Punctual persons get terribly upset every time they encounter persons who are not time-conscious. Yet, they often tolerate the unpunctuality of others. Sometimes, it’s out of compulsion (as I did in the case of my customer in ‘IST: Indian Standard Time or Indian Stretchable Time?’). Sometimes, it’s because of our excessively tolerant nature. Mostly, it’s because we think we just can’t change the other person!
Can an unpunctual person be made punctual? Yes!
Early in my career, I worked with a marketing company having branches in about a dozen places in India. Each Sales Executive had to send a Sales Status Report to the Head Office every month. If a Sales Executive’s SSR did not reach HO by the 5th of the month, his salary and his Branch Manager’s salary would be withheld. Their salary would be paid only after the Managing Director informed Accounts Department that he was satisfied with the written explanations given by the Sales Executive and his Branch Manager for not sending the SSR on time. Needless to say, no Sales Executive ever missed the deadline! More importantly, every Branch Manager ensured that all SSRs from his branch reached HO on time every month!!
Maybe an employer can get away with such tough action, but what can a customer do about a tardy salesperson? The Sales Manager of an insurance company had agreed to meet me in my office at 3.00 pm one day regarding Health Insurance policies for our employees. Since he had not turned up by 4.00 pm, I contacted him on his mobile phone. He apologised and explained that he was held up at a client’s place in another part of the city. He had no answer when I asked him why he hadn’t bothered to inform me. Anyway, he agreed to meet me at 10.00 am the next day. Despite my scolding the previous day, he turned up one hour late, again without having informing me that he would be late. I was so upset that, as he entered my office, I gave him five 1 Rupee coins and said, “It appears your company and you are facing a cash crunch, that’s why you don’t want to spend money on phone calls. I am reimbursing you in advance for phone calls that you may have to make in future to inform me that you will be late for a meeting with me! After you have used up this money, I’ll give you some more!!” The guy was shocked. He made an attempt to refuse the money, to which I said, “If you don’t accept this money, you can forget about any business from me!” He took the money. From that day, he has never reported late for any meeting with me. He claimed he had become equally punctual with all customers. I hope he was telling me the truth!
An employer may have the upper hand in an employer-employee relationship, a customer may have the upper hand in a customer-salesperson relationship, but in a teacher-student relationship, it is the teacher who has the upper hand! So, is it possible for a punctual student take a tough stand against his tardy teacher? Possible or not, one student did!! About 25 years back, BK joined a prestigious engineering institute to do his M.Tech. BK was a highly disciplined and systematic person, in complete contrast to his M.Tech Guide, Prof. NB, who was laidback and unpunctual, but a brilliant engineer, researcher and teacher! At the end of the first year, BK had to make a presentation about his M.Tech Project to a panel consisting of Prof. NB, an internal examiner and an external examiner. The presentation was scheduled for 3.00 pm on a Thursday. BK reached the venue at 2.00 pm and completed his preparations by 2.30 pm. Both examiners reached around 2.50 pm, but there was no sign of Prof. NB. At 3.30 pm, BK apologized to the examiners for the inconvenience caused to them due to his guide’s non-arrival, announced that he was not waiting any longer and walked out of the room. Prof. NB reached around 3.40 pm and was told that BK had left at 3.30 pm. The next day, Prof. NB asked BK why he had walked out at 3.30 pm. BK replied, “Sir, my watch may be 10 minutes fast, your watch may be 10 minutes slow, 10 minutes delay is OK; totally 30 minutes is allowed. After that, if you haven’t reached and you haven’t called or sent a message, it means you don’t respect me. I don’t want to work under a guide who does not respect me.” All those present expected the temperamental Prof. NB to react angrily, but he knew he had met his match! He apologized to BK, admitted his mistake, assured him that this would never occur again, and convinced BK to continue work on his project.
Unless there are compelling not to do so on certain occasions, punctual people must express their displeasure explicitly whenever they encounter callous unpunctuality. If they manage to change the other person, good! If not, they would at least have let off some steam!!