Article by ILM
Laura Johnson on why managers should avoid double standards when it comes to lateness
As a leader, it’s important you work to the same rules you insist your team members adhere to, right? However, avoiding double standards when it comes to lateness can be easier said than done for the punctually challenged manager. How can you reprimand a colleague for being 15 minutes late when you only arrived two minutes earlier than them?
A new national survey of 1,000 employees conducted by CareerBuilder.co.uk revealed one-in-ten workers admits to being late at least once a month. And it gets worse; 14 per cent are late once a week or more. Always striving, but consistently failing, to be on time is something lots of workers battle with. And that includes those sitting comfortably on the higher rungs of the organisational ladder.
Thinking back to my days working in an office, I’m ashamed to say I would without doubt be one of the weekly culprits of crimes against the clock. Based on the volume of colourful tales of woeful journeys to work I conjured up, you’d have thought I was the unluckiest commuter in the country. And it didn’t make any difference what time I got up; I could be sitting eating my breakfast, dressed and ready to go at seven and still be sneaking into the office late at half past nine armed with yet another excuse. Being at last 15 minutes behind schedule is just part of my physiological make up (my dad shares this trait).
Now whilst some readers will be nodding their head in recognition, I don’t expect (or indeed seek) sympathy for my plea of inherited tardiness from the perfectly punctual out there. The lateness of others is extremely annoying. I understand this because like most habitually late people, I can’t stand being late. Constantly missing time targets, is the cause of much stress, worry and anxiety for offenders of time like me. But one thing I detest more is the assumption that because you’re not a slave to the clock, you’re not dedicated to your job. For me the start time of my working day may be negotiable but so is the end time. Fortunately, my managers have always recognised this. Others aren’t so lucky, with 30 per cent of the hiring managers taking part in the CareerBuilder.co.uk survey admitting they’ve had to fire someone for being late.
If being late is so stressful, I should just stop it, right? Unfortunately, telling a late person to buck up their ideas and be on time, is like telling an alcoholic to give up booze. The good intentions may be present but the ability to see through the promise is lacking. Lateness isn’t something that can be simply fixed with better organisation because the origins of unpunctuality run deeper than that.
Reformed late person and author, Diane DeLonzor, uncovers the hidden depths of the punctually challenged in her book Never be Late Again. Her research revealed seven types of late people, with most people falling into at least one of the following three categories:
The Deadliner: flourishes under pressure, thrives on urgency and is addicted to the thrill of the last minute.
The Producer: can’t stand down time and needs to get as much done in as little time as possible (and consistently underestimates how long tasks actually take).
The Absent-Minded Professor: ranges from having slightly flaky attention to having full-blown attention deficit disorder, causing them to lose track of time and overlook appointments.
So lateness (despite expectations to the contrary) is not automatically akin to laziness. It’s also not necessarily a sign of ineffectiveness. Most late people have been unsuccessfully chasing the clock all their lives without causing any significant misfortune to anyone or any company. Now in some instances and professions being on time is non-negotiable. For example, a teacher regularly missing the morning school bell would be classed as professional incompetence. But for most office workers, the only negative side-effects of turning up 15 minutes late are personal shame and fear of a scolding from their boss. So does it really matter whether you arrive before the stroke of nine everyday?
Lateness is something that definitely becomes more acceptable with seniority. Research by management consultancy Proudfoot back in 2002 found chief executive officers arrive late for six in 10 meetings. Yet I’m sure none of them forfeited their annual bonus or got booted out of position as a result of this habit. With this in mind, maybe the time has come to stamp out hypocrisy and cut those inflicted with a late gene a little slack?
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