Dealing With Lateness

Do you have a colleague who regularly arrives late for meetings? Or perhaps you have a colleague who frequently turns up late at the office, complaining about “nightmare traffic” on their drive to work.  Are you the person who is always late?

Lateness is bad for team productivity or team morale, and it may point to a wider lack of responsibility. So, what can you do to stop it?

Understanding Lateness

Identifying why the lateness occurs is the first step toward eliminating it. Sometimes the causes will be obvious. Other times, the reason for habitual lateness can be rooted in the person’s subconscious.

Here are some common reasons for lateness:

1. Disorganization

People who are late due to disorganization simply lose track of time. They’re not effective schedulers, or they’re overly optimistic about what they can accomplish in a certain amount of time.

Disorganization can also be caused by an inability to say no to commitments. For instance, you might have said yes to that 10:00 meeting, but you really don’t have time for it. You try to do everything on your morning schedule, but you’re still late by 15 minutes.

Some people also subconsciously stay disorganized because they like the adrenaline rush – the “buzz” that comes with just hitting a deadline. Unfortunately, where people do this, the smallest delay can cause them to be late.

2. The Power Play

Using lateness as a “power play” is more common at work than in social settings, and it can become quite widespread in an organization’s culture.

Sometimes people use lateness, especially when arriving at meetings, to show that they’re more important or more powerful than everyone else. Waiting for someone is a subtle form of deference and respect for that person, and making others wait can give that person’s ego a boost.

People may also use lateness to prove that they’re busier than the rest of the team. They’re so busy doing all of the work that they can’t possibly show up on time!

3. Anxiety or Avoidance

People can be chronically late when they want to avoid certain situations. For instance, if you’re managing someone who’s always late to meetings, perhaps that person is being bullied by someone on the team. Or, perhaps that person is worried about his or her performance or doesn’t feel adequate in the position.

Because this person fears the situation so much, he or she may take as much time as possible to get there. The lateness means the person has to spend less time in that situation.

Or perhaps he or she resents the meeting and views it as a waste of time. Here, lateness is a “passive-aggressive” way of registering an objection.

4. Poor Social Skills

Sometimes people are late because they simply don’t have the emotional intelligence to see how their lateness affects others. They don’t see it as a problem, so they think it must not be a problem for anyone else.

5. Medical Reasons

If you, or someone on your team, recently became a chronic latecomer, then this could be a sign of a much larger problem, like depression, chronic fatigue, or another illness.