This post is part of our continuing series, First job Friday, where successful professionals share what they learned from their first job.
I have a friend, let’s call her ‘Donna’, who is always late. She runs so late that our group of friends have created “Donna time,” which is about thirty to forty- five minutes behind real time, to account for her tardiness. She never really seemed to understood how frustrating lateness could be until someone close to her, whose punctuality truly mattered, started showing up hours late – if at all. It finally clicked that being late jeopardizes relationships with friends, clients, colleagues, and especially superiors at work. A 2011 Career Builder Survey found that 15% of employees are late for work at least once a week, and the same survey found that 32% of employers have terminated an employee for consistent tardiness. Bottom line, many people find punctuality extremely important and many of those people are somebody’s boss. You could be damaging your career and missing opportunities, bonuses, and promotions, if you make a habit of being late. Below, former paint shop janitor turned CEO of Three Girls Media Inc. Erika Taylor Montgomery shares how she learned the importance of punctuality – the hard way.
When I was 15, I answered a classified ad and scored my first job as a janitor in a paint shop. I was responsible for cleaning, emptying trash, organizing, and doing menial odd tasks assigned by my boss, the owner of the business. I was excited to have a job, but wasn’t too sure what to do or how to do it, as I received no training. I was simply told that it was my job to “keep the shop clean.”
After my first few days on the job, I was horrified when I showed up for my shift and my boss started screaming at me. He had me follow him around the facility while he berated me, pointing out everything that I had missed and should have taken care of. Although the experience was humiliating, I learned that when you’re given an assignment, it’s a good policy to ask questions if you’re not sure what to do. Yes I should have received better training, but I also should have asked for clear direction and expectations, something that I was sure to do in every position I’ve held since.
The paint shop had a very casual atmosphere and the designers and painters seemed to come and go as they pleased, so I thought nothing of it when I showed up 10-15 minutes late a few days and took leisurely lunch breaks. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that the informal schedules apparently didn’t apply to me.
My boss laid into me after I got back from lunch one day and told me in no uncertain terms that he expected me to show up for my shifts on time and that lunch breaks were supposed to be 30 minutes, maximum. Of course I apologized profusely, but rather than giving me a chance to prove myself, he fired me on the spot. I was hurt, confused, and severely disappointed in myself.
From that day on I made it a point to be at least 10 minutes early for every interview, meeting, and shift, no matter what the job. It’s a policy that I continue to this day, and it has served me well. These were hard lessons to learn at the time, but in hindsight, I’m grateful to my paint shop boss for setting me straight and teaching me these valuable lessons. They have made me a better person, a better employee, and better manager to this day.
Five Reasons Punctuality is so Important to Your Career
- The early bird gets the worm – if you show up early or on time you’re more likely to be given projects than your co-worker who strolls in late; punctuality shows initiative, and will be remembered when it’s time for bonuses.
- Quite simply, punctuality equates to respect. When you’re late, it tells people that you don’t care that you’ve waste their time.
- You’ll eventually be recognized and rewarded for your timeliness and presence at important moments.
- Lateness leads to stress, which in turn leads to poorer performance in the workplace
- Punctuality demonstrates responsibility, and shows that you are dependable.