Perpetually Late? How being late negatively impacts your crew—and your career


Perpetually Late?

How being late negatively impacts your crew—and your career
By Scott Cook

The next time you stay up late because you’re out on the town, watching a movie or doing anything that simply forces you—in spite of your best efforts and good intentions—to be late for work in the morning, consider how your actions affect the off-going shift. In short, somebody has to stay late to do your job.

The person you were supposed to relieve may have had plans to take their kids to school or fishing, take their spouse out for breakfast—maybe they even have a second job to get to. But don’t sweat it. You’ll only be 5 or 10 minutes late. Most certainly there won’t be a call, much less a big call, at shift change, and the person you relieve won’t have to go in your place, simply because you just couldn’t get to work on time.
Think again—it happens all the time.

Sure, there are a few legitimate reasons for being late: an illness in the family, your car breaks down—that sort of thing. But the rest of your excuses for being late are pure BS, and you know it.

When you’re late for a BS reason, you’re telling the people you work with, “I have no respect for you. I don’t care what you had planned to do today. What kept me from getting to work on time was much, much, much more important than anything you could possibly need to do today.”

When you’re habitually late, the person you were supposed to relieve, and everyone at the station where you were supposed to be, probably takes bets or at least kicks around ideas about what BS excuse you’ll come up with this time.

One of the best excuses I’ve heard involved quite a lie. You see, my career job is as an instructor for a large corporation. One of my students—who was late more often than not—dropped in one day 15 or so minutes after class had started, apologizing that he couldn’t get to work because of the “big fire.” There was a big fire, but we cleared it about an hour before he was due at work. Slick didn’t know that a student in class and I were on that fire all night, went home, showered and made it to work on time. I explained that we did that in less time than it took him to drive past the burned-out remnants of the building. It was the last time he was late for any of my classes. (If he just would have made it on time, he wouldn’t have embarrassed himself by telling the big lie about the big fire the class had discussed before his arrival.)

Tardiness is going to cost you down the road. I promise. A promotion, choice crew assignment or special project that you know you’d be perfect for will come up, and sure enough, you’ll get passed over for it. You’ll be pissed and mope around the station; “Man, those SOBs picked Charlie for the job. Can you believe that?” And most of us will sympathize with you just so you’ll shut up. But we both know why you got passed over even if you choose not to admit it. If you could just manage to get to work on time 10 days a month, you’d have that promotion. The bottom line: If your employer can’t count on you to do something as simple as show up on time, how in the world can they possibly expect you to do anything else?

Scott Cook is the former chief of the Granbury (Texas) Volunteer Fire Department and a fire service instructor. He’s also a member of FireRescue’s editorial board.


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Tags: Cook”, issues, personnel, “Scott

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Comment by austin munro on April 14, 2010 at 4:42pm
unfortuantely i am not in a department that has shifts for volunteers, however i completely agree with the fact bs excuses and trying to lie to get out of trouble is not respectful at all. be a man, admit to it and it'll not come back to bite you in the ass later on.
Comment by Justin R. Fank on April 9, 2010 at 3:14pm
I agree with the ME generation, and the know it all part of things. Being late for work no matter what the job is; is not a good way to bring a positive to the company. Now with a fire department always being late for work yes it does give the company a bad name, but also when there is a fire or rescue or anything that the late fire fighter is needed for that means that other fire fighters will have to cover that person(s) duties. It could be understood that there is certain situations that a fire fighter could be late getting to the station, but it still comes down to the fact that being late is not acceptable.

Of course sit down with the person to try and figure out why they are late getting to work. If there is no good reason given then possible let it lead to a suspension or just a flat out termination.
Comment by Daniel Luechtefeld on April 9, 2010 at 3:13pm
Suprised this even needs to be discussed - I am champing at the bit to get to the station or drill! Moreover, shift change is the only time you get to see and catch up with some of our brothers and sisters.
Comment by FETC on April 9, 2010 at 10:34am
Scott,

I agree that the firefighter has no respect for the firefighter he is relieving. But this is more common know due to the ME generation.

Like your last thread on the rookie being a know it all / slacker, I have a different outlook on this subject. This type of behavior has a direct correllation to being "accepted" by his command and therefore clearly reflects on the lack of leadership /discipline / respect for which his/her line officers have. We must fix the problem at the root. Some ME firefighter's will never see the big picture on their own with peer pressure.

We all know this is not tolerated and in reality is NOT the responsibility of the firefighter for which it affects daily to deal with, my suggestion to all is if the duty shift officer, (who accepts the fact that his little johnny is regularly late) chooses to not fix the problem, then it gets pushed up the chain of command so the department can look at the lack of leadership on Little Johnny's Officer.

The "tune-up" may be needed for more than just little johnny....

FETC

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