Everyday Ethics

Everyday Ethics

Habitual Lateness: An Ethical Or Etiquette Issue?

We all have that one friend or family member who’s guilty–they say they’ll meet you for dinner at a quarter to seven, and seven-thirty rolls around before you catch a glimpse of their apologetic face. No matter how often you glance irritably at your watch as they breeze in, no matter how obviously it irks you, they simply cannot be on time.

If you don’t have that friend or relative, you probably are that friend or relative.
What gives? And why does it matter?

I consider this a (minor) ethical issue. Abusing your friends’, family’s or co-workers’ time and patience is a discourtesy that really should not stand. Of course, there are exceptions. If you’re a few minutes late once in a while, no biggie, but what about those folks who are regularly 10, 20, even 30 minutes or more tardy every time you arrange to see them? They leave you standing outside of restaurants in the cold, idling in cars in their front yards, make you think they’re standing you up for dates, and all around show you their low regard for your valuable time.

I’ve been guilty of tardiness a time or two, but being someone who can’t be counted upon, someone who shows such slight regard for others’ feelings–well, they deserve a wag of my sanctimonious finger. Punctuality is a sign of a thoughtful, organized person. Lateness shows frantic last-minute hurry; it reflects ill on your capabilities. Whatever the cause–anxiety, poor time management skills, procrastination, failure to prioritize–the solution is courtesy and respect for others.
What do you do if you have a friend who is habitually tardy? I say you have to spell it out for them–it’s unacceptable, a slap in the face, and you aren’t going to take it anymore. It’s that, or start lying about what time you’re really meeting, and why should you have to play that game? 
To sum up, fashionably late is hopelessly out of date.
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posted November 14, 2009 at 10:30 am

If I might, I’d like to add another level of thought to the habitual lateness problem. I have had to learn the hard way that the way I treat my time (and others’ time) is a sign of my integrity and respect for them. If I’m constantly late, without making any effort to notify whoever’s waiting for me (regardless of who it is), I’m indirectly telling them, “Your time doesn’t matter. I’m going to do whatever I dang well please, and you’re just going to have to wait for me”.
Rather, making the effort to be on time tells the other person that I’m making the effort to keep my word, and honor the time they’ve set aside for me. I’ve learned to call ahead, even if I’m running five minutes late, that way the person knows. It’s just the courteous thing to do. And I’ve also learned to plan my time so that the risk of lateness is minimized. (Using mass transit has forced me to become a better time manager!) If I know that I need to be in a certain place at a certain time, I will try to plan my time around that, and make sure that I’m running early as often as possible, so that I know I’m not running the risk of lateness. Habitual lateness is a big “F-you” to others, and should be avoided.

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posted November 15, 2009 at 11:50 am

This was a frustration in our family. One daughter would be 30 minutes or more late, even for Christmas Eve dinner. This dinner is a biggie in our family with seven or more courses. We postponed dinner one year – she was just having trouble getting her act together. We postponed a second year (we’re slow learners) and served the food late and overcooked or barely warm.
The third year, we announced that appetizers would be served at 6:00. Soup at 6:20. First course at 6:30. Anyone who was present would enjoy them. Anyone late could join us where we were.
The daughter has never been late again.

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posted November 21, 2014 at 12:42 am

I am habitually late. I don’t disagree that my problem may be that I have poor time management skills, that I procrastinate or I’m disorganized, but since when is “…respect for others a solution to anxiety, poor time management skills, procrastination and failure to prioritize”. You should really get your facts right before you attempt your next article.

People who are habitually late have a serious and genuine problem that causes real anxiety whether others realize it or not. Lateness is not a conscious choice that late-comers make based on their level of respect for the person waiting.

I don’t mind whether people are late. I don’t view it as a slap in the face, a sign of disrespect or as an ‘f-you’. I show concern for the late-comer and hope they’re OK and nothing terrible has happened.

Maybe all those people who are left waiting need not think only of themselves, but think of the person they are waiting for and what they may be going through.

Your article shows a desperate lack of understanding, and let me tell you from a place of deep knowledge, your criticism only perpetuates the lateness problem as it deepens our anxiety.

Obviously you’re an angry woman. Perhaps you should think about how your anger affects the people who are reading your articles – because using your logic, you clearly have no respect for your readers.

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posted November 21, 2014 at 12:47 am

As a result of your article I will NEVER go to this website again.

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posted July 8, 2015 at 11:22 am

Daniela Ristoska sounds like a very angry woman. What a shame.

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sarah cole

posted December 4, 2015 at 1:10 pm

My sister is late virtually all the time. Whether it is a casual “I’ll be ready at 10:00″, or an appointment (set several weeks in advance) with a dentist. There has been many times that an entire room full of people are waiting for her to get herself ready. I’m sorry but I have to agree with the writer of the article and the others who commented even more strongly about how disrespectful being habitually late is. What it says to me is “my time is more important than yours”. That may not be a conscious thought, but I believe that’s exactly what it is. I suspect that the people who were deeply offended by the article are very likely habitually late, and feel that it is never their fault.

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