When someone is always late
Effective meetings can be tough to manage when everyone is on time. What about when someone is always late for meetings? Everyone in an organization knows that lateness can be a problem, but the topic of what to do if someone is consistently late for meetings is rarely discussed. Here, the key word is consistently. Everyone can be late at one time or another, but it’s when someone is predictably, consistently late that problems begin to pile up. Before we get to the questions you should ask your chronically late colleague, let’s take a look at the questions you shouldn’t ask.
3 questions you shouldn’t ask your colleague who is always late for meetings
- Is your watch broken?
- Did you forget how to tell time?
- Where the hell were you?
Time management strategies don’t include learning how to tell time or buying a better watch. Experts in the field agree that if someone is consistently late for meetings, it’s their attitude that’s to blame. Changing time habits in relation to meetings means changing the colleague’s mindset, incentivizing being on time and not punishing colleagues for being on time. Yes, you read that right. Very often, meetings are postponed to wait for late colleagues, effectively punishing those who come on time.
3 questions you should ask your colleague who is always late for meetings
1. Do you think you have a clearly-defined role in this meeting?
A clear role means having a specifically-defined function in the meeting. Some examples of roles: moderator, organizer, minute-taker, timekeeper and participant. Participant is the generic name for anyone at a meeting, but a participant has responsibilities at the meeting as well and should be held accountable for fulfilling them. Examples of the responsibilities of a meeting participant are: being active in brainstorming sessions, contributing to discussions and helping create the agenda for future meetings.
2. You’re going to keep the minutes for the next meeting, right?
Keeping and distributing the meeting minutes isn’t exactly the most glamorous or enjoyable task. One way of encouraging participants to come on time might be to give them a small penalty (for example, maybe they have to keep and distribute the minutes for the next meeting, make a small donation to a charity or supply coffee for everyone at the next meeting). Naturally, the penalties should be light-hearted, but the cause should be taken seriously.
3. Do you have any feedback about the quality of this meeting?
Being on time is important, but lateness can sometimes be a symptom of dissatisfaction with the meeting itself. If your colleague lacks a clear role, feels that their voice isn’t heard in the meeting or finds the meeting pointless, it can lead to carelessness regarding the ground rules your meeting participants agreed on (one of which should definitely be: we start and end on time).
3 benefits of considering these points when someone is consistently late for meetings
- You ensure all colleagues have a clearly-defined role in the meeting.
- You ensure that chronically late arrivals are punished for their tardiness, not the other way around.
- You accept responsibility for the quality of your meeting and give the participants a chance to give feedback. An anonymous feedback form made available on the company intranet might be one way of allowing colleagues to give constructive feedback in a comfortable manner.
As we can see, being late for meetings can be an indication that someone has a broken watch, but it can also be a reflection on the quality of your meeting in general. Taking a moment to reflect on the underlying reasons behind a behavior can be a chance to make sure your meeting is running as efficiently as possible.