You don’t have to resign like Lord Michael Bates, but tardiness does have consequences. Here’s how to avoid them.
Don’t quit while you’re behind.
When British Lord Michael Bates arrived a few minutes late to a debate on Wednesday, he shocked the House of Lords when he tendered his resignation just because he was tardy.
“I am thoroughly ashamed at not being in my place and therefore I shall be offering my resignation to the prime minister … with immediate effect,” he said – before turning around and walking out. He was booed as he left. And his sorry display was so extra that Prime Minister Theresa May refused to accept his departure because, “this was unnecessary.”
She can say that again. There’s no such thing as “fashionably late” in the workplace, but it doesn’t have to be a career ender.
It is unacceptable to make this a habit, however. A number of celebs have struggled to get to work on time, and the consequences were rough. Lauryn Hill arrived three hours late to her own concert in Pittsburgh earlier this year and fans lashed out.
I've been waiting for Lauryn hill to come on stage for almost 3 hours. She has yet to come out. I'm beyond angry.
— Anthony (@TheTrapSelena_) February 1, 2017
In late 2015, Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin was late to his team’s morning practice after mixing up “a.m.” and “p.m.” on his alarm clock; he was forbidden from playing in that night’s game and his team got trounced. And Vin Diesel’s famous feud with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson began on the set of Fast 8 after Diesel was continuously late, and The Rock wasn’t having it.
Non-celebs also get punished for tardiness. According to CareerBuilder.com, 53% of employers expect their employees to be on time every day, and 41% have fired someone for being late. The excuses are about as bad as you might think. While traffic can be blamed for 49% of late arrivals, oversleeping accounts for 32%, tiredness 25%, and procrastination 17%.
So what should you do if you’re running late to work?
- Pick up the phone and call. The worst thing you can do, career experts agree, is try to tiptoe in without being noticed. Instead, call your boss to let them know you’ll be late, says Tim Toterhi, founder and executive coach of Plotline Leadership. Leave a message if they’re not in yet, and reach out by text or email as well if you couldn’t speak to them. How late is too late? If it’s a regular work day and you won’t be noticed, call if you’ll be more than ten minutes late (but be prepared to justify your tardiness if your boss asks), says Celia Ward-Wallace, certified life and business coach and co-founder of financial education company Sacred CEO Association. If you are expected to be in a meeting, she says, even a few minutes’ lateness warrants a call.
- Be clear, humble, and brief. Early, clear communication with your boss about why you’re late, what time you’ll arrive and how you’ll make up the lost time is the most important thing to do, says Ward-Wallace. It’s also important to apologize for the tardiness, says Katie Bennett, career coach and co-founder of Ama la Vida coaching. But keep your explanation to the point. One trick: When figuring out your ETA, leave wiggle room. “I like to add a bit of extra time to when I think I’m going to be in, so it looks good when I come in earlier than that,” says Judy Garfinkel, career coach at Move Into Change. And if your situation ends up being worse than you anticipated, “at least you’ve given yourself a cushion.”
- Offer to work remotely, if you can. Once your boss is informed, see if there’s any way you can help your team from the bus or subway. If you’re going to miss a meeting, you should try to participate over the phone, says Bennett. “If you’re leading the meeting, it’s not a great idea, but if someone else is leading it, calling in can be a great way not to miss out.” But mute yourself when you’re not talking, so your background noise doesn’t distract your colleagues. And of course, make sure you’re not on the phone or texting while you drive.
And of course, don’t let this keep happening. “You have to plan ahead. Barring some kind of emergency, it’s going to take you the same amount of time to get to work every day. You have to leave extra time for anything that could happen,” says Cheryl Palmer, career coach and owner of Call to Career.
This story was originally published on June 30, 2017 and has been updated with Lord Michael Bates’ attempted resignation.
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