Being Late Can Be Expensive

Young businessman running in a city street. He is late - being late can be expensive.

Excuses, excuses and more excuses for being late

Being late can be expensive for you. It can be very expensive. If you’re a serial offender you need to get a grip.

Is this a typical scenario for you?

You’re a little late for a business meeting but it should be okay, right? It is only a few minutes and besides it was not really your fault was it? The traffic was worse than you expected, that last e-mail was important and the people you are meeting are normally laid back and friendly so they will probably cut you some slack for being late. The meeting can start without you and you can quickly get up to speed, right? You’re not hurting anyone, are you?

Being late is totally excusable, right?

Don’t be so sure. You are playing with fire in terms of emotional triggers.

Business people are busy people. I’m a busy business person. We have to make rapid and often automatic decisions about the world in general and the people we interact with in order to stay sane and make sense of the world. Everybody does this.

We put great store in first impressions. You need to make your first impression a good one. Being late doesn’t do this.

This is basic emotional intelligence at work. Understanding yourself and regulating your behaviour in order to manage your relationships with others.

Being late never hurt anyone, did it?

You’ll find it does often hurt someone very near and dear. Being late hurts you. Being late can be expensive.

It would be nice to suppose that first impressions are formed by a person analysing all parameters in any given situation then making a rational and intellectual front of brain decision about the meaning and next steps. Perhaps the process might follow this route: “My appointment is late so I will check the internet and determine if there are potential traffic problems. Perhaps a flat tyre or important family matter? I’m sure there will be a good reason for it and I will happily bide my time in order to find out what they have to offer me once they get here. I’m sure the other people here will reach the same conclusion.”

Yeah, right! Here’s why being late can be so expensive

It would be nice but in the real world it does not often happen like this at all. That’s why being late can be expensive.

All first impressions are formed in our emotionally driven limbic systems. A summary report gets sent higher only after being screened as safe and acceptable first. The generation of first impressions happen fast and they have durability too. Whether good or bad, this summary report lodges in the limbic system. It is hard to get it rewritten once it is in there.

These brain systems are sometimes not very sophisticated but they are there to protect us and they do a good job. The amygdalae are the seat of the flight or fight response amongst other things. They check for danger or existential threats. The limbic system’s largely automatic and habitual mission is also to prevent us wasting time and resources and to stop us using up valuable higher processing functions when they feel we do not have to. They seeks out potential threats triggers to protect us.

For people who value and respect their own time, meeting someone who has a different view of time is just such a threat trigger. Someone who is late is perceived as a threat. Someone who is late equates to someone who will likely waste valuable resources. The negative report gets sent; it carries a lot of weight and it endures. Other people have these defences too, so you need to work hard to create good first impressions yourself. Being late can be expensive.

We all have our values and decision making shortcuts

I am a very busy business person and I place great store in punctuality. Timeliness is a key measure in determining whether I will actually work with someone or not. Being late does not make a good first impression. Time respect is one of my key values. I will do everything in my power to ensure I arrive at places ahead of time in. I do this to fully prepare and provide a professional first impression. It is important to me that others to do the same.

Being late indicates a number of fundamental things to me: A lack of care for self and others, a chaotic and disorganised approach to life, untrustworthiness, disrespect, unreliability and even arrogance. The list could and does go on. I do not want to work with people who exhibit these traits no matter what they have to offer. This will cost them money and gain them a poor reputation. If you do this it will be costing you money. Would I refer you to others? Unlikely. Being late can be expensive.

Am I right or am I wrong on how being late can be expensive?

Am I actually right about that person? Perhaps not, but it does not matter. I simply do not have the time or energy to apply my logical neo-cortex or my patience to the issue. Am I cutting off my nose to spite my face? Maybe I am, but my limbic brain has detected the threat and sent the report and that is what I have to go on. These are my perceptions and, as for all humans, perception is reality. I have to make fast decisions in order to be successful and I am not alone.

Now, we cannot help events which are truly out of our hands. You may be in mortal peril and unable to contact me. The trouble is I don’t know and I probably don’t care. Inform me of your time status if you can and as early as you can. Better to have the meeting rescheduled than have you show up late. I can then do something more productive with my time. We have mobile phones now and you must at least have written my number down as part of your preparation. I’ll say it again, being late can be expensive so work smart and be early.

Being aggressively late can be very expensive

Some people use lateness as an Alpha-style power play. They feel it elevates their status in some way and therefore lowers mine. I tend to walk away (sometimes literally) from these people and leave them to it because there are plenty of business people out there who are both punctual and a genuine pleasure to deal with. Being late can be very expensive if people are activelly avoiding you.

When I feel a person has respected my time, I tend to respect them far more. When they don’t, I don’t.

We probably all know at least one person who is chronically late all the time. They would be late for their own funeral as the old saying goes. They are more than likely beyond help in this regard. If this is you then, at least in terms of getting my attention, you are probably beyond help too.

Is there hope for you?

If you are only late now and again then there is always hope. Get a grip and take control of your approach to time. Get coaching if it helps. At least get a good alarm clock. Even if it goes against your normal preference, you must show others you can respect their time if not your own. If you do not, it could cost you far more than you think.

You are sending behavioural messages all the time, so send good ones whenever possible. What other poor first impressions might you be making? What do you look for when you meet someone for the first time and why? Being late can be expensive.

That is all for this one

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In the meantime, you might also like to check out these related articles:

Values matter

Emotional Triggers

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