I have a friend who invariably shows up late for everything. Not minutes late, but close-to-an-hour late. It's not some deep, dark passive-aggressive trench warfare on her part. She just cannot estimate how long it will take her to leave the house. She'll say she'll be over in 30 minutes after she does a, b, and c, and I know that she won't be able to get halfway through b before it's time to go. I'll ask if she needs more time and she will insist on the original time frame. It's not a huge inconvenience and I don't have her set on a timer or anything, but it's interesting to me how little she knows about how to manage her time. The fact that the lateness happens every time leads me to believe it's her own inability to gauge how long something is going to take her rather than the delays always being caused by unexpected outside factors.
In the workplace, I've known people who are consistently ten minutes late for every meeting. That makes me a little suspicious of the "putting out fires" excuse. In other words, I don't buy that there's always a fire right before every single occurrence of a regular weekly meeting. (Or course, I would exclude in this generalization those who, by job duty, are forced to rely on the timeframes of others, like those who work the Help Desk or those who have to support the unpredictable end-user.) I'm talking about the man or woman who has a consistent body of responsibility who just can't seem to get it together, whose problem has a little more to do with poor time management than any holy-crap-this-has-to-be-done-right-now circumstance.
Such lateness may not be some kind of passive-aggressive statement, but it can be a pain for several reasons. Let's take the meeting. First of all, I came to the meeting on time and had to sit through the introductory remarks which can often be a boring rehash of previous info. Then here comes the Late Great Meeting Attendee ten minutes late and we have to start all over and I have to hear the rehash rehashed. I have a very low threshold for boredom so this is excruciating for me. I'm also on a tight schedule as well and would like to get in and get out of the meeting as quickly as possible. Also, and maybe it's just me, but isn't there a measure of arrogance attached to someone who doesn't seem to be bothered with the same time constraints everyone else in the room deigned to obey? Is anyone so important they can consistently waste the time of their co-workers? Or is it more of an innocent inability to manage time? If that's the case, at what point should it become an issue on a performance appraisal?
Have you had an experience with someone who operates in his own time zone and you would like to comment? Or maybe you are that person and would like to skewer me for my uptight, neurotic, Type A ways. All comments are welcome.
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.