn to delegate. As long as you’re bogged down in
minutiae, there will never be enough time to get everything done. You have to
trust subordinates to handle the small stuff.
Get inside your head. If you’re a person who’s habitually
late, take an honest look at yourself. Is it really because you’re always busy
or for other reasons beyond your control, or deep down is it because you really
enjoy being “fashionably late”? No one else needs to know what you find inside
your own psyche, but just as with alcoholism, the first step towards a cure is
to admit to yourself you have a problem.
December 1, 2010