When I was an orientation leader in college (NERD ALERT!) it was drilled into us that “early is on time; on time is late; and late is unacceptable.” It seemed cruel–especially when we had to report for duty at some ungodly hour (on weekends. in the SUMMER.)–but it also made complete sense to me. And it still does.

I can’t say that I’m never late. Things happen. And when they do, I feel SO BAD. So bad, in fact, that in order to avoid it, I way overestimate the time it takes me to do things and I am sometimes paralyzed in the time leading up to something important. “Two hours until I have to leave for [insert important thing here]? Better not do anything or go anywhere in case I get distracted/stuck.” (I know this doesn’t help my overall productivity. I’m working on it.)

But beyond my little disorder quirk, being late really is unacceptable. You know what else it is? Keep reading for a list from Brent Beshore’s article (Italicized comments are from me):

  • Disrespectful: Being on time is about respect. It signals that you value and appreciate the other person. If you don’t respect the meeting’s participants, why are you meeting with them in the first place? This is listed first for good reason, and it’s certainly the message I get when people are late to my meetings or with deadlines I set. Join me in chanting: “L-A-T-E: why you disrespectin’ me?” whenever necessary.
  • Inconsiderate: Unintentionally being late demonstrates an overall lack of consideration for the lives of others. You just don’t care. Look. I get that we often have really good excuses for tardiness. And that’s okay! But just a quick note saying that you’re running x minutes late, or that you have to reschedule, goes a long way in earning understanding, trust, and respect.
  • Big-Timing: Intentionally being late is about power. It’s showing the other person, or people that you’re a “big deal” and have the upper-hand in the relationship. It’s also called being a dick. And, if I recall my coursework correctly, “don’t be a dick” was the main takeaway in Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.
  • Incredible: No, not in the good way. When you miss meeting times or deadlines, your credibility takes the trajectory of a lead balloon. If you can’t be counted on to be on time, how could you possibly have credibility around far tougher tasks?
  • Unprofitable: Let’s consider a scenario where five people are holding a meeting at 2 p.m. Your sauntering in ten minutes late just wasted 40 minutes of other peoples’ time. Let’s say the organization bills $200/hour. Are you paying the $133 bill? Someone certainly is. Also: paying folks to repeat themselves, because they had to get started without you, but it’s still important to catch you up.
  • Disorganized: If you can’t keep your calendar, what other parts of your life are teetering on the edge of complete disaster? Being late signals at best that you’re barely hanging on and probably not someone I want to associate with.
  • Overly-Busy: Everyone likes to equate busyness with importance, but the truly successful know that’s BS. Having a perpetually hectic schedule just signals that you can’t prioritize, or say “no,” neither of which is an endearing trait. This one makes me think of a book that’s been on my to-read list for a long time, Good Busy (full disclosure: my former landlord wrote it).
  • Flaky: Apparently some people just “flake out,” which seems to mean that they arbitrarily decided not to do the thing they committed to at the very last minute. Seriously? That’s ridiculous. Or maybe they decided not to do the thing a while before the last minute and just didn’t notify anyone? Is that worse?
  • Megalomaniacal: While most grow out of this by the age of eight, some genuinely believe they are the center of the universe. It’s not attractive. Note, this is also called Donald Trump Syndrome. Do you want to be compared to Donald Trump? No.

Believe it or not, I’m pretty easygoing. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t mind if someone’s late or doesn’t show up. What it means is that if you try to be punctual, and let me know if you won’t be/need to reschedule/need an extension on a deadline, I’ll be more understanding and will cut you some slack. In other words,  don’t be a dick (please).

Hat tip to Allison Myers for sending me the Forbes article.

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