How to Stop Lateness

How can you stop habitual lateness? There are several strategies you can use. 

1. Disorganization

  • Keep a schedule with you at all times. Write down every meeting or commitment you have. It also helps if you schedule travel or transition time to and from each meeting or commitment. Online schedulers are useful if you’re always late, because a computer alarm can remind you when it’s time to leave for a meeting or appointment.
  • Stop procrastinating. Procrastination uses up your time, and it’s a common cause for lateness. Promise yourself a small reward each time you show up promptly for a commitment.
  • Put a “lateness buffer” into your schedule. For example, if a meeting starts at 9:30, put it on your schedule for 9:15. This extra 15 minutes will give you extra time to get where you’re going.

For Managers

  • Put the person’s lateness into perspective. If he’s 15 minutes late for a meeting with eight other people, then he just cost the company two hours’ worth of work. Looking at lateness from this viewpoint can motivate the person to be on time. It’s also helpful to put a monetary figure on this lost time.

2. The Power Play

  • Look at this from the perspective of everyone who is waiting for you. Wouldn’t you feel devalued or taken advantage of if you always had to wait for someone else? Is this really the image you want to present to your team?
  • Analyze why you need to feel more important than others on your team. This can be an uncomfortable conversation to have with yourself, but it can be enlightening if you’re willing, to be honest. For instance, you could discover that you really have low self-esteem, and you, therefore, overcompensate by being late. If so, this may enable you to take steps to improve and grow.
  • Arriving late to prove to others that you’re more important is just bad
     behaviour. Other team members may have to stay late to make up for the lost time they spent waiting for you. Would you want to be treated this way?

For Managers

  • If you suspect that one of your team members arrives late as a power play, then have a sincere, but firm, talk with her. Let her know that you value all team members equally, and you don’t appreciate her chronic lateness. If she continues the behavior, it might be time for disciplinary action.
  • If you suspect that a team member is late to prove to you how busy he is, then acknowledge the good work he’s doing and remind him that lateness wastes everyone’s time, including yours.
  • If a team member is consistently late for meetings, then take control! Use effective meeting skills, and start without her. She’ll get the message.

3. Anxiety or Avoidance

  • If you’re subconsciously arriving late to avoid a situation, then you must confront the situation, at least within yourself. If you feel that you can’t handle your job or assignment, then take steps to improve your skills. This will give you more self-confidence and help you cope with your workload.
  • If you avoid a situation due to someone else behaving unpleasantly, then raise the issue with him in a neutral zone. Be honest, but firm, about how he makes you feel. If his behavior persists, then it might be time to inform your boss.
  • If you’re late because you resent attending the meeting, perhaps because you consider it a waste of time, or perhaps because you’re busy and you’ve got other things you need to focus on, then it’s time to brush up on your assertiveness and negotiation skills. Talk with the leader of the meeting and see if you can stop attending, if you can shorten the meeting, or if you can limit your attendance to only one, short part of it.

For Managers

  • If you suspect that someone on your team is late because she feels overwhelmed or inadequate in her position, then have a one-on-one talk with her. Offer her additional training or tools so she feels more prepared.
  • If you suspect a bullying situation, then it’s important to know for sure before taking action. Watch your team carefully. If you notice bullying, take action to stop it immediately. Bullying not only lowers morale, but hurts productivity and may increase absenteeism.
  • If you suspect that someone is late because they don’t want to attend, talk to them, and explore what they think. Where their attendance is necessary, explain the business reasons why this is the case. Where it is not, be open to allowing them to skip the meeting, or attend only part of it.

4. Poor Social Skills

  • If you want to learn whether your lateness truly affects those around you, then ask. Your colleagues might not say what you want to hear, but these conversations can tell you a lot. Hearing how your lateness impacts others can be a powerful motivator for change.

For Managers

  • Remind the person that his lateness makes others on the team, who did arrive on time, feel resentful and angry. His chronic lateness can really annoy others, and damage teamwork.

5. Medical Reasons

  • If you used to be punctual, but now you drag yourself to work late every day, then it’s important to make sure there’s no underlying medical issue. Have you been feeling especially tired or depressed? If so, then you should see your doctor.
  • Try going to bed earlier and drinking more water. Lack of sleep and dehydration can cause feelings of fatigue and moodiness.

For Managers

  • If you suspect medical issues, then try working with your team member. Can you give her time off to rest and recover? Could she telecommute a few days per week until she’s feeling better?

There are several reasons why people are late. They could be disorganized, trying to make a power play, anxious, have poor social skills, or even have underlying medical issues. Stopping habitual lateness must start with identifying the real cause.