We’ve all had that one day when life happens, and nothing goes according to plan. Maybe we forgot to get gas the night before, didn’t get milk while we were at the store, or our newborn kept us up all night. But there are a lot of people who have a chronic-lateness bug, and it seems that they aren’t able to fix it themselves. They miss appointments, dinner dates, and family obligations. At work, they can’t seem to submit a project on time or honor a meeting time. Here are some solutions to persistent punctuality issues.
If you’re an employer, you know what a tough situation that is. The team member may be well-liked and deliver great work, but you need her to get it together. Here’s what you need to know — and do — to help her out:
1. Anxiety May Be the Root Cause.
People who struggle with anxiety can’t schedule panic attacks or bouts of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Anxiety affects their time management and ability to work with others. Especially when it’s’s social anxiety, they may be unable to work as part of a group. Social anxiety affects not just them, but the wider team.
Solution: Break up their tasks.
If you suspect or know an employee struggles with anxiety, it may help to structure their tasks differently. For example, if there is a group project coming up, break the anxious person’s portion into chunks with individual deadlines.
Many people with social anxiety just need a little support. For instance, they may need contact. When a meeting is coming up, a team member could send a text saying, “Hope this is a good meeting — come and sit by me.” Often, mere contact will calm the issue.
Anger or recriminations will rarely if ever, work. The “lateness” situation sometimes has an easy fix. Try a few different strategies.
Solution: Encourage them to seek help.
You want to help, but you aren’t a mental health professional. Encourage the anxious person to meet with a psychiatrist. Medication, talk therapy, or techniques like meditation may make a big difference. Maybe as a team leader, you just need to be more aware of what’s happening on your team.
Your anxiety person may be being bullied or left out. Both of those situations can be solved by you and your attitude.
2. The Planning Fallacy Might Be to Blame.
Anxiety isn’t the only cause of punctuality issues. Persistent lateness is also linked to the planning fallacy, a certain mentality that is learned early and can cause problems later in life.
In a nutshell, people are optimistic when planning their own schedules but pessimistic when looking at others” plans. They think they’ll get things done quickly, but they assume others will be late.
Look for persistent but casual lateness from people who suffer from the planning fallacy. If such an employee tells you, they’ll be at the door in five minutes, check your watch: Was it actually 10 minutes before they’re ready?
Solution: Ask team members to estimate time themselves.
Time is inarguable. Encourage the employee to estimate how long each task will take them. If they take longer than expected, again and again, they need to adjust their estimates — and behavior — accordingly.
3. Their Lifestyle Could Be the Culprit.
There are all sorts of personal habits that can affect punctuality. Sleep is an essential factor in routine and schedule. If your employee is working 12-16 hour days, then a lack of sleep is likely the core issue.
Another significant factor is multitasking. Trying to tackle multiple things at once is an easy way to get off track. Multitasking forces people to manage various end goals, including how each of those goals could go right or wrong.
Solution: Encourage a one-thing-at-a-time mentality.
Tell your employees to focus on one thing at a time and remind them there’s always tomorrow to complete the rest. The world won’t stop spinning if a task has to wait a day or two.
Solution: Have a heart-to-heart chat.
Sit down with the team member who’s always late, and ask: Is there something going on outside of work? Is the employee’s family life in trouble? Are they eating well and exercising regularly? Is drug addiction an issue? Connect them with resources that can help.
We’ve all been late, but most of us keep those episodes few and far between. Chronic lateness is a challenge, and multiple factors could be to blame.
Get to the root of the issue. Your team member will appreciate the help, and so will your company’s bottom line.