I’m the boss who’s always late

A reader writes:

I’m part of the senior management of a small nonprofit organization (about 25 employees). I’ve been with the company for several years and have consistently been a stellar performer, which is why I’ve been promoted several times since joining the company.

I do have, however, one major flaw — I am always late. Doesn’t matter if it’s in the morning, the afternoon, or the evening. I am what you’d call a “crammer” — I’m always trying to fit “one more thing” in before heading to the next event and, as a result, I am late in the mornings, late to meetings, etc. The Big Boss gives me a lot of flexibility around this because I regularly work 70+ hours per week. But I know that my tardiness causes some feelings of resentment among some members of the staff.

Now, I know myself and I have never been an early bird. I make attempts to do be on time/early, but they are generally short-lived. Plus, truth be told, I do feel like I’ve earned some flexibility given my level of productivity and performance. Yet, as I move up in the ranks, I don’t want to continue to foster a feeling of discord among the team. Any advice?

Yeah, it might not hold you back in ways you care about, but I can pretty much guarantee that it’s going to be a thing that frustrates and even demoralizes your staff and colleagues, and maybe makes them take you less seriously.

Being late in the mornings — fine, so be it. As long as it’s not causing workflow problems, that’s between you and your boss, and it sounds like she has good reason not to care. But routinely late to meetings? That’s disrespectful to the people waiting for you and inconsiderate of their time.

If it happened only occasionally, it wouldn’t be a problem. You sound like you have a busy schedule, and people will understand that.

But when it happens habitually — when it’s your m.o. and people grow to expect it of you — you’re conveying “I know that you’re waiting for me, and I don’t care.”

Now, sometimes that’s actually a legitimate stand to take. If your meeting with a big funder runs over or you get a call from a major media outlet right before a meeting, of course that’s going to take priority, and anyone working at a nonprofit should get that that’s just how it works.

But when it’s just that you’re trying to fit in one more thing every single time, and when you know that’s what’s causing it and you keep doing it anyway … it’s rude, and that’s where the disrespect comes in. It can also make you look like you can’t manage your time well, and that can make you seem unreliable more broadly. (Speaking of which — 70+ hour weeks aren’t sustainable, are modeling terrible habits for your staff, and will do your replacement no favors when you move on at some point. You’ve got to take a look at what you’re spending time on and figure out where to cut/delegate/etc. And yes, I know, it all feels important — that’s the nature of nonprofit work. But it’ll do your organization no favors when you burn out/start dropping balls, which will happen at some point with sustained hours like that.)

If the people waiting on you are junior to you, they’re probably never going to say anything about your lateness being rude because they don’t have standing to raise it. And if they’re peers, they still may not say anything, especially if it’s clear you’re favored by leadership above you. But they’re going to think it, and that can corrode respect over time.

Agreeing to meet at a specific time is a commitment, and you want to be a person who keeps commitments.

You are right that stellar performance earns flexibility. Absolutely it does! But that means flexibility on things like your schedule, not on how respectful you are to others.

{ 423 comments… read them below }

  1. YMMV*

    Well said, AAM!

    I despise when people are late without a valid reason. It’s straight out telling the other person that YOUR and YOUR TIME is more valuable than them.

    Extremely disrespectful and demoralizing to your team. Everyone’s work and time is important and should be respected in the same way you expect them to respect you.

    1. Kathleen_A*

      “You are right that stellar performance earns flexibility. Absolutely it does! But that means flexibility on things like your schedule, not on how respectful you are to others.” – Alison Green

      Those are words to live by right there – and I am speaking as a person who is also often late and who is allowed some flexibility. But that flexibility needs to end right where it begins to affect other people. You are being given a great gift of flexibility over your own schedule, OP – but that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to infringe on the schedules of other people, and when you are late to a meeting, that’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re making it harder to do their jobs, and you’re making it unpleasant, too.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Yup. I was always late to work in the mornings once I became salaried exempt, but never to meetings for this reason. It is extremely rude to keep people waiting for you, especially taking into account they too probably have other pressing things they could be doing instead. And if I am going to run late for a meeting because I got caught up in a call or another meeting runs over, I try to send the meeting organizer a text or IM letting them know as far in advance as I can so the person knows I’m not flaking and they can start without me and catch me up later. I don’t want people wasting my time, so I try really hard not to waste the time of others.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The thing is, sometimes a manager’s time might be genuinely more important than someone else’s. That’s the nature of hierarchical work. It’s okay to recognize that. The problem is when it’s as chronic as this sounds; that’s when it becomes not okay.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Here’s how you know the difference.

        If your boss says something like “My dad died in a freak accident” or “CNN called and wanted to talk to me right now” or “A major donor/BOD member wouldn’t stop talking” or “My house is on fire,” then that statement requires no context or follow up explanation or excuse. Everyone in the room knows the deal.

        But if a boss says, “I wanted to squeeze in one more thing,” which requires a lengthy explanation or context, then that is not acceptable.

        If you regularly have to convince people or justify your actions, then the problem is you.

        1. KHB*

          This. A manager’s time might sometimes be genuinely more important than someone else’s – but the manager’s time is not automatically always more important than everyone else’s, simply by virtue of her being the manager.

          1. Green great dragon*

            and a managers time is probably *not* more important than several other people’s put together.

          2. TeapotNinja*

            The manager also directs multiple people.

            If you make all of them wait for extra 15 minutes, with sufficient number of people or people who are also working on important/timely things the aggregate time lost is going to be more important than the manager’s time.

        2. TootsNYC*

          also–like, did the boss apologize?

          Or make an effort to call to cancel or postpone?

      2. Kathleen_A*

        Oh, sure. Late because of a very specific, time-sensitive, important thing that came up at the last minute? Fine. Late all the time? Routinely? Not fine at all. In the average work week, even of a high-performing manager, there just aren’t that many very specific, time-sensitive, important things that come up at the last minute. And if there by some chance are, the OP needs to quit scheduling so many meetings.

        1. KRM*

          This. If you meet with the CEO right before you meet with your staff, but the CEO meeting ALWAYS runs over, you need to reschedule the time of one of those meetings to compensate. Because you know that’s going to happen. Otherwise, you’re being 100% disrespectful of others by being late all the time–and the point about everyone’s time in aggregate (if this happens all the time) is just as valuable as your time is on point.

      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I always tried to be the manager and/or colleague who was on time for meetings – maybe the last person to enter the room, but no waiting. I hoped my record would mean that if I wasn’t on time for a meeting, my boss and team would think, ‘Oh, no, something must have happened!’ and not, ‘SheLooksFamiliar is at it again…’

        1. Tableau Wizard*

          This is a really good thing to shoot for. Make it the exception that people are understanding of rather than the rule that people tolerate.

        2. Triumphant Fox*

          This is how I think of pretty much everything in my work life. Do I want to use my work capital on this? I want to regularly do a great job so that when I don’t, the reaction is, “Wow, were there mitigating circumstances?” not, “Yeah…this is unacceptable. ” Having had a baby last year, I cannot imagine not having built up the goodwill I did so that when I returned there was a lot of grace with my not quite 100% self. Being late all the time would have given me NO cushion to work with.

          Also, I specifically negotiated a late/flexible start time in the morning and do not schedule anything within half an hour of my arrival so that I’m never late to meetings. Once I’m at work, it’s embarrassing to walk in late to a meeting.

      4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Absolutely but it also shakes out to making sure your employees know that you’re “busy AF” as well. That goes a long way with most people.

        A lot of people who are upset by this behavior are often dealing with bosses who are so behind the scenes and unseen, they’re viewed poorly in the first place. You don’t need to know what your boss is doing but if you know they’re constantly working, constantly doing “something” other than hiding in their corner office watching Netflix or laying on a beach somewhere, then it leads to less contempt as well when this kind of stuff happens!

        I’ve seen bosses get a lot more leeway when their reports know that they’re burning the candle at both ends. I’ve seen bosses who nobody knows WTF they’re doing [and frankly, as a boss herder, they may or may not be doing much] and those are the ones that tend to be held in contempt quickly when they’re always late or slow at response.

        1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

          Yes. I honestly had no idea what my old boss at ToxicJob did all day, nor did anyone else on my team. She went on vacation for a month and we never noticed a difference. Someone asked one of my team members if she’d be interested in my manager’s role some day, and the team member said, “I can’t answer because I don’t know what she actually does.” Needless to say, any claims from the boss of being too busy to be punctual were met with skepticism.

      5. Lora*

        Yeah, the way I handle the Insane Workload when I have one is prioritize, prioritize, prioritize again. Every single day, sometimes several times a day as new information becomes available. And who the project is coming from very much determines priority.

        This makes me chronically late or absent for low-priority things, but I would hope that people would understand that the last minute $12M project analysis request from the head of site operations is more important than the fundraising 5k fun run.

        I am also brutal about what projects I will take on at all, in terms of what can be given to just anyone vs I have some specific expertise that would make my contribution especially relevant. I say No a lot. I don’t take on easy things that I could do quickly if there is someone less experienced who has the bandwidth to handle them even though it might take them longer.

        1. TootsNYC*

          but then I would imagine you cancel, or alert people to go without you (either you tell them when the delay occurs, or you empower them by having a convo in advance)

      6. Observer*

        True. But it’s just not valid to say that your time is always SO valuable that it’s always ok to waste other people’s time.

        That’s the real problem here. The OP does it all. the. time. AND this lateness is not about truly high priority or emergency type stuff. And the worst is that they think that it’s just OK to waste other people’s time because they are a good performer.

        1. Works in IT*

          Yes… maybe at least one of the employees whose time is being wasted would be an equally good performer if they weren’t stuck unproductively waiting for the OP all the time.

    3. Moray*

      I, and plenty of other people, are the dawdling types. But I can’t fathom not being able to overcome it or feeling like it’s excusable to make other people wait for me all the time. And I would be all the more frustrated with someone who does this because if I can overcome this habit out of respect for my colleagues, then anyone can.

      Set alarms. Set them the second you know you have a meeting. Set a five-minute warning alarm and then a doesn’t-matter-what-you’re-doing-put-it-down-and-go alarm.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Also – don’t just plan to be on time. Plan to be early. Bring your laptop or some paperwork you can review while you wait for the meeting to start so you feel like you can get one more thing in – but get it done in the conference room so that when the meeting starts you are there.

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          I really like this advice. It allows OP to be a crammer… but to be one who is on time to meetings and respecting those around her.

          1. uranus wars*

            I am not a chronic late person but I love this advice in general for those times I am stuck “in between”…don’t want to start new but don’t want to sit with nothing to do when I arrive 20 minutes early to a meeting. This will allow time for the “busy work” like cleaning out old emails, etc.

        2. Alli525*

          THIS. I am a chronically early person, to the point where I have made social gatherings awkward (I’ve now trained myself to never leave my apartment before “5 minutes after the party has started” unless I’ll be traveling for at least an hour), but it works great for me at the office – I’m nearly always prepared for meetings because I arrived early and read through the relevant documents while waiting.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I was reorganized into a new department, and we had meetings. I’d set an alarm, it would be early (to give me time to wrap something up), and then I’d do “one more thing” and just totally get swept away.

        My boss said something; I looked stupid; I knew I needed to change.

        I set my alarm less early, I dropped tasks instead of wrapping them up, and I went and sat in the meeting room to wait instead of at my desk.

        I fixed it.

      3. TootsNYC*

        internalizing the idea that “it’s OK to be early” is what helped me to get to meetings on time.

      4. another Hero*

        100% alarms. I live by them anytime I’m going to be really focused on something or trying to get a string of things done but have someplace to be after.

    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Same. I grew up in a household where this was the standard and it has never, ever stopped driving me bananas. At a point in my life when I didn’t have control over my own schedule, I was constantly late for everything because my father could not stop f**king talking until we were at least 15 minutes late for anything, if not 30 minutes or more. Rolling in late for things felt like the biggest ‘Eff you’ to everyone waiting on me.

      OP, you need to get a handle on this. Saying “oh I’m just a crammer, this is how I roll” is not an answer, it’s an excuse. Learn to catch those ‘just one more thing’ thoughts and correct them to ‘no, I don’t have time for that, the meeting/appointment/whatever is NOW.’

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This was my life, too. My parents were chronically late for everything, including dropping off and picking me up from school. I ended up being the person who’s 15 minutes early to everything because I found being tardy
        so anxiety inducing (until the last few years, where I’m now a tardy person :( ).

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Ugh, yes on the obsessive earliness. I’m early to pretty much everything, because I’m still angry about the memory of having my schedule be so thoroughly de-prioritized when it was outside my control.

          The only reason school wasn’t impacted for me was that I could walk there, so I didn’t have to wait on His Garrulousness to stop jabbering and get a move on. But I was involved in a ton of extracurriculars that I couldn’t walk to, and I was consistently, constantly late to all of them. More than once, I had private lessons cancelled because I had missed so much of the lesson that the instructor assumed I wasn’t going to show up.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        My dad does equivalents of this (usually washing dishes or failing to start to get cleaned up and dressed appropriately until it’s too close to leave time) and I swear it’s a passive-aggressive control technique.

        1. TootsNYC*

          it absolutely can be. It’s one of the examples that Lundy Bancroft lays out in his amazing book, “What Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.”

          Which is a book about domestic violence

          1. TootsNYC*

            It doesn’t have to be a domestic violence thing–biut it absolutely can be a control thing.

            It’s the textbook definition of passive aggression–being aggressive by NOT doing things.

      3. iglwif*

        OMG are your father and my mom the same person??? I am 45 years old and in all that time my mom has never, EVER known where her keys are when she needs to leave the house. She can never stop herself from just starting a load of laundry, tidying up one more thing, checking her email one more time. My mom is a lovely person but this is MADDENING.

        And of course the result of growing up with this is that I am chronically early to things (so I spend more time than probably makes sense wandering around trying not to be *obnoxiously* early), I get very, very anxious when I’m running late for reasons I don’t control, and I can get pretty cranky when other people aren’t getting ready to leave with what my anxiety-brain considers sufficient urgency. You can imagine how much fun that was for everyone back when my child was a toddler.

        I once worked with someone like OP, and wow, it did not make a good impression on *anyone*. OP, you need to take Alison’s advice on board and you need to do it now.

        1. LGC*

          Look,I thought I was an only child, I can’t believe you had the same mom I did.

          (I love you, mom, but…)

        2. HB*

          Haha this is my in-laws, and now by extension my husband. There is definitely a lot of ADD influencing everything as well (even the excessive talking can be an ADD symptom!). My poor husband tells endless stories of basically waiting for hours after school or his volunteer work for his parents to come pick him up…these days we sometimes use the “tell them it starts 30 minutes earlier” technique. For my part, I have my own car and I’ll just leave when I need to without waiting on everyone. I believe in always being 5-10 minutes early to everything!

          1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

            Ya know, until I got a car with push-button start, I never knew where my keys were either. Now they just stay in my purse 99% of the time. I am an obnoxiously punctual person, so I start the “okay, where is my purse, my shoes, etc” well before the time we actually have to leave. I am almost never late for anything despite not always knowing where my stuff is. I think I get this from my paternal grandmother who would literally show up for every family function an hour before it started. My mom started telling her that things started LATER so she wouldn’t be so early (and threatening if she showed up too early that we would put her to work cleaning the house before the other guests arrived) If it’s note one end, it’s the other!

            1. iglwif*

              In my house, we all keep our keys hanging on hooks by the door. You have to get your keys out to open the lobby door (magnetic fob thingy) and then the door of the flat (regular key), so they’re already in your hand and then they go on the hook and ta-da! there they are when you’re going out again and need to lock the door behind you.

              I have suggested this method to my mom, but she’s convinced it’s impossible to implement in her household. Why? They have TWO doors, one out the front and one straight into the garage.

              The more I learn about ADHD, the more convinced I am that my mom probably has it (and I probably do too). And also, lbr, she’s approaching 80 and rattles around in a 4-bedroom house with my stepdad, who is a sweet man but sometimes does bizarre things like bringing someone’s purse upstairs (without telling anyone) because that’s “safer” than leaving it in the front hall. She doesn’t *mean* to constantly misplace her keys, her purse, her glasses, the cordless phone handset, et cetera, et cetera … it’s just a thing that constantly happens to her.

        3. JamieG*

          My mom always did the same thing, and it bothered me a lot growing up, but it bothers me way more now that I have a preschooler (when we visit). He’s of the opinion that once he has his shoes on, it’s time to leave; he’ll give about a five second grace period before he heads out the door himself. So my mom’s habit of saying “Okay, get your shoes on, we’re going to the park!” and then starting to apply her make-up or do one more load of dishes or whatever was just a massive headache for everyone. I never tell him we’re going anywhere until I’m 95% ready to leave myself.

          1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            My mom was never chronically late – but she was incapable of leaving any social situation without spending an hour saying ‘good buy’ to everyone – which drove me nuts as a kid. She would drag me away from the other kids because we were leaving, and then an hour later I would still be hovering behind her as she chatted away with the other adults until I was ready to try to bodily drag her out the door because aren’t we supposed to be going?

            1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

              Is your mom by any chance from the American Midwest? The “Minnesota Goodbye” is real, and excruciating.

              1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

                HA! Yes – yes she was. It wasn’t Minnesota, but it started with an ‘M’ and her middle name is Ann, so about as Midwest as you can get.

            2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

              Oh God, my husband does this all the time. It was particularly horrible when The Kid was a baby and I’d be standing there with all the baby stuff and the diaper bag and The Kid in his car seat thingy and husband was talking talking talking to someone. It’s not much fun now; husband and The Kid like to do tabletop gaming, but The Kid doesn’t want to go to the gaming store with husband because when The Kid is ready to leave, he’s ready to leave, and husband takes an hour to talk to people about something or other.

            3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

              Aaaaarrrrrggggghhhhhh my Dad does this. He can talk to anyone about anything at great length. Any time there is a family gathering you know that you’ll be leaving about two hours after you said you’d better be going.

              (Dad is also from a Midwestern state starting with M. I had not realised that this was a regional thing.)

        4. Can't Think of a Name*

          This is my mom too! It’s definitely an ADD/ADHD thing, but it’s maddening. The best part was how when I was younger, she tried to pin the blame on ME for always being late to school (even though every morning I waited at least 15 minutes for her). Then I started driving myself and behold! no more tardies. It was a very vindicating moment :)

          Also in case anyone was curious, the word for people who are late because they try to cram in one last thing is “tidsoptimist”

        5. Burned Out Supervisor*

          I have the same mom…my husband and I joke when we do it ourselves by saying “Hang on a sec, I just have to make a meatloaf.”

      4. Ethyl*

        “Learn to catch those ‘just one more thing’ thoughts and correct them to ‘no, I don’t have time for that, the meeting/appointment/whatever is NOW.’”

        Y’know, LW, this could be something a couple sessions with a therapist or counselor could help with. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing thought patterns, maybe that would work for this situation. If your employer has an EAP you could start there. It wouldn’t have to be forever, maybe a couple of months of weekly or biweekly sessions would be enough to start overriding those thought patterns.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I just want to second that.

          Think of such a person as a coach who will help you learn techniques and practice them.

        2. Candace G.*

          I actually set my watch, office clock, the clock on my computer, and the clock on my phone about 5 minutes ahead, so that I think I’m late and rush to get to the meeting – and arrive on time. I know, I know – I realize that I am fooling myself, but it actually works, because in the moment, I constantly forget that I have set the clocks ahead. It finally cured me of a lifetime of trying to cram in one more thing.

      5. The Other Dawn*

        “…my father could not stop f**king talking until we were at least 15 minutes late for anything, if not 30 minutes or more.”

        This is my FIL, exactly. When they used to come over for dinner, my MIL would have her coat on and be walking out the door, and then maybe he would decide it’s time to get up from the couch. Once she’s been waiting in the car a good 15 minutes, he will then get his coat on and start making his way to the door. It’s annoying for my MIL, but even more so for us because we’re trying to get to bed! I just leave and go up to bed nowadays and let my husband stand there and deal with it. And they’re constantly late to things because of him.

        1. KRM*

          Oh, I am so chronically early that this would stress me out. I would leave. “If you’re not ready to go, I’m going to head over, I guess I’ll see you there!” and then out the door I go. And The Other Dawn, if it were my house, I would absolutely just start doing my normal bedtime things and just act like he wasn’t there.

        2. TootsNYC*

          My MIL would do this when I had told my kids it was time to leave. WE were ready, but suddenly my MIL would bring up something to show us, or something to ask the kid to do that was cute (I’d already made them pick up the toys).

          I finally had to just be really direct and tell her it wasn’t cool. And that it was REALLY unfair to the kids.

          She got better–and after we had the conversation, I would just interrupt her and talk over her and tell her no.

      6. Nanani*

        This is legit a manipulative “power” move that some people do deliberately, if not necessarily with planned malice, in order to keep themselves in the “alpha” spot so that everyone else has to wait for them.

        Grew up with a parent who did it and only stopped when I braced myself and left the room/hang up/did my stuff anyway.

        1. Maggie*

          ^^ This. A “lovely person” doesn’t do this. Someone who sees themselves as the one in charge, even over adult offspring, is not a lovely person.

    5. Media Monkey*

      absolutely agree. i used to work at a company where the senior management were always late to all-staff meetings, leaving us all standing around. so everyone else would start being 5 or 10 minutes late to avoid standing around. it doesn’t make people feel respected.

      1. sofar*

        Yep. And when meeting space is limited, starting everything 10 minutes left has an awful snowball effect on everyone else’s time throughout the day.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      So, I am this boss/person. I am always trying to finish “one last thing,” and of course, it always takes longer than I intended. To be fair, OP’s time probably is more “valuable” (in a cutthroat, economic sense) than their reports’ time. However, I agree that being chronically late comes across as disrespectful and demoralizing to others, and it needs to be addressed.

      So here are my tactics:
      1. I plan to arrive 5-10 minutes early for everything. I’d rather be early and answer emails while I wait than be late and keep everyone else waiting.
      2. I lie in my planner. I schedule things for an earlier start time than is accurate, and I change the “earliness” in my schedule so that I can’t easily remember that everything is 5 or 10 minutes ahead of schedule.
      3. I budget 1.2–1.3x the amount of time that I think a thing will take, because I will invariably underestimate the time, otherwise.
      4. I plan in buffer/transition time between meetings.
      5. I set multiple alerts/alarms at 10 minutes, 5 minutes and 2 minutes out.
      6. In group meetings where I’m facilitating, I appoint someone else the timekeeper.
      7. Each day I review whether I was late, what contributed to my being late, and whether I can change it. So for example, if I’m in a meeting with the Dean and the dean goes over time, there’s nothing I can do but apologize. But if something in my control is going to go over, I can easily say I have a hard stop at the beginning of the meeting and leave when I say I have to leave.
      8. I celebrate being early. This is the positive reinforcement I need to keep improving.

      1. Batgirl*

        I am this person too and need a bunch of similar strategies. Groaning in recognition actually!

      2. BethDH*

        Variations on #1 have helped me so much! I just started making a point of gathering short do-it-anywhere tasks like emails, renewing library books, organizing receipts, and so on so that I didn’t feel like I was wasting time. Sometimes I even just take my laptop to the meeting room really early and work there. Realizing I wouldn’t continue to work on those “important” things in front of the people gathered for the meeting is a good way to assess how critical they actually are.

        I would love to hear what things other people do with these sorts of <5 minute waiting periods when you feel like you have too much to do not to be "productive."

        1. Tango Foxtrot*

          This might be too personally specific to be helpful to anyone else, but I have intense social and generalized anxiety, and those waiting periods are perfect for me to do my “homework” from therapy. I can do grounding exercises, practice casual social approaching, or make a quick gratitude list.

          1. BethDH*

            I like the idea of using it for mental health time. Maybe even just some stretching or controlled breathing or something. I’m guessing that wouldn’t work for the OP quite so well given the world they describe (even if they’d benefit from it!), but I’ll try it myself!

          2. TootsNYC*

            having MENTALLY FREE time is such a gift.

            This is a great idea.

            I used to take a train home from a late night at work, and one time the taxi driver dawdled and dropped me at the station RIGHT as the doors were closing. The next one was in 30 minutes.

            At first I was mad, and then I realized that nobody could pull me in any direction–no phone, no kid, no in box, no husband…it was all my time.

            So maybe just time to THINK.

            (though doing your psychological exercises then is brilliant; I always had trouble finding time to do them. And if you’re early, nobody is there to disturb you)

        2. Story Nurse*

          If it’s less than five minutes, I can’t be productive, so I play a phone game or check Slack or study some kanji. (If you have an interest in language learning, Wanikani is a kanji study system that makes it very easy to do one or two or twenty depending on how much time you have.) Sometimes you have to forgive yourself for not being constantly productive. Rest is necessary, for body and mind.

          1. BethDH*

            I agree and like Tango Foxtrot’s suggestions above about using it for a mental health exercise. I guess I was responding to the OP’s sense of a giant workload and guessing that they might not feel like they had time to “waste” this way, but that if they could sort their productivity into things that could be done while already in place at the meeting, it might help with the urge to sneak one more thing in. If you do that one more thing after you’re already where you’re supposed to be, you won’t be as likely to get drawn in and lose track of time.

            1. TootsNYC*

              if our OP has a giant workload, these early moments might be a really good “assess and regroup” time.

          2. Minocho*

            This is amazing. Thank you! My kanji skill is poor. So is my grammar, but…you know. :)

          3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            The best thing about smartphones is being able to blow five minutes or less of time whenever needed. I have a compulsive need to on time to things – but feel super awkward actually showing up early, so I usually arrive early then sit around in my car playing on my smartphone until I can arrive exactly on time. Pre-smart phone I would bring a book to me everywhere and read it in tiny pieces whenever I could snatch a second. Which is a hard way to read a book.

        3. Can't Think of a Name*

          Whenever I’m stuck in the 5 minute early zone, I’ll use it to catch up on email. If I’m all caught up on email/can’t take action till I’m back at my desk, I make sure I’m fully prepared for the meeting (have any questions/notes written down, made sure I’ve looked over the relevant materials for the meeting, and/or set an agenda so we can stay on topic). If all this stuff is done, then I just let myself have a couple minutes to myself to take a breather

      3. Washi*

        Yes to #1! When possible, be ok with being early! The cause of my lateness was always as follows: It is now 11:55 and I have to leave at 12 for the meeting to be on time. So then I start doing something I think will take 5 minutes, but actually it’s 8, then when I stand up, I realize I have to use the bathroom…then I’m late.

        Now I have a rule that if I’m ready I just…leave. And it doesn’t actually result in me being incredibly early, because usually I forget something, use the bathroom, get a drink of water, etc. But it does result in me being on time. At work, I always have my laptop with me so if I am early, I can do extra work before the meeting starts. In my personal life, I always carry my journal and kindle so being early and having a few minutes to read or write feels like a reward.

        1. TootsNYC*

          someone made this same point here at AAM several months ago, and it has changed my life.

      4. Story Nurse*

        This is a fantastic list. I rely heavily on 3 and 4 to overcome my own chronic lateness. I’ve also learned to say “I need to be there BY 2:30” rather than “I need to be there AT 2:30″—that one little word makes all the difference in whether I’m comfortable being there at 2:25 or trying to precisely game the subway system so I walk in at precisely 2:30:01.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Chronically early person here: I find it mind-boggling that so many people are apparently freaked out by the idea of being a few minutes early. If somebody tells me the meeting is at 10:30, I assume they want me in my seat, notepaper out, ready to roll when the clock strikes 10:30, not walking in the door (but not yet having done any of my settling in or preparation).

          Plus, social anxiety: The only thing more mortifying than being really absurdly early is being a bit late and having to walk in with all of my coworkers as witnesses. And possibly have to climb over them to get to a chair. Coming in a little early is so much more discreet.

          1. iglwif*

            YES THIS.

            I’ve been a choral singer since I was a wee thing, so I think of it as “downbeat at 10:30” — if a rehearsal is called for 7:00-10:00, what that actually means is that rehearsing will be happening between those times, and that in turn means that arriving, taking off coats, getting out music folders, checking the seating plan, finding one’s seat, picking up new music, etc., etc., all needs to happen before 7:00 while the putting away of chairs, getting on of coats, etc., etc., needs to happen after 10:00.

            Meetings should work the same way: 10:30 is the time by which everyone should be in their seat, with their materials ready to go and their head in the meeting, not the time at which folks wander in and push past other people’s chairs.

            Some people are demonstrably able to walk into a rehearsal/meeting 15 minutes after it started and are apparently OK with disrupting the people on either side of them and missing whatever happened in that first 15 minutes. For me, doing that causes horrendous anxiety and mortification, even if I have a really valid, genuinely-not-my-fault reason for being late (like, say, there was a 45-minute subway stoppage because of “an incident at track level” that I could not possibly have predicted and which doubled the length of my journey). I can’t imagine being OK with just … moseying on in 15 minutes late for no reason????

      5. Olivia Mansfield (formerly Mallory Janis Ian)*

        4 and 5 are the things that used to always trip me up: not knowing how long things take and thinking I could do eight things before 11am when actually I could only do three things, and not realizing that the transition time between tasks or meetings actually takes time.

        1. Samwise*

          Yes, and including “travel” time before and after meetings. If I’ve got a meeting in the building next door at 10, I will not arrive on time if I have a meeting in my office from 9 – 10. I had a supervisor once who never included travel time, even if the meetings were all the way across campus from each other. (LOL, this boss also thought they were naturally organized and efficient. Said so at a staff meeting. Half the staff started laughing…)

      6. Bee*

        This is a fantastic list! I struggle with lateness as a function of ADD, which makes it hard to have any grasp of time. But I know it’s also INTENSELY rude to keep people waiting, and I’ve also been stuck sitting alone at the bar for 40 minutes because everyone else was that late for our brunch reservation (and how I wanted to set them all on fire, and how we only got a table in the end because the hostess felt so bad for me), so I’ve started using shame as a motivating tactic to not make anyone wait for me. (If the event can start without me – parties, happy hours – I allow myself more leeway.) These sound like much more positive tactics and I’m going to try some of them!

      7. VictorianCowgirl*

        This is an excellent list and I also plan in extra time for everything, and even log extra drive time in the calendar. My approach is centered on Be Kind To Yourself, because being late is a terrible anxiety and almost panic that leads to bad road rage and just terrible feelings for me that are no one’s fault but my own.

        Then, if I’ve under-scheduled the day or week due to inflated time, it allows me to “work ahead” and pull more projects into the week which also feels great.

      8. smoke tree*

        I’m not a recovering late person, but I still do most of this stuff just because I am anxious about being late for anything. Over-estimating how much time each task will take and factoring in the buffer time are particularly essential. If there is a magical formula for being consistently on time, this is it.

      9. Observer*

        This is a really useful list.

        I also think that your attitude is a key issue here. You KNOW that it’s a problem, and you ARE making a real effort to change. It makes a HUGE difference.

      10. Jack Russell Terrier*

        Yes – this is great on how to do it- I’m a naturally on time person. Being an on time means spending quite a bit of time being early. I’m the person who is through security at the airport 1.5 hours before the flight, no-stress and I can read. I teach yoga, taking the metro in DC. I am usually at the studio 15-20 minutes early. One time, I got to the metro, which is a couple of blocks away, and realized I’d left my wallet at home. I spent about ten minutes getting my wallet and was still not rushing into the class at the last minute. Being reliably on-time to teach yoga is important to build trust with my students. I make it a priority.

        I had an ex-fiance who was always galloping to the finish – the number of movie beginnings we missed was incredible, near flight misses … . It was incredibly stressful. It was actually one of the things that ended our engagement. I am married to man who is just like me – he’s ready when we’re supposed to leave. He was trained by his mother is always ten minutes early for everything. It’s such a relief to know he’s reliably ready.

      11. A Person*

        That 2 minute warning is my biggest advice for people who have the standard calendar setup to be on time. The default is 10 minutes and that’s JUST enough time to think I can finish one more thing… and then get caught up in it and forget. There’s a warning at 15 minutes (so I know not to start anything big) and then for 2 minutes so I really know I need to go.

      12. TootsNYC*

        1. I plan to arrive 5-10 minutes early for everything. I’d rather be early and answer emails while I wait than be late and keep everyone else waiting.

        I have come to see those “blank” 5 minutes as a GIFT.

        Like finding a $20 bill on the street. I hadn’t planned on it, and so I can use it any way I want.

        So to sit at the conference table and weed out my personal email on my phone, or text a quick note to my sister…

    7. Works in IT*

      This. I block out time that I could be spending on other tasks to attend meetings. If I’m waiting for someone to arrive at a meeting, I often can’t do other work while I’m waiting for them. Constantly showing up late for meetings carries the message that you do not care about what the other people attending the meeting have on their plates. Because they can’t just start assuming you’ll be late and showing up late themselves… if you’re actually early for once, they’ll be in trouble.

    8. Jadelyn*

      This, so much. There’s a manager on my team who used to be my manager before we reorganized the team and now I report to the VP directly, and she is Notorious for this. Notorious with a very deliberate capital N. If you have a meeting scheduled with Anna, and you call her or come to her office at the appointed time, she will inevitably respond “I need to wrap this up, let’s push back 5-10 minutes”. At least half the time, when you come back in 10 minutes, you get the same response again, and have to do it a third time, at which point she just asks you to reschedule.

      But gods help you if you decide to spend those 10 minutes doing something else, and she wraps up whatever she was doing and comes to get you – you’d better be immediately ready to jump up and follow her back to her office to meet. She’s been known to text people who she KNOWS have just run to the bathroom real quick during that 5-minute grace period Anna demanded, because Anna is ready now, and therefore the entire rest of the universe better be ready.

      The whole vibe is so clearly one of “My time is valuable, and yours is not,” and we all resent the hell out of it. Please, managers, don’t do this to your staff. It’s just really rude.

      1. Anne Elliot*

        I bet solid money she only does this to people below her. I can’t imagine her saying “I need to wrap this up, let’s push back 5-10 minutes” to her boss. That’s what makes this so disrespectful. “Tardy” people can be on time if they need to be.

        1. Jadelyn*

          And you’d win that bet – I’ve never seen her do this with anyone above her on the food chain. Amazing how suddenly things can be wrapped up in a few seconds when the person waiting outranks her…

        2. Quiltrrrr*

          My manager says this (let’s push back about 10-15 minutes), and then go smoke a cigar.

          Thanks to AAM, I’ve come to realize that being a really good knowledge expert and speaker does not make one really good at managing others.

        3. NicoleK*

          Bingo! My incompetent chronically tardy BEC coworker is late to everything. But she can also manage to be on time around the Big Bosses or important events which she perceives is important for her image to be pristine.

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Ha! I once spent three days waiting to have a meeting with my boss which was pushed back in 10 to 40 minute increments. Eight hours a day for three days in a row – “I just need to do this one thing, we’ll meet up in ten minutes” an hour later he would come back around “I just need to meet with Jeff, I’ll meet you in fifteen minutes”. I started running a pool to see who would guess when I would actually meet with him.

        1. lnelson in Tysons*

          Once had a boss’s boss (he was hired after the rest of the team) who wanted to schedule one-on-one meetings with each team member and he kept pushing me off. Yes, I was the lowest on the pecking pole. I understood, he was a VP, I was a Coordinator.
          I get that things can come up.
          I don’t remember if I actually said at one point, maybe to my direct boss but not the VP. This was after he commented that he really has no idea what I do or the systems involved to do it. If he had kept one of those meeting, he would know what I do.
          Translation: don’t complain that you don’t know what your subordinates are doing when you are the one blowing off the meetings.

    9. High Tower on Capitol Hill*

      Couldn’t agree more with you. My boss is constantly late for meetings and even when he is at a meeting, he is constantly looking at notifications on his Apple Watch and darting in and out to take not important phone calls. This means that our meetings run over and then my whole daily schedule gets thrown off, whether it is just the meeting going over or him derailing the whole thing to discuss non-priority or irrelevant items.

      It is incredibly frustrating and I, along with every other person in the office, have expressed our frustrations about him not being “present” for meetings. He then changes and is better for a couple days, and then it is back to the status quo.

      1. High Tower on Capitol Hill*

        And I also used to be the person that did this. For anyone wondering, I found it incredibly helpful to have a detailed calendar (complete with both meetings and my planned projects for the day). In general, I usually break down my work day into chunks (i.e. work on newsletter 9-10, meeting 10-10:30, update contact list 10:30-12, lunch…) Obviously my workday can change rapidly working in politics and get derailed so it is important to be flexible with your calendar and sometimes you just have to light the thing on fire, but even on those days I just reorganize my week and my priorities to accommodate. I usually would spend 5 minutes or so reading over my calendar first thing in the morning while I ate my breakfast at my desk. And also making sure I get the notifications for calendar items on my cellphone as well since I do a lot of out of office lunches and other external activities during the workday.

        1. High Tower on Capitol Hill*

          And to be clear, it is always good to put a time to eat lunch in your calendar if you are as detailed as me. There are times that I am running a mile a minute and it is always good to have a reminder so I don’t faint.

    10. Samwise*

      Or it’s a valid reason, but there’s ALWAYS a reason because the person is always late.

      Or it would be valid if it weren’t the same reason every time (yes, traffic between the office and Suburb can be terrible, but it’s *frequently* terrible, so leave early; Yes, getting kids ready for school does not always go according to plan — btdt — but if it’s every other day, you need a different plan).

    11. Skeeder Jones*

      Completely agree! If someone can be consistently late by the same amount of time and for the same reason, then they can be consistently on time. It’s like when people blame traffic everyday. If it is everyday, then it’s not traffic, it’s you not leaving early enough for the normal traffic of your commute. I would be super annoyed if this was my boss.

      1. Antilles*

        As someone who lives in a city infamous for its’ traffic, I always roll my eyes when someone here uses “traffic” or “passed an accident” as an excuse.
        Like…you’ve lived in Atlanta for more than three weeks right? How have you not yet realize that “accident shuts down one lane of the highway” is practically a daily event?

    12. RUKiddingMe*

      And a lot of them, like OP, know they are always late, know they are always trying to cram in that one extra thing, yet they refuse to just knock it off and not cram in that one last thing.

    13. pleaset*

      “It’s straight out telling the other person that YOUR and YOUR TIME is more valuable than them. ”

      That’s sometimes actually true. I find it annoying, but it’s sometimes true.

      It would be better for the organization as a whole if managers didn’t waste other people’s time routinely – all time as value. But if someone’s time is to be wasted, it should generally be that of lower level employees.

      1. Observer*

        Even in a purely pragmatic sense, assuming that people are robots without feelings (which DO affect their work), there is a limit to that, though. Think if it this way – the time of any supervisor is more valuable than that of your custodians who do only the most basic work in terms of skill. But, if you keep on delaying their work, it’s going to wind up costing your company big time, because either your office won’t get cleaned or you’re going to wind up paying lots of overtime.

        If you’re holding up multiple people, the cost is higher. If your delays cause routine issues to become crises, that has a cost. If your delays causes expensive equipment to be idled, that’s a cost. And in many cases, occasional delays doesn’t have that kind of spill over, but when the delays are frequent it’s much more likely to happen.

    14. Politico*

      “I despise when people are late without a valid reason. It’s straight out telling the other person that YOUR and YOUR TIME is more valuable than them.”

      Unfortunately, a senior executive’s time IS more valuable than some entry level employee’s. Why do you think experienced lawyers bill more than baby lawyers?

    1. CatCat*

      Yep, I’ve had this boss too. I felt disrespected and demoralized. That definitely impacted the work.

    2. A Nonny Mouse*

      Yes, my PhD advisor was this person. She was always ALWAYS late, to the point of missing three weekly check-ins in a row this spring, at a time when I was in a time crunch for my dissertation. She even praised me at my defense for “keeping her on track” better than any other student (having been working for 20+ years, I had managed up before). So even though she is wonderful, supportive, super intelligent, there is a small undercurrent of resentment for me. Because she made it clear that I was waaay down on her priorities.

    3. Feline*

      I have this boss, too. She walks into meetings late, puts down her notepad and then walks back out to visit the ladies’ room, leaving everyone else in the conference room looking question marks at each other.

      I honestly don’t know if she does this in meetings with her superiors or just her subordinates. But it’s a terrible feeling to be shown so little regard. This contributes to why our team’s morale is so poor.

      1. Paulina*

        “This contributes to why our team’s morale is so poor.”

        What I wish more overachieving results-focused too-busy managers realized is that their team’s morale is part of their responsibilities. If they’re in charge of the meetings, then running those meetings properly is also part of their responsibilities. So being late to those meetings, and harming their team’s morale, means that they are failing at some of their responsibilities.

    4. Oegs*

      I have this boss too, and we generally get along well, but this one thing drives me crazy – and I know for a fact that it contributes heavily to others poor opinion of her. I’ll often have to cover for her at the start of calls with clients and partners, and sometimes even webinars with 50 people, and I both resent that in the moment and hate the uncertainty it causes leading up to the event (both of us would do our jobs better if she could instead show up 5 minutes early so we could get on the same page). It’s an embarrassment to the organization and results in feeling from staff that she is self absorbed, out of touch, and can’t be trusted – not just to show up on time, but in general. She doesn’t realize how much she is shooting herself in the foot due to this which bums me out because otherwise I really like her and am inclined to defend her to other grumbling staff and annoyed partners.

  2. Roscoe*

    You would drive me crazy as a boss lol. I have a boss now who is like that for staff meetings. If its like 1 on 1, he is usually good. But our team meetings are usually done on google hangouts, and he constantly starts them 10-15 minutes late. It drives me crazy. I don’t necessarily like him any less, but man its annoying. I have constantly late friends as well, and it drives me crazy.

  3. Less Bread More Taxes*

    I wonder if fitting in “one more thing” is OP’s way of mitigating those 70-hour work weeks. OP, is there a way you can take something off your plate so there’s less pressure to get so much done in so little time?

    1. LCL*

      Yes, OP reminds me of one employee who was chronically late. He wasn’t a manager, but his being late greatly affected us. His temperament was that he always had to be doing something productive, so he would try to squeeze in just one more thing before going to work. OPs drive to be always productive is, I believe causing her to regularly put in 70 hours per week. OP, give yourself a break. Nobody can be on all the time.

    2. EtherITher*

      Yes, when I worked 70 hours a week for a year, there was very little time for anything… my first thought is that of course OP is trying to fit everything in the day, they have very little day to fit it in! Step one is to find a way that you work less than 70 hours, unless this is normal for your field.

    3. Batgirl*

      It sounds a lot like hyperfocus to me. Hyperfocus is associated with ADHD; but it’s absolutely a thing we all experience sometimes. Like when you can’t tear yourself away from a novel even though it’s incredibly late and you have to get up early.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I used to think I didn’t get the hyperfocus symptom, despite having ADHD.

        And then I realized that there are times when I’m wrestling with Cognos and trying to get an expression or filter to work the way I want it to, that it feels almost *physically painful* to save my work-in-progress, close the tab, and do something else. I don’t think it’s made me late for meetings, but I know I’ve stayed late inadvertently sometimes because I couldn’t pull myself away.

      2. VictorianCowgirl*

        Hyperfocus, unite. When I’m working, I sometimes am so focused I won’t realize the room is being vacuumed. :/ It was hard for me to manage my time, ADHD here too – but the negativities it caused finally led me to change my ways as a kindness to myself.

        My friends used to tease me “There’s nothing slower than a tweaker in a hurry!” and actually, that imagery applied to me helped me to work with my therapist for some skills to calm that type of thing down.

        1. Jaydee*

          I’m going to meditate on that notion of “There’s nothing slower than a tweaker in a hurry.” If I make a plan and steadily go about completing it, I can get a lot done. If I don’t make a plan and just frantically try to do 7 different things at once, my husband finds me scrubbing the kitchen counters with the dishwasher half-loaded, two cabinets emptied of their contents, the doors to the laundry closet open and a load of towels in the washer (not running) and another load in the dryer (running), another pile of clean laundry on our (nearly made) bed, and the bathroom light and fan on to combat the fumes of the shower cleaner I sprayed down right before I took the dirty towels to wash them.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        The key word there is “sometimes.” Yup we all do it from time to time, but when it’s all the time, that’s just not good.

    4. epi*

      I do this a lot, usually with things that are not urgent at all. Five o’clock rolls around but somehow I really need to check my email even though it’s also on my phone, or look over this project that isn’t due for two weeks, or even continue to sit there reading the news on my work computer instead of at home.

      I realized pretty recently, I do it when I feel like I didn’t get enough done that day. Even if I am not adding anything with my “one more thing” now, it’s hard to get up and leave if I feel I wasted time at any point during the day. I wonder if the OP ever feels that way since they describe working so many hours, more hours than they could really be effective for every week, at what they likely consider an important cause.

      If this sounds at all familiar to the OP, I would encourage them to reevaluate what they think is a reasonable amount to get done in a day, and what counts as a meaningful accomplishment. I was treating all the parts of my job that facilitate the accomplishments– email, documenting, background reading, making work plans rather than jumping into stuff– like they didn’t count, but they are real work and a huge part of my job. When I started appreciating them, and treating being on time as an important part of my job in itself, it got a lot easier to keep to a schedule. I don’t know if this is contributing to the OP’s lateness, but I offer it because the behavior and the situation (working tons of hours for a nonprofit) sounded so familiar.

      1. Owler*

        This is my issue. That time before leaving is the most focused and productive. If only I could be that way more often.

      2. Jaydee*

        Hello, are you me? Because you have described my working late patterns with 100% accuracy. At my last job, I had to bill for my time, so that only exacerbated the feeling that I needed to stay if I hadn’t been as productive as I wanted during the day.

    5. smoke tree*

      I agree–this is probably a coping mechanism. This might be a good opportunity for the LW to reflect on the sustainability of her workload rather than letting bad habits like this one become entrenched as a way to deal with being overloaded with meetings and other tasks.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        Oh, that’s very true. I had a boss who probably routinely worked 60-70 hour weeks and still managed to get very little done, and it was all because she felt completely overwhelmed. She also kept us waiting quite a lot. Ok, all the time.

  4. Lance*

    As far as suggestions go… would little phone alarms, or some such things, work? Things that would tell you you have to move on within X time (adjusted for how long it will take you to get to a given meeting). Granted, you’d have to remember to set them, and more so to adhere to them, but I think it could be good for getting your mindset on ‘not enough time for one more thing, can’t keep meetings waiting’.

    1. Mel*

      This is how I keep myself on time. My default is lateness, so I used to over compensate by being way early, but that’s not a great use of time. When I realized I could set multiple times on my cell, it let me be more precise about when I left for meetings and events.

      1. Becky*

        Growing up my family was always late and it drove me bonkers! As an adult I try to be on time most places. At work, my first meeting is a daily standup 9:15 and I am almost always on time. I like to be in at 9 but sometimes it is 9:10 when I walk in instead.

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      If the OP is more senior, maybe there is an EA or other person who could be tasked with helping with the schedule and getting there on time?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OP should definitely use their EA/admin support staff if they have it. These folks are invaluable, and it’s so helpful to have a neutral third party interrupt and mention that you’re going to be late (instead of having to do the interrupting, yourself).

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I set ALL of my clocks 5 minutes ahead of standard satellite time. This way you rarely run late, unless it’s something more major.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I wish this sort of thing worked on me – I just mentally adjust to it and “translate” the time in my head so I see the wrong time, but understand it as the correct time, and there goes any sense of false urgency that might get me moving.

        1. Pibble*

          My aunt sets her clock to the correct time, shuts her eyes, and holds down the button a little bit longer, so she’s never quite sure if her clocks are 2 minutes or 12 minutes ahead and can’t “translate” them. (I assume she then sets all subsequent clocks to the same time as the first, but I’ve never gotten into the details beyond my mom telling me about her sister’s methodology.) Apparently it works for her!

  5. Mythea*

    My direct report is actually the one who is always late – even to meetings with our Executive Director. It drives me insane and I don’t know how to get her to understand the level of bad that it is.

    1. Sorceress17*

      Document the times she’s late, and document the discussions you have with her. Write her up for it. It’s not fun, but you aren’t doing either of you any favors by not formally addressing it. (This is assuming you haven’t gone this route with her. If you have already, escalate.)

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I was given a very difficult, very frank “Come to Jesus” talk about being late when I first started out as a baby attorney. It made me feel absolutely awful, but it also worked—I was never late, again, at that job.

      I recommend doing the same. If you keep hitting on whether she’s on time or not, and if you make it clear that it’s part of her performance evaluation, she may begin to realize she has to shift.

      1. WellRed*

        I had a friend who was habitually late and was interning or volunteering with a social worky organization. When she got her degree and was going to be hired by them the director flat out told her lateness was going to be unacceptable. I know that it really shocked her (not the idea of being on time, but the fact that would be call out on it and that the fact everyone loved here would not fix lateness). It was an overdue wakeup call for her.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Disciplinary action would certainly make her understand. You don’t have to tolerate it.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You’re allowing this to happen by not starting to take action! Just being huffy about it but not threatening her job is going to put you in this forever situation.

      It stinks and is hard since you feel like it should just be obvious that you’re punctual.

      I have seen a lot of people lose their jobs over this issue. It’s a very real performance issue to address.

      It makes you look bad to your ED that you are allowing a person to be this way!

    5. Story Nurse*

      Chronically late person here to say that the issue may not be that she doesn’t understand it, but that it stresses her out and she gets avoidant and that makes the problem worse. I do think a frank talk about it is in order, but if it’s clear that she sees it as a problem and wants to change, I hope that you as her manager can help support her in figuring out strategies (like the great ones PCBH offered above) and distinguishing between “This is a behavior pattern you need to change” and “This is a personality trait you should feel ashamed of”.

      1. Half-Caf Latte*

        CAptain Awkward recently had a great piece about interrupting the shame spiral. Friday short answers, question 2, may 24th.

    6. Burned Out Supervisor*

      I hope you’ve at least talked with her a couple of times about it. If not, start today, and let her know that she needs to get to meetings on time. Not only because you expect it as a part of her performance, but as a way to keep her reputation as a dependable employee intact. If someone is chronically late to meetings, I don’t think of that person as dependable.

    7. Paquita*

      One of the managers at work (not mine) will be writing up one of her direct reports. An email was sent last Monday about time and lateness. (Some people have already used all their PTO and are into unpaid) Our work is butt-in-seat type. This person was late Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and today. Manager has been pretty lenient but this was just the last straw.

  6. KatieKate*

    I was the EA for a boss like this — it got to a point that unless she was in her office with someone else, I would come in five minutes before a meeting and flick her lightswitch like we were at the theater until she’d get up. I had done it once as a joke, but it ended up working better than anything else so we kept it up!

    1. cmcinnyc*

      I love this.

      I have worked for people with a lateness problem that truly appreciated being helped to stay on track. And I have worked for someone who did not. The Did Not guy? I think he saw lateness as a power play. I don’t think LW sees it that way, but I *definitely* hear a lot of entitlement–“I’m a star here and I deserve to play by my own rules.” Just know that as you get staff who are doing well and moving up, THEY will also start to swan around on their own time, and pretty soon you have underlings who must abide by one set of rules/norms, and “stars” who get away with anything. In other words, a crappy office environment. You just need one person to decide s/he is entitled to do something unethical to go Full Rot. Cut it out. And your boss is doing the place no favors.

  7. Althea*

    I wonder if you could add a self-question to your process of doing “one more thing.”

    “Is this more important than the person and the meeting I’m about to go to?” or “Is doing this NOW instead of in 1 hour genuinely more important than X person?”

    I would guess that you are not prioritizing well. You need a system of assessing tasks for how they contribute to your overall goals, so you are not side-tracked by “one more things.”

    You could also try a rule. Regardless of what your are working on, at 10 minutes prior to meetings you MUST close them. Close all the tabs and windows, lock your screen, get up, get your notebook and a coffee, and head there. Try that for a week and see how it changes your on-time arrival.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think the trouble with that approach is that the answer to “Is this more important than the person and the meeting I’m about to go to?” might genuinely be yes. But when it’s happening this frequently, the pattern is a problem, and she needs to fix it regardless.

      1. JHunz*

        I’d frame it more as “Is spending 10 minutes here more important than wasting a collective [10 minutes x # attendees] of the staff’s time?”. OP’s time may be more important than the topic of a particular meeting, but everyone else who is waiting on them could probably be doing something with those ten minutes as well.

      2. Althea*

        Hopefully that would help, though – OP can answer yes or no, but taking a moment to consider it will help to sort out when it is or is not.

        But it’s more the idea that OP needs some kind of system for better prioritizing what she needs to do and by when so that meetings do move up in her estimation of what should get her attention at given times.

      3. boo bot*

        I think it could be usefully modified to, “Is it more important that I do this NOW?” though, or maybe, “is this so urgent that it can’t wait until after the meeting I’m going to?”

        I think learning the difference between “important” and “urgent” is a vital life skill, anyway.

        1. Jasnah*

          Agreed. If it only takes 5 minutes, then you can do it in the 5 minutes after the meeting when you end early ;)

      4. tired anon*

        I think that second option is a good way of framing it, though — the work itself might be more important than meetings, but does the work need to be done *this second*? So asking, “Will an hour’s delay in finishing Task X cause a problem?” might help. Because sure, Task X is very important — but most of the time, it can wait an hour or two. And in cases where it can’t, you can let your staff know “I have to finish X RIGHT NOW, so I’ll be late/have to miss this meeting/etc” and the rest of the time, put the task on hold, go to the meeting, and pick it back up later.

      5. Anonymouse*

        To use a biblical reference–when the ox is in the mire you gotta do what you gotta do, but if the ox is always in the mire, you might need to reexamine your approach.

      6. anon61*

        Maybe then the problem is really that the OP, and her office in general, have too many meetings?
        In every office I’ve ever worked in, that is the case. Meeting for this, meeting for that, meeting for the other.

        Or, even if the meeting really is necessary, is the OP’s presence really required? Maybe the OP can just be informed, after the meeting is over, by the person who ran it, what was discussed, who was present, whether any problems arose, etc.

        The OP is already working seventy hours a week. If the stuff she is doing is more important than the meetings, putting off that stuff to do at another time and going to the meeting instead only means that she will be working even more hours, because, by definition, that stuff has to get done too.

        Being organized and little reminders and alarms and tricks and so on only go so far. There are only so many hours in a day.

    2. Batgirl*

      The only way I was able to develop a punctuality habit, after years of trying everything, was to treat it as an overarching priority no matter what.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Thinking about it, I think this is the reason I look down on people now who can’t be timely. Because I had to act like it was the biggest priority of my day to overcome my bad habit of being late, so if I’ve abandoned extremely important work to make it to a piddling check-in that someone else organized … and that person is late? Yes, I end up feeling badly about that person.

    3. Birch*

      Yeah this doesn’t work when you’re in the zone. I sometimes have this issue too and it’s almost always that I’m in a flow state holding a bunch of things in mind at the same time, and if I just leave and come back to it later I will have completely lost that brainspace. Either the idea never coalesces again or it takes an incredibly long time to get back to it. That usually IS more important than being 3 minutes late. What has helped me is to consistently work on setting smaller breakpoints that incorporate documentation so it’s easier to piece back together the mental space I was in, but it’s a really long haul solution and doesn’t always work. I also set out time limits for different tasks and aim to stop complicated tasks well before a meeting and then bring out the small less brain-heavy tasks leading up to the meeting.

    4. Leela*

      There’s also a big difference between deciding “this is more important, I’d better let the people in the meeting know that I’ll be late” and “this is more important, I’m just going to do it without communicating that to anyone”. OP I’d be furious if I worked with you! I agree that you’ve probably earned some flexibility but that doesn’t let you opt out of basic respect for people!

    5. Teal*

      I had an office where management was always late. And you know what happened? We started expecting it and not bothering to show up for anything until 15min after the scheduled time. Actually, if we were busy, we’d designate 1 person to actually wait for the meeting & text the rest of us when management actually showed. Then we’d head over.

      Your team will EVENTUALLY start to do this because they also could fit in “one more thing” rather than sitting and waiting for you. And you won’t be able to call them out because 99% of the time it will make sense. And so, after being 30 minutes late, you’ll find yourself waiting another 15 for everyone else, and suddenly YOUR schedule will be affected and no one will believe it’s not your fault.

  8. Tango Foxtrot*

    Have you tried reframing meeting start times as a deadline rather than a part of your daily schedule? It may help you to remember that starting on time is a non-negotiable part of the job, unlike arriving on time in the mornings. That strategy helped me.

  9. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    I don’t particularly care what time people turn up to work or leave work – I work flexibly and am usually here by 8am and gone by 4pm, while others don’t arrive until after 10am and are still here when I’m home in front of the TV eating dinner. That’s all good.

    But being persistently late for meetings? No. You need to sort that out. It’s rude, and you’ll just end up reputationally being ‘the person who’s always late’ rather than ‘the person who is brilliant at x’.

    1. Genny*

      Being late combined with being a workaholic is going to kill LW’s reputation. If I worked for someone like that, any friend poking around for info about working for this nonprofit would immediately be warned about these two issues. Those are serious personality-driven problems (as opposed to process-driven problems, which might be easier to change).

    2. KRM*

      Yep. I work in a pretty casual lab environment. I get in at 7:30, everyone else between 8:30 and 9:30. Nobody cares when I leave between 4-4:30, because I am on time to meetings and get everything done. Same with everyone else I work with. As long as we are on time (or warn people ahead of time if there is a delay), nobody cares. But if one of us were chronically late due to poor time planning, the boss would definitely notice and have a talk about time management skills.

  10. ClumsyCharisma*

    You may have a lot of leeway and flexibility but the other people in the meetings you are late to might not.

    1. TNT*

      THIS. Your five minute delay in arriving may result in a five minute delay on the meeting ending, which makes all of them late to the next one. Lock this down OP, for everyone’s sake!

    2. epi*

      Yes. I would also add, working this much should rightly earn you flexibility– from those who benefit. That’s likely the OP’s company and their boss, yeah?

      The OP’s peers and direct reports are very unlikely to see themselves as directly benefiting from those 70 hour work weeks. They are not the ones who owe the OP flexibility here, and the OP’s work week is really only relevant to them if the OP is literally too busy to be on time. The OP is lending time to one party, then trying to claim it back from other people who were never part of that bargain.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      That’s a really good point. OP, the usual metric 20 years ago was that a meeting costs the company $100/hour/person. (I’m sure that number would be higher now.) So if you’re 5 minutes late to a meeting with 11 other people, you have just cost the company $100. If you have 5 12-person meetings a day, you’re costing the company $500 a day above your compensation. That’s well over $100,000/year. Aside from the cost to your personal reputation, are you worth THAT much to your employer? (For anyone who is curious: do a search on “meeting cost calculator” and remember that each employee doesn’t just cost their salary, but also their benefits, as well as payroll tax and corporate share of benefits. Salary x 1.4 might be a good rule-of-thumb.)

  11. Sleepytime Tea*

    OP, it’s not just that you’re telling people (when late to meetings) that you don’t respect them and don’t care that you’re waiting on them. It’s also that these people also have things to do, and could try to cram in one more thing, and they aren’t because they’re being respectful of everyone’s time. You’re literally taking time away from them to spend on their own work. Time that they may have to make up by staying a little later, or skipping part of lunch, or a million other things.

    Don’t be that guy. If it’s time for a meeting, stop what you’re doing, even if you’re in the middle of it (unless it’s truly impossible to stop where you’re at, like you’re on an important phone call), and go to the meeting. I personally don’t give a flying F if you’re a few minutes late every morning, but to every single meeting? Not ok. And trust me, eventually it will harm your professional reputation and come back to bite you.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, this is a great point. Let’s put this in nonprofit terms: You’re taking time away from their own work advancing the organization’s mission.

    2. TCO*

      Yes, I was thinking this, too–every time OP is late to a meeting, that’s several other employees whose schedules are thrown off and who probably aren’t getting as much of OP’s time/input as they actually need. That’s probably having a significant impact on the productivity of everyone around her. If five people are sitting around waiting for OP to arrive, and OP is 15 minutes late, that’s 75 minutes of employee work time potentially wasted.

      1. Sleepytime Tea*

        “Time is money” is a real thing. People who waste meeting time when there 10 people in the room absolutely drive me insane.

      2. LQ*

        Doing the math on this with someone was really helpful (for them, they stopped being late). Every 5 minutes you’re late it costs the organization $500 which is 5 transportation stipends. Do you want to withhold those stipends? (NO! Of course not!) She had some information on her desk for a while that made it really clear what those lost minutes were to the people she cared about. The reason OP is working 70 (unsustainable!) hours a week is because they care. Finding a way to offload some of that in order to make sure that those dollars are spent wisely matters.

      3. Samwise*

        I always take quick and easy work with me to meetings, so that when they start late, I’ve got something to do.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is absolutely the right framing. As JHunz says upthread, you have to consider if wasting (10 x all staff’s) time is more important than the “one last thing.” Usually, the math is going to favor showing up on time.

    4. sofar*

      Yes, this! There have been so many times I’ve come in to work with my meeting schedule in mind and a to-do list of what to get done between meetings.

      And then, I’m sitting in a conference room, on time, everything set up, waiting for someone for 15 minutes. And then they ask if they can “push the meeting back.” And then, at the push-back time, the same thing happens. I’ve now lost 30 minutes of MY day.

    5. Lynn Whitehat*

      Yes. It also creates a culture of lateness if people can’t start without you. People learn that “yeah, the meeting says it starts at 1, but LW never gets there till 1:10, so no sense twiddling my thumbs for 10 minutes.” And then more people learn that there’s *really* no point in showing up on time.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Oh god this happens at my company. Meetings in the morning almost never start on time. I get there at 9:00 and I’m the first person. So I start showing up at 9:05 and the meeting starts at 9:10. Except this is an hour meeting that needs to be an hour, so now 10:00 meetings are pushed back to 10:10 or 10:15, so people are late to those.

        And so on down the line so that by the time my 2:00 meeting happens, it’s really starting at 2:30, but I don’t want to start something at 1:50 that I won’t finish by 2:00 (because I’ll have to stop it for the meeting) but I don’t know that the meeting will be late, so I’m wasting time until the meeting finally starts.

    6. iglwif*

      YES. Exactly this.

      I’m a big supporter of flexibility in scheduling, treating people like adults, etc. — I honestly don’t care if someone’s habitually late for work unless it’s causing actual work problems — but lateness to meetings is a waste of many other people’s time, and it is unfair to them in a number of ways.

      Also, of course, it will lead them to not want to extend you credit / the benefit of the doubt when you actually need it!

  12. The other Louis*

    I really appreciate Alison’s response. I know people who are chronically late, and laugh it off. We have been sitting here waiting for you–it isn’t funny.

    This is something to discuss with a doctor or therapist–there can be complicated reasons for it (including various kinds of social anxiety).

    1. lapgiraffe*

      This reminds me of something I struggled/still struggle with, that I subconsciously enjoy the adrenaline rush/thrill/drama of pushing right up against a deadline. I was also deadline driven through school, as a grad student I was finishing papers with just enough time to print and get there, had it down to a science. But I don’t work in a deadline driven position for the most part, and yet a few years into it I found other ways to create this drama.

      Currently I’m in outside sales managing accounts in a greater metro area, bouncing from town to town for appointments, and I like to create days where i feel I’m “making the most of my time” and if there’s one or two five minute delays I’m literally racing to keep on schedule. The problem is that when it works, it feels so damn good, it’s my own little drug. But I’ve had to do a lot of inner work to recognize it, build new habits, and resist the desire. It’s also definitely related to procrastination, a favorite pastime of mine.

      OP hasn’t given us any indicator that they have these same issues, but no matter they should ask themselves WHY, and dig deep.

    2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Yes. It’s been several years but there was a website (lateness dot org) that detailed some of the personalities that are habitually late. I’m not a late person — I’m an ON TIME! person — and had a habitually late friend that I was at my wits end on so I ran across this. The article I read categorized a few personalities that are habitually late:

      1. Shouldists stubbornly expect things to be the way they want them to be — Efficiency Shouldists refuse to allow time for waits, delays, and their own inefficiency because they rigidly hold onto the belief that things should always go like clockwork; Task-Value Shouldists believe that tasks that they consider less valuable should take less time to do.

      2) Related to task-value, Prioritizers consider other things to be more important than being exactly on time. Prioritizers may also change their plans when appealing activities unexpectedly come up in the course of preparation and transit: for social prioritizers talking to a friend they run into is more important, and emotionally rewarding, than being on time.

      3) Wait Avoiders consider leaving early enough to compensate for possible delays realize that if things go well they will arrive early. If they expect having to wait, the idea of waiting makes them feel intense negative emotions that are stronger than the negative emotions they feel about being late: they would sooner be late than wait.

      2. Mastery Seekers’ have idealistic expectations that they believe that they can find a way to make things work perfectly. They are motivated to keep trying in the face of failure by the empowering and self-esteem boosting sense of mastery they feel when they imagine realizing their idealistic goal. Memories of the rare times when things have gone as they hoped bolster their resolve. For example, believers in “The Secret,” think if you just will/want something enough, it’ll happen.

      3) Sprinters risk lateness because they feel pride and an empowering sense of mastery when they imagine arriving on time in spite of leaving at the very last minute—or later. By contrast, timely preparation and departure to ensure certain punctuality seems too easy and dull.

      1. Close Bracket*

        I am some variety of a Wait Avoider. I don’t mind the waiting itself. I am a champ at sitting around and doing nothing. However, after a lifetime of being someone who is a champ at doing nothing, I know that other people have their own anxiety about being around somebody who is sitting there doing nothing, anxiety that they then try to relieve, and their method of relieving their anxiety about being in the presence of me doing nothing generally involves me doing something differently. Therein lies the source of my wait anxiety.

    3. AfterTall*

      And the pride over working 70+ hours a week is also concerning. Feeling pride and expecting an elevated status for that is out of whack with living a balanced, healthy life. Be willing to occasionally put in extra hours to get work done because you’re dedicated and engaged, that’s great. Working 70 hours a week — that’s 10 hours/day, no day off. If OP is doing that on the regular, rather than exaggerating to inflate her importance, that’s crazy. It’s not normal or healthy, nor is it fair of her to judge other employees because they manage a healthy work/life balance.

    4. Leela*

      Ooh the laughing it off is so bad. Or the posting articles about how chronically late people are actually just creatives in disguise. When people are waiting on you it’s not cute, it’s not funny, whimsical, charming, or creative. And acting like you don’t take it seriously doesn’t help me breeze past it with you; it makes it even worse that I sat around waiting for you forever and you show no indication that you understand why it’s a problem at all.

  13. Jenno*

    I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking I can do one more thing before leaving for the day. I have these conversations with myself like “Don’t start that thing now because you think you can finish it before you leave but you really can’t, at least not well,” and hopefully that gets me to shut down and pack up. It sounds like OP recognizes they’re doing this in the moment, but they don’t have the strength of will to stop themselves. Maybe casting it in their minds in terms of “doing this thing, right now, exactly now, is flipping the bird at the person I’m supposed to meeting with next” will help the OP learn to back away from that One More Thing at get on to the thing that they made a commitment to doing.

    1. JSPA*

      Mentally, all “house” things are in the same location, and all “neighborhood” events are no further than 10 minutes by car. IRL, checking the back attic window and the drain at the front of the basement cannot happen in the same 2 minutes, and it’s worth mapping my trip for an unbiased estimate every. darn. time.

      I now make myself state a reasonable time for each step in the process, do the addition, then build in a 25% margin of error. The process starts with, “if the calculation takes 5 minutes, will I still feel like I have time to do this thing?” It that answer isn’t “yes,” the process stops there.

      Example of granularity: Google maps confirms that traffic plus distance = 36 minutes. Add 4 minutes for parking, and 4 minutes for walking. Add 25%: that’s 55 minutes. Now: stray laundry to basket, 4 minutes; laundry to basement, 3 minutes; laundry into and start machine, 2 minutes; back upstairs to grab lunch, keys and wallet, 3 minutes. Add 25%, that’s 15 minutes.

      Look at my watch: if I have less than a full 70 minutes, no laundry. If I have 10 minutes “spare,” I can grab stray laundry for 4 minutes, and carry the basket to the top of the stairs–but that’s it.

      No process that involves going from one floor to another is allotted less than a minute. No process that involves finding any item, less than 2 minutes. No process that involves carrying bulky things without bumping into other things, less an an additional minute.

      Nor can I stop at the bakery or the corner store on the way: stops where I have to park, enter a building, find or be handed an item, pay, exit and drive away require minimum 8 minutes (plus 25%) = 10 minutes. The line at the bakery is actually another 4 minutes (count 5) for a total of 15.

      Repeat as needed: “that won’t be possible today.”

      1. anon61*


        That seems really complicated, and it must take a fair amount of time just to do all the computations!

        For me, it would be much easier to say…”Well, figuring in possible delays and such like, it will take me 55 minutes to get there. In that case, I will round it up to one hour, and leave then.” Meeting at one? Leave at noon. No matter what I’m doing. No more calculations, no percentages to figure.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          I suspect that JSPA is spelling out for us in detail a process that they originally had to go thru in detail, but now it’s all kind of baked in for them, because they have gained understanding of their own processes. You’re doing the same thing but without all the tiny derails built in.

          I know that I’ve had trouble with thinking that I can get Thing1 done in Amount of Time, and then I think of Thing2 and Thing3 that I’d also like to get done, and they all take the same amount of time, but I forget that I can still only do one of the Things. (Happily, this doesn’t happen in a work setting, but more when I’m thinking “I have Saturday morning free. What should I do with that chunk of time?”)

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      “Don’t start that thing now because you think you can finish it before you leave but you really can’t, at least not well,”

      This is a really great point too – speaking as a chronic crammer myself, I almost always find that I almost never execute these “just one more thing!” “it’ll just takes five minutes!” tasks very well, purely because I’m rushing and pressured and just trying to get them over with, which just leads to more errors. You’re probably creating more work for yourself when you have to go back and fix all the mistakes you made when you were in a hurry. If you give yourself more time, at properly scheduled times, to focus on these small tasks, they will almost certainly get done faster. The best phrasing of it I’ve heard is “if you go at it like you’ve got fifteen minutes it’ll take all day; if you go at it like you’ve got all day it’ll take fifteen minutes.”

  14. An Elephant Never Baguettes*

    I don’t have a boss who does this, but I do have a family member who has the exact same modus operandi. There’s always ‘just’ this one little thing they want to finish before they get to what’s actually planned, and they’re always always late. It really does make you feel as if you, as the ‘planned’ point on the agenda, don’t have any priority whatsoever and it is unbelievably frustrating.

    OP, is there a way to reframe this so that the ‘one more thing’ you cram in before meetings is, well, being on time for the meetings? (I freely admit I don’t know how you would actually implement this, but maybe someone else has an idea?)

    1. Batgirl*

      That’s essentially what I did to solve my own punctuality! I make sure I am there and ready, doing meeting prep stuff, getting a coffee, taking five to decompress before, but I think OP is doing very involved not-linked-to-meeting tasks and is struggling to stop and change gears.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah, I had to internalize the idea that “getting up and leaving for this meeting on time” is actually the “one last thing” you have to fit in, in the 5-10 minutes before the meeting. Gathering up my stuff, losing my phone and finding it, walking to the meeting or whatever and perhaps getting a cup of coffee first has to be built in to my time, because otherwise it is what makes me late.

  15. Not Elizabeth*

    OP, when you find yourself “cramming” in one more thing before leaving for the meeting (or whatever), say to yourself, “It’s more important that I get to the meeting on time than that this one more thing gets done *now.*” (And I hope this doesn’t come across as unkind, but I bet you manage to do something like this when you have a plane to catch or theatre tickets, or anything else that will start without you.)

    1. The Original K.*

      I’ve framed things that way with people who are chronically late – what do you do when you have to catch a flight? Do that.

      1. Batgirl*

        Nah that doesnt work IME. Chronically late people can make a Herculean effort on flight days because it’s both rare, highly punitive to get it wrong and outside their routine. Personally I get a hotel near the airport and don’t really go to sleep. Its not sustainable for regular stuff.
        The usual approaches for daily stuff is to get a really easy to follow routine and to use aids like timers.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That’s my experience, as well. The tools chronically-late folks use for big events like catching a flight are really different than the tools they need to keep on track for the day-to-day.

          I think sometimes it’s hard for folks who are not chronically late to understand what’s going through the minds of the chronically late. Because how hard is it to be on time, right?

          It’s often not about a lack of diligence or concern or organization. But it does require a bit more investment and work to stay on time, in part because you have to completely disrupt your normal brain process in addition to developing and setting new habits. That doesn’t mean folks shouldn’t make the effort, but it does mean that it’s a different kind of effort than the always-on-time folks may realize.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            To be honest, as with any other evangelistic group (like people who lost weight) I think the strictest judgement comes not from the “Always on time” folks – are there even such people? – but from the people who worked hard to overcome their habit of being chronically late. They feel like, “I did it, so why can’t X?” However, it’s true that there are some conditions – executive functioning disorder, ADHD – that can make it especially challenging and not really the same thing as a bad habit.

            1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

              I am “always on time” but I don’t preach and try and change people (except maybe husband)! Mostly just letting you know there are such people :)

              1. The Original K.*

                I’m an always on time person too, always have been, and in my personal life I tend not to really adjust for people who are chronically late. If we’re seeing a movie at 7 and it’s 7:15 and you’re not there, I’ll buy my ticket and go on in. I’m not trying to punish the late person; I’m just not going to punish MYSELF because they were late. (Obviously professionally it’s harder to do this, and I’ve been that person sitting in a meeting room waiting for the chronically late person because I have no choice. When I run meetings, though, they start on time.)

                1. Perpal*

                  … and that is one of (many) reasons you are on time, probably! (Ie, you don’t let random hangups stop you from proceeding if you reasonably can)

          2. Birch*

            YEP. And the consequences are way different. We KNOW the flight is not going to wait for us, but our friends are supposed to love us unconditionally.

            1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

              “…our friends are supposed to love us unconditionally.” I actually think that attitude is part of why the chronically late person is so infuriating for people who are on-time. Firstly, I shouldn’t have to prove my loyalty or friendship by rearranging my schedule, or missing some part of the event that I was looking forward to, or awkwardly fending off “can I help you? are you ready?” type questions while I loiter; Or secondly, how about the late person proves their love and friendship by rearranging their schedule to honor the commitment they’ve made to me. I have no qualms at this point on leaving/eating/going forth after a courtesy 15 minutes unless there are extraordinary circumstances like a flat tire on the way.

              But on the plane/concert ticket subject, I’ve totally known chronically late people that consistently miss those as well and then pitch a fit with the ticketing agent to be accommodated or reimbursed. Unfortunately, it sometimes works which only reinforces the behavior.

            2. Cee*

              Yikes — you expect your loved ones to demonstrate their love by waiting around for you but aren’t willing to demonstrate your own love by making an effort to be on time?

              1. The Original K.*

                Yeah, that take is a big part of why I don’t wait for people. Being late for stuff with me DOES have consequences.

          3. smoke tree*

            Although I’m not a chronically late person, I get this because I think it’s similar to the mental effort it takes to do other routine things, some of which I struggle with (like responding to personal emails on time). I think it’s a question of motivation and habituation, though. For those of us who are typically on time, it’s because the social pressure is enough motivation to make the effort, and after a while it becomes routine. For people in the LW’s position, I think they kind of internally turn off the pressure to be on time, to compensate for all of the other pressure they’re under. It can be a challenging thing to recalibrate this, and to establish the routines that are necessary to improving.

        2. TL -*

          Oh my brother has missed so many flights my mom not only buys flight insurance for him but has saved significant money with it.

          He’s a *lot* better with different strategies for ADHD but everyone knows he runs late

          That being said, he’s always on time when he’s with me – and generally pretty cheerful about it (now.) He doesn’t have that little “hmm better go now” voice that I do and agrees it’s much less stressful to travel on my timeline than his :)

      2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        I’ve noticed that people who are late for other things but can catch a flight manage it because the flight is interesting/important to them. If it’s not interesting/important to them, it’s not worth being punctual for. This explains how someone I know can remember that he has every other Friday off but cannot remember that trash day is Tuesday or that the house cleaner comes by on those same Fridays he has off.

  16. MuseumChick*

    “But when it happens habitually — when it’s your m.o. and people grow to expect it of you — you’re conveying “I know that you’re waiting for me, and I don’t care.””

    This line sums up how I feel as a direct report. When those above are always late for meeting the message I get is “Your time is unimportant to me, I don’t care how this scheduling effects you.” As Alison says, it’s extremely rude.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yes, this. When you’re late to a meeting, you’re not only making a decision about *your* time. You’re making a decision about the time of everybody else in that meeting. And yes, your time may be more important. But is it important enough to let everyone else sit in that meeting, waiting for you, doing nothing with *their* time? Before every meeting? Have you thought about how much time they are all wasting while you cram one more thing into your schedule?

  17. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Do you have an assistant? If you do, they’re the one who is going to also suffer with your tardiness. They’re most likely shielding you as much as possible from what people are saying about it and their feelings of resentment towards you. Just something to also keep in mind.

    I’ve had the preternaturally late bosses and the only reason it wasn’t annoying/tiresome was because they gave out plenty of freedoms. They also gave out plenty of instruction prior. One boss, while his health was declining simply couldn’t get there before 10am most days. So the night before, he’d sit and make out the next day’s “to do” list and leave each member a note. If he forgot something, he did have enough time to call me and leave a message to pass along to whomever he may have forgotten to tell something to.

    It’s about the workarounds in the end. I don’t need to see you honestly, I just need to know that you’re not going to explode on me if you’re not here and a judgement call lands in our laps.

    1. nonnynon*

      Thank you so much for this. I am an assistant to several people, all at equal footing and all at the highest point in our organization. Almost all run late to meetings. Sometimes it’s their fault (not wrapping up a meeting and continuing to talk even though others are waiting), sometimes it’s not (the “Oh I need 60 seconds” from our CEO which turns into 20 minutes), but I’m always the one who has to deal with the fall out. As much as I love (most) of the people I work for it is VERY FRUSTRATING.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Oh I know it from personal experience as well. I’m not longer in an EA role, we don’t have one around here anyways, our executive is pretty great at time management but I still do have to pop a head around a corner and say “Weren’t you going to that meeting, seems like you should have been gone by now!” if I notice.

        Others are usually too reserved to speak up either because it’s “oh my goodness, that’s the boss, so they do what they do.” Whereas I’m in that position where I’m comfortable to just speak up and be direct, instead of just seething in the background. Which I respect their positions, so I’ll just go grab the bulls horns whenever I need to.

        I know that most execs really value their assistants and if they know what they’re put through, they think a bit harder. [Granted there are the ones who simply don’t care and say that’s what their EA’s job is…those bosses tend to also pay like garbage as well, go figure.]

  18. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

    I had this boss and couldn’t stand him. Drove me up the wall.

    The thing is, it appears you know you don’t have time for one more thing, yet you consistently try to squash it in. So that, to me, seems like you don’t care about other people’s time. Or, that you have way too much on your plate, especially if you’re working 70 hours a week. Can you delegate? Get an (even part time) assistant? Are these meetings you HAVE to be at, or optional? Perhaps you can pare down your HAVE to be at meetings? Would an email suffice instead of a meeting?

    1. Mockingjay*

      Yeah, I see two issues here. One is a chronic habit of lateness, the other is an unsustainable workload. OP, you can’t fix the former until you fix the latter.

      Take a hard look at your “must fit in one more things.” How many of these tasks can you delegate? I bet your staff has 101 solutions for you, if you only ask. Let them help you by handling daily stuff, while you concentrate on big picture tasks. Look at your overall workload – do you need more staff? Another you? Be honest in your assessment. You might be the kind of person who thrives on high workload and challenge, which is great for you, but not so much for your staff. Don’t drive away good people!

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      I am impressed with OP’s self awareness for the reason for their being late. I think a lot of people struggle to put their finger on the problem. Some folks have magical thinking in terms of transportation (“the train took 15 minutes once, so I’m going to hope it will always be 15 minutes even though the average time is 25”) or they are disorganized and end up scrambling to find stuff, or they are hyper focusing, or they have trouble getting out of bed or whatever. OP has taken the first step of identifying what is happening to make them late: they are starting new tasks too close to the time they need to be switching over. The scheduling issues making this happen are more obvious now, and you wouldn’t have gotten there if you just think “I’m a loser who’s late to everything.”

  19. Bend & Snap*

    Being late to meetings because you’re cramming something else in is 100% a choice about how you spend your time and, consequently, about how other people spend theirs. This is well within your control. Stop cramming and start showing up on time.

  20. Classic Rando*

    I used to be like this in all aspects of life, not because I’d try to cram in one last thing though. For me it was/is because I time travel, I have no natural ability to judge the passing of time, so I’d look at the clock and have 15 minutes left, and then “a minute later” I’d be 2 min late.

    The only way for me to combat it is to assign time values to everything when I have a commitment. Need to make a sandwich? 10 minutes. Brush my teeth? 5. If I do that and don’t get distracted (damn you, ADD brain) I’ll leave the house on time. And if I’ve got a spare 10 minutes before it’s time to go? NEVER add one last thing, it ALWAYS runs over. So, assume that one last thing will never be quick, ignore the urge to do it, and then you can get to your meetings on time.

    1. Ellex*

      I also have a poor sense of the passage of time (I like your framing it as “time travel”), but I do have a reasonably good sense of approximately how long a typical “getting ready to leave” activity will take. Like you, I’m careful not to take on more tasks than I know can be reasonably accomplished in the time I have left before I need to go, and I make sure that there’s at least a couple of minutes of “wiggle room” (enough to dash back inside for a jacket/sweater/raincoat/etc.) and a generous allowance for travel time, which results in usually being at least a few minutes early – which is never a bad thing.

    2. Batgirl*

      Yeah if you’ve got ADD or ADHD then adding one more thing/going off routine is totally verboten. Yet, immensely and constantly tempting; thank you hyper focus.

    3. Squid*

      I have an adhd brain and that time travel thing is so true. Some days it takes 5-10 minutes to walk from my bedroom to the garage and, trust me, my house is not nearly large enough to explain that. For me what’s worked is adding a 50% buffer to travel time (including traveling across the hall to a meeting). I started doing it when I had a retail job with strict punishments for tardiness and an unpredictable commute. It means that even when I time travel, I still manage to be on time at worst.

  21. Mel*

    Yes. I have worked for people who were always rescheduling meetings because their “one more thing” took so long that they did have time for me anymore.

    At my last job it meant that my weekly check ins were actually monthly. I couldn’t get feedback on projects because my boss was always late for a meeting with someone more important and she often assigned projects too close to the deadline (or after it!) to complete them.

  22. katelyn*

    OP what you might not realize is that when meetings are on time and are all assumed to have a hard stop for the length of the invite you can be much more productive. You don’t have to build in “buffer time” for possible overages and neither do your staff. You are thinking that if you don’t do that one thing before you go then you might not have time to get to it, but if everyone was consistently on time for meetings you would have back all the time wasted not only by you in planning buffers, but for all your team members who are sitting on their hands waiting on you when they could be getting things done. Maybe you can re-frame being on time as re-claiming that buffer “wasted” time that happens when meetings don’t start on time?

    It also lets the team know that you respect and value their productivity and not just your own. Sure you got one thing done, but you have a team of x people who have just wasted all the time they could have used to get that one thing done, so you’re up 1 item accomplished, but down 5-7 that the team could have also banged out.

    1. BethDH*

      Oh, this is a good point. After all, if what needs to be covered in the meeting can still be covered if OP arrives 10 minutes late, why can’t the meeting start on time and end 10 minutes early? If OP is in a position to be late without (visible) repercussions, they should be in a position to keep the meeting moving.

      If you’re in a position where meetings feel like they take away from doing “real” work, it might be time to reassess how your teams handle meetings. I know at my spouse’s job, there was a sense that if you scheduled an hour, you would all stay the full hour, even if by the end everyone was just chatting. He really resented that.

      If you’re not using good agendas and sending them around in advance, this is also a good time to start doing that. Maybe if you front load the most important things, you’ll feel more urgency (and if you do have truly pressing things, you can skip the end of the meeting instead of the beginning, so that people can move on without you).

      1. anon61*

        Exactly! Too many meetings, and a sense that a meeting “must” run for its allotted time.

        Honestly, I think so many meetings are either power trips, in that the person running them gets to feel and act important, or are just habitual remnants from a time when the meeting really was needed. A smoothly running office really shouldn’t need so many meetings, the meetings should be as short as possible, and should not involve unnecessary personnel.

        To me, it is much easier and more efficient to just read whatever it is you think you have to tell me in the meeting. If you want or need feedback, you can ask for it. But why do I need to be in a room for an hour when I already know what you’re going to say, and understand it? So that I can hear you answer other people’s questions? Questions which I also already know the answer to? Or is it just so you can put on your resume “I ran weekly meetings!”

  23. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’ve worked in politics and government for almost 20 years, and I’ve had a handful of recent bosses who regularly either stand me up or are very, very late. The worst offense is when they tell me they’ll meet me at a certain place before an event and then leave without me without telling me.

    Sometimes they apologize. Sometimes they don’t. But it doesn’t matter. *Because they keep repeating this behavior.*

    AAM is right that I’d never say tell these bosses how hurtful and disrespectful their behavior is to their face. It’s not my place, and they’re above me so I know this is what I’m going to have to put up with.

    But here’s what you might not realize. We staffers talk about minor habits like that, and that conversation is never a positive one. We warn each other when we apply to jobs that report to you or projects you might oversee or if we have to plan a big event with you. Rarely are these bad behaviors the main subjects of conversation, but they always come up when we’re asked about you. When enough of us talk about it, word does get around, and that’s an element you can’t control.

    Yes, you can probably get away with this behavior as long as you want to. But you never know when the person you disrespect on a Monday becomes the big boss by the following Friday.

    1. voyager1*

      Nailed it.

      One of these days LW is going to get a boss who is very punctual and LW may not be a super star in that person’s eyes because of this behavior.

  24. London Calling*

    *If the people waiting on you are junior to you, they’re probably never going to say anything about your lateness being rude because they don’t have standing to raise it. And if they’re peers, they still may not say anything, especially if it’s clear you’re favored by leadership above you. But they’re going to think it, and that can corrode respect over time*

    I have had a colleague who was this manager – always exactly 15 minutes late for meetings and nothing could be said because he was favoured by the managing director. It wasn’t the only thing that chipped away at any respect for him because he was one of those ‘kiss up kick down* types but it didn’t help. He was even late when he was supposed to be interviewing and the head of IT had to sit and make small talk for 15 minutes with the candidate. Oddly enough it was always when he was meeting women junior to him that he was late, but I’m sure that is complete coincidence.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I also had this boss. In meetings with anyone but the higher-ups (basically C-Suite) he would constantly be on his phone, talking or texting or doing emails, never paying attention. It was worse with women. I saw him do this with vendors and even customers. So rude.

      1. TechWorker*

        My old manager was totally zoned out of most team meetings (including those he was meant to be leading?!) including one great time when I saw him in a meeting with his boss and another manager (only..) and he was just watching Vimeo. I draw no conclusions between this behaviour and the fact the project I’ve taken over from him is a nightmare mess.

  25. PSB*

    OP, how would/do you feel when another stellar performer keeps you waiting? Let’s say you’re 10 minutes late for a meeting because you’re squeezing in ‘one more thing,’ but Fergus is 15 minutes late because his ‘one more thing’ took longer than yours. Do you mind being kept waiting under those circumstances?

    In my mind, getting the basics right, like generally being on time for meetings, underlies all else, so an otherwise Stellar Performer becomes merely a Very Good Performer if they have basic issues like this. There’s also a strong hint of entitlement to “I do feel like I’ve earned some flexibility given my level of productivity and performance.” That would also change my overall impression of someone’s performance. And if that feeling is in any way apparent to others, it will really amp up any resentment they may feel.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, this is a good point too! OP, if other people starting claiming the right to be late this frequently too, there would be a total breakdown in everyone’s schedule, including yours. So by doing this, you’re implicitly saying it’s okay for you to do but not others (because I think you’d agree it was a problem if you were kept waiting for all your meetings too), and that’s a problem.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I recall an article about being late and the writer described arriving at the class only 10 minutes late, and when someone walked in 15 minutes late the teacher directed “Raise your hand if you just congratulated yourself for not being as late as Bert.”

    3. Batgirl*

      There are lots of people with OP’s flexible approach to time, who genuinely would not mind this though. “Fergus is late? Cool, I can squeeze in one more thing!”
      When time whizzes past you you barely notice someone keeping you waiting. You’ll just talk when they get here.

    4. hbc*

      Yes, in my experience, the crammers who are trying to maximize their time (and probably the little adrenaline jolt you get from that rush to get an item in) get really upset when they have to wait around. They’ve got no problem letting people sit in the car for ten minutes while they fold laundry (true story), but it’s a huge offense if they show up for a 1:00 meeting at 1:05 and it doesn’t start by 1:06.

  26. PretzelGirl*

    I cannot stand chronic late people either at home or at work. They don’t have any regard for others time at all. I have friends whose lateness caused us to miss important events, some which we paid for. People or colleagues who were hours late for meals. Then would be upset with us for ordering without them. Stop having a disregard for other’s time, its just as important as yours.

    1. anon61*

      When dealing with friends who are habitually late, I never agree to a situation where I can be left “holding the bag.” If we are going to a ballgame or concert, I make sure that we each have our own ticket before the day of the event. We can agree to meet outside, but if you are late I am going in without you.

      If it is a more casual thing, like meeting for dinner in a non crowded, non reservation needed restaurant, then I don’t care so much. You’re late? OK, I’ll just sit at the bar and have a drink.

  27. Lobsterman*

    I feel like the 70 hour workweek is the lede here, as much as the lateness. I’ve never known anyone to perform at a high level for that quantity of time, and I have to wonder why OP is making that choice, too. It feels related.

    1. Alternative Person*

      Boosting this comment. I worked crazy hours for a while due to overlapping contracts. I managed to keep it together at the jobs with caffeine and sheer bull headed determination (except with one equally tired client, we both descended into hysterical laughter over the word ‘tomato’ much to the bafflement of my co-workers) but out of work, I may as well been drunk.

      So yeah, the 70 hours aspect may need to be looked at if this is going to be an ongoing thing, because that seems a lot.

    2. Zephy*

      +10000. I really appreciated Alison pointing out that 70-hour work weeks are unsustainable, and specifically that someone consistently working these crazy hours is ultimately doing a disservice to their organization and their future replacement.

      I feel like I talk about her a lot here, but my last boss–also at a nonprofit–was a “crammer” like OP. Always had to try to do one more thing “real quick,” kept people junior to her (i.e., me) waiting constantly. Her bosses tried to rein her in and tell her that she can’t do things like remote in to the server from home at night, but her response to being told she can’t do something is to just find a way to do it without getting caught. When she moved from one program-manager role to another, the person they hired to fill her old job immediately had to spend a ton of capital basically on spec, and request a ton of resources that OldBoss was never given, because there’s literally no way to match her output without working for basically 100% of one’s waking hours. (Not that OldBoss never asked, but uncooperative leadership mostly exacerbated an existing problem rather than creating the monster.)

  28. Anonymous Poster*

    It comes off as disrespectful, even if it isn’t. In your situation, it doesn’t sound like that’s something you mean at all, but it’s important to keep in mind that impressions really matter. People under you certainly won’t comment on it because that would not bode well for their careers, but they notice. Even if they understand, the just-one-more-thing-ism is probably holding you back. I get wanting to be as productive as possible and getting things done, but it does have a cost. If reframing helps, think of it like by doing that one-more-thing, you’re not giving yourself a chance to properly shift gears mentally into whatever the next meeting is about. Even those extra 30 seconds can really go a long way toward making the next meeting more efficient, which may mean the meeting runs shorter by 5-10 minutes since you aren’t trying to play catchup on the fly. In effect, by investing a bit of time up front into not being late but mentally shifting gears, you may see dividends down the road in how long your meetings take.

    Maybe just try giving yourself the break once or twice for regular meetings beforehand so you aren’t stuck in just-one-more-thing-ism land. Totally understandable that things come up, and honestly the boss’s time is generally more valuable. It’s just the nature of the working world. But I suspect it may be in very small part at the root of why you’re having to work so many hours. You simply aren’t giving yourself a chance to change gears because you’re cramming in so many disparate tasks right before something that you’re expected to sit down and concentrate in.

  29. Celeste*

    It’s extremely hard to change your ways if you feel virtuous about your habits, OP. I think you measure yourself as a high performer, but have you ever measured yourself in the context of your work relationships? By that I mean, have you considered others’ perspectives enough to sit with them to talk about how your habits affect them?

    My question is do you even want to do better? The way that you describe your “one flaw” and then justify it, but consider office discord to be a separate problem, I wonder if you have truly made the connection that you’re hurting people.

    If you do want to work on this, the words that need to be said are “I’m sorry.” But only say them if you mean them, and are willing to do the work to change. Part of that is going to be accepting the good feeling that you got from “cramming” came at their expense.

    1. Name Required*

      Agree with this completely. You know you’re late, you’re not sorry about it because you think you’ve earned the right to be late, and you know it causes resentment among the other people you work with — do you value your perceived “reward” for your performance more than your professional reputation?

  30. Amber Rose*

    I bet you people would be less resentful about late mornings if you weren’t late to meetings also. The combination of those two things would come across to me as “this person thinks they’re better than me and doesn’t take this job or me seriously” and I would not want to deal with you at all. Nobody likes being looked down on. Nobody likes feeling like they’re trying their best and their best is not even enough to warrant being on time for.

    And nobody lives in your head but you. People judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may not intend to look down on people, but that is absolutely how you come across. And honestly, even in your letter there’s an air of “they shouldn’t be upset because I’m so awesome that they should work around me” and that’s something you really ought to look into because that’s not cool. If you were abducted by aliens tomorrow, your company would get by without you. Stellar or not, you need the others in order to do your own job. Their work and time is important.

    I speak from experience. The owner and semi-micro manager of the company of 10 people I worked for last, straight up died unexpectedly, and we still limped on without him.

    1. London Calling*

      *And nobody lives in your head but you. People judge you by your actions, not your intentions.*

      Or as I said to my ex-husband on far too many occasions – I don’t know what you meant to do. I only know what you did.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        “Why do results matter? Look at my intentions!” is definitely a thing I have noticed increasing in the past decade or so. Not that it’s newly invented, but that it is tossed down as a thing that should put paid to the argument, outweighing any actual actions and results no matter how easy to foresee.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yeah, intentions aren’t completely irrelevant, because it’s harder to fix the problem if you don’t know why it’s happening. But the fact that you didn’t mean to stand on my foot doesn’t change how much my foot hurts.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I think it’s crucial to always remember the advice about “nobody lives in your head but you”.

      If you find that people are constantly “misunderstanding” you or your intentions, that’s when you have to step up and accept that you need to change.

      Also it may mean you’re not reading the room at all, if people are heavily sighing as you finally enter the room or look visibly irritated, that’s on you. If they’re making snarky little comments even with a smile, they’re trying to tell you to stop being late!

    3. HigherEd Person*

      Well said! I wish more people truly understood the difference between “intent vs. impact.”

      Of course you didn’t mean to spill hot coffee on me, it was an accident. But I’m still burned by the spill. Your intention does not negate the impact of your action.

    4. CTT*

      Agreed; when OP says “I do feel like I’ve earned some flexibility given my level of productivity and performance,” what the people who work for her would hear is “I’ve earned the right to impose my flexibility on you.”

    5. Batgirl*

      Yeah I think it’s so much easier to be on time for things during the day as well. OP should see the easier task of getting to meetings as the price she needs to pay for having flexibility in the mornings.

  31. Annie Barrett*

    Something to think about: “What late people need to understand is that we hate you.” – Anon.

    If you have a LEGITIMATE reason to be late – OK. But what YOU describe is – “I’m always late, it’s the way I am. Everybody else needs to suck it up.” They hate you.

    1. SCORMHacker*

      So much this. Our VP was always late for our weekly status meeting (with 30 others in attendance), to the point that her admin scheduled the meeting to be 15 minutes longer. Everyone else was expected to be at the meeting on time so all we did was wait. I got bored during one of those wait times and calculated how much money was being wasted with all of us just sitting there waiting for her. Assuming we each made around $60k/year, her chronic 15 minute tardiness cost around $216 per meeting, which doesn’t seem like a lot until you factor in she was late every week. So her lateness cost approx. $11,000 in lost work time per year just b/c she felt her time was so much more important than her entire department’s. And yes, we all hated her and when she was let go three years into my tenure, there were MANY happy people in the building. After she left, we didn’t even have the status meetings any more!

  32. House Tyrell*

    When I was a receptionist, one of the senior-level men with a lot of direct reports routinely ran 15-30 minutes over in every meeting he had, bumping everyone he needed to meet with back the rest of the day. It irritated all of his direct reports and they got in the habit of showing up around 10 minutes late to meetings because they knew he’d be late (and they were always right and still had to wait!) Even if he left a previous meeting on time, he’d end up getting stopped in hallways and trapped in conversations with other people and had a hard time telling them he couldn’t talk then. When I was promoted and became his most junior level direct report, I was always bumped- either by a few hours that day or just completely off the schedule and had to take my meetings with him by following him to his next meeting or following him to get coffee or lunch.

    He was an amazing boss and we all loved him, but it definitely frustrated people to have their schedules thrown off because he was so late all the time. People junior to you won’t ever say anything about it, but will definitely be annoyed and feel disrespected because of it.

  33. Soupspoon McGee*

    I’m a reformed late person.

    I used to cram “just one more thing” in. I used to think I had everything timed precisely, then be flummoxed when I’d forget something and be 10 minutes late several times a week. I used to think I’d get there just on time because arriving early meant I’d have wasted time on my hands.

    It took changing careers and going back to school in a large city with a fantastic but often delayed transit system to fix me. I HAD to get to the bus stop two departure times before my “target bus” in case it was late or mysteriously disappeared. I HAD to get enough rest so I could get up early enough that I would not start the day as a desperate ball of stress, because it would get a lot worse once I hit the classroom. Mostly I learned that if I put of 10 small things that each took just a minute to do, find, or put together, I’d be 30 minutes behind schedule because I’d always remember two more critically important things, and my socks didn’t match, and my reading glasses weren’t where I thought they were, and I had time to clean the fridge, and so on.

    You can make this change.

    1. WakeRed*

      I am a reforming crammer too – not fully healed yet. It doesn’t help that in my workplace, the culture is 5-minutes-late-friendly. But I’ve noticed that plenty of my colleagues show up early to meetings, not everyone is always a bit late. That and as Soupspoon says, realizing that one last thing means I’ll definitely be late, has helped me wrap up 10 minutes early before a meeting so that I will at least be on time (I’m still no early bird!)

      It’s a strange habit because outside of work I’m often early and I actively hate being late to things with a specific start time: movies, performances, etc. Realizing that I wouldn’t be late to a movie or an airplane, but that I am not always on time for my colleagues, was a useful embarrassment. I *can* be on time, and I should give more care to fellow humans.

    2. Batgirl*

      +1 to feeling flummoxed! I was always so baffled as to where my well planned time had gone. I had ten minutes before I had to leave + a five minute task…How then am I five minutes late?!

  34. Smithy*

    OP, you say you’re late for “everything” – but I also think it’s worth interrogating how true that actually is. Is this a case where you manage to show up more on time to a meeting with an external partner or donor but internal meetings, can be far later?

    And if you’re not directly in fundraising – if there is a donor meeting, are you showing up late to that as well? Or are you using the development staff to cover for your lateness with donors?

    If it’s the case where you’re not truly late for everything just X things, then those staff notice that far more and the aspect of rudeness to your colleagues is greater. You’re not late to everything – just the work perceived as being devalued. Or if it’s where you’re also showing up late to meetings with external partners – then you’re counting on your colleagues to work harder to accommodate you.

    And if in fact you are the organization fundraiser – it can also build a reputation that because you raise the money, you don’t need to be as accommodating to your colleagues.

    To fix this – I do think that separating things like “late morning arrival” and “late to meetings” is key. Never making it to the office at 9am and always showing up 15min late to meetings is very different around how staff will perceive you.

  35. MommyMD*

    Performing your job well does not entitle you to keep people hanging and waste their time.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Agreed. And also I’d argue you’re not technically that high of a performer if you cannot make it to meetings on time, IMO. Your job includes these meetings/events that you need to attend, be present and not waste the other time of the company’s staff or heaven forbid, your clients time!!

      I worked 60+ hours before as well and I was always on time to everything scheduled. I can’t just flake things like deadlines off because it costs literal money due to penalties involved. So yeah, time management is something you have to always work at if you want to when you’re so crunched for minutes in the day.

  36. Existentialista*

    LW, take heart, it is possible to change! I am also a Non-Morning-Person Late Bird, so I’ve been 5-15 minutes late to meetings my whole life, plus at my last job meetings typically ran over by 30-90 minutes, so I had bad habits all around.

    But then I started working for a Swedish-owned company, and one of the first things I learned about the culture is an emphasis on punctuality. I observed my Swedish colleagues apologizing like they’d run over my pet when they were 30 seconds late to a call. So I realized that starting meetings on time was extremely important to my bosses and owners, and I turned myself around. Now I’m often dialled in five minutes before a meeting starts, and I also have backup systems so I can call in from home or my car just in case I’m running late first thing in the morning. I never thought this would be me, but I have reformed into an On Time Bird, and you can too!

  37. Brigitte*

    It’s very difficult for me to be on time, but I am never late for meetings. In fact, my meeting hack works so well, I’ve started using it in other areas of my life.

    Whenever I have a meeting, I add 15 minutes transition time to the calendar for transition time (or more if I need to do major prep). This time allows me to run to the bathroom, grab my notes, get coffee, log in (my team is fully remote) and do whatever else needs doing.

    The key is actually adding this time to the calendar. It is blocked off as part of the meeting.

    For meetings where I anticipate I’ll have follow-ups to do, I also block time after bc it is so much more efficient to just get them done.

    Now when I’m going to dance or yoga, I do the same thing. I add the time it takes to drive into the block on my calendar. I’m not perfect; I’m still occasionally late. But it’s working wonders!

    I’m 38, btw, and I wish I had started this practice in my 20s.

    1. Person of Interest*

      Similarly, can you schedule meetings to be 50 or 55 minutes long, so you give yourself 5 or 10 minutes to get prepared for the next meeting (but NOT to cram in one more 10-minute task!)

  38. Anonymousse*

    My current ED is like this every single time with our Monday staff meetings. He’s habitually late to everything we’ve ever scheduled internally (like meetings) and externally (like interviews). Most of the time, he has nothing else going on– he simply is late to show off his power over the staff and the co-director. We’ve had instances of waiting upwards of an hour for him to attend our regularly scheduled meetings because he was feeling lazy after his bimonthly Cuban escapade. It’s rude, it’s disrespectful and I hate him for it.

    N.B. When he does attend the meetings, he chastises our staff for not being snappy enough with his time but he himself will spend 30-45 minutes regaling us with tales of his suntan weekends in Cuba and impromptu Netflix reviews.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve seen this behavior as well, thankfully only from an outside perspective since if I had a boss who acted as if he were this important, I wouldn’t last very long needless to say.

      That’s a different ball of wax completely, there are ones who are simply narcissistic and have a superiority complex like your boss or there are people who are simply disorganized, unable to keep schedules well due to an array of not so malicious disrespect for the “little ones” below them!

  39. Lucy*

    If you disrespect them, they will come to disrespect you. If nothing else, isn’t that important?

    Also I think you need to start factoring in other people’s time into your “is this more important” calculations. If you are five minutes late to a six-person meeting, you’ve wasted an hour to the organisation (five minutes sitting around, plus five minutes running over which takes away from other work, or five minutes taken away from the shortened meeting, all multiplied by six). Is that last quick email worth an hour to the organisation?

    I know some habitual latecomers resent being on time because meetings are slow to get going. Please consider whether they’re slow to start because they’ve been waiting for you, or expecting to have to wait.

  40. ADHD Lateness*

    Have you been tested for ADHD? Chronic lateness, related to giving in to the impulse to do just one more thing even though you KNOW it is bad, is a telltale for executive dysfunction.

    I was diagnosed at age 45, and getting the right diagnosis and correct meds has been life changing.

    Search Adult ADHD Screening Test to see if this might be a thing for you. Good luck!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It honestly can be a few things that attribute to the chronic tardiness as well, it’s something that you may want to just speak to a therapist about because they can do assorted testing.

      A friend has a son who took a lot longer than most of us to learn how to tell time and now to keep track of it was even worse. Thankfully being in activities where time was the focus helped him out as he got older but it’s still a real struggle. It’s not ADHD, it’s something else but yeah this isn’t always just being rude/disrespectful it can be a symptom of various medical diagnosis.

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      I’ve been struggling with this. I even have a couple references for psychiatrists who specialize in adult ADHD. I don’t have a HMO, but I don’t know if I need to see a general practitioner first or not. Can I just call the psych office, you think?

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It depends on your insurance! I would call them and ask them this question, it’s pretty much depending on your provider and your plan.

        Sometimes you need a GP to refer you, sometimes just a psychiatrists consultation evaluation is enough.

    3. Seconding ADHD Lateness*

      Huge second to this. I (24) was recently diagnosed with ADD, and it explained a lifetime of being late /despite trying not to be late and being horrified about how I was always late/. And now I have better tools and information to understand myself and work on the problem (looking forward to trying out some of the strategies mentioned in above comments, actually!)

      I agree that it’s worth looking into ADD and other conditions that affect executive dysfunction (there are many, some not as well-known as ADD!) if this is how OP/anyone reading this feels!

    4. Cherries on top*

      I don’t have ADD/ADHD but other health issues that causes me to be late a lot. I have 11 alarms. It doesn’t help. I am working on it, and I try really hard. One thing that really sucks is that people assume I’m lazy and just can’t be bothered, that I stay out to late at night and that if I just applied myself (and set another alarm) I would be on time. I feel disrespectful and shitty when I’m late. Even if the result is similar/the same don’t assume the person doesn’t care.

  41. Elizabeth*

    I’m at the point in my career that if I own the meeting that we’re in, I don’t wait on the person who is late, regardless of where they sit in the organization. I can’t get enough time at my desk to do my job and implement the plans from meetings if I let every meeting start 10 to 15 minutes late and run over. I’ve also started scheduling meetings for 30 minutes instead of 60. Hour-long meetings seem to invite chit-chat at the start, while 30 minutes means that we have to get moving and get done.

    I spent a lot of years resenting higher level individuals who can’t seem to get to meetings on time. I’m done with that. My work is important to our organization, and the time of everyone in the meeting has value. If I’m pulling individuals away from patient care to attend a meeting, I can’t wait for a C-level person to get there to get started, because the patient care people need to go take care of the customers we are ostensibly here to serve.

    1. AKchic*

      That is how I feel too. Unless I am receiving money from them, I do not wait. Other people have things to do.

  42. Falling Diphthong*

    Doesn’t matter if it’s in the morning, the afternoon, or the evening.

    Does it matter if the appointment is with people below you, at your level, or above you? Are you routinely late to meetings with your boss and with major donors? Because what usually happens (though there’s a counterexample upthread) is that people suddenly find the power within themselves when the people inconvenienced outrank them, and could make their work life difficult to nonexistent if they take offense at the habitual lateness.

    Assuming that your position is not coverage based, then it doesn’t make sense to conflate being “late” in the morning to a flex-time position that can start whenever you walk in the door, and being “late” to meetings where other people have to sit and wait 10-20 minutes for you to get there so they can start. In the latter case, you are in fact keeping them from furthering the organization’s mission. Most of us don’t have an endless supply of little work tasks that take a minute or two to complete and can easily be dropped when the other person shows up–your employees’ option in the meeting is to mark time while they wait for you to arrive.

    1. Sleepy*

      Yes. Wether this happens with everyone or only underlings is a key indicator.

      Also, have you ever missed a flight due to being late? If you’re late to meet people but not airplanes, then you’re capable of being on time when the person who is most impacted is you.

  43. Rebecca*

    One of the VP’s at my company is like this. He’s famous for setting up meetings, with 60+ people on a conference call in multiple locations, bumping the time back at the last minute by a half hour or hour, then when all of us assemble in multiple conference rooms so we’re all on the same call at the same time, and sit there…away from our desks…guess who isn’t on the call. So we wait, 5 minutes, 10 minutes – so if you have 60 people all waiting 10 minutes = 600 minutes/10 hours of work time for nothing. Then he arrives, breathless, needs to log into the meeting so he can run the power point or bring up the spreadsheet. But if we are late, that’s a totally different story.

    OP, try to look at it from everyone else’s standpoint. Do you like it when your doctor or dentist keeps you waiting? You could be on time, you choose not to be.

    1. Mack*

      My dentist charges $50 for a cancelled appointment with less than 24 hours notice and $25 if you are more than 20 min late to an appointment.

      OP you are essentially charging your reputation. Every time you are late someone is rolling their eyes, avoiding making further meetings with you, coming to you as a last resort, rethinking including you on a project. It doesn’t matter if you are a high performer and have “earned flexibility” people are still judging you.

  44. SigneL*

    If you are 10 minutes late, and there are 6 other people in the meeting, that’s 70 wasted minutes. You may say “start without me and catch me up” but that doesn’t really work, does it? It just wastes even more time.

  45. anonandon*

    I also have this boss, and honestly it’s just… not a big deal?

    We all know he’s going to be late. If he tells me he’ll be in at noon on a weekend, it will be 1 or 1:30. If he says he’ll getting into the office at 8, it’ll be 9:15. I’ve learned to work around it. We’re a billable hours environment, so I can tell you with absolute certainty that his time IS worth more than mine, and it’s okay to keep me waiting.

    As a person who is pathologically early to things, there are far worse problems for a boss to have. My boss is flexible, understanding, invested in my success, appreciative of my work, etc. Chronically late is not a deal breaker.

  46. Shinobi*

    I had an ex who, if we were leaving in 5 minutes would turn on his computer and start a video game. This invariably made us late because the game took a minute to start, he would maybe get 3 minutes of play time before we were supposed to leave, and then he would make EVERYONE Wait another 5-10 minutes while he saved his game, found his coat, etc.

    And I know lw you are thinking “my work tasks are more important than a video game” of course they are, but they also take one minute to boot up and 5 minutes to save and then you still need to walk to the meeting.

    Next time your meeting reminder pops up, and your brain says “oh I can just do this one thing” I want you to write down the thing you are thinking of doing on a post it note so you won’t forget, and then go to the meeting. That is the only task you are allowed pre meeting.

    Are you early? Yes. Make small talk with your co workers, this is am important part of your job as a leader. Now be focused and present in the meeting. Then go back to the post it on your desk.

    1. StaceyIzMe*

      I don’t know how you managed to deal with someone who did that on a regular basis- it would drive me bonkers. Frankly, after 2 or 3 times, I’d have left without him. Or cancelled plans to go with him, if that option was preferable.

    2. Nanani*

      As mentioned in another thread, this thing your ex did was a manipulation move.
      I’m glad they’re an ex.

  47. MuseumChick*

    This this such a good point. OP, start keeping track of which meetings you are late for. Is it heavily skewed towards people below you on the food chain? Are you also late for meeting with your boss? For meetings with potential clients? This I think will help you see a visual of who’s time you are valuing and who’s you are not.

  48. StaceyIzMe*

    You sound like you’re good at what you do, LW, VERY good. But that can’t take you past the hurdle of being blind to the impact of your own chronic tardiness. You see it as a quasi-excusable trend, you’re just “trying to squeeze one more thing in”. But when you’re late, you disrupt others. You’re grandstanding, whether you admit it or not. Because there’s no escaping the subtext of “I’m more important than this meeting. My time is more important than yours.” Your boss is doing you no favors by failing to manage this because your performance serves her needs (or his?). However, that’s a “for now” situation. And you feel you’e entitled. Why? Nobody is that good. If you were occasionally late, nobody would care. If it were a struggle you were working to resolve, people would care but might give you grace. “I’m late and it’s okay because I’m very good at what I do” is going to cause you to run into the cross-hairs of a boss or a stakeholder or a client who is ALSO very good and the results aren’t going to be awesome. Late as a matter of occasional circumstance? No problem. Late as a matter of special snowflake thinking? That IS a problem, (or will be).

    1. Celeste*

      I agree with all of this. I think the OP believes cramming makes her exceptional, and has gotten away with it (for now) at this workplace. But does he/she always want to stay there? These habits can make you unemployable elsewhere.

  49. CC*

    Oh boy, do I understand this! I used to do this all the time, then I took a meeting facilitation course and it totally changed the way I approach meetings.

    First, why are you at the meeting? If you can *not* be at a meeting, remove yourself from the list. Only go to meetings where you are needed.
    Second, take the time that you are late, add a couple of minutes to apologize for being late (again) and get the meeting on track, then multiply it by the salaries of the folks in the room. Add $100 for the demoralization you just gave your employees who were sitting uncomfortably waiting for you.

    Now, that’s the actual cost of being late to the meeting. Is that extra task you tried to squeeze in before the meeting worth it?

    Finally, remember that if you go to the meeting on time, you’ll be relaxed and not rushing, you’ll get a good seat at the table, and everyone will be SO happy with you for being there on time. There are a lot of benefits for you to be there on time, and it helps to view it for what *you* can get out of being punctual.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      That is actually an excellent point! If there are meetings that you’re always late to because you don’t feel it’s a priority, perhaps given your work load you can start sending delegates to those meetings. Smart response, CC. (And remember, delegating can be really valuable to junior staff who gain experience – you may actually be doing them a big favor, as well as freeing up your workload).

    2. Sara without an H*

      I agree. OP, you work for a non-profit. Do some math and figure out what your lateness actually costs the organization you serve. Even if your employer’s salaries aren’t stellar, you’re still wasting a chunk of money that could undoubtedly be put to better use.

      I also question how well you’re using your time. Are all those “one more things” you’re doing really necessary? Or should they be delegated to somebody else? To put it bluntly, your lateness is only a symptom. Your time management and sense of priorities stink.

      70+ hours a week may be fine for an occasional crash project. Doing it regularly will put you in the hospital.

  50. KR*

    Hi OP, I am habitually late but when I have an early morning meeting I make it work and get there early. I get it, I really do, but when it comes to scheduled meetings you have to get there on time. I will say that if you have enough capital it’s worth pushing back on some meeting times when it’s too early – say the meeting starts as soon as the work day starts and you can request it happens in the afternoon or later morning. But I wouldn’t even push that and I’d be careful of who else was going to that meeting.

  51. Dust Bunny*

    What I don’t understand is why people who are always late because they think they’ve left enough time or they can cram one more thing in before they leave don’t seem to learn from being wrong so often. Like, you recognize that you’re doing this and you’re always late, so at what point does it sink in that it’s not working and you cannot trust your own time estimates?

    I’ve been late to stuff, but not regularly, because as soon as I realize I underestimated traffic or was wrong about how long it would take to wash just a few more dishes, I stop doing it and force myself to leave sooner/leave the dishes/whatever.

    This, by the way, is why we “if we’re not early we’re late” types think it’s arrogant: It’s not that you underestimated, it’s that you continued to keep up the same pattern long after it should have been clear that you weren’t leaving early enough to get there on time.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I am not a morning person, either, by the way, but I can get up and get moving because I value not making my coworkers mad. Also, if I get to work early, I can leave a little early and I also value missing peak rush hour and having more time to myself in the evening.

      1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

        I got a new boss who likes to say they’re “not a morning person” to excuse the kind of behavior OP is describing. I’m not a morning person either, but I am an adult who can push through that and get to work on time.

        1. Windchime*

          Exactly. I am not a morning person, but I still get up and out the door before 5:30 AM. Do I like it? No. But I do it so I don’t have to sit in traffic for 2 hours.

          Being late once in awhile is an unavoidable part of being human. But not making an effort is just disrespectful of others.

    2. Batgirl*

      For me, the biggest hold back was that I kept expecting to learn from my mistakes. I thought that practice/experience would make me good at timekeeping. That someday I would be able to estimate how long something would take, including some buffer time (I always set my watch five mins fast).

      ‘Learn from it’ was the worst advice I ever gave myself. The only thing that ever worked was accepting that I’ll never properly learn and that I can’t trust my brain’s perception of time or my instincts. I now rely on timing aids, pre-timed routines and certain habits and I don’t trust myself to learn, or to be able to judge time at all. It works.

      “As soon as I realize I underestimated traffic or was wrong about how long it would take to wash just a few more dishes, I stop doing.” I would love to be able to do that! I don’t have that realization until I’m actually late so I’ve switched to just assuming it’s going to happen before I try.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, I still just don’t get it. “The last time I was late, I did x things until it was too late to leave . . . so this time I’m going to not do something engrossing, I’m going to set a hard leave time, and I’m going to leave then even if I think I don’t need to.” Followed by, “Okay, twenty minutes wasn’t enough time, so the next time I go to this place, I’ll leave 30 minutes early.” Etc. This guy goes to work every day and meetings all the time; there is no reason for him not to have figured this out unless he just doesn’t care.

        1. Batgirl*

          Ok but imagine you dont have the ability to judge what ten, five or even one minute feels like. You plan to leave thirty minutes early ‘this time’ and you seem to be on track. You look at your watch, do something quickly like grab a tie or scarf, that feels like one minute and the next time you look at your watch those thirty minutes have somehow disappeared. You made a new plan; but that doesn’t mean you were able to follow it.

          1. KR*

            Yup this is me. I have reminders set and alarms up the wazoo. I have almost no concept of how long things take. It’s a serious effort for me to be on time to things and I work in a role where it’s ok for me to be on the late side.

          2. paperpusher*

            If I found that 30 minutes had passed while I was grabbing a scarf I’d check if I were having absence seizures. That’s how unfamiliar this description feels to me. I know about realizing it’s later than I thought, especially if I’m doing something engrossing (Facebook at breakfast, I’m looking at you!) but I look at my watch after about every task in the morning so it’s just hard to imagine time passing by.

            1. Batgirl*

              You wouldn’t find it difficult to imagine if you had ADD. To outsiders it looks like woolgathering but to me, the time just vanished while I was thinking about something. I’m way better than I was as a child; back then I couldn’t even hear people trying to call me back to earth. Yet no one thought much of it; I was just told to try harder/be considerate/pay attention.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        The thing is that “learning from it” isn’t always a natural thing for folks.

        When you’re told to learn from it, it means that you need to do something wrong, see what was wrong, then take steps to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

        So you’re late to Meeting and you then say “Okay so I need to put a reminder in my phone/calendar to buzz me 15 minutes before.” It doesn’t mean that you need to then say “Oh shoot, well I’ll just try harder next time” or to think that “with some more practice, this will get easier.” It’s not playing the piano, it’s not something that practice then makes you have great muscle memory, your brain is trickier than that when it comes to things like time and organization!

      3. smoke tree*

        This kind of reminds me of a recent LW whose direct report thought of organizational tools as “crutches”–if it’s a tool that helps you achieve the task, it’s not a crutch, it’s a strategy worth investing in. I think there is such an expectation that punctuality is easy that you can trick yourself into thinking you’re not really a punctual person unless you can just will yourself into magically being inherently good at it. There’s nothing wrong with using tools and strategies to achieve a goal!

      4. Samwise*

        Actually, you did learn from it. You learned that you need timing aids, pre-timed routines, and habits. I’m not being flippant, either. You don’t need to learn how to recognize, uh oh, now I’m in the middle of almost being late so I better right now do something different. Many many people don’t have that ability, and it’s not just an ADD/ADHD thing, either. What you did, and what many many people do, is recognize, I’m always late for that first thing in the morning project meeting and I’ve gotta do something to help me be on time.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Traffic (like pirates) can happen to anyone!
      Sometimes it doesn’t matter how early you leave, if there’s rain or an accident, you’ll be late. I have a brutal commute, and even leaving 1hour+ you may not make it by 8am some mornings.

      But I doubt the LW’s staff care that much about the getting into the office late in the morning part as much as the being late to meetings part.

    4. L.S. Cooper*

      I struggle with being late to stuff because of my ADHD. I have zero sense of the passage of time, and I am really very bad at getting started with tasks (and, frankly, stopping them, too. Oh, inertia, you do suck.)
      But I also hate being late. I have four alarms that go off every morning, and I try to leave myself plenty of buffer time for those “just one more thing” tasks, as well as a hard limit when I need to leave. I regularly find myself at airports and interviews EXTREMELY early, but it’s worth it to not be late.

    5. CheeryO*

      It’s because they can get away with it. Every chronically-late person I know is well-aware of the issue and doesn’t bother to try to fix it because it’s hard for them for some reason (ADD, anxiety, just plain poor time-management skills), and people in their life just work around it.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Eh, up to a point. After awhile, I don’t want you to be sorry–I want you to do something about it. Talk is cheap; actions indicate that you really do care.

      1. The Original K.*

        Yep. Frequently saying “sorry I’m late” says to me that you KNOW you’re late and that it’s something to apologize for but you don’t care enough to not be late. I don’t want an apology; I want you to be on time.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      No. It sounds flippant and draws attention to the fact “I know this is wrong but I can’t be bothered to fix it.”

      If it’s infrequent, then it works perfectly because it happens to just about everyone time to time. When it’s every single time, I’m going to say “No you’re not.” in my head and get extra grouchy.

    3. StaceyIzMe*

      If it’s a regular thing, it’s liable to invite “no, obviously you’re NOT sorry… or you’d be on time”. (Although admittedly it’s more likely to come across as a terse “okay” or a snort of disbelief unless the workplace is somewhat hostile.)

    4. OrigCassandra*

      I do think apologizing for the larger pattern of tardiness could be one step in breaking it. Here’s how that might work:

      1. OP, do you yourself have a boss? If so, at your next review, list “punctuality to meetings” as your top area to develop, and ask your boss to check in on you about it. If you’re high enough up that you only report to a board, this is probably too ops-ish to be their business, so seek another way to hold yourself accountable.

      2. Once this is established, make a point of asking for a brief (3-5 minute) agenda item at every standing meeting you attend. This is where you acknowledge your own pattern of tardiness and the impact it has on others, apologize, and state that fixing this behavior is your top priority. For pity’s sake don’t be late to these meetings, of course!

      3. Follow up. Lots of good suggestions in this very thread.

    5. On Time is 10 Minutes Early*

      Nope. It absolutely does not go far at all! I am in middle management, and often have a ton of work. I have to prioritize what I can do. When other people are late it drags the whole team down in inappropriate ways. If you are rarely late, of course an apology helps and people will understand. But it can’t happen frequently. If it does, then you need to reprioritize things. Could this meeting be an email?

  52. Ellex*

    You may need to take a look at *why* you feel the need to “cram in one more thing”, OP.

    You say you put in 70+ hour weeks. That’s a lot of time! Can you delegate some of this work? Do you need to ask your supervisor/board about getting an assistant, even part time, to help take some of this work off your plate?

    Alternatively, are you tired due to these long work weeks? You may think a task will only take 5 minutes, and you have 10 minutes before your meeting, but if you’re chronically tired it takes much longer to do things.

    Are you poorly organized? Lack of organization makes everything take at least twice as long, but getting organized can seem overwhelming or even impossible. And while getting organized can require an initial outlay of time that you don’t have or don’t feel like you have, the payoff can be big enough to justify putting other things on hold long enough to create and implement a system or organization.

    You say that you’re chronically late to everything. Do you have issues with transitions – changing your physical location? Do you feel reluctant to physically leave your location, or does it give you anxiety? This isn’t a topic that comes up much outside of mental illness and/or early childhood education, but it’s a real thing that many people have trouble with. Like walking into another room and forgetting what you came in for, physical transitions like just walking through a doorway actually have an effect on your brain, and even the anticipation of a transition can throw you off.

    The best suggestion I can give you, though, is to reframe your notion of how much time you have before a meeting. If the meeting starts in 10 minutes, and it will take you one minute or less to get to the place of the meeting, you don’t have 10 minutes in which to “cram” in a few more tasks – you only have 5 minutes in which to gather whatever you need for that meeting, and then you need to go. Start thinking of being “on time” as being 5 minutes before the actual start of the meeting, rather than the literal start of the meeting.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Outlook has automatic meeting reminders of 10 minutes. Unfortunately, during the 10 minutes wait time, I was prone to getting sidetracked. My solution to this (and to being late in general) is to set all my clocks 5 minutes ahead of standard satellite time. Time-shifting now generally keeps me on track and on time, or even a bit early. This works for work, appointments and even personal things like watching a TV show.

      1. OrigCassandra*

        You can also set Outlook’s default warning to 5 minutes, if that’s your preference. (Outlook/Mac, anyway. I should think Outlook/Win will also do it, but Microsoft has surprised me unpleasantly before.)

        1. Ellex*

          Yes, Outlook/Win will let you change the timer on your reminders. I’d find it really easy to miss meetings without it.

  53. Minimouse*

    “Yet, as I move up in the ranks, I don’t want to continue to foster a feeling of discord among the team. Any advice?”

    If you are *always* late, then I’m not sure there is a solution to what you’re asking. You’re essentially asking: “How do I make people okay with my habitual lateness?”. The answer is that you can’t, really. Not in North American business culture. It diminishes respect and that is a reality.

    I get the impression from this letter that you feel entitled to this obvious behavioural issue because of your productivity and position, and go ahead if it’s “allowed”, but do realize that there is a negative consequence to it (lack of respect and perceived inability to manage time). Management earns the right to flexibility and perks but chronically demonstrating something that is probably a *fireable* offense for their employees is actually disrespectful and demoralizing. Take that at face value.

  54. Gdub*

    I used to be chronically late. Everyone knew that about me. But I was in love with someone who was not in love with me, and one day he said to me, “But you’re never late.” And he was right. I was never late to meet HIM, because I was always dying to see him. Total wake up call. I decided to extend to other people the courtesy I did to him — they were doing more for me anyway. I am now known to be a prompt person.

  55. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    Being late all the time sends one message – that your time is more important than everyone else’s time. And as a high level executive that is true at times. But the fact that you do this ALL the time is a big problem. You recognize WHY it happens, now do something to change it. Because I can guarantee you it is a big deal and it’s not okay.

  56. MissDisplaced*

    There are two things I really hate to see from otherwise good managers:

    >Not giving your reports your full and undivided attention when needed.
    (such as taking calls, texting, answering emails, etc., when you’re supposed to be interacting with your reports in a
    meeting or a one-on-one)

    If it’s a genuine emergency, sure. But I had a boss who would constantly be checking his phone email during EVERY meeting–even reviews and one-on-ones, unless it was a meeting with the CEO or board, and then he put it away. I suppose he thought it made him look busy or powerful… but it just made him look rude and condescending.

    > Disrespecting your direct reports (or others) time.
    (being late to meetings, not returning emails/then jumping in w/changes, jumping on calls late/running over,
    or being so disorganized that you cause people to have to work overtime or redo work because they were
    waiting on you, or fell victim to your poor planning.)

    This runs the gamut from mildly annoying (being late to meetings) to I hate you (last minute changes). Really, Your poor planning is not my emergency. There are some managers who never respond to questions… then jump in at the very last second with their changes, thus forcing their reports to engage in massive rework or changes, usually at the last minute.

    The coming in late in the morning is fine, especially if you work late and/or odd hours or travel a lot. But do not disrespect the time of others. Try hard to get to meetings or calls on time, and don’t make people rehash items if they’ve already started without you (the real annoyance, not so much you popping in a few minutes late). And when you ARE there, give them your undivided attention so everyone gets through things quickly.

  57. lnelson in Tysons*

    I have mixed feeling with the “the boss’s time is just more valuable.”
    The boss is busier and is more apt to be bugged with last minute items.
    For one on one from a payroll perspective yes, the CFO’s time is more valuable than mine. Unless there is a real money costing emergency.
    But that doesn’t mean that my time isn’t valuable to me. I can adjust my schedule to work with my employees including staying after to accommodate someone else. BUT if you say let’s meet at 5pm (when I normally go home) don’t expect me to stay until 6 or later waiting for you.
    Now for a VP who was THAT guy. Sure his hourly rate was more than most of the others in the office. But if you really want to argue on a dollar to dollar rate: Sure his time was valued at roughly $100 per hour for payroll purposes. But by the time you have the sales team of 4, the admin and another two reportees just waiting around to for that VP to grace them with his presence. That’s more than his plain hourly rate. And in his case it wasn’t bringing in the dollars to the company. So that I find just disrespectful, especially since he would never apologize. IF anyone else showed up a wee bit late, even for a justifiable reason, they were screamed at.
    I have never been able to respect the “do as I say not as I do” method of managing.
    While one should be willing to work with other, it really should go in both directions. At some point, it doesn’t matter if the boss is the one to delay a meeting, that person might have a legitimate reason not being able to accommodate delays, rescheduling, etc. Yes, things come up. But not all the time.

    1. Observer*

      Of course there are limits to “the boss’ time is more valuable”.

      I think your calculation (and that of all of the other people who’ve mentioned this) is something that the OP really needs to look at. Aside from the personal disrespect, they REALLY need to realize that once you are dealing with multiple people at a meeting, the balance really changes.

  58. some dude*

    I had a boss who was super busy and started missing meetings. While I understood that they were super busy, their being late sent a message to staff that they were not on top of everything they needed to be on top of. Like, if they couldn’t bother to be on time for a meeting that they needed to be at, what else were they dropping the ball on?
    Also, while you are super busy, your staff is too and it stinks as a staff member who is already subjected to countless meetings to have your time wasted by management who can’t bother to be on time. By being chronically, habitually late you are letting your staff know that a, you do not value their time or care about how much they have on their plates and b, you are struggling to manage your work. Neither is a great message to send to staff.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      The thing is a lot of these managers do not do this to their higher-ups, and only do it to their subordinates. Thus, they come across as looking wonderful to the c-suite. Meanwhile, their staff hates them.

  59. Sleepy*

    Am I the only one who assumes “poor time management skills” when I hear “70 hour workweek” + “always late”?

    For example, I work with someone who tries to come off as long/hardworking because she is the only one who answers emails on the weekend, for example, but when I see her talking all day in the office it seems like she’s actually just inefficient.

    I think OP needs to take a look at their time management as a whole and set priorities. The two issues may be linked.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I really hope OP is overestimating or thinking of their longest weeks when they say 70 hours. 70 hours is completely unreasonable. I’ve only seen it from staff who are traveling 24/7 and they were counting all the waiting-for-planes time or driving-to-distant-sites time, which at least allows for some kind of recharge.

    2. some dude*

      This has been my experience too. I mean, I have definitely had colleagues who worked long hours because they had way too much to do, but more often than not it is because they either take way too long to do things, or they lollygag during normal work hours and so end up having to do stuff after hours. I rarely have seen people who worked long hours whose work product was significantly better than someone who put in a normal amount of work.

  60. Oxford Comma*

    You might try thinking about your lateness in this way: you are eroding your political capital with your staff.

    Every time you are late to meetings without a legitimate reason, you’re sending the message to your team that you do not value their time. You are probably eating into their own work time and if you think they are resentful, you’re probably right. It’s a small thing, but the small things are often harder to bear than the big ones.

    Admittedly, I do not work in an environment where 70-hour weeks would fly, but I question how effective you are on a long-term basis with that kind of workload. Is that contributing to the lateness perhaps?

  61. drpuma*

    I am a recovering tardy person. The book “Never Be Late Again” by Diana DeLonzor changed my life. She breaks down the reasons people run late and gives very specific tips depending on your reason. Highly recommend.

  62. Malarkey01*

    This was my husband, and it took real effort to change because it was changing habits, expectations, and reframing the issue. A few things that helped:
    -He always crammed one more thing in because he felt like arriving 5 minute early to a meeting (or showing up 10 minutes early for a dinner reservation) was such a waste of really precious time. So setting up a few “back up” things he could do if he was early to the meeting/restaurant/school helped. He had articles on his phone to read, email drafts he could work on, etc. Then he didn’t get antsy if he didn’t perfectly schedule his time and found an extra 5 minutes.

    -accurate time expectations- this was the hardest. He assumed everything would only take 5 minutes, and then 25 minute later was shocked at the time. He started to actually kept a short list of activities and timed how long they really took. It was EYE opening and now when he starts something he thinks about how long it takes, and then takes a second to actually think “is that accurate or am I wishing/thinking best case scenario”?

    -at the beginning he relied on calendar reminders/alarms and was very diligent about it. If the alarm went off, he stood up and put his pen/keyboard down, and left. Allowing any snooze or let me just finish this sentence would spiral into a paragraph or a report. So it seemed really dramatic but he was retraining a very entrenched behavior.

    -He never considered it a respect issue, and he would be horrified to think he was actually being disrespectful, and it just came down to him really not thinking about what his “efficiency” was costing others. That came last though, breaking the bad habits allowed him to see how he was effecting others.

  63. AKchic*

    LW, there is so much I could say to you, and most of it would sound very confrontational and harsh… which is not in keeping with the rules, nor is it exactly where I want to go with this.
    I used to work exclusively non-profit. I still have my hands in a lot of non-profit pies. I come from a family of narcissists. Without fail, it has always been the narcissists or those with narcissistic tendencies that are the chronically late people. To say that I loathe chronically late people and time wasters would be an understatement. Whether you are doing it in a work setting or in your personal life, it has ripple effects. I could explain the effects it’s had on me, dealing with my mother who thinks of personal deadlines as suggestions (but work deadlines as something that should be early always so she looks good). Or my husband who’s mother has never seen a deadline she hasn’t trampled over. Or the countless other chronically late people who feel their contributions to whatever is just too great…
    Being chronically late affects not just the late person, but everyone. Stop being a rude walnut and get your life together. Therapy, alarms, delegation, whatever – just stop acting like you are the only important person in the world and that time revolves around you. I promise you, if you think people are talking, they are. At some point, they will stop depending on you because they can’t even count on you to be on time so how could they expect you to meet deadlines or be there when it matters in a time-sensitive emergency? You already silently tell people that your personal prioritization of your schedule matters above all and everyone else.

    Please work with someone to get this very bad habit under control.

  64. AnastasiaD*

    I had this problem for a long time and went to a therapist/coach to help me work on major procrastination issues that were impacting my work and family life. For my 2nd session, I was very late…almost half an hour. Yes, there was unexpected traffic but still.. he asked me to think about exactly when I MADE THE DECISION to be late. And somehow, that simple way of going back to the hour before I left the office, and the decisions I made, caused me to be late. While I still slip a bit with punctuality, thinking of it this way really made a difference in significantly reducing my tardiness.

    There’s all sorts of other tricks—making sure to plan for realistic travel time, don’t overschedule etc. But realizing that this was in MY control really helped.

    1. AKchic*

      That is how I frame it for my teens, too.

      I make a list of all of the things that need to be done before we need to leave for events. They know that we have things to do before we can actually get in the vehicle and drive away. They are asked to *help* get things going. At 15 and 17, instead of consulting the list (that they have known their whole lives is always on-hand and straightforward), they will sit on their butts on their cell phones and zone out rather than do anything because “well, you didn’t ask us to do anything in particular”. Um… no. I told you to check the list. You aren’t even dressed yet. I shouldn’t have to remind a 17 year old to get dressed before leaving the house. I shouldn’t have to remind a teenager to brush their teeth or put on deodorant, and that’s not even on the list. I shouldn’t have to point to the list after each task to remind you that a cooler needs to be put in the car, or that you’re going to want your charger or your own costume and props for this event. C’mon, don’t play this game.
      Part of it is ADHD on their part (diagnosed), but part of it is feigned helplessness. If they pretend that they don’t know what they are doing, they hope an adult will just do it for them while they play on their phones. Now we take away all electronics before we leave. They each get a pen and are told very explicitly that they have to look at the list and are still in charge of their own gear.

      Distractions of any kind have to be removed or they will sit and avoid the work.

  65. Shay*

    I don’t wait for late people … and I’ve found a consistent trait in people that are habitually late … an inability to prioritize (tasks, time, etc.).

    LW, please understand that you are not a stellar performer if you are chronically late, for all the reasons Alison highlights. Your message to those around you is, “You can wait, I am more important” and I hope that is not how you want to be perceived. Your boss may not care (oh, I bet Boss would really prefer you NOT do this) but everyone else is feeling annoyed and that doesn’t foster a positive work environment.

    Being on-time conveys interest, enthusiasm, and respect. And being on-time is easy … just start doing it and stop the ‘cramming.’ Pick your priorities; that ‘one more thing’ is not more important than the people sitting in a conference room that have made the effort to be present at the appointed time.

    You are abusing your standing to keep them waiting and the 70+ hours a week doesn’t make it not wrong.

  66. Jasmine*

    Chronic lateness was actually one of the reasons I split with my former business partner. No matter how many times I had the conversation with her, she could just never get it through her head how fundamentally disrespectful she was being of my time (or the time of anyone we were meeting together). And the number of times I had to make up excuses for her to potential clients… crazy.

  67. Delta Delta*

    Oh my. I suppose acknowledging there’s a problem is the first step. Step two would be to fix it (unlike with the Underpants Gnomes, where step 2 is unknown but step 3 is profits). You’ve signaled loud and clear to your staff and everyone around you they don’t matter. Saying, “but I”m busy!” is probably true, but it doesn’t help. It tends to show that nobody else’s busy-ness is important or of value.

    I’m a big fan of incentives for behavior modification. I was an early adopter of Fitbit and I got such a thrill when I got the 10,000 step buzz every day. I like apps where I get badges for achieving things. If it were me, and if I were looking to change this piece of my behavior, I’d figure out an incentive for myself. Maybe I’m not allowed to go out for coffee (or whatever other thing I like) unless I’m on time for meetings 3 days in a row. And then hold myself to it. And maybe enlist others to help hold my feet to the fire (if they’re willing).

    1. Delta Delta*

      Also, I’ll add that I’m a lawyer. I regularly appear before lots of different judges. One judge starts hearings exactly on time, regardless of whether all the parties are present or not. I love this judge for this so much that I could kiss her, except that would be entirely inappropriate. She’s been clear that she’ll start a hearing late if she knows someone is running late and the reason (bad weather, car accident, etc.). But otherwise, she just starts. I’ve had cases where hearings came and went entirely before the other lawyer showed up. When that person complained they didn’t get heard or didn’t get what they wanted, it’s really easy to say, “you were late.”

  68. Arts Akimbo*

    Are you my friend? Because I have a friend who is a classic “crammer” in the extreme. He can and will always find a million one-more-things to do before going anywhere with me, and boy is it frustrating. The worst was when we were taking a long car trip together and I had to leave my house and start driving at 3:00 A.M. in order to be at his house at the appointed time. We were going to leave at 8 A.M. sharp! No problem, I thought– I built in an hour leeway for him to be doing last minute stuff.

    Folks, he kept me waiting there in his house until 11!!! That’s three, maybe even four more hours of sleep I could have gotten. And the kicker? He still managed to find an errand to run on our way out of town.

    The disrespect I felt that day of my time, my sleep, my general health even, was next-level. We had a talk after that, and it has gotten better. But, OP1, please, please, please don’t be that person. That “one more thing” could be the straw that loses you someone’s respect.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        I would have, but I was by that time in no shape to drive the rest of the way! We were headed to a convention at which I was tabling, and it was probably a 15-hour haul from his house. Neatly trapped, I was! That contributed to how livid I was, for sure.

    1. Arts Akimbo*

      Oh, and he finally admitted to me during this conversation that he gets a rush out of trying to do as many things as possible and squeeze in JUST under the wire. That he doesn’t *mean* to do things that way, but he maybe kind of… does? Subconsciously? Because he feels that rush when everything works out.

    2. blink14*

      This reminds me of family road trips with an extended relative. When I was younger, that relative had to drive to my dad’s house, and was ALWAYS late by at least an hour, and then it took another hour to actually leave. When I graduated from college and moved, her town was on my way to my dad’s, so I would show up at least 30 minutes early and literally start chucking her stuff in the car. The last trip we went on together was a nightmare, I’m not sure my dad will ever do another trip with her again!

      Same thing when we were ready to go out to dinner, the grocery store, etc, while on vacation. She would consistently hold us up at least 30 minutes, usually an hour, and we started just leaving without her. SO annoying!

    3. Lynn Whitehat*

      I had some friends do this to me. We planned a kayaking trip, and they said I should be at their house at 6 AM. So I was, with my kid, my stuff all packed, my kayak tied down, etc. I got there and asked if there was anything I could do to help them. They hadn’t STARTED. They hadn’t eaten, hadn’t begun to pack, their kids were still asleep. I was LIVID. I could have slept for several more hours.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        Oh my gosh, I’d have flipped if I’d had my kid with me and this had happened!

  69. Ali A*

    It sounds like boundary setting and delegating should be at the forefront of OP’s mind. I am glad she recognizes the affect on morale it’s having.

  70. time for lunch*

    Alison! The LW asked for advice, not just confirmation that it is in fact rude. Now here we have the giant pile-on of early people all jumping up and down on the rudeness aspect. Completely predictable and it’ll be hundreds of comments that don’t help the LW at all.

    Lack of time awareness is a thing, and a lot of people have it, and it doesn’t mean that they are not thinking of others. They often feel terrible and need help fixing it. It’s not a moral flaw amonst someone like the LW who wants to stop; it’s usually a cognitive one.

    Thank you to those commenters who actually wrote in with tips! Ay-ya. Here are some more: consult cognitive behavior books that cover time awareness. Often these are for people with ADHD. It’s not for me to say whether you have that or anyhing else but if you have trouble with time awareness, this is a good place to look. Ari Tuckman writes a lot about this and his books are great. Get a watch and wear it if you don’t already. Set alerts and heed them. Time how long things actually take, like leaving the office, answering one more text right now, leaving your house, getting from A to B, stopping for coffee. Write down every task, every step, your estimate for how long it will take, and write down how long it actually takes.

    Another thing you may need to work on is impulse control. When you are about to be on time for a meeting but one more email comes in right then, you have to control the impulse to attend to it. See Ari Tuckman on this, too. These are just for starters. You likely need to learn a couple skills (time awareness, impulse control) that others do better at naturally. They think this should come naturally to you, too, and it doesn’t.

    YES, people experience it as rudeness that, and YES, that is legitimate. But just telling people they are being rude does not teach someone to be aware of time better, any more than telling someone not to bump into you in the dark can make you visible to them. It will just make them feel bad. And all the comments piling on about that are just making those commenters feel morally superior.

    I am sorry about the pile-on, and a little disappointed that it’s been invited/allowed. There was no advice in the answer, just “yes, you are rude.” Not helpful!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The advice is “you need to take this seriously and stop feeling it’s justified because it’s not.” There are zillions of websites out there with advice about how to stop being late. The issue here is that the OP isn’t convinced she really needs to, and no tips will matter until she changes her thinking on that. If she’d written in to say, “I know this is a problem and I’m having trouble figuring out how to tackle it,” that would have been a different letter and a different response. In this case, the lateness is stemming from her belief that it’s okay.

      1. Koala dreams*

        I’m curious why you think the belief is the cause of the lateness. If it was just being late for a few things, maybe, but when it’s everything, I think it’s more likely that the order is the reverse.
        More likely the order is:
        1. being unable to being in time for anything 2. then rationalizing why it’s not important
        instead of:
        1. thinking timeliness is unimportant 2. then being late for everything

    2. Bend & Snap*

      I don’t think you’re the one who needs to chastise everyone here for a warranted response to a letter, or apologize on behalf of the group.

    3. AKchic*

      Please don’t apologize on my behalf, especially when I didn’t ask you to. You are being very presumptive.

  71. Batgirl*

    OP, I am you from the future and I have learned to be on time.
    Some tips:
    -Try to keep meetings and absorbing projects separate from each other, if you struggle to tear yourself away from a task to go to a meeting. For exampke, you could have meetings with your team in the morning and then get stuck into your projects in the afternoon.
    -Schedule some pre-meeting time. Look over the notes, get a drink, get some connection time with the other early birds.
    – The road to hell is paved with long to do lists. I keep mine post-it length. Force yourself to prioritise correctly, keep regular hours and to schedule a good time of day to each task. The day is just as finite as the space on a post it and ‘One more thing’ will do nothing but ‘Dislodge Other Thing; the actual priority you had planned to do’
    -Bookmark. Sometimes when I have to be somewhere, but I’m right in the flow of a long-procrastinated project, I just can’t bear to leave it unfinished. What if I forget all these great ideas before I get back to it? Set yourself a ’15 minutes before you have to stop’alarm and then switch to a set number of bullet points of what you want to include and flesh out the rest later. (But only do this if you have a lot of buffer time and a ‘now you absolutely have to stop’ alarm set)

  72. LJackson*

    I worked for someone who called 7:00am Monday meetings (including consultants) and would habitually walk in late with a cup of Starbucks in his hand. It will s incredibly disrespectful to be late to meetings when you are an integral part of the content. And, if you are working 70 plus hour weeks you need to learn to delegate and bring up staff members to fill in the gaps.

  73. Jaid*

    Echoing just about everyone else, LW, you need cut out trying to do that “one more thing”. You fail at it and you make other people unhappy.

    Also, just what the heck are you DOING to be working 70 hours a week? Are you really that productive? Is your boss conflating hours spent working with actual quality work?

  74. Me*

    Pretend you work for you. Would you want you as an employee always being late? What would you tell that employee? They need to prioritize better? Delegate more? Let certain things go? Would you explain that trying to do one more things is just preventing a scheduled thing form getting done so actually you’re really accomplishing less?

  75. LQ*

    The most important thing to learn here is what kind of flexibility good performance earns you. (Even working 70 hours a week doesn’t earn you the right to show up 15 minutes late to a meeting.)

    I assume if you are somewhat senior you’ve gotten a lot of meetings added to your day. Part of it is rethinking how you manage your days. Block off half the day (the more productive for you half) for no meetings. Push all your meetings to the afternoon and recognize that you’ve already done your heads down cramming in work Work. Now the afternoon is for your relationship building (which is totally work that you aren’t doing great at because you’re behaving in a way that is absolutely perceived as disrespectful) Work. Shifting your mindset between these two kinds of things your doing may help you focus on what needs to be done. And accepting that you’re not going to sit down at your desk for 3 minutes and just knock out a quick email between meetings will help. Your last meeting ended 3 minutes early? Just go right to the next one. No stopping. Pull out your phone and shoot the email via phone if you want. But the important thing you are cramming in is the relationship you are building with the people you work with.

    Also 70 hours a week is too much.

  76. I'm A Little Teapot*

    OP, I, like pretty much everyone, know people who are chronically late. Both personally and professionally.

    Personally: either I give them a time that is before when I actually want them to to show up, or I don’t invite them. I have a friend who’s basically not a friend anymore because if I want to do anything with her, I have to plan that she will be an hour to hour and a half late. Yes, I get that she has small children. I also know plenty of other parents who manage to be generally on time. I frequently don’t want to have to deal with that hassle. I haven’t seen her in almost 2 years.

    Professionally: I haven’t recommended people for jobs that they’re otherwise qualified for because they are seemingly incapable of being on time, for anything and anyone. I know people who’ve been fired, passed over for promotion, or not given choice projects because no one wanted to deal with them always being late.

    It matters. Yes, it’s hard, but the long term cost of NOT addressing the root cause maybe far higher than to figure out how to fix it. And you may never know exactly how high that cost is.

  77. Free Meercats*

    Another way to look at meetings is the amount of money you’re costing your nonprofit in lost productivity. For every $100,000 annual salary sitting there waiting for your “one more thing”, you’re wasting ~$50/hour.
    So if there are 10 people waiting for you, and their average salary is $60,000, every minute you are late is flushing a $5 bill down the toilet.

    1. Me*

      Ooo I like this one. It makes the loss really concrete in a way that can’t be brushed off as more fuzzy “inconvenience”.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I like this as well. Granted, I’m someone who thinks about the “Unseen” money more than others, so it may not really motivate a lot of people. I would hope that in the penny-pinching non-profit world it would be a big blinking “fix yo-self” sign though.

  78. Observer*

    OP #1 – you’ve gotten some good responses and suggestions.

    But the key here is that you MUST change your attitude. Because, to be very honest and blunt, it’s a really, really bad attitude. I don’t care how stellar of a performer you are, no one has ever “earned the right” to be rude and disrespectful of people, even the people they manage. “Brilliant jerk” is not a good descriptor. Nor does it do people’s careers much good. Perhaps your boss will keep looking the other way, but the minute you want to move elsewhere, you’re likely to find yourself stymied – ESPECIALLY if you’ve done this to people outside your organization.

    If you are a crammer because you just have too much to do, then you need to find a different way to manage. And, with 70 hour workweeks, yes, you do need to find a way to reduce your workload. The problem is that it’s quite possible that the only way is going to be by leaving – but it’s going to be harder to do that because of the reputation you’re earning. And make no mistake, you ARE earning that reputation, whether anyone says anything to you or not.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I’ve started thinking of this as the (in my workplace) academic equivalent of how one treats waitstaff. Yes, you’re probably more important than I am, but you’re a H*ll of a lot better paid for your time than I am, and you still need me to do this task. If it’s not worth it to you to treat me decently, eat at h0me/do your own photocopying.

  79. agnes*

    This IS something you can change.

    And I hope you do. You are conveying to your team that your time is more important than theirs. Sometimes it is, but most of the time it isn’t.

  80. The Very Worst Wolf*

    I hope OP gets that we see their good intentions here. However…intentions just don’t cut it. Frustrations, disrespect, and pet peeves aside (not that they should be pushed aside), as a manager, it’s also important to consider the cost of the time you’re perpetually wasting. You can do some basic math here and see how the impact.

    If in a given week, you have people waiting for you an average of 10-minutes each, and it happens 60 times (gotta count each person in each meeting individually here), that’s 10 working hours gone per week and 520 working hours per year spent waiting on you. Consider the productivity loss from that perspective, and you’ll quickly see how expensive your ‘just one more things’ may be. Multiply it by avg hourly salary, and you’ll see the tens of thousands lost annually. It’s a little thing that isn’t really little at all.

    1. Lucy*

      A lot of responses have had variations on this and I’m hoping it will be the lightbulb for the LW.

      It is “just five minutes” when you stroll through the front door at 9.05am with a latte. It isn’t “just five minutes” when half a dozen people can’t start the meeting without you. That’s suddenly minimum 35 minutes and a bucket of goodwill.

  81. Nye*

    “Punctuality is the politeness of princes.”

    My partner is early to everything, and I am…not. He repeats this a lot. (It’s attributed to Louis XVIII.) I really like the sentiment, that no matter the power imbalance, being on time signals to those you’re meeting with that they (and their time) are important.

  82. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

    Oof, yeah, my last boss was like this and after a few months of it, it really began to grate on me. In addition to running late, she also habitually had meetings she was in charge of run over to an unreasonable degree (everyone on my team has had at least one one-on-one go for 2+ hours before). When I was new and learning and didn’t have a lot on my plate, I didn’t care, but once I had things to do and other meetings to attend, the lateness and running meetings over really began to scream, “I have no respect for your time, but you have to respect my schedule.” I don’t think it was intentional, but it certainly came across that way.

  83. Salamandrina*

    So I work at a facility that has a physically large campus, and despite a slow move towards virtual meetings, it’s still a very in-person meeting-heavy culture. I had (and still occasionally do) challenges balancing my desk-work with my meetings – there’s a fair amount of mental energy involved in spinning up a task, and its frustrating to have to switch gears quickly to go to meeting-mode for me.

    One of the things that was helpful was to look at those “just one more thing tasks” and see if I could block a significant chunk of time on my calendar to just do them – first thing in the morning, or late afternoon. I try to schedule “meeting heavy days” and “desk days” so I’m less compelled to try and cram things into the spaces between.

  84. Jules the First*

    Speaking up here on behalf of those of us with executive function issues that make it dang near impossible to show up on time for a meeting.

    I am late. Always. I am late for meetings with my team, for meetings with my peers, for meetings with those who are senior to me, for meetings with my boss, grandboss, his boss…I’m even late to meet the chairman.

    I’m not saying that this is the OP’s problem, but I would like to remind people that some of us literally cannot help it. We are not being rude or disrespectful of your time; we feel horrible, but we cannot change it (and yes, we have tried). Personally, I try to warn people that I will be late and my team knows to either come to a meeting with stuff to keep them busy for a few minutes or to come early and pick me up (which will mean waiting while I flap my way through disengaging and getting ready to leave for the meeting). I am open about it and it mostly hasn’t affected my career, but it still hurts to have the default assumption be that I am rude rather than disabled.

    1. Arts Akimbo*

      But you recognize that it’s annoying and aren’t trying to justify it as your right as a high performer. That’s the difference. People are much more likely to empathize with someone who, though late, actually seems apologetic and respectful of their time.

  85. Nanani*

    If you really genuinely cannot be on time to something, at LEAST let the people know to reschedule, or start without you, or whatever it might be ASAP.

    Automatic reminder pops up with “Meeting in 5 mins” and you’re still knee-deep in a higher priority thing?
    Contact the person you’d be leaving waiting and tell them you won’t be there. Do not optimistically try to finish the higher priority in 5 minutes, just send that text/email, get an assistant to deliver the message, whatever makes sense in your workplace.

    This also pairs well with delegation. Maybe you don’t need to attend every single meeting?

    1. Antilles*

      Letting people know would be a small improvement, but only a small one.
      Presumably, the staff members aren’t scheduling meetings with OP just because they like to sit in a conference room; it’s because they actually need OP’s advice/decision or want to make sure she’s informed. So just canceling the meeting five minutes before is still going to irritate me – it’s nice I’m not sitting in a conference room staring at the wall, but it doesn’t actually solve my work-related reason for wanting you at the meeting in the first place.

  86. Not that busy*

    I am a middle manager who reports up to an administrator. My boss is incredibly busy. I look at her calendar sometimes to see if she’ll be available for a quick conversation, and it gives me hives just looking at her schedule. I say this to note that she is Very Important and she shows up on time. On the occasion that she is unavoidably late, she calls or texts ahead and we wait for her to assemble and get started rather than sitting around wasting everyone’s time. She occasionally has to have her assistant reschedule our one-on-ones due to her crazy schedule, but she never assumes that I (or anyone) should expect to sit around waiting for her.

    On the other hand, two of my colleagues consistently show up 10-15 minutes late to manager meetings. They both laugh about always being late because they are so busy and meetings are a waste of time blah blah blah, and absolutely no one else thinks it’s funny. I can tell you they both have taken a hit to their professional reputation so I would implore OP to try to institute some habits that will help them show up to most meetings on time.

  87. RUKiddingMe*

    OP: Alison used some good words here… “rude, disrespectful, inconsiderate, I don’t care…” Let that sink in.

  88. Semprini!*

    We’ve already covered that and why being on time is important, we’ve already covered that, despite its importance, LW isn’t able to carry it off reliably, we’ve already covered that LW should work on doing so.

    So let’s look at things you can do in the interim, to mitigate the impact of your tardiness until you figure out a way to overcome it.

    It might be effective to assume you’re going to be late despite your best efforts, and focus in scheduling and arranging things so your chronic lateness doesn’t affect other people.

    For example, suppose your day is supposed to start at 9 and you don’t usually end up getting in until 10. Maybe don’t book any meetings until 11, so you’re already in the office well before the meeting starts.

    Sometimes it can be useful to book something “disposable” before the real obligation, for example “I’m going to get in at 9 and work on employee evaluations for 2 hours, then go to the meeting at 11!” So you show up later than intended, spend less time than planned on evaluations, but you’re already on site when it’s time for the meeting and you can finish the evaluations later in the day.

    As a horribly non-morning person (even into middle age I sleep like a teenager!), I’ve made a habit of finishing all my morning deadlines the night before. That way, if tomorrow ends up being one of those mornings when I’m not firing on all cylinders, everything anyone needs from me is already ready and waiting in their inbox. Perhaps this sort of approach might be extrapolable to your work, and there’s something you can do so your presence or absence at the beginning of the day will be irrelevant.

    An, in terms of optics, it might help to make sure you don’t leave the office at the end of the day until everyone who got there before you has left.

  89. JSPA*

    Not to diagnose, but ADD and OCD and some of the executive function disorders can have “fit that one more thing in” as a symptom (albeit apparently for different root causes). Even if you don’t want to get diagnosed nor medicated, there are some pretty good therapies and strategies designed for those disorders that the right sort of therapist can work through with you, that you might find helpful.

    Some as as seemingly simple as “strategies to tolerate and mindfully appreciate blank space in your schedule.” Which is…entirely different from simply scheduling blank space into your schedule. This is a case where short term therapy can have long term rewards, and would be money (and time!) well spent.

  90. Decima Dewey*

    I work with a lot of people who are late a lot. When Perpetually Late Guy calls and says he’s going to be here by 11:30, I know to expect a second call readjusting the time, and possibly a third. I grit my teeth, but I can roll with that.

    What bugs the crap out of me is my boss telling me he’ll meet with me in 15 minutes to go over stuff, and 20 minutes later he’s still at his desk. I’d rather he just said he needs to speak with me now and get the meeting or with.

    Or what happened last Friday: I had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon and I planned to come back to work. Before I left, he told me “I’m glad you’re coming back. Now I can take my lunch at the end of the day and leave at four.” Uh, I planned to come back because we have staffing issues. I didn’t plan to come back just so you can leave early for the weekend.

  91. JDS*

    Uhh. You don’t just happen to be late, you make the choice. It’s rude. Your phone, computer, car and watch all have the time displayed. You are choosing to be rude. Knock it off.

  92. Anon-Today*

    I’m much the same, though only in the morning. I have several tricks you may try:

    Look back on the thing(s) that held you back this morning, and decide 1) if those things are so important that they’re worth scheduling earlier in your morning routine or 2) those things aren’t important, in which case you need to remind yourself with a sticky note or cell phone alarm reminder.

    I have caught myself checking my work email at home while I’m putting on my earrings, which adds time to putting on my earrings. Even though I knew it was stupid, I felt like I had to be more productive at that moment. Now, I shut down my computer before I take my shower so I can’t be tempted by it.

    Some of the other things that speed me up are setting out clothes & packing a lunch. Also, having the same breakfast every morning.

    At work, my lateness is usually due to something that would be forgiveable, like going to the bathroom. If I show up, ask to be excused for a minute, then run to the ladies’ room, at least they know why I’m not there. Other times I apologize for taking a phone call or helping someone out. But only if it’s true!

  93. Noah*

    OP doesn’t say how late she is to meetings. I have a friend who used to describe herself this way. Then, one of our other friends who worked with her told us she’s typically about 5 minutes late to meetings and occasionally 5-10 minutes late. Nobody resented it because she was such a high performer, and she made everybody’s lives so much easier, and she was not very late. The real issue, for her, was that she thought five minutes late was a HUGE deal and nobody else cared at all because she was so awesome and, generally, five minutes late barely counts anyway. I suspect that a lot of high performers think five-minutes-late is a huge deal and nobody else they work with cares. LW could be one of those.

    1. LGC*


      That actually reminds me of our weekly status meeting (which…is usually our senior PM rambling on for 10 minutes about our smallest project, but I digress). I’ll still internally freak out if I don’t have materials ready in time (15 minutes beforehand, it takes 2 minutes to update and send) or if I need to run late.

      Meanwhile, two of the other supervisors walked in about 5 minutes late (to a 15 minute meeting). It happens every week at the same time. People invariably forget about it and often we have to call for reminders.

    2. LQ*

      This is really interesting. I think 5 minutes is a lot late. But I get really really annoyed when the first 5 minutes of a meeting are chit chat. I suppose it depends on your meeting culture. We have a start on time finish on time culture for the most part (my boss is the person most likely to break that rule and run over). Some chit chat, but normally more at the end of the meeting than the start (though that may be me imposing on the meetings). If you are a start 5-10 minutes late culture or a chitchat for 5-10 minutes meeting culture then it might not be such a big deal.

  94. Renee*

    My work is probably one of the few places where being early to a meeting is a definite no no. About 95% of our meetings are over the phone using Zoom, and since a huge number of people work from home, and a lot of our employees have back to back meetings so from 9am to 9:30am to 9:30am to 10am, and so on. What happens when someone calls in early to a meeting is they disrupt the meeting that is currently taking place, so people need to call in exactly when the meeting starts or afterwards. So being five minutes late isn’t an issue and is kind of expected, although being 10 minutes or more starts to push the envelope. So I guess meeting punctuality is really based off of company culture as far as whether it is okay to arrive early.

    1. Alianora*

      Unrelated to your main point, but can’t you use separate Zoom meetings, with different IDs? Unless you’re sharing devices it shouldn’t interrupt the next meeting if someone calls in early.

      1. Renee*

        Not for our company account, every person has one meeting ID, so if the meeting host is in another meeting when you punch in the meeting ID you get connected to the current meeting that is going on if you call in too early.

  95. Maya Elena*

    The exception of course is if you are a wizard, for ““a wizard is never late. Nor is he early; he arrives precisely when he means to.”

  96. Dinopigeon*

    I used to work with a PM who was habitually 5-10 min late to meetings, which was annoying enough. But if one of us was even 60 sec late, she’d give us a terse phone call asking where we were. It was abundantly clear she considered her time infinitely more valuable than ours, and you better believe it was resented.

  97. Novocastriart*

    Being too busy to pay attention to your commitments or your colleagues is just another form of laziness. You can’t be bothered scheduling your time properly, and rely on social niceties (like colleagues not hassling a latecomer) to avoid having to conform to any social norms (like being where you say you’ll be, when you agreed to be there). It sounds like you meet with people both above you and below you, on the org chart – and you can be sure they all notice the pattern, and loathe it.

    How can you change this habit? Pull. Your. Socks. Up. Just do it. Just think about the schedules of other people, for a millisecond, and ask yourself what the people you are holding up, are giving up to allow you the ‘flexibility’ you have ‘earned’.

  98. ..Kat..*

    My favorite is the manager who keeps me waiting for hours per week (and unable to do work during this time) and then wonders about my hours and lack of productivity. Rude and oblivious.

  99. L.T.*

    My boss at my previous job was the type to come into the office around 10 a.m. when the rest of staff had arrived around 8 a.m. And yeah, being a subordinate could be frustrating at times, because any decisions that had to be made would have to wait until she was in, adjusted, and “caught up” on what she needed to do (whether it was checking emails, etc.). On one hand, I was thankful to be in an office with such flexibility. On the other hand, she also was very disorganized, so by the time she was able to receive and digest new information, the day would’ve wound over and most of us would’ve been packing up to go home. And I don’t recall her ever being on time to meetings. Even my interviews with them involved me waiting- for instance I was waiting 36 minutes for my phone interview and roughly that amount of time for my in-person interview. While holding a full-time position, so it’s not like I was sitting on mounds of free time.

    I’m appreciative that LW is conscious about her behavior and is asking for advice. Good luck!

  100. nnn*

    It might also be worth thinking about whether this is the right role for you, and whether there might be other roles where your chronic lateness would be less relevant.

    For example, I stumbled into a position where I work primarily from home and have task deadlines but very few in-person obligations. Doing my work tasks is actually less complex from a project-management perspective than showing up on time and prepared – there are fewer task dependencies – so it’s practically effortless for me to be helpful and professional and meet every single one of my deadlines.

    And because in-person obligations are so rare, when they do come up I can give them my full attention in a way that wouldn’t be sustainable to do every day. For example, if I have an in-person appointment, I do literally nothing other than get ready for the appointment before the actual appointment. Because it comes up so rarely, I can avoid cramming in just one more thing because I did a bunch of things last night, and I’ll do more after the appointment.

    It might be worth looking into whether there’s something you can do (with your employer, or elsewhere in your industry, or elsewhere in your field of expertise) where showing up at a specific place and time doesn’t come up as frequently, so your struggle with this one particular aspect doesn’t affect people as much.

  101. Maggie*

    It’s takes just as much effort to be on time as it does to be late. All those last-second things you “must” do = effort. So really it’s more effort to be late. And every time you do those last-second things, you are making a CHOICE to do them – a choice to be late. You know by doing them you will be late. No one forces you. You aren’t unconscious. You aren’t sleepwalking. By abdicating responsibility for the problem of your tardiness, you don’t need to change. You want to be late and you want others not to be upset about it. The world doesn’t work like that. People don’t work like that. Give colleagues the respect they deserve; be one time and maybe they won’t think what a horrible co-worker you are, because that’s what they think now.

  102. Check out*

    I work in an organization where a senior person is always late to meetings and this requires us to repeat anything pertinent to his role that we have already discussed for his benefit. This is disrespectful of our time and frustrating. The meeting discussions before he shows up are wasting everyone’s time and we can’t wait because we never know when he will actually get there. I do resent it and hope you will try to change for your coworkers’ sake.

  103. Former Employee*

    “Now, I know myself and I have never been an early bird. I make attempts to do be on time/early, but they are generally short-lived. Plus, truth be told, I do feel like I’ve earned some flexibility given my level of productivity and performance.”

    I suggest switching this to something else and see how it sounds. Maybe something like: I’ve never been one who gives a bleep about people who are junior to me.

    Just a thought.

  104. Libretta*

    I had a boss whose schedule was so crammed full and so many people wanted to talk to him that it would be very easy for him to be late to everything. His solution (I think one of his admins came up with it) was to silence all phone notifications except meeting reminders. So his phone would ping in his shirt pocket 5 min before the end of the meeting, so everyone knew he had somewhere to be. It would continue to ping every two minutes until he silenced it, which he would not do until he reached the next meeting. We all knew how busy he was and that that little ping was the only thing that would free him up when you needed him. He was also very nice, kinda famous (in our field), and literally everyone there was there in part because of him. I think that matters as to why this did not come off as pretentious.

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