We all have that friend or casual acquaintance who is always late to events. Some people simply tend to overestimate their ability to be in certain places on time and therefore always arrive after everyone else.
While this may be seen as an accepted eccentricity in close social circles, being late does get frowned upon in professional circles, and for a good reason.
Being late is something that we’ve all done a few times in our lives, but there may be some people who can consider themselves to be chronically late and not bat an eye about it.
However, tardiness can be a huge thing especially at work or when looking for work. Even if you are meeting a friend in a friendly social setting, tardiness can be a big thing especially if this is not the only thing on your calendar.
So how do you make sure that chronically late people show up on time?
To make sure the other person shows up on time, you can say:
“Thank you in advance for coming on time tomorrow. Your timely appearance will be very much appreciated.”
Tardiness: Good or Bad Trait?
Research has shown that people who are chronically late can suffer from the planning fallacy, which involves the failure to accurately judge how long a task, a trip, or walk to a meeting will take.
In an article published in the Wall Street Journal, author Sumathi Reddy reported that research shows that people tend to underestimate their ability to be on time by up to 40%.
According to Reddy, studies have shown that people who are often late, feel the passage of time differently than people who are always punctual. This tendency also is more pronounced among Type B individuals or those who have more creative and laid-back personalities.
Another article published in sciencealert.com cited a 2003 study by the San Diego State University that showed that people who preferred to multi-task were often late to their jobs. The data is significant since the US loses $90 billion from employee tardiness alone.
Other studies suggest that people who are habitually late because they are eternally optimistic.
In a piece by the guardian.com, habitually tardy people are painted too often have a sunny outlook. They are more likely to be optimistic about the number of things they can cram in before a scheduled meeting or appointment.
Tardiness can happen even at the expense of a particularly embarrassing or painful consequence. It is only when the consequence becomes serious or threatening enough that a chronically late person starts to rethink his behavior and starts adopting ways to curb the behavior.
Should You Speak Up?
Sometimes, people around you are chronically late and this doesn’t bother you especially if it doesn’t affect the quality of your work or your relationship with that person.
But what if you are that person’s direct superior or you are a co-worker and the behavior is affecting the quality of your work? In cases like these, it is better to talk to the person and tell him or her what the behavior is doing to your relationship.
It could be possible that he or she is unaware of how the behavior is affecting other people in the circle and this is the wake-up call he or she needs to shape up.
Most importantly, it is important to speak up if you are concerned about a person’s welfare. Chronic tardiness could result in someone being let go from a job, or it could put the person at a disadvantage in terms of a promotion or career advancement.
A friend’s habitual lateness could end up alienating other people in your circle, especially if the behavior has caused them to miss other social events and opportunities in the past.
Sometimes, it takes an outsider to point out what’s wrong before a person realizes that something is wrong. Your decision to engage in this conversation could be the starting point for change.
Dealing with Tardy People: Tips on How to Encourage Punctuality
So how do you exactly approach a person to talk to them about their chronic lateness?
The first step is mustering enough courage to go up and do the talk. This is often the hardest step because most of us don’t want to engage in conversations like these. They tend to be uncomfortable and they can thrust us into conflicts that could affect friendships or office dynamics.
Fortunately, there is a way to handle conversations like these the right way. It starts with an offer to help. Express how you notice that the person has been coming late and that you are concerned. Follow this up with an offer to help.
This is a great way to open up without appearing judgmental about the issue because there could be legitimate reasons why a person is late.
For example, the person could be dealing with serious family, physical, mental, or emotional issues and this is affecting their work life. He or she could be taking on more responsibilities at home, causing him or her to be late for work. You decrease the possibility of a defensive or evasive answer if you come from a place of care and compassion.
Another way to approach conversations about tardiness is by sticking to the facts. Experts say that you should stick to the facts, focus on the behavior, not the person, and help the other person see what goals and objectives are affected by the frequent tardiness.
This may mean pulling the person aside and talking to him quietly about how the behavior is impacting you, the team, and the project that you are working on.
Remind him that schedules need to be kept, some results need to be delivered on time and his tardiness is affecting all that and not in a good way. It is important to stick to the facts and not inject personality into the conversation.
It can be tempting to compare him or her to co-workers who don’t have a problem with punctuality, but don’t do it! This could only lead to bruised egos and arguments.
It is also not helpful to bring up instances of the person being late or tardy in the past, at least not at length. Focus on the immediate need to be prompt and punctual so you can keep the conversation short and avoid saying words that you may also regret later.
The same approach works for dealing with tardy friends. While social meetings often come with more relaxed rules about time-keeping, some people may have more than one social activity scheduled in one day.
It is not uncommon for friends to complain about that one friend who is always late and causing the rest to be late for their subsequent appointments. This behavior shows a thoughtless disregard for the time of others and their priorities and therefore it is completely reasonable to call that person out.
Even if you don’t get the desired behavior change that you are looking for right away, at the least, you are putting the tardy friend or co-worker on notice.
Finally, don’t encourage late behavior. If workers are late all the time, adopt a rule where decisions made by the ones present are adopted by all. Don’t provide recaps for late-comers and create a culture of punctuality by starting and ending meetings on time.
How to Politely Ask to Be on time
Ok, so now you may be feeling a little emboldened about speaking out especially if it’s clear to everyone involved that calling out this tardiness is good for the team and the person involved.
But what exactly do you say? Here are a couple of examples that you can use as templates for scenarios like these.
To ask somebody politely to be on time, you can say:
“I have another appointment at ___o’clock so I would appreciate it if we can start the meeting right away once we get there.”
“I look forward to seeing you tomorrow at ___ AM/PM sharp.”
“Dinner starts at ___o’clock so don’t be late!”
” Are you comfortable meeting me at __ o’clock or would you prefer ___ o’clock? I notice you tend to push meeting times a bit later than we agreed upon. Either option is good with me as long as we can start on time.”
As for those instances when the other person is already chronically late:
“I notice that you have been coming in late the last ___ days. Is everything OK at home and is there something I can do to help?”
“I was surprised that you were late again. Is everything ok?”
Being late once or twice can be excusable, but it can pose serious consequences if it becomes an ingrained habit, especially when this happens at work.
If you have a co-worker or a friend who is always late and this is affecting the dynamic and not in a good way, speak up.
This could be the wake-up call that the other person needs to change his or her behavior for the better.
Just remember to come from a place of compassion and care, use the right words, and focus on the facts. By doing this you can help the person control a potentially destructive habit while maintaining the quality of your social/ work relationship.
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.