On those rare days that you’re running late for something due to a legitimate reason, it’s better to genuinely praise the other person for their patience than to apologize for your tardiness.
The problem with apologizing is that, by attributing the negative feelings and associations of “sorriness” to yourself, you have now shifted all the negative spotlight onto you. Your boss is more likely to be psychologically programmed to think “Yeah, you better be sorry for being late! You made me wait 5 minutes – who do you think you are? You’re a terrible employee who doesn’t respect my time.”
The benefit of praising is that, by showering your boss with positive praise on his or her patience, your boss is more inclined to think positively of him or herself, rather than think negatively of you. He or she will think to themself “Yeah, I am a patient person, aren’t I? In fact, it’s one of my proudest traits as a good boss and an understanding person – after all, it’s good to show my employees that I’m a patient individual.”
Extra, extra, extra emphasis on the idea that one uses this on rare occurrences of being late – it is not meant to be for everyday use.
For those who are curious, this is Kevin Luo’s real-life example of using this:
A few months ago, I was late to a meeting with my manager for the first time due to someone dropping onto the tracks of the public train in Chicago. As such, the trains were paused from operating for a lengthy period of time that morning.
August 15th, 2017: A man’s body was found on the CTA tracks, pausing all CTA operations.
This happened 1 month after I had just started working at the office full-time. As you might imagine, it’s extremely important to have a good reputation as a punctual employee.
When I arrived ~10 minutes late (which felt terrible, since it was my first time and only 1 month into the job), I did NOT say “Hey, sorry I’m late, something happened this morning.”
Instead, I said something like “Hey, really appreciate your patience on this one – something happened this morning.”
Her response: “I heard – no worries.”
This was a win-win move. I avoided the negative spotlight for something out of my control and shifted the positive spotlight on my manager’s character as a patient individual.