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To Be Late or Not To Be Late


LAST UPDATED: June 22, 2023

An astonishing 50% of meetings fail to start on time. With some starting as late as 20 minutes after the scheduled time. Tardiness is becoming normal practice in many workplaces. There are also issues with general timekeeping, many employees arrive late for work or fail to make it back from their lunch break on time. Sure, it depends how flexible your company is, but being perpetually late is definitely not a good look. You may think that the odd 5 minutes here or there goes unnoticed, but that is not the case. Just because nobody has commented on your lack of good timekeeping doesn't mean they haven't clocked it (if you'll excuse the pun).

Here's a few reasons why you should break the habit.

1. It's Rude

Let's not sugar coat it. Being late is really rude and inconsiderate. Did you learn to tell the time as a kid? Are you aware how long your commute is? Do you have some kind of digital device that informs you when your meeting is about to start? If you answered ‘yes' to one or more of these questions then you really have no excuse for being constantly late. If you have a work start time, adhere to it. If you get an hour for lunch, take an hour. If you have a meeting that starts at 2pm, don't wander in at quarter past with an apologetic grin and a latte. All the other people who got there at 1.55pm will be unimpressed.

2. It Will Stress You Out

Unless you are so busy and important that you genuinely don't have time to care about your work or what your colleagues think of you, then being late will probably make you feel very anxious. Maybe your boss is angry, maybe you missed an important announcement, maybe all the good tasks got handed out already and you'll be left with the one nobody wants, maybe someone got given a puppy…

3. People Will Think You're Irresponsible

As a general rule, most of us are able to manage our time. Sure, sometimes life gets in the way. Yup, you're busy and juggling many balls. Of course, public transport is about as reliable as a chocolate teapot. But despite it all, most of us manage to successfully arrive on time to our prior commitments. If your train is always delayed then here's a crazy suggestion, try getting the earlier one. Being constantly tardy will make your colleagues think you are incapable, uninterested and unprofessional. None of those are words that instantly spring to mind when you're listing off your top soft skills.

4. It's Contagious

If you are often late, and get away with it, others may start to wonder why they are always on time and waiting around. They could probably afford to be a few minutes late themselves, or ten minutes late, or half an hour late. With all those delays, you may end up being single handedly responsible for the introduction of a ten hour work day. Don't be that guy. Plus who wants to work in an office of disengaged workers? Company culture is important and accountability is a big part of that.

5. You Are Not That Important

This is not just an issue at junior level. Sometimes the worst offenders are those higher up who think they are entitled to keep people waiting as their time is far more important. It isn't. Don't let your seniority convince you it's ok to set a bad example. How can you expect your staff to be punctual if you aren't on time yourself? Picture the scene – you plan to chat to your employee about their time keeping in their next 121, your previous meeting runs over, you really need a coffee first, you're 10 minutes late for the 121… awkward.

If you enjoyed this post, then check out our Mind Your Manners guide for employers and employees. It talks about other things people do at work that they really shouldn't, from ghosting to gossiping, and pulling a sickie to procrastinating. Download it now.