Sunday, March 13, 2022

On Chronic Lateness

Lateness is a signal

Here's a rule for you.  If someone is late, the first time accept their excuse.  They will always have one.  If they are late a second time, it becomes a red flag.  Start watching for personality flaws.  If someone is late a third time, cut them loose.  No exceptions.

And note, I do not mean three times in a row.  I mean three times over a lifetime.  Sound harsh?  Well, let me tell you what is worse:  Dealing with someone's chronic lateness over that same lifetime.  Remember, it's your lifetime we're talking about.  Surely you have better things to do than sit around waiting on someone else.

People are chronically late for one primary reason:  Deep down, they believe that their time is more valuable than your time. Period. This is why your doctor is always late. But it is also why your friend/co-worker/client/vendor is always late. You just have to decide how much you are willing to put up with Because it will not end.

Chronic lateness is a signal of a deeper personality issue. Most often narcissism. The lateness is bad enough, but the personality flaw will show up in everything they do and everything they touch. Just to take one example. If your real estate broker is a narcissist, and many of them are, their negotiation skills will be extremely poor. But of course, these people actually believe they are the world's best negotiators. And they're happy to tell you so.

I learned long ago to cut toxic people out of my life, and certainly out of my business. And sure, people can be toxic for a variety of reasons. But one thing I noticed is that the toxic often suffer from some degree of narcissism. The narcissist loves nothing more than keeping other people waiting. Lateness is a signal. Spare yourself. Cut them loose quickly.

Now, will this rule sometimes backfire? Sure, you will apply the chronic lateness rule to some people who otherwise would be beneficial for you. The question is, what are the odds? And how much of your life are you willing to waste to find that one in a thousand?

Lateness as a cultural norm

Now what about the argument we often hear, that lateness is a cultural phenomenon? That is, some cultures do not value punctuality as much as others. And this somehow means that we should be more accepting of their rudeness.

Which cultures? Well I most often hear Latin America.

But I'm not buying it. Why? Because I have noticed that the people in those cultures who actually get things done are not late. They do not suffer from this cultural affliction.

Brief story. I once had a client who was the recently retired CEO of one of the largest food companies in Mexico. Americans may not know the corporation by name. But they would know it by its brands. They are the market leader in their categories and can be found in every supermarket in America. The man was never late. In fact, early on I noticed that, just like me, punctuality was extremely important to him.

Anyway, it made me question the cultural norm argument. Sure, perhaps many people in some cultures are more elastic with time that I am. But not all of them. And certainly not the ones I choose to deal with.

One other point on the cultural thing. The countries that care the least about punctuality? They are the poorest countries in the world. The countries that care the most? Switzerland, Britain, Germany, Holland, Japan, the Scandinavians; they are the richest. No doubt there are other cultural factors at play. But again, lateness is a signal.

Be on time.

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