I grew up in a family that did not tolerate being late. In fact, we were early to most events. We never had that feeling of missing an event or being disrespectful, by being late.
Before my mom passed, I would go over every Saturday to run errands with her. If I was 5 minutes late, I knew that my cell phone would start ringing because 5 minutes to my mom was like an hour. That’s who she was.
However, it made it challenging when I was in my teens. Teens are notorious for running late. Growing up as a girl, in a conservative South Asian household, the ability to go out with friends was rare and so in those instances when I could go out, I was ready and waiting to leave and have a night out. I remember one night when my friends were over an hour late. At that point, there was no point going out because my curfew was super early when I was in high school – a point which was made clear by my dad when my friends finally showed up and then promptly left without me.
However – it is true; the values that are instilled into us, remain a part of who we are. Even now, I hate being late. But I have accepted that it is a part of life, especially back when I had 3 toddlers, who often had other ideas on what was required to leave the house.
But given my work, being on time or being early is vital. Many important and game changing discussions happen during that being early time frame. Many final decisions regarding strategy happen in that early time frame.
However, what I have been finding lately, that the same consideration for my time, is not being met. I am often sitting on a Zoom call or Teams meeting, waiting for someone to appear and not knowing what is causing the delay. I have turned into my mom, because if 5 minutes has passed and no one attends, or has communicated to me a technical issue (because they happen), I have no patience for this and leave the call. As a courtesy, I will follow up to ensure that there was no miscommunication regarding timing or that everything is alright. And I have to advise in all of these instances, there have rarely been issues. It really has been about not appreciating my time or having respect for my time and I have to say, that always leave an uncomfortable feeling with me.
We are living in a time where we are dispensing with a lot of formalities. When I was articling (apprenticeship), I was advised on my first day, which lawyers I could refer to by their first name and which lawyers required me to call them Mr. So and so. When I articled, there were not many female lawyers of that vintage and the ones that were there, did not require the formality, probably as a result of the fight that they had had to go through in reaching the level of success during that time. But I digress. Fast forward to today’s firms and I don’t know any lawyer who requires such formal address.
However, that being said, often times the lack of formality leads younger lawyers and students, to feel that they can be informal, which can sometimes results in unprofessional behaviour or decisions.
Being yourself and being authentic, does not mean sacrificing professionalism.
And wanting people to feel invested in you and your success results in a reciprocal feeling of respect. And so those lessons which were drilled into us when we were young – still make an impact. Being polite, being on time and being professional – they signal that you are taking things seriously and that you want to be taken seriously.
Perhaps I am wrong and perhaps these qualities will start to erode, but the edict that continues to live on, especially in law, is that time is money. So take that for what its worth.
But that’s just one Diva’s view.