Jul 31 · 5 min read
The value of punctuality in the workplace
It’s a no brainer that businesses need people to show up on time to get the job done. You even may say that being on time, especially in the workplace is a social construct. A social construct is an idea or notion that appears to be natural and obvious to people who accept it but may or may not represent reality, so it remains largely an invention or artifice of a given society.
The importance of punctuality is not universal and varies from culture to culture. In some places like Latin America and the Pacific Islands, life moves at a different pace and meeting times are meant to be fuzzy. But this does not negate the value of punctuality to a man or woman living in a culture that does define being on-time more strictly.
The life of George Washington was characterized by a scrupulous regard for punctuality.
Washington’s promptness extended to his mealtimes as well. He ate dinner each day at exactly 4 o’clock, and when he invited members of Congress to dine with him, and they arrived late, they were often surprised to find the president halfway done with his meal or even pushing back from the table. To his startled, tardy guest he would say, “We are punctual here. My cook never asks whether the company has arrived, but whether the hour has come.”
And when Washington’s secretary arrived late to a meeting and blamed his watch for his tardiness, Washington quietly replied, “Then you must get another watch, or I another secretary.”
For Washington, being on time was a way of showing respect to others, and he expected to be treated with the same level of respect in return.
“Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Careful to keep your Promise.”
Consistent lateness can also harm your career.
People who are chronically late are viewed negatively by more than just co-workers. Customers also see what’s going on. When your employee is late, the customer may not trust that the job will be done properly. Punctuality demonstrates professionalism and a desire to do the job well. It is a sign of someone who is well-prepared.
Evaluating Future Leaders
Employees who arrive on time are often more prepared for the workday and experience less stress in general. Those who arrive a few minutes early can grab a cup of coffee and get organized at their desk ready to start on time. Not only is a punctual arrival a basic job requirement, but it also puts employees in a position to be seen as loyal, professional and ambitious. These are qualities business owners and management seek to develop for promotion and professional development.
Punctuality can improve your job performance
Whether you’re an employee or in business for yourself, being late can hinder your professional success. Many companies have strict policies about punctuality — get a few write-ups and you’re gone. Of course, if you arrive late to the job interview, you probably won’t land the position in the first place. And if you’re trying to win over a new client, arriving ten minutes late isn’t going to get things off on the right foot, in the same way, that promising to get something to him by a certain date and then failing to do so, may have that client looking elsewhere for your services.
Being on time shows you are dependable
If you say you will be there, and you are there, people know they can rely on you. But if you’re not punctual, others cannot depend on you. They don’t know where you’ll be if you are needed. Colleagues will begin to feel you cannot organize your own time, and these doubts will seep into matters beyond the clock, as it naturally raises the question: “If he is careless about time, what else is he careless about?”
Benjamin Franklin once said to an employee who was always late, but always ready with an excuse: “I have generally found that the man who is good at an excuse is good for nothing else.”
Being punctual builds and reveals your discipline
The punctual person shows that he can organize his time, that he pays attention to details, and that he can put aside this to do that – he can set aside a pleasure to take care of business.
Being punctual shows your respect for others.
Being late is a selfish act, for it puts your needs above another’s. You want an extra minute to do what you’d like, but in gaining that minute for yourself, you take a minute from another. When you’re late in meeting other people, it makes them feel under-valued, that whatever you couldn’t pull yourself away from was more important or that they didn’t mean enough to you to warrant allotting sufficient time to arrive on schedule.
When an old man was once asked why he had been so punctual in arriving at his church on time for decades, he replied, “I made it my religion not to disturb the religion of others.”
What to do about it
There are numerous reasons for people to struggle with being on time. The could be misperceiving the passage of time, underestimating how long things take, procrastinate in general, be easily distracted, need an external force to get motivated, or simply enjoy the satisfaction of rushing to beat the clock.
It can also stem from a desire to feel special or to feel powerful. It’s a small way of feeling like you’re different, that you’re not one of the crowd and march to your own beat, even if most of the other areas of your life are otherwise very conventional. Other people get a kick out of people waiting for them. It stokes their ego and gives them a sense of control, oftentimes when they lack a feeling of power in other areas of their lives.
Stop rationalizing and take responsibility
When someone knows something is right and wants to do it, but fails at doing so, they often resort to rationalizations in order to soothe the dissonance between who they want to be and how they actually act. In the case of the not punctual man, this takes the form of deciding that being punctual isn’t very important anyway, or that people who expect punctuality are unreasonably uptight, or in excusing their lateness by blaming certain circumstances…even if they face those same circumstances every single day. So the first step in overcoming lateness is to quit the rationalizations and take responsibility for the problem.
Redefine punctuality as a matter of integrity
See it as a way of keeping your promises and becoming a man of your word. Once you form an inner conviction about the importance of punctuality, you can move from relying on external motivation (deadlines) to inner motivation (excellence).
Honestly assess the situation
If you willingly agreed to be punctual for a job or something else, then why are you rebelling? If you don’t like the job, then find another, and if you do like it, then keep your promise to arrive on time.
Always shoot to arrive 15 minutes early.
There’s an old expression that if you’re on time, you’re late. The rule of men like Vince Lombardi and Horatio Nelson was to always aim to arrive 15 minutes early. Half the time, you’ll run into unexpected trouble — traffic, difficulty finding the building or parking space — and end up right on time anyway. And the other half of the time, when you do arrive 15 minutes early, you’ll have a quarter of an hour to do something enjoyable or to get extra prepared for the meeting or interview.
We hope these tips will help you become punctual! Feel free to share them with anyone for whom they might be of value.