Ane epidemic of tolderance to poor time keeping has broken out
Ane epidemic of tolderance to poor time keeping has broken out

There seems to be an epidemic, pandemic even, of tolerance about poor timekeeping as though being late is always outside our control

Poor timekeeping

I have to confess that in my time I have indeed been guilty of some erratic time keeping. I was very much ” a one more thing before I go“ type of girl and a great subscriber to the phrase “fashionably late“. But then I worked for a manager who would monetize the communally wasted time whenever any of his team was late for a meeting. It was actually quite shocking. If we had all been held financially accountable, our pay cheques would have been significantly lighter. When I transitioned into sales I had to replace ” better late than never ” with “never late is better”. Arriving late isn’t actually a recognised commercially winning strategy.

Running late

I have become acutely aware in recent weeks how erratic general timekeeping seems to have become and how easily the phrase “running late “, has slid into our daily business and social vernacular, including my own. Very often people apologise, (sometimes they don’t), explaining that either they, someone, or something else was “running late“, as though they were a bus service, entirely passive and had nothing to do with it at all. Clearly there are always unforeseen circumstances. Only recently I scooted into an important meeting with only minutes to spare, because a journey scheduled to take ten minutes, took forty five due to traffic congestion. But, I wondered, are we all becoming more tolerant of poor time keeping, as if we are communally raising our hands saying ” I know life is tough for you – but it’s Ok – I don’t mind waiting here wasting my own time….. I’m a bus too ?” Whatever happened to William Shakespeare’s “Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late?”


A candidate was recently late for an interview. He hadn’t properly checked the company’s address the night before and arrived 15 minutes late, having been to the wrong building at the designated hour. What should have been a walk in the park (he was the preferred candidate) became an interview nightmare, as his anxiety levels rose and he fluffed even routine questions. A hiring manager similarly kept a candidate waiting so long that she eventually left and then withdrew from the process.

Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management From the Inside Out, tells us that the first step is to make promptness a conscious priority, but also we need to gain an understanding into why we’re always late. Poor timekeeping can be come very expensive, with downsides both direct with damage to our professional reputations by simply not being there when we were supposed to be but also indirectly and longer term with an implications that we are generally unreliable, not dependable and/or disorganised. The reasons she maintains tend to fall into two categories: technical or psychological.

Technical Difficulties

If we are always late but at different time then, the likelihood is that it is the result of bad planning and under estimating how long things will take.

Morgenstern advises establishing patterns by keeping a time log of all tasks and detailing exactly how much time each task takes. Then factor in a margin for some unforseen contingency time.

Inability to say no Linda Sapadin, PhD, author of Master Your Fears believes there are deeper underlying implications of poor timekeeping, which are linked to procrastination. Very often many of the difficulties are rooted in lack of confidence and an inability to say no, or even to tell another person we have another appointment in our diaries.

Are guilty of running late - like a bus service?
Are we guilty of running late – like a bus service?

Do you choose to be late? If we are always late by the same amount of time, there could be a number of possibiliteis – but no doubt, it’s about us! We need to ask ourselves some key questions: Are we

  • Rebellious – not doing what’s expected
  • A drama queen/king – needing an adrenalin rush to get going
  • An attention seeker – which comes with being last through the door and going through the apology ritual.
  • Power playing – I’m more important than you are, sending a message of disrespect
  • An avoider – you don’t want to meet the person, or attend the meeting, so leave it until the very last-minute to arrive.

During a recession when employers are tightening up on time keeping with threats of dismissal after the second or third offence, there are so many challenges in the workplace, it seems crazy not to take responsibility for the things we can control ourselves. It’s also really rude!

So next time instead of saying something “ ran late“, perhaps we should all just be honest and admit to being bad planners, power players, attention seekers or avoiders. Then change!

Or is the alternative to opt for carrying on living our lives as buses?