Lack of Motivation for Punctuality

Are chronically late people motivated to be late? As we shall see on the next web page, some are, but there are many others who are late because they aren’t motivated enough.

When people are lacking in one or motives for punctuality, they are less motivated to plan, more likely to prioritize other things when they plan, and are more susceptible to competing and impeding motives during preparation and transit. Weaker motives also mean weaker attentional focus on the plan.

Consequence avoiders lack self-evaluative and word-related motives. They are only motivated to be on time if they believe that lateness will result in social or professional repercussions or if they anticipate missing out on something at the destination..

They are chronically late to work if they believe that their bosses won’t notice or will let them off the hook. They keep friends waiting if they believe that those friends won’t mind their lateness.

They don’t feel shame or guilt about lateness, or pride about punctuality. They may lack these self-evaluative motives because they consider punctuality to be an arbitrary rule. They may argue—possibly with reason—that it’s illogical to penalize an employee who puts in the hours or completes the work. In their social life, they may think that waiting for them in the comfort of a home or a restaurant should be no big deal. They typically don’t expect others to be punctual either.

Consequence avoiders may be accurate in their expectations; they may not. Often they don’t consider the possibility that others do object but aren’t confronting them. For example, an employee believes that all is well because her boss doesn’t say anything about her frequent lateness, but then is surprised when a more punctual coworker is promoted to a supervisory position.

Some consequence avoiders grew up in cultures with relaxed attitudes to arrival times; they weren’t exposed to and didn’t internalize social norms of punctuality or develop negative associations to the word “late.” They are used to waiting, and don’t feel guilty about keeping others waiting. People from these relaxed cultures are also are less likely to have developed the planning and implementation skills necessary for consistent punctuality.

The consequence immune lack all four types of motives for punctuality: social-consequence, destination, self-evaluative and word-related. They believe that as a result of their social status—class, authority, or professional expertise or popularity—there won’t be repercussions for lateness. They may think that others don’t have the right to object to being kept waiting: they should be grateful to be seen at all!

Many healthcare professionals believe that they are consequence immune. In order to maximize their income, they book back-to-back or intentionally overbook. These professionals believe that patients in need of care won’t get fed up and walk out after waiting for extended periods. They assume that patients will continue to see them rather than starting over again with a different professional.

Consequence-immune business owners ignore the fact that they are fostering a work culture focused on displays of power rather than productivity, one in which employees equate lateness with higher status.

Psychotherapists who repeatedly keep their clients waiting may trigger negative emotions in their clients that can undermine the therapeutic relationship—especially as clients’ feelings about waiting rarely get discussed. The therapist doesn’t think to ask how the client felt while waiting; the client doesn’t want to create a conflict with the therapist. If the therapist does apologize for running late, the client may feel obliged to accept the apology and to let the matter go.

The consequence insensitive also lack all four types of motives. Unlike the consequence-immune, they know that there will be social or professional repercussions for lateness but they aren’t worried about them. They may have savings or in-demand skills that make them unconcerned about docked pay or job loss. Some don’t feel guilty about making others wait or don’t worry about undermining relationships because they don’t feel empathy for, or bond deeply with, others.

The consequence resigned feel negative emotions when they think about being late but those emotions aren’t motivating.

Some consequence resigned people are depressed people for whom helplessness and hopelessness is a general attitude to their lives. They flinch when they imagine being punished and rejected for lateness, but the idea of preventing lateness seems pointless because they expect failure and rejection no matter what they do. They already feel bad about themselves, so feeling guilty about keeping others waiting doesn’t make them feel that much worse. In more extreme cases of depression, the person’s mental arousal is depressed, making it hard to focus on planning and preparation. Physical lethargy makes it hard to get moving.

Consequence resignation can be the result of chronic lateness due to other causes. People who are repeatedly late in spite of their desire to be on time may eventually decide that there’s no use trying. They become resigned to lateness and its consequences. They may try and preserve their self-esteem by telling themselves and others that being late isn’t such a big deal.

Eventually, thinking about the consequences of not going at all creates feelings intense enough to motivate the consequence resigned person to head out the door.

Now let’s consider the people who are actively motivated to be late: Motivations for Lateness