What is Your Message When You’re Always Late?

It’s unfortunate that the first headlines about the then new Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, were about his chronic lateness mad-hatter-4and not about his agenda for The City.

Hizzoner has been clocked from 15 minutes to an hour-and-a-half late to news conferences, community events and even his appearance before the state legislature. His habitual tardiness has not endeared him to the media, who are usually jammed in a tiny room at City Hall waiting for him to arrive for press conferences.

You’re Not That Important

How about you? Are you someone who is habitually late? Be honest with yourself. Do you always offer up an excuse – you were stuck in traffic, or the alarm clock didn’t go off, or you got a last-minute phone call? Your reputation will suffer if you’re always late.

Maybe the Mayor or your CEO can be late on occasion, but who of us is so important that we can always keep people waiting? Always being late sends the message that you don’t think anyone else’s time is as important as yours.

Psychologists say that lateness is a passive-aggressive act that reflects an underlying hostility. It’s another way of exerting control and signaling that you’re more important than the people who you keep waiting.

Being on time is professional. Being late is not, especially when the meeting is being held for your benefit.

Losing a Potential Client

I recently arranged a breakfast for someone to introduce him to a potential client. There were several of us attending and we all arrived on time. clockFifteen minutes went by and I received a text that said “I’m walking in the door now.” Did we need to know that? Or did he have an obligation to contact me as soon as he knew he was going to be late? Needless to say, the latecomer didn’t get the business.

This was actually the second time he sent me a text to cover his tardiness when he was “walking in the door.”  I was not impressed with his unprofessional behavior or his chronic lateness and stopped doing business with him.

Always plan for the unexpected. Check the weather report the night before and if rain or snow is forecast allow extra travel time. Call a car service if you’re afraid you won’t find a taxi but keep in mind they are likely to keep you waiting as well..

A friend related a story about a job seeker who was referred to her for a networking interview. As she has a very busy job, she arranged to meet with this stranger at 8:30 a.m. in her office. At 8:40 he called her to say that he was in the lobby of her building and would be there as soon as he finished up a couple of phone calls. What arrogance!

How do You Handle a Latecomer?

The job seeker was told that the planned interview was scheduled to end at 9 a.m., regardless of when he arrived. If you’re late, you can’t expect to have all the time you planned for. People will resent you for your habitual lateness. It will reflect on your professionalism and even interfere with doing your job.

If you’re delivering a presentation, don’t start over so the latecomer can catch up. If he asks a question about material already covered, say something like, “You would have heard about that if you had arrived on time. I’ll fill you on the lunch break if I have time.”

Don’t punish the people who are on time by waiting to start a presentation until the latecomers arrive. Stick to the planned agenda.

Wasting people’s time is wasting money. A bank CEO we know won’t tolerate lateness at his meetings. His rationale is that if 20 people are waiting for someone who is five minutes late, that’s 100 minutes of lost productivity. Time is money. Use yours wisely and be sure to show respect for others by being on time.


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One Comment

  1. When someone is always late it demonstrates their self-centeredness and that the person thinks s/he is more important than you are. It’s rude and inconsiderate. And very annoying.

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