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Work Smarter #39: Dealing with Lateness
March 15, 2011

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Hi, Kell here!

Welcome to the Work Smarter Not Harder Newsletter #39.

Have you ever had to meet with a group of colleagues or team members for a group project and had one or more of those members arrive late? Perhaps those members arrived so late that part of the project suffered.

Even worse, some people who arrive to the group late seem to enjoy the attention they get from being late. Or worse yet, perhaps you were the late person and you, yet again, felt extremely embarrassed at your lateness.

Whatever the case, there are numerous reasons why chronic lateness occurs and what you can do to stop lateness now!

Reasons for lateness

There are a variety of reasons why people are late.


The first reason may be disorganization. You, or the person who's late, may not be an effective time manager and may lose track of time. He or she may also not be calculating the time it takes to travel from "Point A" to "Point B."

Disorganization can also result from taking on too many commitments or scheduling group events too close in time to each other. Having a poor time management schedule might be done on accident, but it also may be done intentionally so that an adrenaline rush can be felt as the deadline nears.

Power trip

Another person might be late because they enjoy the power trip they get from making others wait.

This is especially common in business settings where meetings usually cannot start until everyone is present. These "power plays" seem to give a boost to the person's ego.

Avoidance or stressed

One serious reason for lateness, and cause for concern, is anxiety or avoidance.

You or another person may be showing up late to avoid bullying from another group member, fear of underperformance at the meeting, or some other reason.

Other reasons for chronic lateness include poor social skills, that is, someone may not understand how lateness affects group work. Or, chronic lateness may also be caused by medical reasons.

Stop lateness immediately

There are definite ways to deal with late people effectively without putting them down or making the person feel bad. If you're late because you're disorganized, have taken on too many commitments and don't know how to say "no," or are a chronic procrastinator, you need to make behavioral changes.

For example, you can:

  • keep a visual, written-down schedule or calendar with you in your personal organizer at all times to arrange appointments or meetings
  • build lateness into your schedule by blocking out 20 or more minutes to commute to your destination or to allow yourself to "run behind"
  • use these resources for overcoming procrastination and getting things done if you lateness is a result of putting things off

If you're late for other reasons, one important thing to do is to take a step back and realize how you're lateness is affecting other people. One way you can realize this is by asking your other group members. Though you may not like the answer you get, the understanding and breakthrough you'll get by talking about it with others can help you see why chronic lateness is a negative issue.

Share with us here how you deal with lateness.

What managers can do

Managers and group leaders also need to understand how to deal effectively with chronically late individuals.

Perhaps the best thing for a manager to do is to acknowledge the good work that the late person accomplishes, but then remind him how lateness affects the entire group and offer advice on what he can do to arrive on time, every time.

If you are a manager please share with us how you deal with lateness.


Though lateness is a serious problem that is inconsiderate to others' feelings, work ethic and overall personal time, there are ways to improve this time management issue so that it doesn't wreak the success of the entire group any longer.

Keeping personal schedules with you at all times, dealing with your problems head-on, allowing yourself extra time and acknowledging your personal limits are all healthy steps you can take to deal with lateness successfully.

Please let us know your comments, views or feedback so that we can improve our site for our most valuable resource


All the best,

Dr Kell and the team at Effective Time Management Strategies.

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