Manners & Misdemeanors

What to Do When You Are Late for Work or an Important Appointment

In other words, how to get around the problematic "Filipino time."
IMAGE RAWPIXEL.COM / PEXELS
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In Osaka, residents can claim a legitimate excuse for tardiness. They get a "delay certificate" when they ride a train that arrives later than expected, a good excuse to present if they are late for a presentation or a meeting.

Punctuality is a form of elegance. But if you are late, resist the urge to banner car malfunctions, parenting matters, sleep problems, and traffic jams as an excuse. Instead of being defensive, take action.

1. Inform your client or colleague that you are running late. 

Sending an apologetic text ahead of time may lessen the blow of coming to a meeting or presentation late. No need to give a litany of reasons. Say sorry for running late, but assure your client or colleague that you are ready with your materials.

Another option is to ask the person you’re meeting if he or she can take a call. If yes, apologize and set expectations for the meeting. Sound reassuring—the person on the other line has to believe that you are well-prepared for the meeting in spite of being late. It helps to ask questions like “What else would you like to discuss later?” or “Is there anything you want to clarify?” so you express that you care about the presentation. It also doubles as an ice breaker that you can repeat when you get to the appointment: “Like we talked about on the phone...”

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2. If you can, send someone to act on your behalf.

The worst day to be late is when you are to talk to a group. It helps to have an ally in the workplace or a reliable assistant whom you can send to keep your audience occupied. Brief your colleague over the phone so he or she can do the introduction while you are still in transit. It’s best to get things rolling. Your associate can ask the group about concerns and things they want to discuss. 

3. Ask how you can make up for your tardiness.

Has your client already spent an hour sipping coffee and counting down the minutes to your arrival? When you get to your appointment, make sure to ask how you can make up for your tardiness. He or she may be gracious enough to say everything's in order but offering the person another cup of coffee is still a nice gesture.

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4. Make sure to do a stellar job at work, especially if your colleagues are strict about punctuality.

No associate to help you out of the sticky situation? When you get to work, be your most present and attentive. Do proactive things like pitching ideas and jumpstarting an important project early. The mission is to make everyone forget that you were late.

5. Do away with fake compliments.

When your colleagues look bored and impatient, it might be tempting to turn to flattery to get on their good side. Skip the enthusiastic “You look great today!” because it will only come off disingenuous. The best way to dispel their early disappointment is to deliver an excellent presentation.

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Kwyn Kenaz Aquino
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