How to Deal with People Who Are Late | TechWell

How to Deal with People Who Are Late

It’s interesting how many quotes there are about punctuality. Some reflect the lonely life of those who are on time: “The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it.”—Franklin P. Jones. Some, I’m surprised to discover, favor showing up late: “If you're there before it's over, you're on time.”—James J. Walker.

When I came across the Psychology Today article “Why Are Some People Always Late?” I tweeted a link to it. Almost 1,000 people clicked on the link; clearly this is a hot topic. Among the responses were “they’re saying you aren’t important,” “they have no respect for anybody,” “self-importance,” “failure to plan properly”—which pretty much maps to Dilbert’s experience. My favorite response was “OMG this article is about my BFF!”

The Psychology Today article points out that personality factors may explain the relentless tardiness of some people; perhaps they like to make a grand entrance or show their importance. However, some people inconvenience not just others by their tardiness, but by their behaviors, such as when they miss flights or key appointments. Since most people are able to adjust their behavior to be on time, the article proposes that some of these people may be experiencing “a deficit of the sort that's sometimes described in terms of executive functioning.”

You probably can’t change the underlying causes of those who keep you waiting. But you can establish clear boundaries by stating that you expect them to be on time and by specifying the window in which you will wait if they’re not. Structure your plans so that you’re not dependent on them for the presentation slides or tickets to the game.

And if they’re always late to meetings? It’s best to start on time; waiting for stragglers simply encourages them to straggle and disrespects those who have managed to be on time. When stragglers arrive, don’t review what you’ve already covered; that too wastes the time of the on-time people. If the person running the meeting isn’t on time, wait as long as circumstances warrant but no longer.

Always have a strategy that allows you to function independently of those who keep you waiting. Even if it’s your higher-ups who are late and you have no choice but to wait, you can bring work with you so that you’re productive while you wait. As for friends and colleagues—if their lateness persists and you’re unwilling to put up with it—you may have to plan activities more selectively so their lateness is less anxiety-provoking for you.

If you’re the one who’s always late, here’s some advice on how never to be late again. What do you think? Is it worth giving it a try?

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