Julia Wood & Associates

Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!

“Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!”

“Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!” These are the words muttered by the White Rabbit as he ran down the rabbit hole in Lewis Carroll’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Most of us worry about being late for meetings and appointments because 1) we don’t like to keep people waiting, and 2) it doesn’t make us look good. For others, they don’t care so much. Some people even think it makes them look busy and important. It doesn’t.

We are all late occasionally, but in this blog I’m talking about serial late attenders.

How irritating is it when people are often (or always) late?

While waiting for them to arrive (either face-to-face, phone, or video call), you should consider if any of the following apply to them:

Are they unreliable?

Are they late because they are not managing their time well, or have they taken on (or been given) too much work and struggle to say no? This is a difficult one because some job roles are simply too big for one person and dedicated and conscientious people end up looking unreliable when really all they are trying to do is a good job.

Are they being rude?

If they had a meeting with the Chief Executive would they be late? Probably not. Why? Because they value the Chief Executive’s time, and they know it wouldn’t look good. When they’re late for everyone else does this mean that they don’t value the time of others and simply expect them to wait around for them? Maybe.

Do they think their time is more important? 

Everyone, regardless of what job role they have or what level they work at within an organisation plays an important part in making things happen. Everyone has priorities and pieces of work which need to get done. Basically, everyone is a cog in a very big wheel. If one or a number of cogs are waiting around for another cog, time is being wasted and everything slows down or comes to a standstill. 

Do they understand that they are wasting both time and money?

Here’s an example: If there are 10 people waiting for 10 minutes for someone to turn up for a meeting, overall one hour and 40 minutes of time has been wasted. Everyone who turned up on time could all be doing something far more productive in that 10 minutes than waiting for someone to arrive (making that phone call they have been putting off or sending that email which really needs to be sent today). Not only that, the salary costs could run into hundreds of pounds. Lastly of course, if a meeting has been arranged for one hour and someone arrives 10 minutes late it is inevitable that some people will still have to leave after the allotted hour, meaning that another meeting has to be arranged.   

If someone is often late it shouldn’t be viewed as “well, they are always late, but will arrive at some point”. Being late for everything really is unacceptable. If you know someone who is always late you should share with them this blog!

If you are the one who is always late re-read this blog and question whether you want people to think that you’re unreliable, rude, and/or that you view your time as more important than theirs (because it isn’t). Also, don’t forget you’re wasting both time and money.

If you think that people don’t mind, they do, they just don’t want to tell you how they feel.

“I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them.”

Edward Verrall Lucas


Julia specialises in Quality Improvement in the NHS,
supporting individuals, teams, and organisations
make positive changes to improve patient care and create happier working environments.

Julia Wood

Belasis Business Park
Coxwold Way
TS23 4EA


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