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Someone Is Always Late? Subtle Ways To Change Their Behaviour

Encouraging punctuality

By Elaine SiheraPublished 4 months ago 5 min read
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Someone Is Always Late? Subtle Ways To Change Their Behaviour
Photo by Andy Beales on Unsplash

When someone is habitually late, it can have all sorts of impact on those around them, depending on the situation, their responsibilities and their required input. There are many reasons why some people are usually late, and the most common ones include:

Time perception problems: They have difficulty accurately estimating how much time it takes to complete tasks or to travel from one place to another. This can lead to them underestimating how much time they need and being late as a result.

Poor time management skills: They struggle to manage their time effectively often leading to procrastinating on tasks. Or they may not be able to prioritise their workload, which then results in them being late for appointments and deadlines.

Personality traits: Some personality traits - such as impulsiveness, disorganisation, and perfectionism - can make people more likely to be late. For example, impulsive people may start new tasks without finishing their current ones which rob them of time, disorganised people may have difficulty finding what they need or getting ready on time, and perfectionists may spend too much time on tasks, which can lead to lateness.

Mental health conditions: Some health conditions, such as ADHD, anxiety, and depression, can lead to lateness. For example, people with ADHD may have difficulty paying attention and staying focused, which can make it difficult for them to manage their time effectively. Anxiety increases the worry about being late, which can actually make them more likely to be late, and those with depression may have difficulty motivating themselves to get started on tasks.

Cultural factors: In some cultures, it is considered more acceptable to be late than in others. For example, in Latin American cultures, it is common to be late for social engagements. This is because these cultures tend to be more relaxed about time.

Giving a great example of that factor, I spent my early years in Jamaica where everyone was late to everything, especially parties. When you were told a specific time it was common practice to add an extra hour or so to it, especially when no one wanted to be the first to arrive! The irony was that we all wanted to get to the party when it was ‘heaving’ without realising that, unless people were already there to get it going, nothing much would be happening!

When I came to live in England and was invited to my first social gathering, I naturally assumed the start time would be later than suggested. I arrived over an hour later to see everyone almost gone! What I learned pretty rapidly was that the British were sticklers for time, and when they gave a start time, they did not mean another. In my case it was clearly cultural, an action that had to be relearnt. There was no benefit to me arriving at functions late, so I gradually adapted to the new norms.

By Ali Mkumbwa on Unsplash

Identify Underlying Causes

It is important to note that there is no single reason why some people are always late. In most cases, it is a combination of factors that contributes to chronic lateness. If you are someone who is always late, it is important to identify the underlying causes of your lateness so that you can develop strategies to address them. Habitual lateness and how to tackle it clearly depends on the context. If it is to do with work, it would be treated entirely different from being personal. In a work case, there should be no subtlety. The person should be asked why they are aways late, to see if there are any mitigating factors which could be helped, and reminded of the time they are expected. Otherwise they should be penalised in some way: whether through pay or making up the time.

We are all late at some point, depending on what is happening at that moment. But being constantly late is a different matter. It does have some consequences, such as a negative impact on personal and professional life. For example, it can result in damage to personal reputation, because late people are likely to be regarded as unreliable and inconsiderate, making it difficult for them to build and maintain relationships; increased stress and anxiety for everyone involved; missed opportunities for the latecomer; loss of productivity through disruption of the workflow which is likely to result in missed deadlines, and loss of respect from colleagues, which can make it difficult to work collaboratively and be successful in one's career.

If someone is always late, it is important to take steps to address the problem, and there are a number of things that can be done to help them become more punctual, such as:

  • Identifying the root cause of the lateness: Once they are helped to understand why they are always late, they can start to develop strategies to address the problem.
  • Setting realistic goals: They won't change their behaviour overnight, regardless of the good intention. They would need to start by setting small, achievable goals, such as being on time for at least one meeting per week.
  • Creating a routine: Having a regular routine can help them to stay on track and avoid being late.
  • Allowing plenty of time from home to meeting. They should try to avoid waiting until the last minute to get ready, and give plenty of time for travelling and aany unexpected obstacles.
  • Set reminders on their phone, or smart speaker, to help with punctuality.

In general, habitual lateness suggests a clear lack of respect and value for others and their time, and a focus on the self. If you have a friend or colleague who seems to be late repeatedly, despite your encouragement to change the habit, perhaps you should stop associating with them. If they should wonder why, politely explain that you would love to see them, but they are always late, your time is very precious and you won't waste any more time waiting for them, unless they stick to agreed times. If they value the friendship, they are likely to at least try to see yur point of view and even change their behaviour.

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About the Creator

Elaine Sihera

British Empowerment Coach/Public speaker/DEI Consultant. Author: The New Theory of Confidence and 7 Steps To Finding And Keeping 'The One'!. Graduate/Doctor of Open Univ; Postgrad Cambridge Univ. Keen on motivation, relationships and books.

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  • Naveed 4 months ago

    It is important to be mindful of the impact that lateness can have on others.

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