Gotta Run: How to Get Tardiness (and Your Schedule!) Under Control

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Friday 15th October 2010
In this article
  • Are you always late?
  • Seven reasons why people run late.
  • How to sabotage lateness–yours or someone else’s.
Gotta Run: How to Get Tardiness (and Your Schedule!) Under Control

Does this scenario sound familiar?

It’s 7:00 a.m. and your flight departs at 7:30. You’re steadily growing more impatient with the ticket counter; finally you’ve got your boarding pass and are rushing through the terminal to make it to the gate, just as they’re announcing the last call for passengers. You’ve made it on the plane–but just barely.


You're the guy who’s always punctual or ten minutes early and generally having to wait for your buddies, boss or coworkers to stagger in. You’re always on time; why can’t they be?

Whether you’re perpetually trying to beat the clock or incessantly waiting on someone else, tardiness affects you. Being late or working with someone who does not comprehend the concept of timeliness leads to stress, resentment and bad impressions.

Wanna learn how to avoid being late — or get buddies, your boss and your coworkers to stop wasting your time by way of consistent tardiness? Read on for the SharpWork lowdown:

Seven Reasons for Being Late

It’s just who you are. It’s easy to think of excuses for why you’re running behind schedule, and if you’re not cautious this pattern of arriving late could become a habit–labeling you an unreliable and unprofessional. Coworkers appear to accept your behavior and actually come to expect it; thus inadvertently labeling you as the "late guy." You’re OK with this label and begin to believe it; therefore, you begin living up to your reputation. Ah, the vicious lateness cycle…

Why not? If you’re always running late and no one ever confronts or reprimands you, then why should you make that extra effort needed to change your habits? Human behavior is usually motivated and influenced by four main factors: pain, fear, anger and boredom. So if none of those factors exists and lateness is accepted as a normal occurrence, then there is no reason or motivation for you or someone else to change behavior.

Getting high off adrenaline. For some guys, the rush they get from flying down the freeway or contriving exotic reasons why they’re twenty minutes late for a luncheon is as exciting the thrill of a massive roller coaster ride. It’s a rush: you’ve got 10 minutes, 15 miles to cover and it’s bumper-to-bumper traffic. Can you do it? No you can’t, but there’s always that shot of adrenaline. That anticipation. That challenge.

No one cares. If you’re continuously tardy and not a word is said about it, you begin to automatically assume that either:

(1) no one cares,

(2) being late does not affect anyone else, or

(3) everyone else was late, too. No harm, no foul.

If no one communicates how your behavior is sabotaging his or her work efficiency (or leisure time), then you never have a clue that you’re impacting another person. Basically, you believe your dilatory arrivals only concern you and have no outside consequences.

It’s a power thing. When you walk into your financial advisor’s building, he seems to always have another client in his office, forcing you to peruse dusty magazines from 1998, while you wait for him to acknowledge your existence. Is his schedule really that booked that he has to overlap meetings–every time? The answer is most likely "no."

In this instance, keeping you quarantined in the waiting area is more of a power statement than anything else. He wants you to perceive him as busy and important. The same is true for executives who schedule a meeting with you and then have you wait outside his or her door for 15 minutes. How do you know if this is a one-time deal or a power game? Observe his or her promptness when a superior schedules a meeting. If suddenly, he or she is on time or even early, then take the hint and understand that this person has some serious superiority issues.

Ask yourself: are you pulling a power game on your buddies when you book with them for lunch? Would you prefer to think that the party doesn’t begin until you get there? Is your buddy pulling this on you?

"Pollyanna" syndrome. These guys are well intentioned, but just way too hopeful. They’re the guys who believe they will be able to zip through rush hour in less than 20 minutes, always land a parking space and everything will run smoothly. Consequently, they fail to plan for extra time or even enough time. They’re vainly optimistic.

The contradiction. Attention: beware of the "yes man" who agrees or volunteers, but is actually thinking the opposite. Here’s how it goes: you ask this guy to do a favor, he acts enthused, says yes and then is always behind schedule or missing deadlines. His performance is so bad that it makes you question whether or not you should ask him to do anything else.

Coincidence? Nope, that’s the goal. He’s a guy/gal who can’t say "no." He or she wants to be liked and to be perceived as someone who can take on lots of tasks. But the irony is that he/she actually does not want the responsibility, and will try to dissuade you from asking him to do something again by not completing the project on time.

Are you "passively" saying "no" to work by making yourself look unreliable? Is your coworker or support staffer?

Now What?

So now that you’ve identified either yourself, your buddy, your coworker or your boss as a late-addict, what can you do to help change or transform this behavior?

You’re the late guy. If you’re the perennial slacker, then take note and give yourself a big kick in the pants. You look bad, buddy. Even among friends, being unreliable can cost you in valuable leads and referrals. Being a professional means that you can be counted on. Unfortunately, without an understanding of the clock, you can be neither. And without those, your career isn’t likely to go far. After all, no one is looking to promote the guy who doesn’t look professional, right?

The good news is, it’s not too late. Start showing up and delivering early, and you will revamp your professional image. Like in politics, people quickly forget when they hear a new message…

You’re friends with, or you work with the late guy. if you’re at the receiving end, then take heart in the fact that you can curve this behavior. Check it out:

Sabotage Lateness in Others

Step One. Tell it like it is. Set a meeting or take the offending parties aside and communicate how their behavior affects the company’s efficiency. Be direct and be professional. No need to set your radar on their lack of maturity–just stay focused on how the behavior impacts your performance. Speak in terms of efficiency, rather than focusing on how annoyed you are. Everyone wants to meet the bottom line, but very few people want to deal with anger and annoyance.

Dealing with a friend? Be direct. Tell him or her that you’ll have to cut your lunch short due to the late start. You started your lunch earlier than he did in order to be on time, remember? Next time he calls, let him know that you may not have the time for lunch, when taking his tardiness into account. Let him know you expect him to be prompt, or you’ll have to bail out.

Step Two. Set a time limit. When you’re meeting a coworker for lunch, give him or her a set time to arrive. Say "I can meet between 2 and 3, and then after that I have to be back in my office." And then stick to it. By designating a time period you can go ahead and order and eat — without feeling rude if they are not on time. Establish the rules and follow through.

Step Three. It’s not a joke. If you want someone to take his or her promptness seriously, then don’t joke about it. Also skip the sarcastic comments if they happen to arrive on time one day. Expect that he or she will arrive on time, communicate this expectation and watch what happens.

Step Four. Welcome to the "Real World." For those bleary-eyed optimists who believe that every traffic signal will blink their way, jolt them out of their cave by directly telling them that they need to allot more time to their schedule during rush hour or the lunch hour — let them know that parking near your meeting spot will take extra time.

Step Five. Take away the drug. For those guys getting high the adrenaline of "making it," take away their needle. When you have a scheduled appointment and they’re more than 15 minutes late, leave. Give them a time frame, stick to it and then take away the thrill by leaving if they don’t make it on time.

Step Six. Give them a reason. Encourage and reward promptness. Use simple human psychology to your advantage. People can’t help but respond to praise. By encouraging their timeliness with positive reinforcement, you are more likely to make the behavior more common, and over the long run, transform the perennial late person into Mr. Punctual — at least with you.

This article last updated on Friday 15th October 2010
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