My resolution for 2009 is to reduce significantly the amount of time I spend waiting for other people. I always arrive punctually at internal meetings and am enraged to have to wait five or 10 minutes until my colleagues roll up. When I go to external meetings I am sometimes left waiting in reception until my host is ready to see me or, worse still, am made to wait for guests at restaurants. I could,of course, simply opt to be 10 minutes late for everything myself. However, this goes against the grain as I believe punctuality is a virtue. Are there any alternative ways of encouraging others to be as punctual as I am myself?
Manager, male, 51
On January 1, people resolve to change their behaviour, in spite of the fact that such resolutions hardly ever stick for more than a day or two. You have wisely skipped this stage and are resolving to change others instead. The popular belief is that changing others is harder than changing yourself, but this isn’t true – at least it isn’t if you are the boss.
Punctuality is about power, and if you are in a position of power over your colleagues it should be perfectly possible to get them to show up on time.
You simply make sure the meeting starts promptly, and that the door is then firmly closed – or, better still, locked. Latecomers will have to knock and be admitted in disgrace. You can make a big deal of every late arrival, and say in the most schoolmasterly fashion “so kind of you to drop in” or similar. That should do the trick.
However, if you are not the boss, you can do whatever you like and it will not have the slightest effect. Punctuality, or lack of it, is deep-seated. I have a friend who is so terminally late for things he even missed his own wedding.
Whereas I am like you: consitutionally incapable of being even 30 seconds late and enraged by a lack of punctuality in others. I have experimented with being five minutes late, but found it so stressful it wasn’t worth it. I have also tried making the other party feel bad by saying “what kept you?” or by looking at my watch and sighing. Mostly this makes me feel petty, so it isn’t the answer either.
The only way out is to arrange fewer meetings. This way one saves not only the time one would have wasted waiting, but the time in having the meeting too, leaving one free to get some work done instead.