«Master Linbar, tai-pan.»
«Show him in, please.» He glanced at the clock. The younger man came in and closed the door.
«You’re almost two minutes late.»
«Oh? Sorry.»
«I don’t seem to be able to get through to you about punctuality. It’s impossible to run sixty-three companies without executive punctuality. If it happens one more time you lose your yearly bonus.»
Linbar flushed. «Sorry.»
Noble House

One thing that is a great indicator of respect is punctuality. Not only respect for the people you met, but also for oneself. Because what does it say when a person is not punctual? Either that they consider the people they met not important enough to keep the appointment (or less important than themselves). After all, they should wait for this person to arrive. Or that they think their contribution is not worthwhile, so they can start without this person. And under these circumstances — why should anyone work with the person who shows that lack of respect — for others or the person himself?

Being punctual is also important for good working conditions. Even in a lecture, coming late interrupts the train of thought. It also signals to the audience that the person did not consider it necessary to arrive on time. Especially when done by students in that annoying ex-school-I’m-so-cool-I-can-arrive-late-phase. It’s a university — in contrast to school the content is 1. useful (unless they «study» a «… studies» discipline) and 2. they have chosen the major themselves. If it’s not interesting to them, why did they chose it? Why are they still there?

Even worse than being late to a lecture is being late to workshops. In these settings, every person counts and you can’t just listen in. If someone comes late, you have to repeat the whole start. I had the questionable pleasure to see the effects over a couple of days. The person who arrived late more often than not brought the work to a screeching halt each morning. Until I stopped her at the door and asked her to either come on time or she would fail the course. Then she was punctual (on the one remaining day) and the work improved massively. And yeah, there might be the option to inform late-comers about the work to be done. But they still would have to join the group work and most of the time, the workshop moderator is busy monitoring the work.

But what’s the problem with waiting? Well, first, there is a huge cost associated with waiting. If you have six people waiting for 10 minutes, that’s an hour of work time gone (6 * 10 = 60 minutes). Second, it punishes the ones who arrived on time by having them wait. Yes, they can do something else, we all have devices to distract us, but still, they have to wait on the person arriving late. And third, it signals that it is okay to arrive late, so next time more people (or other people) will arrive late. It’s not done with one meeting starting late. It will be all meetings.

Unfortunately, not adhering to appointments seems to be the usual case today, at least outside of one-on-one meetings. In these appointments, people are usually punctual. But whenever more than one other person is involved, being late seems to be the standard. And I don’t think it’s a case of simple probability (the more people, the more likely it is that someone has an unforeseen event that caused him to be late). I think it’s much more likely that people think that with other people being involved (and likely someone else also being late), they can arrive late.

Hmmm, and perhaps it’s also a case of bad time management. After all, if people suck at keeping appointments, there are rarely negative consequences associated with it. Smartphones allow people to find the ones they wanted to met, no matter where they are. Before smartphones, you had to be on time or you’d likely spend the time alone.

Well, luckily people can learn exceptions. At least in my own workshops, people are either on time or the doors are closed. If people are late twice, they are removed from the workshop. And in other formats — well, unless the world is ending in a flood, I am not waiting anymore on those who are late. It only reinforces bad behavior. I think it’s better to cultivate a culture of arriving early. After all, if they have their notebook or something to work with them, they can use the time prior to the event.