Leadership

This bad habit annoys Richard Branson and will get you fired from Tesla

Elon Musk, chairman and chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Elon Musk, chairman and chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc.

Even New York City traffic can't stop Richard Branson from making it to a meeting.

In an effort to avoid being late, the self-made billionaire jumped out of his car and ran 15 blocks through sweltering Manhattan streets to arrive at a meeting on time, he writes in a recent blog post.

Arriving late is one of the few things that annoys easygoing Branson. Being punctual shows that you're serious, organized and respectful of others' time, he writes. It's a trait that he and other top employers value since it signals other strong work habits.

"Thomas Chandler Haliburton [a prominent 19th century politician] said that 'punctuality is the soul of business,'" Branson writes. "I wouldn't say it is the soul, but it's an important part of the package."

Branson isn't the only one to stress the importance of punctuality. This past July, Tesla rolled out a new attendance policy to make penalties for late hourly workers fairer. When one employee is late, it may jeopardize the entire business's efficiency, Tesla says.

"Unscheduled tardies or absences interfere with customer service and production and make the job harder for your colleagues," the attendance policy says.

Under the new Tesla policy, managers can hand out demerits to hourly employees who come late to their shifts or who leave early, even if it's just by a minute. Once too many demerits are collected, that employee could be fired.

Tesla founder Elon Musk is in good company. According to employment website CareerBuilder, more than 40 percent of managers said they've fired an employee for arriving late to work.

Unfortunately for Branson and Tesla founder Elon Musk, tardiness is becoming more and more common. In 2017, CareerBuilder found that 29 percent of workers are late at least once a month, up from 25 percent in 2016.

Branson acknowledges that the unexpected happens and that sometimes it's impossible to avoid being late. The saving grace is how you deal with it.

"If it becomes impossible to arrive on time, I make sure I absolutely let people know and apologize," Branson writes. "But before that, I do everything possible to get there on time."

The majority of employees who arrive late to work do stay later to make up for it, according to CareerBuilder data.

Branson's appreciation for punctuality came as a teen after he'd kept his father and some of his friends waiting.

"My father took me to one side and quietly said: 'Is your time so much more important than everybody else's here, that you can so casually be late?'" Branson writes.

"I don't believe I've ever been late to a meeting since, when it was at all in my control."

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