Serial Lateness in the Work Culture

Serial Lateness in the Work Culture



Serial lateness in the work culture


You’re late, you’re late, for a very important date – again. No big deal, right? Wrong!


Sure, workplaces are a lot more relaxed these days, and the concept of working 9 to 5 is pretty antiquated, but the clock is ticking and employers still expect you to be on time. Sauntering in late to a meeting is not professional under any circumstances. Blaming traffic, a late train or a sick cat just doesn’t cut it.


No more excuses. If serial lateness has become you’re calling card, this column is for you. “It is not that we lead ‘busy lives’. That’s a given, we all do, and it’s a cop out to use that as an excuse. It’s simply that some people no longer even pretend that they think your time is as important as theirs,” says Greg Savage, global recruiting expert @greg_savage.


Being on time is simply about basic good manners and respect for other people. “I consider serial lateness a character flaw which I take into account when working out who to promote, who to hire and who to count amongst my real friends,” adds Savage, of


A little harsh? Well the truth is good things don’t come to those who wait – nor those who are late. Serial lateness costs businesses and erodes professional reputations. The only acceptable reason is if you live in a country where time is flexible, says Rosalinda Oropeza Randall, a social skills and civility presenter @rosalindatweets.


Arriving late to an appointment, where traditionally making a good first impression is powerful, is first and foremost a big no-no in the business world. Plain and simple, it’s indicative of what’s to come. It sends the message that you do business on your terms and time is not a gauge in getting things done, suggesting irresponsibility to time and people, says Randall, author of Don’t Burp in the Boardroom. “Even worse, strolling in, taking time to check your phone, asking for a cup of coffee with no even feigned attempt of concern is the epitome of rudeness and disrespect to another human being.”


Being notoriously late opens you up to a Pandora’s Box of criticism, and that includes others assuming a host of career-damaging characteristics: you’re uncaring, self-centered, sloppy and inefficient. There’s nothing good about it but it’s not uncommon. Basically three out of eight people are efficient about being on time, everyone else is kind of hit or miss, says life coach Lauren Handel Zander, of and @laurenzander.


Zander actually works with people who suffer from serial lateness and finds that they are typically people-pleasers or yes-a-holics. “They in fact lack a powerful relationship to time. And, truly, they’re lying. They’re lying when they say yes and they really mean no.”


If you’re a latecomer, start with checking your home exit procedure. It’s the little things that usually take up more time than we think, like petting the cat one last time, watching three more minutes of a show, realizing we forgot to brush our teeth, looking for misplaced keys – these are all time consuming. Gain more time by giving up a few minutes of sleep, suggests Randall, of “Common sense would dictate that you obviously like the slow-paced approach to getting ready, so get up 20 minute earlier; you will survive the day.”




We all have the same 24 hours in a day so if you suffer from serial lateness, it’s not time that needs to change, it’s your relationship with time that needs to change.


Get a grip on time with tips from Zander, author of Maybe It’s You: Cut the Crap. Face Your Fears. Love Your Life.


•              Take stock of how long it really takes you to do every action of every day. Keep track in a log. How many minutes does it really take to shower, make breakfast, drive to the train station? Get a clear sense and plug all tasks - yes, even showering - into your daily calendar.

•              Be aware of the impact. Your chronic lateness makes you feel frantic. You may drive erratically and irresponsibly to get somewhere. Other people likely feel undervalued and disrespected. Meetings start without you and first impressions of you are terrible.

•              We typically make excuses, blame, and justify (read: lie) instead of just telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. “Unless there really was an accident and you actually left on time, don’t bother explaining why you were late. The justification is rarely worth telling and the truth is more appreciated.”

•              Take it a step further by telling the truth and setting a promise and consequence. If you deeply want to take down your chronic lateness, set a promise to arrive places on time (or X minutes early). As a consequence, pay $1 for every minute you’re late to the person (or people) you’re meeting.

•              Care for time and stop fighting it. Treat time like a friend or lover. You’ll be surprised how time will soon return the favour. It is, after all, your life’s currency.