13 People on Why Chronic Lateness Doesn’t Necessarily Equal a Lack of Respect

There are two types of people in the world – those who aim to be early everywhere they go, and those who are chronically late. The latter almost always annoy the former, but as one of those people who is usually running late, I swear it’s not because I don’t respect the people I’m meeting…though I realize that some people may see it that way.

Like this person, who wants Reddit to “Change My Mind” on the subject.

Image Credit: Reddit

Here are 13 people willing to try, and for that, I thank them.

13. Exceptions to the rule.

As a general rule I agree, though I’ve met one exception. I know someone with strong OCD and anxiety and he will always be late. He basically has trouble leaving his place. I’m honestly not sure exactly why but he’ll be “ready” 10 mins in advance, but then have to make sure all the lights are off. And the oven’s off. And he’ll decide he needs to put the dishes from the dish rack away.

He’ll just keep finding excuses to not leave until he’s very late. He’s missed flights because of it so it’s not just a disrespect of other’s. He knows the flights won’t wait. It’s truly bizarre but we just tell him things are earlier so he gets there on time. But things like flights might be the best litmus test. U think anyone who misses multiple flights because they’re late has a bigger problem than a lack of respect.

12. It could be a cultural thing.

I would argue it is not about a lack of respect, but a different understanding of what timeliness means.​

There are different cultural norms about what it means to be on time. So what may be considered late for you would actually be completely acceptable in other places. In the US, being “fashionably late” (i.e. 10-15 minutes) is usually preferred. But then take some countries like Brazil or Turkey. Showing up that early is considered very rude because it isn’t giving the host the proper time to have things set up.

Conversely, if you are not exactly on time in Japan, Korea, or the Netherlands, that is quite rude. So “people who are less than 10 minutes late” would look like you aren’t respecting others’ time.​

I personally grew up in a culture (New England part of the US) where being even being more than a few minutes late was rude. But then I moved to the Southeast, where it’s much more common to be 10-30 minutes late. It wasn’t that the people there disrespected me (even if that’s what I felt at first), but because showing up that early was not considering the host might need a few more minutes. Similarly, when I showed up on time, it was awkward as I was the only one there. This also got more pronounced when I started working at a company where most of my coworkers were immigrants. We all had to learn what time meant to each other.

11. Walk a mile in other people’s shoes.

You obviously have no understanding of crippling health conditions. I was born with Legg-Calves-Perthes disease, I wake up at a 6 on a 1-10 pain scale, I’ve been dealing with this since I was in my mid 20s . Most days I could get up and be functional within an hour but there were dozens of days in a 3 month period where it would take me an extra hour or two to get on the road.

So am I supposed to wake up at 4-6 hours of sleep to appear at work? This idea that you should always be 15 minutes early (never mind if you live in an area with obnoxious levels of traffic) is preposterous. On top of this, the drive to appear on time while they pay you minimum wage for a highly skilled position (I did network installation and POS installation for major corporations.) is poppycock.

So should I just be left to the side or abandoned by society? Perhaps I should never hold a job because of my lack? How am I supposed to support myself. In the USA there’s almost no social net for people like me.

10. It could be a mental health issue.

Also take into consideration the person you are talking to and their headspace. I know someone who was always late and was a struggle to do anything with people due to anxiety now her sister always made the situation about her. “You don’t respect my time!”

And other things to make the person feel bad when the sister doesn’t really have anything else to do she makes it seem like an insult to her when it really was the person just having too much on his plate or his anxiety acting up.

9. It’s all about perception.

Perception of time and norms are culturally grounded. There is some very good research into this; in fact time perception is often included with the other big 5 variables of cultural difference.

Am not excusing others or my behavior, but what is rude to you regarding tardiness will be different to someone else. There is a wide array of confounding variables and positions which are constantly in-flux. Some more than others for how they manage their time.

I think that your position has a lot more to do with the dominant cultural reductionist reliance on objective measurement; driven by Neo-liberal capitalism and recently tech-bro appropriation of business and workplace cultures over the last century. It now leaks into every facet of our lives. It is more salient and less challenged as the dominant discourse and drives what is ‘acceptable’ culture vs the broad array of human social spectrum of interactions that make up the actual world.

8. Maybe it’s your problem, not theirs.

Sounds like your personal quirk it’s hating lateness. I had a doctor tell me chronic lateness can be attributed to ADD and OCD. I’ve had to work much harder than my peers, especially at university. Now that I’m a boss I can be lenient to those who suffer similar fates.

I’m still late to meeting, it’s more to do with work ethic than lateness. I’m always busy always working. I can be walking to the meeting and see 5 things that need done. The guys who sit in there asses in office complain about deadlines but that’s literally their job, sit there and do deadlines.

Mine quite a bit more complex. Run the facility , run the people and then do all the deadlines and meeting. Yuk. You just need to lighten up big time. If you mean late to work that’s something we don’t put up with really. I’m never late to work.

7. Coping mechanisms FTW.

In my case it’s not a lack of respect for other people’s time but an optimistic estimation in the time needed to meet my commitments.

Phone reminders and Google maps ETA’s have helped.

6. Run this scenario.

I use a scenario to determine if it is a “condition” or “lack of respect”…

Does the person every miss their flight? That will leave with or without them so, if they miss their own flight, it isn’t selfishness – it is a condition of some kind. However, if they can make their own flights – but not make a meeting on time – they are showing a lack of respect.

5. Not excuses, but reasons.

I have ADHD. I am chronically late for things. It’s very much a symptom of this particular condition. It stems from an inability to keep myself organized and propensity for getting distracted.

Those are not the only reasons to be late for things, but they are some of the reasons and they are related to mental illness.

4. We’re trying, okay?

It’s like no matter what I do, it’s never enough time. I get sidetracked. I have missed flights, almost missed exams, missed appointments where I still have to pay, etc. I can start getting ready to leave 15 mins early: late. 30 mins early: late. 1hr early: late. 2hrs early: late! I don’t know if it’s the ADD or anxiety. I either get distracted or feel like I am missing something. It could be a combination of both. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to go back into the house or make a u turn after driving because I forgot something. It could also very well be a lack of respect. I also come from a culture where time is just a suggestion. Can it apply to work in some countries too? You bet it can! Not like 2 hrs late, but certainly 10-30 mins late.

I do think I can improve, and I think I have. I know I need to give myself plenty of time, put on a bunch of alarm and learn to “let go” of minute things that I may feel the urge to get done, but will inevitably make me late. Yet, I’m still late A LOT.

Now, I get how this can be viewed as not caring for other people and their time, but things are not always so black and white. Just because you can manage something, it does not mean you should expect others to do it. I am sure there are a few things others can manage, which you can’t. It wouldn’t be fair for them to classify you as careless because of that. Even if you share the same diagnosis, that doesn’t give you the right to say “I was able to do it, which means anyone can, and if they don’t, it means they don’t care enough”. There’s a saying that translates to something like “every person is a world”. Basically, everyone has their own life, way, strengths, weaknesses, challenges, triumphs. You have to accept that you are not the center of their world. What they do, has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them. If you cannot accept that, then you shouldn’t expect people to maintain a relationship with you.

That doesn’t mean I am not responsible and it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be held accountable. There are expectations and commitments and it’s my responsibility to sort my shit and be on time. I believe we are responsible for our actions. Of course I should feel bad about being late and apologize. There should be communication both ways. If it bothers you that much, you should say how you feel and listen to the other person. If it’s a friend or family member, in the grand spectrum of things, is it really that big of a deal? Do you constantly do things that may be viewed as a lack of respect?

I get it. Time is very important. It’s there to maintain order. You are expected to be on time. It’s one of those society norms. And you should be on time, otherwise it would be chaos. But then you have people that get so caught up with it, and they let it affect their relationships. My friends adapt to me and I adapt to my friends because we love each other. I put up with things that annoy me about them and they put up with things that annoy them about me. We try to value each other as a whole. I try my best to be more timely, but I would hate it if they made me feel like meeting up was like going to “work”.

And sorry my writing is all over the place lol.

3. Consider the cost.

If your ADHD and time blindness are anywhere as bad as mine, then you’re likely underestimating how much effort you are putting in to something that most people find relatively easy. For those of us who do struggle with this, being on time requires sustained will power, and will power is a finite resource that gets depleted each time you use it. So while being on time consistently is theoretically possible, it comes at a far higher cost than it does for most people.

I used to work really hard to be on time consistently. It completely drained me and made it impossible to accomplish the things that I wanted to. So let me spin the question around and ask, why shouldn’t others be expected to respect your time blindness?

2. Sometimes we agree with you.

Hey, that’s me, and I have ADHD as well. I’m chronically late even to things like university exams (to the point I severely underperform) and medical appointments (to the point I have to reschedule because the doctor already left to another hospital). I never travel but if I did, I’m sure I would miss my own flights.

I congratulate you for being on time despite your ADHD but I think you shouldn’t assume that others are able to deal with it as successfully as yourself.

However, I agree that it’s on me to seek help and treat my condition.

1. Time is a fluid concept.

I have ADHD and for me it’s because I underestimate how long things take. I say to myself “oh I can do the dishes real quick, it’ll only take 5 mins” but in reality it’s probably more like 15. It’s something I’m working on and if it’s a friend/acquaintance, I feel awful if I’m running late. It has nothing to do with a lack of respect for them. I have 3 alarms that go off warning me it’s time to start to leave the house. Figuring out these things has taken time and I have only been diagnosed a year.

Another thing I have noticed if certain people (there is 1 specific person I know who is late to everything) are typically late or a certain Dr. is running 45 mins later than my scheduled time, then I’ll pretty much put no effort into being on time for them. Another instance of learned behavior is showing up to parties/gatherings. If you show up on the dot you’re early and it’s awkward.

My grandfather said “if you’re not ten minutes early, you’re late,” and maybe one day I will be that sort of person.

Do you think late people can change? Can early people be late? Tell us why or why not in the comments!