Integrity Matters
November 19, 2003

Working relationships require some give, take

Question: (E-068)

Dear Jim:

My boss expects me to be on time, every time. She is almost never on time for her meetings with me. My frustration is that when her schedule messes up mine, the people who depend on me to not make them wait get upset with me. If I say anything about my boss not being respectful of my time and how that causes me to be late and disrespectful to others, then I am being unprofessional and disloyal. I have mentioned to her my commitment to not make others wait. She nods and continues her meeting. Abuse of time is not right. Is this violating integrity? Certainly, time costs money.


Many wise leaders believe that working effectively requires relationships built upon respect and trust. Pressure to perform is great enough without adding the stresses related to making others wait simply because time commitments are ignored. Emergencies are understood to be the exception. However, some individuals seem to thrive on their tight and tardy schedules. Flying in at the last minute, scrambling for papers and reports, they destroy whatever order might have been necessary for others to function productively.

To make matters worse, many flagrant violators of time seem oblivious to the pain they cause others. This insensitivity runs headfirst into how partners - whether colleagues or bosses, friends or family members - ought to treat one another to enhance trust, respect and productivity.

The snowball rolls down hill. By the end of the working day, those affected by the clock-wasters can be demoralized. Their plans for managing their efforts have been interrupted, even destroyed. Expending energies in shuffling and adjusting schedules to accommodate the undisciplined leaders takes a toll.

Is such behavior an integrity issue? Yes. Each partner in a relationship, at work or at home, professional or personal, is obligated to show appreciation for the needs of the other. Wasting time, needlessly, is destructive. Partners cannot plan with confidence how best to use their energies. Subordinates in an organization will not maximize productivity when commitments are missed, especially time commitments. Mutual respect suffers. Attitudes of those whose schedules are torn apart will seldom improve.

So, what can be done? Start and end your own meetings on time. Clarify to those who violate time that you need to know what level of rudeness that they find acceptable.

If their definition is different from yours, then you will need to make a decision about the lengths to which you will go to keep the relationship alive (personal or professional). After asking for tardy people to behave differently and finding responses unsatisfactory, you will know what to do. If an individual or an organization does not have pride on the timely fulfillment of all commitments, including time, then partnership is difficult, if not impossible. Respect of time is an integrity matter. Partners honor obligations.

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