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How Being Late Can Cost You

It is important to remember that seemingly small things like being late can cost you in a big way. Don't let that happen to you!

I want to share a valuable lesson with you. This is advice which can save you a lot of money by potentially saving your job. What follows is a real and personal story that I frequently use for illustrative purposes when teaching groups about professional success.

As a cardiovascular surgeon, I completed many years of very rigorous academic and clinical training. This involved the classroom as well as the hospital wards and the operating room. The standards of discipline and responsibility were very high. Surgery is a very serious field where the stakes are life and death. Therefore, weaknesses like lateness were not tolerated. A surgical service runs on a tight schedule, and consequently, a respect for time is essential to an O.R. running smoothly and efficiently.

It was well known in my years of training that lateness would not be tolerated and would certainly culminate in termination of employment as a surgical resident. This is something that all trainees took very seriously. After all, patients’ lives often depended on being punctual and being immediately responsive to calls and emergencies. The surgical schedule, which is often jampacked in a major university teaching hospital, requires that all hands are on deck at all times and that the operative caseload moves forward without delay throughout each day.

This respect for time and punctuality became a part of my paradigm and the core of my being. Some years ago, in my private practice, I had in my employee, who was an excellent Physician Assistant. She was very well educated and extremely bright. She was highly capable in terms of her clinical knowledge, judgment, and skills. Unfortunately, this otherwise excellent employee had one major chink in her “professional armor.” 

She was chronically late to work. She was also full of excuses as to why she was very frequently late. These included things like traffic, weather, car troubles, personal issues, illness, etc.

We had numerous formal conversations with this individual – documenting her chronic lateness, but nothing seemed to change her behavior. She was warned on numerous occasions that she might lose her six-figure job if she couldn’t get to work on time. 

Nothing ever worked to turn her habitual tardiness around. Then, one day, when she was once again late for an important operative procedure, she was dismissed from her job. This was difficult for me to have to do and certainly a very unhappy day for her, but it had been long coming. She was unable to correct this deficiency despite numerous warnings. No one likes to let an otherwise good worker go for being late, but it had to be done.

We live in a culture that often portrays lateness as being not only acceptable but even fashionable. Unfortunately, in the workplace, being late is neither of those things. Lateness is a sign of disorganization and apathy toward your job. It sends a terrible message to your employer and your coworkers. In fact, your coworkers are often the ones who are hurt the most by this behavior because they have to shuffle around and fill-in for the absent party. 

Of course, there are times when circumstances arise, which make being late to work unavoidable and excusable. But such circumstances are, in reality, exceedingly rare. Most reasonable people are happy to help out in such instances, but when the problem becomes chronic and repetitive, people lose patience for their fellow workers and employees. It’s not polite, and it’s not fair to be late often.

So, today’s message is straightforward and simple – don’t be late to work. It’s a terrible habit to get into, and it can cost you your job. This particular individual referred to in this story lost a salary of well over $100,000 a year with excellent benefits. She also put an end to a very promising future with lots of opportunity for growth in our practice. 

It’s one thing to lose a job over incompetence or a lack of skills, but it’s a different subject to get fired for being late. That seems like a very childish and immature way to lose gainful employment, especially for somebody who is highly educated, professional, and competent. 

I hope that this little vignette will be a reminder to everyone who reads it that it is of utmost importance to be on time for work. This good habit can save your job and allow you to flourish in your current company and career. 

Today, there are many ways to be on time. We have numerous technological advantages with alarm clocks, navigation GPS systems, and apps, which help us avoid traffic jams, take the fastest route, etc. 

Don’t be a person who makes excuses for lateness. No one cares. Be a person who is on time. That way, you’ll have the opportunity to continue to receive a paycheck and remain gainfully employed. It’s important.

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