When running late forces you to reschedule, it says you don't value other people's time -whether those people are your coworkers or your clients.

By Amy Rauch Neilson

It's a typical day-in-the-life. You drop off the kids at school while you're answering a text message from a client and leaving a voicemail for your boss. And that's before you hit the drive-thru for your morning coffee.

In a world of tweeting, PDAs, and social networking, the pace of life has never been more frenetic. So, your coworkers and clients will certainly understand if you're a few minutes late. Won't they?

That depends. "If it happens on occasion, that doesn't make you less credible," says Sandy Allgeier, a former corporate HR executive and author of The Personal Credibility Factor. But when it becomes a part of your M.O., well, that's a different story.

"Most of us know people who are constantly running a little behind, if not more," Allgeier says. "The message you're sending is, 'You can't rely on me.' Like it or not, the people around you will apply a broader brush stroke to your behavior."

Unintended Messages

When running late forces you to reschedule, it says you don't value other people's time -whether those people are your coworkers or your clients. "There is nothing worse than having to reschedule meetings," says Dennis O'Brien, president of Coastal Financial Advisors in Farmingdale, N.J. "It really boils down to respect. If a team member is chronically late, they don't respect other members of the team. Everyone wants to be understanding of each other's personal situation, but when it drags down the team, it's just not fair."

And, when your behavior impacts the team, it can get you the wrong kind of attention. "This is a good time to remove a mediocre team member and hire a higher-quality person,"O'Brien observes. "There are a lot of talented people looking for jobs in this economy."

Even if you're near the top of the ladder, you're not immune. "I had a boss who was in a senior position at a large organization," Allgeier recalls. "He was constantly rescheduling meetings and showing up late for appointments. It not only became the organizational joke, but it affected the image of our department. Eventually, he was replaced."

Plan Ahead

It comes down to your ability to organize and plan - or lack thereof. "An employee's ability to be on time and keep the appointments they make is often a direct reflection of their organizational skills and trustworthiness," says Tom Kochan, director of software development for Owens & Minor in Richmond, Va.. 

So, what can you do if you're a repeat offender? "Acknowledge that you need to make changes," Allgeier says. "If we change our mindset from 'I can always reschedule,' to 'I made a commitment,' we tend to deliver more often. "And, when you're scheduling an appointment or you know you have a staff meeting, be careful. Think it through and give yourself extra time."

Not only will everyone around you reap the benefits, but you will, too. "I've learned to build more time into my schedule. And I've found I'm so much more calm and in the moment," Allgeier says.

Amy Rauch Neilson is a business writer based in Belleville, Mich.