Why Some People Are Always Late
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Why Some People Are Always Late

Why is my child always late for everything? What to do about a friend that is always late? How to deal with tardy people? Why do some people disrespect others by being late all the time? What to do about a co-worker or employee who shows up late for work on a regular basis. Why are some people never on time for anything?

Do you have a friend, co-worker, or family member, who is always “holding up the show', one who is always late? I think everyone has encountered this type of person from time to time. Those people who are not late simply cannot figure out why the chronically late individual does not simply adjust their routine to be on time, but clearly this person has found some advantage to being late.

In many cases the routine of being late is learned as a child.

When a person is late they tend to get a lot of attention. In a family situation the child who is always late becomes the center of attention, and they like that. Then when the child is finally ready, what usually happens? Typically the family cheers, “Hooray, you are ready, now we can go!”, as such the child is actually rewarded for being the hero due to actually being late. In contrast the children who were ready first are not really given any rewards in terms of attention or pats on the back for being ready on time.

After this has happened a few times the child is conditioned towards the benefits of being late. They may not even be conscious of their actions but it soon becomes part of their lifelong habit.

In the workplace there is often one person who is late from time to time. Until the person arrives all their co-workers are typically bitching and complaining, but as soon as the person arrives they sometimes cheer “Hooray, glad you could make it”. Even when said with a hostile tone, the late employee is still rewarded by being the center of attention.

How to Stop a Person From Being Chronically Late

If you have a person in your life that is always holding you up, or always being late, it is up to you to change your response to their tardiness. Many people compensate by telling the late person a different time to be ready but this has not changed their pattern of lateness.

The simplest way of teaching a person that their lateness will not be tolerated is to leave without them. If this is a child, arrange a baby sitter ahead of time, if the child is not ready by the time you say to be ready, then you must leave. If the child happens to be ready on time, you can pay the babysitter a few dollars for their trouble. After leaving without the tardy child a few times they will learn to prepare themselves to be ready on time.

Similarly in the case when a person is late showing up on time, leave without them and say “Sorry we could not wait any longer.”. You may think that this is an extremely rude thing to do, however being late on a regular basis is also rude.

When it comes to a co-worker who is often late, you can inform the boss, but also just ignore them when the do arrive. Do not make any comments congratulating them for showing up. It might be a case where you are powerless to make the person change their ways. The chronically late co-worker might be docked pay but typically they come to accept the pay cut and seldom change their ways, as the pattern was often formed in childhood.

If you have ever trained a dog using positive reinforcement (and ignoring bad behavior) you may note that the same psychology applies here.

How to Avoid Being Chronically Late

Simple; change your habits. Getting up earlier works for some people, but for others they tend to slow down when they get up earlier as they feel they still have loads of time. A better thing would be to eliminate part of your daily routine that causes you to be slower. For some people showering the night before work, rather than in the morning before going to work, can make a huge difference. Setting your clock ahead can help, but since you know it is set fast it does not always do the trick.

The main thing is to make a commitment to changing your tardy ways and to be on time.

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Comments (7)

It is very hard to change deeply ingrained tardiness. If my parents arrived on time for something we would have to sit in the car while they finished their cigarettes. I have always wondered how some people can always be places on time when punctuality has always been a challenge for me. One thing that has helped me is to plan margins in my time schedule. 

Excellent share Brenda! 

Some people even like negative attention. What a shame! When the adult grows up they do have choices, but some still choose the attention even if it is not pleasant.I once had a girl friend who was habitually late. I did all sorts of things to help her be on time. I let her choose the place and time of the meeting, I reminded her by phone 1/2 hour before our meeting, I told her I was offended by her tardiness since it created a "I don't matter " feeling. I finally told her I would not meet her anymore. We still remain friends, but no longer make plans to get together. If we meet by accident, we have lunch, if not we don't.

I find this very funny that I am commenting on this article, as I just commented on another of yours.  You are everywhere!

I very much liked your solutions to the Chronic Late-Person, and I will definitely be using them (except for the late children, as I have none).

I do, however, have questions about why the person is chronically late.  Are these personal speculations, or are they backed up by scientific evidence?  If they are backed up, where did the knowledge come from?

I am a natural born skeptic, and am not questioning because of doubt, but because of the possibility of doubt.

Thank you.

Matt. A lot of it comes from personal observation. The older a person gets the more they see how things work, but I must admit a lot of information also comes to me from conversations I have had with a relative of mine who is a psychologist.

Your site is really very nteresting for me, first of all because I am always late myself. But my friends two weeks ago decided to teach me to come in time and  left without me for the party. But it wasn't a problem for me. I found new company and went with them into the club. My friends were shoked, but they understood that my tardiness is like chronic illness. And I'd never be punctual!

Excellent article. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this interesting topic.