Tardiness is rampant in the workplace. 2014 research by YouGov found that, while nearly half of Americans are never late for work, nearly one fifth (19 percent) arrive late for work at least once a week.
In an ideal world, everyone would arrive promptly to work and work activities. There are, no doubt, many good reasons for being on time for work. It's annoying and unproductive when our valuable time is wasted waiting for employees to arrive at meetings.
Despite your valiant attempts to confront perpetually late co-workers and cure chronic lateness, you've probably been less than successful. It's not all your fault. There are psychological reasons to explain why people are perpetually tardy. Some people are hard-wired to show up late. And we shouldn't be so quick to fault them. Research has shown that chronically late employees possess three highly desirable traits:
According to Diana DeLonzor, author of Never Be Late Again, individuals who are perpetually late tend to be more optimistic. As optimists, latecomers are likely to look at the bright side of things. They are inclined to think they have more time on their hands than they actually do.
Optimism is a highly desirable trait in the workplace. Optimists tend to be more resilient and better able to confront obstacles. There's a strong correlation between optimism and success. Research by the University of Pennsylvania's Martin Seligman, as outlined in his book "Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life", found that sales professionals who are optimistic outperform others by 37 percent.
In 2001, Jeff Conte, a professor at San Diego State University, conducted a study to measure the effects of personality traits on time perception. He asked participants to assess how long they thought it would take 60 seconds to elapse. Participants who exhibited "type A" traits (traits like ambition and competitiveness) guessed an average of 58 seconds, whereas participants who exhibited "type B" traits (traits like creativity and reflectiveness) guessed an average of 77 seconds.
According to research, creative individuals aren't adept at filtering out distraction. Their mind moves freely from one idea to another without constraint. While this proclivity spurs creativity, it also causes their minds to wander from calendar invitations and show up late to commitments.
3. Low levels of neuroticism
Some highly punctual people express anxiety about being late. Being late feels unsafe and results in stress. Psychologists conjecture that when individuals exhibit anxiety about being late, there's something deeper going on--they are experiencing anxiety about life in general. According to a 2006 study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, habitually punctual people exhibit higher levels of neuroticism.
Neuroticism can be toxic to the workplace. Neurotic people are more likely to be moody and experience depression. Neurotic people also earn less money than others.
There's no doubt that chronic lateness can be a toxic force in the workplace, wreaking havoc on a company's bottom line and on employee morale. But, we shouldn't be so swift to dismiss individuals who are chronically late as inferior. It turns out that chronic lateness may not be such a bad thing. It's easy to play the blame game. But latecomers are typically not trying to be rude or inconsiderate in wasting your time. They're genetically wired to de-prioritize punctuality. Leaders should take the time to consider their unique traits. Try coaching, implementing more flexible work arrangements, and motivational tactics before you scold latecomers.