There are times in our lives when something big happens and you just can't help being late to work. Most workplaces are fairly understanding, but when you're regularly tardy, it could damage your professional reputation. We drill down on exactly how being late can impact your career and discuss steps you can take to fix your chronic tardiness.
A race against time image from Shutterstock
When you make plans with your friends and commit to meeting them, it's only polite to show up on time. While your friends may forgive you for being five or ten minutes late on more than one occasion, your employer may be less lenient when you regularly turn up late to work or to pre-planned meetings.
Yes, we do live in a fast-paced world and work life, for most of us, can get hectic at one point or another as we face back-to-back meetings and tight deadlines. But don't forget your colleagues are likely to be in the same predicament. If you're being tardy while they continue to be punctual, it's an indirect gesture that shows you don't think their time is as valuable as your own.
Being late all the time also tells your manager that you're unreliable. That's something employers do notice. As recruitment expert Greg Savage noted in his widely-read blog post:
"I am not talking about the odd occasion of lateness. I am talking about people who are routinely late. In fact, never on time. You know who I am talking about! And certainly I consider serial lateness a character flaw which I take into account when working out who to promote, who to hire and who to count amongst my real friends; it’s that important."
Considering how many time I've seen this blog post republished and quoted since it was published six years ago, I'd say punctuality is a sore point for many people.
So what happens if you are one of those people who repeatedly exhibit tardiness at work? Identifying the problem is the first step. According to Jemima Grieve, HR manager at online employment marketplace SEEK, you need to address the issue with your manager and explain why you're always late.
Is it because you have some family issues at the moment? Do you struggle to get out of bed in the morning because you're a naturally a night owl? Explaining yourself can help your manager find a solution to your tardiness. A lot of workplaces are more flexible than ever before and are able to cater to the unique needs of their employees. Perhaps your manager can allow you to work from home once a week or change your set working hours so long as it doesn't inhibit you from doing your job or adversely impact the company.
"Agree on a trial arrangement, where you start later and finish later, for example. Or take a 30-minute lunch break rather than one hour," Grieve said in a blog post. "It all really comes down to developing an honest relationship between employee and leader, so that these sorts of issues don’t become bigger than they need to be."
Another way to improve your punctuality is to make sure you leave some breathing room between meetings. A 10 to 15-minute buffer should accommodate for the possibility of your previous meeting going overtime. Being obsessive with setting calendar reminders on your phone and computer also helps and that is a method that I've been using for years.
Ultimately, it's about recognising your chronic lateness, owning up to it and taking steps to be more organised. The 10 minutes that you're late every day could mean the difference between staying in your current position and getting that promotion you want.