It's pretty much a given that we all know someone who seems incapable of showing up on time, to anything, ever -- someone who has no apparent insight into the difference between being fashionably late and unacceptably late. It could even be you. Awkward. 

Or is it?

For all the shame and blame that's poured onto the perpetually tardy among us, there are actually some reasons to believe that punctuality isn't all it's cracked up to be. What's that? Can't answer opportunity's knock if you don't show up to the door in a timely fashion, you say? Logical, but bear with me, here -- I'm no clock-smashing, time-hating anarchist. But is being late really the end of the world? After all:

Those who are late are eternal optimists

My colleague, Wanda, already shared insights contending that late people are actually more successful than their punctual counterparts for this very reason. Dubious as it may sound, there's an interesting thought process at work here.

People who are chronically late are believers. They really think that they can grab a coffee, stop by to pick up the dry-cleaning, take the scenic route, and still make it to the office in time for that early-morning meeting. San Diego State University researchers also found that those who are late are also better at multi-tasking and coping with stress.

A high level of optimism and a balanced emotional view can be so meaningful that it can increase your lifespan, which is supported by a study from Harvard Medical School. The study asserts, 

"Even more impressive is the impact of a positive outlook on overall health and longevity. Research tells us that an optimistic outlook early in life can predict better health and a lower rate of death during follow-up periods of 15 to 40 years."

There's no question that our mental outlook affects the way we set goals, as well as how we go about trying to achieve them. People who fall on the optimistic end of the spectrum are, by definition, more likely to have positive thoughts and feelings about what they accomplish, and -- more to the point of this article -- when they can accomplish it. 

The 'Type B' personality myth

Only in the last few years have we seen the idea of "Type A personalities as super-achievers" turned on its head. Of course, it's a complex topic with a lot of ambiguities, and the science is far from being clear. At the very least, what has become clear is that people with Type B personalities who are known to always be late, can be every bit as successful, although possibly in different areas, as their Type A counterparts. 

Type B's are also found to more creative, more adaptable, and better at problem-solving. Moreso, they are known to strike more of a work/life balance, inevitably leading to a more fulfilling life. 

If you're okay with them being late occasionally (okay, regularly), doesn't that sound like exactly the kind of person you'd want working with you -- or for you? 

None of this means that being late is 'better'

There will always be jobs, and aspects of jobs, at which punctuality is absolutely crucial. As employees, we want to feel that our colleagues are held to the same standard as we are, and as employers and entrepreneurs, we want to be sure that the people we entrust our vision to are both responsible and reliable. Not to mention, being on time is a sign of respect, if nothing else. 

With that said, maybe it's time we finally put to bed simplistic notions like 'good employees are always on time', or 'being punctual means you're a better person'. 

Don't expect to use this article to get out of your boss firing you for always showing up late, but if you do, blame science

Published on: Jul 16, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.