it’s about time

We’re in the process of hiring two people for our web development team through our contractor, and today I had three interviews scheduled with folks whose resumes they’ve sent over. The first showed up almost 30 minutes late, having gotten lost on the way. The second called to cancel five minutes before his interview was scheduled to begin. The third never made it at all: half an hour into the scheduled time, we got a phone call that he had mistakenly gone to the contractor’s corporate office rather than here. Now, that is potentially an understandable confusion, since the work site and corporate headquarters are two separate locations in the same town–but apparently he arrived there late, too. On two earlier occasions this year, when hiring new administrative assistants (and these were government positions rather than contract), we had similar numbers of no-shows or those who would arrive significantly late.

When hiring in the past, I’d had the occasional no-show, but generally people arrived early or on time. Is this spate of thoughtlessness and carelessness I’ve recently observed a new norm? Given the state of the economy, I assumed–mistakenly, it appears–a relatively higher level of professionalism and respect among candidates competing for too few jobs.

I know that there are aspects of business time expectations that I’ve rebelled or chafed against myself in the past, but it seems like a no-brainer that you want to be at your interview on time.

It is interesting how my perception of what constitutes appropriate and professional behavior concerning time and timeliness has changed as I’ve moved up the corporate ladder. I’m more strict than I used to be, certainly, and I do notice when employees seem to be abusing the clock, though I like to think that I’m more flexible than rigid for rigidity’s sake.

I had a supervisor many years ago who fell into the latter category. I had been working with her for a while, and not only was always on time at first, but frequently worked through lunch and invariably stayed late a minimum of two to three hours every day. Then one day the bus schedules changed, and my bus-to-subway route could either get me to work five minutes late, or twenty minutes early. Because I was working late every day, because I had a relatively long commute at the time and because I’m more of an afternoon/evening person than a morning person, I started coming in five minutes late, and I explained to her why. She elected to see it, however, as “a mark of disrespect for her personally” and she told me that she wanted me there at 9:00 precisely, that she would rather have me on time and leave on time than to make up the lost five minutes later in the day.

So, because of this level of inflexibility–and it wasn’t a job where I was on the phones, or dealing with clients at 9:00–she got precisely what she said she wanted, and not a jot more. I started taking the early bus, sitting in a coffeeshop until 9, and then leaving precisely at 5. By being unwilling to even discuss compromise, or offer any reasons other than “because I’m the boss and I said so,” she lost my respect, my willingness to go to bat for her, and an average of 10-15 hours of additional productivity from me each week.

As I noted, though, this was a long time ago, and I do understand her position slightly better now, though I believe I strive for a greater degree of flexibility and discussion when dealing with my own staff.