Would You Rather Always Be Late or a Jerk?

Some days, I worry about society, because otherwise-normal people seem to want to be mean for the sake of being mean.

I recently wrote an article on my work blog about a trend I've noticed where people complain on social media about others who are late. Not just occasionally late, but chronically, habitually, constantly late.

I saw one tweet that said, "People who are habitually late are either arrogant, stupid, or both. #Respect."

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

"Not if they're habitually late," he replied.

I don't think I'd like working with this guy.

Other people have also called their tardy colleagues rude and selfish.

So I wrote an article about how, rather than taking an all-or-nothing view of people, we should try extending grace and forgiveness, a concept you may have heard mentioned on Sunday mornings.

I urged my readers to figure out a way to get the late-comers to change, rather than boldly declaring this person to be of little to no value to humanity.

More importantly, I said, if people are regularly late to meetings with you, maybe it is a matter of respect. As in, they truly don't respect you.

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

I urged readers to be an adult and communicate like one: explain how you're bothered by their lateness, and help them find a way to solve this problem.

Except the idea of grace and forgiveness seemed to be a foreign concept to many readers, because they argued that chronic lateness to business meetings was unacceptable, and still referred to people in harsh terms.

Now, I have always believed in the importance of timeliness, and I even mentioned this in my article. I hate being late to anything, and will always let someone know if I'm running behind, but I'm rarely late to my meetings.

For the last few years, I often had one-on-one meetings at coffee shops and I was nearly always early for them, mostly because I wanted to choose the cushioned bench with my back to the wall, while the other person sat on the hard chair.

I also used to work for an organization that believed "early is on time, on time is late." That meant if we showed up when a meeting started, we were late; we needed to be in your seat, ready to go, at the prescribed time, and I had that habit drummed into me early on.

I understand that timeliness shows respect for the other person, and that you have a sense of responsibility and integrity. I'm not proposing we should let people be late, or that we should hold them to lower standards.

Rather, I don't think we should fly into a frothing rage just because an acquaintance is frequently tardy. Get annoyed? Yes. Let them know it's unacceptable? Absolutely. Call them selfish and stupid? Not at all.

So, if your response to this idea is "being on time is just good manners" or you want to tell me about how your industry or company places a high value on being on time, you're missing the point, and I don't believe you actually read this far. You stopped after the third paragraph, and just started mouthing off about how I don't understand how real business works.

(Not you, of course. If you've read this far, you're a good and thoughtful person who deserves many riches.)

At least, that's what happened to my original article. A lot of people argued about respect and responsibility and missed the actual point I was trying to make: if people are habitually late to meetings with you, maybe you're the problem.

If their timeliness shows their #respect for you, then you've got your answer.

They don't.

Except no one disputed that. They glossed right over it. No one said, "Actually, I'm a very nice person." No one said, "I reject your premise entirely. I'm a damn delight."

It was almost as if they agreed that, yes, we are unpleasant and mean. Yes, no one likes us because we call them names. But we shouldn't have to change because they're late, and therefore, are more terrible than we are.

In the end, there are more important problems we face, many more hills to die on than dealing with people are are regularly late.

Like why are you having so many damn meetings in the first place? Get back to your desk and get some actual work done!

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.