I’m going to be late. I’m going to be late.
This thought ran like a mantra through her mind. The light turned orange. Even though she had plenty of warning to slow down, Margaret hit the accelerator. She didn’t want to be even later getting to work.
She edged her way through heavy traffic and began to fret. There was no denying that she was going to be late — for the second time this week. The first time, it was because her daughter had been sick. She’d rushed to an early doctors appointment and back home, where the babysitter, who had kindly arrived on short notice, was pacing back and forth on the front verandah. Today was a different story. Time had just gotten away from her. She left slightly later than usual and the traffic was worse.
Margaret pulled into a parking spot, grabbed her bag, and sprinted to her office building, well aware she was about to walk through the door ten minutes late to a meeting.
As Margaret flew into the office in a cloud of apologies, she inflated stories about traffic snarls and accidents and the difficulty getting parking. The emotional impact on the rest of the team was palpable. Already at work and just settling in to their most productive part of the day, nearly all were interrupted by Margaret’s effusive descriptions of her commute. This interruption was made worse by the need to make empathetic noises to help validate their colleagues obviously frayed nerves.
You see, Margaret, like most of us, made the ‘being late for work thing’ bigger than it needed to be, both by exaggerating her reasons and by interrupting her colleagues in the subconscious desire to have them calm her nerves and perhaps even conspire with her. Her boss Fred just sighed as he watched the little melodrama unfold.
It wasn’t being late for work once or twice that was the issue, it was more the impact it had on the team. Most often we aren’t even aware of the lasting impact small behaviors or comments can have. Like boats, people create wakes — gentle swells of good feeling, ripples of draining negativity, or frothing waves of drama and crisis. These emotional wakes can either spur productivity or decimate it, which is why effective leaders learn how to control their emotions instead of letting their emotions control them.
So, in short, some tips to help manage tardiness a bit more effectively:
- Help your employees to understand the emotional wake they create when they turn up late, so they can calm themselves and their co-workers a bit more effectively.
- Don’t buy into the drama. Model the calm you want to see in your workplace.
- Be aware of when you or others are wallowing in a negative emotion. When we let our minds replay over and over the experience that lead to a negative emotional state, we stay mired in it. It’s better to refocus attention on moving forward.
By doing these simple things, you not only help your employees to settle into their workday more quickly, but you also reduce lost productivity in the team more generally. This will have a flow on effect if it’s done well, so that these individuals will manage their emotional states better. If they are able to do that, they will inevitably become more effective — and that might just even reduce the number of times they come in late.
See how you go! (And let me know about your experiences good and bad.)