How tardiness at workplace can hamper growth – personal and professional – My comments in The Economic Times

Marilyn Monroe said “I’ve been on a calendar, but I’ve never been on time.” This strikes a chord. Not the calendar bit but the time part. Chronic tardiness is something I understand only too well. As many like me who might, especially those of us who grab a brekker on-the-go, send worried texts and calls to cover bases before stepping in to the  office and burst into a meeting with hurried apologies.
According to job search website CareerBuilder, the percentage of workers arriving late to work has increased slightly from 2011. The US-based survey found that 16% of workers arrive late to work once a week or more, up from 15% last year. In 2010 punctuality was up, thanks to recession aftershocks.
The Lateness Epidemic
For most of us who follow the “better late than never” dictum, punctuality is often overlooked. Motivational speaker and writer Priya Kumar says that punctuality has become underrated and overlooked as a virtue especially by the new generation of executives. “Tardiness is not only an accepted behaviour but also expected and tolerated,” she says. Kumar explains it as a vicious circle. If one person is late and expects to be pardoned then how can he/she reprimand or demand others to be punctual. “Its quite a mass understanding of indiscipline that has emerged at the workplace,” she adds.
Punctuality — or lack thereof — impacts how your commitment, reliability and performance are perceived by your employer. Behavioural experts see it as the first sign of loyalty towards a company. Kumar adds, “Punctuality is actually primary for success. It means that one is good not just at planning but also in predicting one’s day and time management — an asset to any executive, the lack of which has grave implications in slowed personal progress, delays and frustrations,” Kumar says.

Executive coach Shalini Verma adds that tardiness largely depends upon the organisation’s culture. “Tardiness is a reflection of company leadership. Culture is set by the leaders who exhibit behaviours which are replicated in the organisation,” she says.
Excuses, Excuses
The upside are the inventive lateness excuses.  CareerBuilder study pointed out some of the more ‘creative’ ones. From cat hiccups to a governor’s phone call and even a botox appointment have been used to pass off tardiness.
Then one employee thought she had won the lottery. Another claimed that a fox stole her car keys, while one got his leg trapped between the  subway car and the platform (true story). But lateness doesn’t mean they aren’t honest, as one employee said he was late “because of a job interview”. Employers now are more flexible about timing, but excessive tardiness can get you pink slipped. Over one-third (34%) of employers said they have fired an employee for being late.

Time Management
Common reasons for tardiness are traffic (31%), lack of sleep (18%), bad weather (11%) and chores involving kids (8%). Other reasons include public transportation delays, pets, spouses, TV and internet usage.

Shalini Verma says that time management is not about structuring time, it’s about structuring priorities. “The common tendency is to get caught up in day-to-day work with things that are urgent, but not always important,” she says. As life coach Brian Tracy says, “While approaching any task, ask yourself — ‘What impact will this task have on my future?'”

Kumar identifies lateness as an attitude and personal drive issue. “One knows well in advance that one is going to be late,” she says. Studies prove that for some coming in late is a resistance thing — a sort of rebellion against establishment. Others are “crisis-makers” — thriving on the mini-crisis because of running late and hence, the adrenaline rush.
The only way out: getting organised and planning ahead. A time management course teaches you to get organised, set priorities, minimise interruptions, keep time logs, say ‘No’, work simplification, batching tasks etc. Maybe it’s time to set the clocks 10 minutes ahead.
Say This, Not That
Use these plausible excuses till those time management lessons kick in
Don’t Say: “You mean commute isn’t office time?”
Say: “There was a jam because of xyz festival/dharna.” Since we love to take protests/parties to the road, use that. But don’t blame the chhat pooja when the festival’s a month later. Use the Metro breakdowns.
Lack of Sleep
Don’t Say: “My karma is not in sync.”
Say: “I was up working on ‘yada-yada’ report, so was late in getting up.” If you are a performer, your tardiness might be overlooked. Little ahead your project deadline? Use this excuse. Timed right, it can boost your image.
Alarm, Power Failure
Don’t Say: “My watch is set to UK time because of the Olympics.”
Say: “The power went off and reset my digital alarm clock.” Use the power crisis. But this excuse is good for one use every 2-3 months. Any more and the boss will get you a clock as a farewell gift.
Personal Emergency
Don’t Say: “My hair just wouldn’t dry.”
Say: “I’d to take my wife to the doc.” Use the family — includes partner, kids and pets. You can earn brownie points for being the responsible person — at work and off.
House/Bank Work
Don’t Say: “My house was on fire.”
Say: “The water pipe burst last night. The plumber just fixed it and left.” The plumber excuse has helped a colleague since his internship days. With such excuses the boss will simply tell you to manage your time a little better.
Missing Keys
Don’t Say: “A fox stole my car keys.”
Say: “Partner took the keys.” Blaming the other person actually makes you a little less of an airhead. The way to milk this one is to recount your frantic search. It will make it a little less routine and the boss might excuse you for some free entertainment.
Car Trouble
Don’t Say: “My car was inhabited by bees and left after two hours.”
Say: “I have a flat tyre.” Anything can go wrong with the car — fluid leaks, flat tyres, dead battery. The boss might ask for repair receipts. Running out of petrol is more believable and proffering petrol bills is simpler.
All ‘Don’t Say’ excuses are actual alibis used by employees according to a CareerBuilder survey