belbin target training

Someone Late for Meetings?: 3 Questions to Ask

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

  1. Is your watch broken?
  2. Did you forget how to tell time?
  3. 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

  1. You ensure all colleagues have a clearly-defined role in the meeting.
  2. You ensure that chronically late arrivals are punished for their tardiness, not the other way around.
  3. 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.

2 replies
  1. Uzoma
    Uzoma says:

    Lateness to meetings can be a frustrating occurrence, especially if it is chronic. What many people may not realize is that chronic lateness inexcusable. It simply portrays the result of poor time management. If habitual lateness is common, it is necessary to examine the potential reasons before immediately resorting to discipline.
    For one to be late to a meeting once in a while is understandable but when it becomes consistent then there is a problem. It may be one or more of these attitudinal reasons:
    Deliberate effort to frustrate the team – this may be a simple way the person has decided to use to get at the team especially if he is disgruntled; Outright Indiscipline, Low Morale, Illness, Arrogance, Emergencies, unforeseen Circumstances, lack of interest or lack of understanding of the team’s goal.
    Being late to meetings definitely does not portray a good image of you before your other colleagues. However, this can be tactically checked to ensure that relationships are not marred as well as achieve the team’s goal and objective.
    Smart ways to check this misbehaviour can be Firstly, call the person involved privately to find out what the issues are and then suggest some ways out. Secondly, at the end of the meeting, you can appoint the chronic latecomer to give a summary of the team’s decisions- it is obvious that he will not have enough information which will put him on his toes to elicit information from colleagues. This can make him change his ways.
    Three questions to ask may be:- are you aware of our meeting time?
    What time do you think is best for this meeting?
    What can we do to make this meeting more productive?

  2. Jennie Wright
    Jennie Wright says:

    Yes it could be a broken watch ;-) but maybe there are also important cultural differences working here.

    Many cultures see time very differently and if you are working in an international environment, this could affect your meetings or even your deadlines.

    If different cultures are arriving earlier or later to a meeting, maybe there is a difference in how time is seen. So what do you do if it’s your meeting?

    Think about whether you expect everyone to follow your idea of time. Do a little research to see how different cultures view time when doing business. Then you’ll know what to expect and don’t become impatient or make any incorrect assumptions.

    In fact, this could be a great lunch time or coffee time topic to talk about, and could build a better rapport between you and your international colleagues.

Comments are closed.