Recently USA Today ran a chart showing survey results from workers who answered the question: How often are you late to work?
Interestingly, 61 percent said they are never late, 16 percent indicated they are late at least once a week, 12 percent said they are late once a year, and 11 percent admitted being late once a month.
Last week, while checking out at the market, the cashier said it had been a tough day for her. She woke up late, rushed to get to work, but was still late. It happens: A bus is late picking up kids, an alarm doesn't go off, traffic is backed up; suddenly you're late.
Does it really never happen to 61 percent of the workforce? Frankly, I expected to see fewer people in the "Never'' slice of the pie, and far more in the "Once a Year'' and "Once a Month'' slices.
That kind of lateness will often be excused if it happens rarely, and there is a good reason. In addition, perhaps the time is made up by a shorter lunch break or staying a few minutes later.
More important is how you handle the situation. It's one of the times your cellphone is really useful. Don't leave your co-workers and boss wondering where you are, or if you are coming in.
When you arrive, don't make a big scene explaining your problem. A quick "Hello'' and then get to your station and get to work. When you have the opportunity, visit with your boss, explain the situation, and offer a solution to make up for the lost time.
The chart reminded me how important being on time is at work. It's not just when you arrive. It's for meetings and for delivering your work, too. During my business etiquette seminars, I often tell people, "If I could only give you one piece of workplace etiquette advice, it would be: Be on time.''
How often have you heard a co-worker say something like, "Sorry I'm late, I was on a call with . . .'' It's really not an excuse. If it happens once, it may be understandable. But when you do it repeatedly, it shows you are disorganized and disrespectful to the people you have kept waiting. And that is not a good image for you to build. Be on time. It's the first thing you can do to being more successful at work.
E-mail questions about business etiquette to firstname.lastname@example.org