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