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Is it reasonable to expect others to be on time?

Yes, it is very reasonable…and others should expect it of me as well.

I recently read an interesting article called 6-1/2 Things You Should Stop Expecting From Others. It was an interesting piece and I agreed with much of what was suggested, except #2: Stop Expecting People To Be On Time.

I don’t buy this. Not even close. Never did and never will. The article suggests bringing a book to read while you wait for the tardy party. That’s nonsense. I will read a book on the beach, or when I chose to. I do expect people to be on time, and they should expect me to be on time. Time is the most valuable commodity we each have in life. I do not appreciate anyone wasting my time.

I realize that in today’s world there are always extenuating circumstances. Clearly the overturned tractor trailer on the expressway, the closed highway, the delayed plane, etc. are all legit excuses. And if truly infrequent, these are not biggees and are hardly crimes against humanity.

But let’s be clear—an excuse and a result are not the same. (More on this personal philosophy in a future Struming). When somebody makes a time commitment to be someplace, do something, etc at a specific time, their credibility is at stake. And not delivering at the appointed time, particularly when they do so frequently, diminishes my respect for them. Why? Because they in essence they are saying, “My time is more valuable than yours, so if I am late, it doesn’t matter—you can wait”. Who are you to waste my time, the Queen of Sheeba? You know the type—they blow in tardy to a meeting or event in a huff and then expect everyone to have sympathy for their plight. No sympathy from me when you do this all the time.

In business when I ran two different ad agencies, I used to literally create fines for tardiness to meetings. We’d throw the fine money in a jar and donate it at some point to a worthy charity. The purpose was to highlight our collective responsibilities to each other. When a meeting with 8 people starts 10 minutes late—you’ve wasted 80 minutes not just 10. I am human—we all are. No one is 100% prompt and there were times when I paid the fine. I was embarrassed when this happened. Being on-time is about anticipating the unexpected and allowing extra time as a result. When you cut the time to the last second, and then blame it on others, it’s a joke.

I’ve been know to say when one needs to travel that you should “travel like mensch”. That means leave yourself some wiggle room for getting lost, extra traffic and get there early. That’s OK. Don’t cut it to the last second and be surprised when some “unexpected” occurrence makes you tardy. You should expect traffic on the George Washington Bridge (even without our Guv’s helping hand) or Schuylkill Expressway, and not be surprised by it.  And if because of truly extenuating circumstances you are going to be tardy, tell the other party in advance so they know it.

Stop Expecting People To Be On Time? No way.




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10 Comments

  1. I completely, respectfully disagree. I’m perpetually on time, and have spent so much of my life waiting for others who aren’t. It used to make me nuts, rile me up, and I can feel your anger and indignation on the page! But the problem is THE EXPECTATION. If you stop EXPECTING things to go perfectly, then you can deal with it. Bringing a book to read is precisely how I cope with doctors who keep me waiting and friends who are caught in traffic because they left too late. Expectations will kill ya.

  2. Lonny Strum says:

    Always appreciate your comments Kelly. I don’t expect things to go perfectly. We all know life is not perfect. And surely there are plenty of times when tardiness is easily explained. But when someone is late all the time it merely says they don’t really care about the time of others. It isn’t cute or forgetful, it’s just rude. Reading a book in a doctor’s office is fine because I expect down time. But I can’t compromise my expectations of timeliness. Because I expect it of myself. If it kills me, so be it. Then I’ll have nothing but time on my hands. How’s our reunion planning going?

  3. Rick says:

    Couldn’t agree more! It’s a VERY reasonable expectation to have and for others to have of you. Time is truly our most valuable asset and when we’re out of it we’re out of it… Period! If we start making excuses for those that habitually waste our precious time then where do the excuses stop?

  4. Morris says:

    I agree with both of you! We can not control whether the other person is on time so we can not worry about it or let it make us upset. However, we can and should be explicit with the person that we expect them to be on time and that we feel they do not value our time together when they are not on time.

  5. In the USA I know its best to be on time. In Mexico a 10-15 minute leeway for a business appointment is acceptable. Still, I always call ahead even if I know I will be 5 minutes late, it builds trust at an early stage even though its totally unnecessary. At a dinner party it is rude to show up on time. Usually guests arrive 30-60 minutes late. Its OK.

  6. Lonny,

    100% agree with you. I grew up fast working in the restaurant business, and that teaches you time management skills. I’m a PGA Professional, and years of conducting private coaching sessions as well as playing in tournaments taught me never to be late.

    Does “tardy” happen? Of course it does, as you lay out in your writing. I live in the Philly metro area and if I’m going to Center City, I give myself 45 minutes extra on top of my 20 minute cushion, that’s just how I’m wired.

    Being on time is a courtesy lost for many in business, and it’s a shame. Whether online with Skype or GoToMeeting to a face to face, being on time and “doing what you say you’re going to do” isn’t just polite, it’s the right thing to do.

    Nice post, Lonny. Good question to answer.

  7. Pat says:

    I live in LA – where being late can always be blamed on the traffic. I also think that there is a culture here that seems to think that it is OK to be late and if you have a problem with that, it is because you are uptight.

    I am never late because I am a professional and I allow time for traffic upsets etc. When a client is late more than once, I stop doing business with them. I never let on that it is because of their tardiness. I don’t want to be characterized as being uptight. I just don’t want some fool wasting my time.

  8. Michael Fernandez says:

    For an interview–NO. Prepare and give yourself time so you don’t show up frazzled with excuses. If you get there too early, hang out and bum a cig. that you supposedly gave up. Then breath mint and water.

    For work- depends. Most places I have worked do a 9-9:30 show time.
    I believe on being on time and am usually the first or second one in. Just my body schedule. BUT–I also live in NYC and subways have a life of there own.
    So I always give myself time for screw ups. I leave at the exact time every day. sometimes I am early, sometimes on time, sometimes late. An employer in this town will except the occasional late due to transport as they also use it. But a constant excuse about traffic, Public transport, etc can run thin

  9. Cindy says:

    Being late in not acceptable and should never become acceptable. It is disrespectful to others. We can all have a million excuses if we want them, but the bottom line is plan backwards and give yourself a 15 minute cushion. Late in business is the kiss of death, to me. If you are late for the appointment, that is like a written invitation to your competition to sneak in and take over.

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