If You Get Angry About People Who Are Late, Maybe You’re the Problem

If you’re regularly late to meetings, you’re a terrible person who has no regard for human life, and you deserve everything bad that happens to you.

I don’t know what has crawled up people’s backsides lately, but I’m seeing variations on this theme from people who are tired of being kept waiting during meetings, while some insensitive clod blithely shows up whenever it suits them.

Greg Savage got the ball rolling five years ago with his blog post, No, You Are Not Running Late, You Are Rude and Selfish, and I’ve seen it reposted ad nauseum on Facebook and Twitter.

Angry Screaming Guy

If this is how you approach your business relationships, is it any wonder people don’t like you?

Recently, I saw someone tweet that people who are habitually late are either stupid, arrogant, or both. Then he included the hashtag #respect.

I responded, “I would think #respect also means not calling people arrogant or stupid.”

“Not if they’re habitually late,” he responded.

Talk about selfish. My time is important. My time is valuable. I don’t like to be kept waiting.

You’re not inventing a cure for cancer, you’re having a meeting. If your time is so valuable, you shouldn’t have scheduled it in the first place.

Maybe It’s You

I know it’s a symptom of the current political discourse, but I’m still surprised at people’s all-or-nothing view of humanity, elevating the smallest of transgressions into overly dramatic statements about their value as people.

Either you show up on time, or you’re selfish.

Either you show up on time, or you’re stupid.

Either you show up on time, or you’re irresponsible and you make poor life choices.

If you have this kind of attitude about your tardy colleagues, maybe you’re the problem. If you’re this uptight and easily prone to anger, look at the priorities in your life. Do you value timeliness over everything else? Would you rather have a person who shows up five minutes early to a meeting or someone who’s pleasant and a joy to be around?

Because it seems like you sacrificed the latter in favor of the former.

Yes, timeliness is something we should all strive for, and I agree that it’s frustrating to be kept waiting. But I also don’t foam at the mouth and call the other person an irresponsible turd when they’re 10 minutes late. I pull out my phone or laptop and get work done.

When you say the other person is chronically late because they don’t value or respect you, you’re probably right. They don’t respect you. They don’t even like you. You’re not a nice person.

Because you call them rude, selfish, stupid, and arrogant.

Why would anyone want to be around you at all, let alone get there on time to spend every possible minute with you? If people are regularly late to meetings with you, they’re not the problem, you are.

Try Extending Grace to the Other Person

I’ve been stood up for meetings by friends who forgot. I’ve had people go to the wrong location. I’ve had people who were involved in a car accident. And I’ve done all those things myself.

And when either of us were in the wrong, we apologized, the other person forgave, and we rescheduled. We didn’t passive-aggressively rant on social media about how “some people” were rude idiots. We didn’t trash the other person to our friends. We went about our lives and tried again later.

In short, we didn’t tear someone else down in order to make ourselves look good. We extended grace, we forgave, and we treated the other person with decency.

If you don’t like it when people are late, ask them about it. Don’t berate them, don’t call them names, and don’t rant about it online. Ask them if they’re aware it’s a problem. Explain to them how it frustrates you. Ask them to be on time in the future.

If they still can’t do it, cut them off. Stop meeting with them, stop inviting them to things, or start lying about the time, and tell them the meeting is 15 – 30 minutes earlier.

But try to be a grown-up about it. There are worse things in life to be, and worse problems in the world to stew about, like homelessness, starvation, and poverty. When you solve a couple of those, then you can be pissy about other people’s time management.

Until then, just get over yourself. Your missing 10 minutes aren’t that important.

Photo credit: B_Heyer (Flickr, Creative Commons)

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    About Erik Deckers

    Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency He co-authored four social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (3rd ed., 2017, Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.


    1. Erik. love the article. I think it is the worst when someone requests to meet with you, and then they run late. But as you mentioned, people need to take a deep breath and show grace to that person.

    2. Erik, when I read meeting, my first thought is a group of people gathering at work, not a one-on-one. I had a one-on-one meeting today that was 30 minutes late. It was no big deal. He called me, explained his situation, and asked if we could move it up 30 minutes. Like I said, no big deal. I have plenty to keep me busy. However, when someone is late to a group meeting it’s a problem. It may not mean they’re a terrible human being but it certainly does show a level of inconsideration. If there are 10 people waiting for one who is 6 minutes late an hour of productivity has been wasted. You may think, just start without them. I sometimes do, but then I’m faced with catching them up, another time waster. If the meeting has been well-planned, scheduled in advance, and attendees have committed, then those commitments should be honored. And if something is so drastic that it will cause one to be late then it may be best to excuse yourself from the meeting entirely.

      Late for a meeting One-on-one–it happens. Late for a group meeting–it shouldn’t.

    3. Anonymous says

      We have friends who are late, seriously late, all the time. We’ve planned to attend concerts and other events with them, half of which we missed, because they just can’t get there before it’s convenient for them. Consequently we’ve missed part of a concert or an event that meant something to us. Being late is just not okay. Everyone is overbooked and running behind half the time. Show consideration to someone else and be on time. Then everybody’s happy.

    4. Robby Slaughter says

      Everyone’s time is important. If you’re late, you’ve wasted someone’s time.

      That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, as long as you have some guilt. And if you’re not habitually late, then everyone can move on.

      If you’re late all the time, you might consider assessing why that happens.

      But if you’re late and you don’t really care about it, that’s something different altogether.

    5. Wait, so because someone is habitually late I now have to become dishonest and lie about the time a meeting starts? No thank you