In college, I had a professor by the name of Eric Forsythe. I will never forget Eric’s speech during our small department graduation in which he said, “There are only two things you absolutely need to know in order to be successful. The first is, ‘Don’t be a jerk’ (in our line of work this goes without saying). The second is, ‘Always be on time’.” This has always stuck with me.
How and when we show up matters. If you are constantly late you may be sabotaging your career and putting your job in peril without even knowing it.
I currently work for a small company based in San Francisco; however, my boss and I live and work in Denver. Our office is located in a shared workspace. The nature of my job is very autonomous, which I love! I can come and go from the office as I like and have the option of working from home whenever my boss travels, which is often. When my boss travels I typically prefer to work from home only one day a week (weird I know!). Because I’m around so much I’ve had a chance to get to know my neighbors as well as the receptionist and concierge. I’m surprised how often I hear comments about how on time or early I am. These people aren’t even my coworkers! One neighbor even commented to my boss, “Annie is always here. She could be out getting her nails done or blowing off the afternoon, but she’s not. She’s always at her desk working away.” People notice. Even if your boss doesn’t directly see you walking through the door a half-hour late if it happens enough chances are he is going to hear about it. The converse is true also! Showing up on time speaks to your commitment to your job and says you want to be there.
As stated in an article by Neel Burton posted June 16, 2014 in Psychology Today, “Unless you present a very good excuse for being late, preferably something that is out of your control (e.g. an elephant on the motorway), being late sends out the message, ‘My time is more valuable than yours,’ that is, ‘I am more important than you’, and perhaps even, ‘I am doing you a favour by turning up at all’.” Yikes! This unintentional message largely applies to meetings. I would venture a guess that none of us would ever intend to send this message! Time does have a way of getting away from us sometimes. Make sure you know what’s in your calendar at the start of each day and plan accordingly.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m constantly late it makes me feel one step behind and frazzled. That’s no way to start a day or a meeting. I would much rather show up feeling calm, organized, and ready for the task at hand. You will perform better and think much more clearly if you are on time. Plain and simple.
There is one exception to this rule of always being punctual. Let’s say you are heading to a networking lunch appointment, and as you are gathering your things to leave your boss finds himself in a crisis and needs your help. Of course, you are going to help him. Your exec’s needs always come first (at least during work hours)! If you feel your boss’s demands can wait until after your appointment, explain the situation and ask if you can handle the request when you return. If it is emergent and unavoidable be sure to notify the other party that you will be late.
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