Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tardiness

As a professional, I've always taken being on time seriously.  In fact, I'd much prefer to be early than to be late.  However, I work in the games industry, and there's a certain "we're creative, we don't follow rules" attitude to that culture.  Meetings that start within 15 minutes of scheduled time are celebrated as a success, but it drives me absolutely ape shit.  I'm a project manager, my time, much like a lawyer, is tracked in billable increments, which all go against the bottom line of project overhead.  If I stopped to count up how many meetings start late in a project, you start to see why project deadlines often get blown off and missed.  Lateness is lateness, and it all adds up.

Let me add a disclaimer here:
This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. I'm not going to tell you who my employer is, but if you happen to figure it out, I'm not representing them.  Got it?

There.  That's out of the way.  I work for a game developer that is sort of notorious for not following traditional schedules or milestones.  Our games ship when they're done, not when we say we'll ship them when we first start a project.  This has been the single hardest adjustment to my style as a producer since I started with this organization.  In my past positions, I live and die by the schedule.  I've primarily worked on branded product that is tied to events: movie releases, ad campaigns, major sporting events, etc.  Those dates do not change.  The product that you deliver might change during the course of the project for a variety of reasons (contract signed late, customer made a change in the scope of work, approval process delays, as a few examples), but the date DOES NOT CHANGE.

It is bad enough at work that each clock on the floor is set to a different time - varying between 5-15 minutes ahead of the actual time.  That doesn't solve anything, it just makes people MORE likely to ignore the clock and make excuses.  I've never been a fan of the "I'll set my clock ahead, so that way if I snooze I can still be on-time" mentality.  You're not actually fooling anyone.



My meetings start on time.  I start talking when the designated time arrives, even if I'm talking to an empty room.  And I do not repeat myself.  If no one shows up by the time 15 minutes has passed, I walk out and I do not rush back in to cram through the topics when the tardy ones come looking for me.  I will send a follow up e-mail that covers off on why no decisions were made, and propose a new time for the meeting.  I've become a bit notorious for this, and it's becoming a less common occurrence that people are late, at least not to my meetings. I've heard muttering about "Oh, that's Rae's meeting.  You better be on time because she will bust your balls if you're not!" and the like, but that's something I can live with.

To me, if you accept a meeting, you accept your role and responsibility in that conversation.  Yes, things happen and if you call or text and say "I'm 5 minutes away, I apologize.", I will say thank you when you walk in the room. But just wandering in because you can't allocate your time and honor the commitments you make says that you do not respect me, you do not respect what I'm doing, and you don't respect yourself as a professional.

Doesn't that sound so admirable?   Let me just say, this is something I've had to work VERY hard at.  Ask my best friend, she can probably account for a year of her life spent waiting for me during our time sharing rides to school in Junior High and High School.  She never left my ass, but she SHOULD have.  I was always in a state of "hair on fire and ass is catching", I always had an excuse and and apology at the ready, and at some point, I finally grew out of it and started taking punctuality seriously.

So, here's the reality of my life today.  Despite my best efforts, the ONLY PLACE I'M ACTUALLY ON TIME IS AT WORK.  BabyBoy is 14 months old, and I haven't been on time to 99% of the things we have done since he was born.  We were late to the birthing center tour.  We were late the morning of his scheduled c-section birth, we were late to freakin' CHRISTMAS BRUNCH and we were bringing the main course!  (Hubby's reasoning: "They can't start without us," which was technically true, because we had at the FOOD for 15 people, and we were nearly 45 minutes late!  How rude can you possibly be?)  I've become fanatical about being on time at work because it's the only place in my life where I feel like I have any control left.

There's got to be a balance here, somewhere.  We're both adults, we're both professionals, we both understand the value of time.  Starting our shared time together in a mad rush for the door, with me in a state of low-grade piss off  because I've done all the work to prepare BabyBoy and straightened up the house and have STILL been kept waiting is no way to enjoy our time together.  I've started padding the time I tell Hubby that we need to be places so at least we hit closer to on-time than we have in the past, but that feels manipulative and childish. Knowing our relationship, knowing myself, and knowing Hubby, the change will most likely have to be with me.  We're not known for our ability to talk rationally and compromise.  And that just makes me feel resentful.  This isn't a topic like "what direction does the basket for zippy cup parts face in the dishwasher?", it's common courtesy.  If you say you'll be somewhere, be there when you say you'll be there.

How do I get the point across without being a shrew?  I hate being late.  I think it's disrespectful and it makes me anxious and edgy to do everything in a manufactured emergency rush.  It's that simple.

6 comments:

  1. I relate. I am always on time for "professional" matters, but somewhat lax otherwise. Not disrespectfully lax, but I'm not a stickler for five minutes. Hmmm...this does make me think about my time values in general!

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    1. I know that I'm being a bit fanatical about it, too. +/- 5 is no big deal, and in the connected world, it's really eaasy to communicate what's going on. Anything approaching 15 makes me mental, though.

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  2. Perhaps, like what you've done at work, it's a matter of zero tolerance. Leave his ass behind. Do it enough times, and the message becomes clear. Now aren't you glad I never did that to you in high school? ;-)

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    1. Heh, Jen. You would hear the screams all the way from Texas. And, yes. I'm glad you never took that hard line with me! ;-) I think the real point when punctuality took over was when I started traveling frequently for work. You only miss one flight because you couldn't get your butt in gear before it starts being a bigger priority.

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  3. I have a friend with three kids. In order to get anywhere on time, she has to start getting the kids ready a half hour ahead of time PER KID. If that were me, I would never go anywhere.

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    1. We definately have our moments where you just can't change what's going to happen with a baby! (Z was a notorious last minute popper for the first 8 months), but as he settles into a routine, it's easier to work with. The core of my "Grrrrr" is that I can get myself, the baby, and the daycare bag ready (not to mention load the dishwasher, put away the clean dishes and straighten up the living room) in less time that it takes Hubby to get himself ready. It's a long standing sticking point. True confession. I sometimes passive aggressively start the dishwasher while he's in the shower in an effort to hurry his ass up! ;-)

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