We want to talk about the serial late people in the world – those that keep us waiting. And it is not that we lead ‘busy lives’. That’s a given, we all do, and it’s not acceptable 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. And technology makes it worse. It seems texting or emailing that you are late somehow means you are no longer late.
In recent years it seems that a meeting set to start at 9 am, for some people means in the general vicinity of any time which starts with the number ‘9’ – like 9.30 for example.
People drift in at 9.10 or 9.20, or even later. And they smile warmly at the waiting group, as they unwrap their bacon sandwich, apparently totally unconcerned that others have been there since five to nine, prepared and ready to start.
And an arrangement to meet someone for a business meeting at a coffee shop at 3 pm, more often than not means at 3.10 you get a text saying ‘I am five minutes away’ which inevitably means 10 minutes, and so you wait for 15 or 20 minutes, kicking your heels in frustration. And often these ‘latecomers’ are people who have requested the meeting in the first place, are asking for your help, or are selling something. We smile politely but seethe behind the mask of pleasantries.
This type of behaviour is reaching epidemic proportions and the associated cost to individuals and companies is enormous. The collateral damage throughout the organization is also substantial. Things that needed to get done don’t because meetings have run over time. People pressed for time make poor decisions because they didn’t have time to evaluate all the options because the meeting started late. Others have to stay late to accommodate those that couldn’t get their act together and stress levels soar creating an unhealthy environment and culture.
It’s actually a simple thing. Respect the clock, respect each other and respect the organization. Do what you said you would do and meet at the appointed time.
Now we hear you cry “but my day is full of meetings!” and indeed we see plenty of this. But the reality is that we cannot manage time, we can only manage ourselves to use the time we have each day wisely. It’s never more than 1440 minutes and what we do with those minutes defines who we are and what we stand for. It requires that we use good judgment in making the trade-offs between the things that we do and those that we choose not to do.
Frankly we need to hold each other accountable and call these poor behaviours. Serial tardiness is simply not acceptable, and the individuals concerned should understand the consequences of their actions. Quiescence is acquiescence – if you don’t speak up, lateness becomes an accepted norm.