Always Late for Work?

The perpetually-late are often misunderstood. It’s not enough to simply wake up earlier or organize the morning—always-tardy people go into a sort of time warp when it comes to being on time. Because of this, advice from the on-timers simply doesn’t work. Here are some non-traditional suggestions:

1. Change your mind-set. Do you have to be at work at 8:00? Wrong. Your clock-in time is 7:30. Remember that, aim for that, and if you achieve it, that’s extra time to run to Starbucks, answer e-mails, or watch smugly as others arrive after you.

2. Accountability. Chances are there haven’t been grave consequences for you being late. You may get dirty looks from co-workers or the occasionally gruff reminder from the boss, but if your job were really in jeopardy you’d change your behavior quick, wouldn’t you? So here’s the deal: your job really does ride on your ability to be on time. Late-comers are seen as irresponsible, unreliable, and uncaring. This doesn’t bode well if your goal is promotion, lucrative accounts, or fabulous references. You owe it to yourself to make sure you’re on time. Remembering this when you get up each morning may be the motivation you need to time-manage.

3. Negotiate. If you really can’t make it in on time—and some people really, truly can’t, no matter how hard they try—sit down with your boss before she has a chance to approach you. Tell her that you realize it’s a problem, that you’re working on it, and offer some sort of settlement to make leniency a win for her. Accumulate the time you’re late and do an hour of phone coverage, for example, or offer to organize the company holiday party. If you show that you’re working on your weaknesses and indicate a willingness to make it up in other areas, it will be easier for your employer to accept tardiness.

4. Think of others. When you’re late, others have to cover for you. They grow resentful, because they can manage to be on time, why can’t you? Account for this in your behavior toward co-workers and make a point to volunteer to stay late, return calls to problem clients, or make the daily lunch order.

Showing a willingness to work on the problem and compensate in other ways will make managers and co-workers patient. In the meantime, keep trying the on-timers’ suggestions: leave earlier to account for traffic, do as much as you can the night before (showering, laying out clothes, packing lunches and briefcases), set more than one alarm clock. Someday it may just click.


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