Unless you leave ridiculously early every morning, you'll eventually be late for work. Traffic happens, as do wardrobe malfunctions and flat tires. Even the most controlling boss will understand an occasional delay. When tardiness becomes a regular occurrence, however, you'll likely find yourself on the other end of a serious talk. When you've done everything you can and you're still running late, there are a few things you can do to minimize the damage.
Call as Soon as Possible
If you think you'll be at your desk by a few minutes after your designated start time, you may be fine unless you're needed to answer phones or relieve someone else. As soon as it becomes apparent that you'll arrive more than a few minutes late, however, you should put in a call to your boss to warn him or her about the delay.
Once you've put that call in, try not to stress out. There's only so much you can do to get from Point A to Point B, especially if traffic is your obstacle. Stop obsessively staring at the clock and try to do something that relaxes you. If you allow your late arrival to spoil your mood for the day, you'll be less productive when you do finally get to your desk.
Make Sure Your Work Is Covered
Making a phone call to your boss is only the beginning. If your job relies on you being at your desk at a designated time, contact one of your coworkers to cover for you. If you have an important report or project due, see if someone else can help you out. Your boss will be impressed that you were able to keep things moving even when you were delayed.
When you're finally at your desk, put in extra time to make up for your tardiness. This may mean working through lunch or staying an hour late. Make sure your work gets done in spite of your lateness and your boss is likely to be more forgiving.
Follow Through on Promises
If your late arrival goes beyond a few minutes, head straight to your boss's office and apologize in person for being late. Try to avoid giving excuses and instead focus on what you plan to do to keep this from happening in the future. If it means leaving a half an hour early every day to beat your town's unpredictable traffic, let the boss know you fully plan to do that.
After you've made those promises, take extra effort to keep them. Make sure your one-time late arrival is just that. Be consistently on time, day after day, week after week, and an occasional traffic snafu will likely be overlooked.
Get to Work
It can be tempting to rush into work, sharing your harrowing morning with your coworkers. All this may do however is disrupt the workplace and call attention to the fact that you were late. Instead, breeze through the door and wish your coworkers a good morning. Then jump right into work.
That said, don't assume that your coworkers don't notice your late arrival, especially if it happens on a regular basis. Even if your boss seems unfazed by your lack of reliability, those around you may start to feel resentful. Your boss may even have given you permission to work late to make up for it on the occasions you're late, but your coworkers may not know that. In time, they may start to treat you differently and even complain to your boss about your behavior.
Nobody plans to be late for work, but it happens to the best of us. If you make it an exception instead of a rule, your boss will likely understand and be more lenient when it does happen. The best you can often do is let your boss know ahead of time that you'll be late and do your best to make sure your work is covered.