When you're late for work

Assuming you have the kind of job where

  1. you’re supposed to be at work at a certain time
  2. it’s not actually that big a deal if you’re late.

Say you’ve told your boss you’re going to be 30 minutes late and your boss says that’s fine. But whatever thing you had anticipated turns out not to take that long and you’re actually going to be more like 5 minutes late. There’s something you’d like to stop and do on the way (get breakfast at a drive-thru, stop and get gas, pick up something from the convenience store), but it’s not an absolute necessity.

Do you make the stop, given that the agreement was 30 minutes late and you’ve got the time to do it? Or skip it and get to work ASAP? Or make the stop, but also get some kind of treat for your close co-workers to make up for your lateness? Or something else?

Hypothetically, that’s what I’d do. Impress the boss by getting in earlier than expected. Showing up with treats might make the boss think (correctly) you didn’t need 30 minutes.

Need answers fast?

This would be best in every job I’ve had.
It shows I’m honest and keen. :grinning:

I have two anecdotes:

  • in my first ‘career’ job, I didn’t take a sick day in my first year. The comment at my annual review was that I would soon be promoted. :sunglasses:
  • I once turned up late and explained that an elephant had delayed me. My boss gave me a strange look … until the news came through that an elephant had escaped from a circus truck nearby and blocked traffic for a while. :heart_eyes:

My standard is to always overstate how late I’m going to be and show up earlier than that.

Every job I’ve ever had where “it’s not actually that big a deal if you’re late” was because it was expected that you’d work late to make up for it, or the person ahead of you would cover for you, and you’d return the favor at some point by picking up part of their shift. Either way, it was in everyone’s best interest to keep the tardiness to a minimum.

If it inconveniences my coworkers that i am late, i don’t extend my lateness to buy them treats. In practice, it would be an unusual day that my coworkers would care if i were half an hour late. It would only matter to one of them if i had agreed to meet them and then failed to show up. But if i know I’ll be late, i Will make sure my meetings are all later in the day.

I guess my real example of that sometimes I’ve told my boss that i have a dentist appointment, and, not knowing exactly how long it will take, I’ve told me boss that I’ll get in by 10:15 where that’s when I’ll get in if i just miss the first possible train after the appointment, but i know there’s a chance i will make it by 9:30 if i just barely catch the earlier train.

In those cases, i tried to catch the earlier train if i could. But i might have grabbed breakfast between the train and the office, and only been 30 minute earlier than promised, not 45 minutes earlier. But that’s mostly for my sake, so i have less time to make up, not because it’s better for my boss or my coworkers.

I guess I’m a contrarian. I would use the extra time to run an errand I can’t easily run after work and show up 25 minutes late instead of the 30 minutes I said. That way I get credit for beating my 30 minutes PLUS I get something else done.

Hehehe, in the case of my just being unexpectedly late, I get the attitude of “I’m late, I’m just going to proceed to work and when I get there, I get there.” 15 or 30 minutes didn’t make much difference to me, I’m already later than expected. Even though I could save a bit of that by forgoing any stops that weren’t absolutely necessary or driving like a nut, I’m not doing either.

But if I had scheduled the late arrival and I was likely to have an early return, I’d generally take the same approach. I’m going to get there when I get there. I implied I’d come straight from my other obligation, so I’m going to do that. Unless there’s something necessary to do, I’m not going to delay it any more than I have to.

I own the business and have been thinking about how lovely retirement will be. I show up.

Showing up 5 minutes late might make you boss think, “Well, next time they probably don’t need the 30 minutes!”

That’s precisely the type of job I had. If you were a little late, no one cared as long as the work got done. If the “late arrangement” ended up being much less than needed I just showed up. I didn’t want to help change the work culture which was quite positive.

I’d go directly to work and nobody would say anything about it.


I like to think that the peace of mind that I will achieve from getting this or that errand out of the way is only going to make me a more focused and productive worker when I do finally show up. I think my boss would not only understand my reasoning, but agree with me entirely.