When did it suddenly become OK or even fashionable to be late for meetings? So many meetings in the corporate world start late and by the end of the day.
“The Rules” is a Moneyish series where we define the rules around sticky money or workplace topics.
It’s never too late to fix your tardiness problem.
Fifteen to 20% of the U.S. population say they’re “consistently late,” particularly for work, according to one 2006 survey. Almost one in five workers says they’re late to work at least once a week, a 2014 YouGov poll found, with 22% of millennials admitting they fall into that category. And lateness can impact the bottom line -- costing American businesses upwards of $3 billion in lost productivity every year, by one estimate.
“I think it’s partially because many of us (are) living in the world of rose-colored optimism, where we’re constantly thinking best-case scenarios because we’re all jamming so much into our days,” etiquette expert Thomas P. Farley told Moneyish. “Technology enables us to stay in touch with more people, to take more appointments … so we’re just cramming more in.” (Research has indeed linked multitasking with lateness.)
But habitual lateness -- whether it’s in a workplace setting or a social one -- signals that you’re disorganized, disrespectful and selfish, Farley said. Here are the rules around tardiness for work, social outings and family gatherings, according to experts, plus tips on how to never be late again:
Also read:The smartest way to let your boss know you’re running late to work
For work in particular, Farley said, “even one or two minutes late is not on time -- you are late.” For commitments like conference calls or meetings, he added, “you really should be striving not just to be arriving on the stroke of the hour when the meeting is commencing, but rather, you should be there early.” Don’t wait until seconds before your call begins to realize you don’t have the dial-in code.
“I wouldn’t suggest for anyone to arrive late for work, unless something transpired that prevented them from being there on time,” etiquette expert Elaine Swann said. But, she added, “I think the level of tolerance is subjective depending on your coworkers, your boss, your supervisor, your company policy and the culture at your job.”
If you’re late to a meeting, don’t rush into the room “in a big kerfuffle of excitement and energy,” Swann said. Instead, locate a seat before walking in, beeline over to that seat and sit quietly until it’s your turn to speak. Apologize for your tardiness without going into detail -- you can always explain your reason to the relevant person later -- and move on. “You don’t want your lateness to be a serious distraction to everyone who’s there,” Swann said. “You want to walk in, sit yourself down and be quiet.”
If you’re meeting friends for a predetermined reservation, show up early, Farley said. Keep in mind that many restaurants won’t seat a party until every member is present.
Don’t make lateness your M.O., even with friends. “I think every now and then, five minutes (late) is fine,” Farley said. “But I would still not want to make that your regular habit. If you’re consistently the last one out of your group to be arriving at a common meeting place, you’re going to get a reputation of a person who’s not organized enough to show up on time.” If someone’s tardiness becomes a pattern, he added, “we start to feel like we’re being taken advantage of -- and frankly, whether that’s the intention or not, that’s the net result.”
Also read:These are 8 of the weirdest excuses workers made for being late last year
Don’t be that person who’s always blaming transit issues. “Sure, we’ve all been there. And yes, there are those once-a-year situations where you’re on a subway that just shuts down for an hour with you trapped inside,” Farley said. “But to be consistently blaming traffic, to be consistently blaming the transit system, I think that’s a cop-out.” After all, he pointed out, travel delays are usually a known quantity -- and while planning based on the ideal travel conditions may work on your lucky day, “not every day is going to be your lucky day.”
“If you’re factoring how much time it’s going to take you to get somewhere,” Farley added, “don’t ever, as your baseline, use the quickest time you ever got somewhere.” Think of how long it takes you to get from point A to point B 85% of the time, he suggested, then build in a 10% margin of error. Swann urged mentally working backwards from the time you need to leave, rather than the time you need to get there. “Your deadline should be the go-time from home,” she said.
Give an early heads up once you know you’re running late, so the other person can adjust their departure time accordingly. Don’t text your friend that you’re running 20 minutes behind a minute before you’re supposed to meet, Farley said. “I could’ve been doing other things myself, and maybe in fact I would’ve welcomed the extra time to get ready.” The more notice you can provide, the better.
For dinner at a family member or friend’s house, Farley said, it’s OK to arrive fashionably late by 15 minutes or so -- but overall punctuality is still important, given the science of timing that goes into serving meal courses. For an open house or barbecue-style gathering to which guests will arrive in waves throughout the day, he added, it’s fine to arrive a few hours after the event begins -- just call the host ahead of time to make sure.
Be early, not on time. Farley harks back to football coach Vince Lombardi, who famously functioned 15 minutes ahead of schedule. And as a selfish perk, Farley said, you’ll have a greater degree of control over factors like how you present yourself and where you and the group are seated. “You could have the address wrong; your phone could die; your Uber driver could get lost,” he added. “Rather than dealing with the anxiety of all these things, give yourself the gift of factoring in extra time. And then bring a book; catch on email once you’re there.”
Experts tell Moneyish the rules around being late to work, social outings and family gatherings -- and share tips for always being on time.
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Time for Sushi(2017)
Animation | Short | Comedy
This is the sequel to the 2013 "Late for meeting" and the 2011 "Going to the store" short films, which featured a silly, disjointed journey in the traditions of dadaism and surreal humor in film.
Director: David Lewandowski
Animation | Short | Fantasy
A butcher makes an unusual submarine sandwich using some sports equipment.
Animation | Short | Fantasy
Everyday objects become delicious ingredients as we learn how to cook spaghetti through stop-motion photography.
Animation | Short
Director PES recreates five classic arcade games (Centipede, Frogger, Asteroids, Space Invaders, and Pac-Man) by manipulating familiar objects in stop-motion.
Animation | Short | Fantasy
A king steals crowns from various other rulers.
Animation | Short | Action
A short Star Wars animation, focused on the Empire, drawn and shaded in the style of classic '80s anime. Empire and rebel forces engage in a frantic all-or-nothing dogfight in space, but the Empire has 3 Tie Fighter aces up its sleeve.
"Late for meeting" is the first companion piece to the 2011 short film entitled "going to the store," which featured a silly, disjointed journey through Sunset Park in the traditions of dadaism and surreal humor in film.
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When did it suddenly become OK or even fashionable to be late for meetings? So many meetings in the corporate world start late and by the end of the day diaries become a jumbled mess. But does it really have to be this way?
It was reported last week that Tony Abbott was snubbed by Vladimir Putin and given “an iron curtain” after arriving seven minutes late for a leader's summit in Indonesia. Good work Vladimir! If we had more leaders doing this we wouldn't think it's OK to always be late. A recent article in Business Insider reported how Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is constantly late for meetings, sometimes having staff wait hours after their initial appointment. As “super nanny” Jo Frost would say, “Marissa, that behavior is unacceptable!”
I spend a lot of my time presenting workshops and meeting with executives. I'm often in a boardroom to meet three or four people for a 9am meeting and frequently find at 9.05 that I'm still the only one in the room. A few minutes later I become bored and walk over to read the company values framed in a beautiful mahogany case. Values like 'honesty', 'integrity' and 'respect'. Checking my watch again shows 9.08am, and I'm still Robinson Crusoe. And what am I thinking at this point? “This company is full of shit. They haven't even read their values.”
Maybe I'm crazy, but shouldn't a 9am meeting actually start at 9am? I spent more than a decade working in the world of sport and learned very quickly that high-performing teams get the basics right, and punctuality is one of the absolute basics that shows discipline, organisation and respect.
Steve (Stumpa) Rixon (former coach of the NSW Cricket Team and now Australian fielding coach) taught me the most important lessons I could ever learn about meetings and communicating in teams.
When I worked under Stumpa he commanded a tight ship. “Firm but fair” was his sporting creedo. But you always knew the rules, and God help anyone who was ever late for training. If a fitness session started at 8am, everyone would be there between 7.30am to 7.45am at the latest, ready to start at 8am sharp.
If a player rocked up at 8.01, first they'd get the death stare and then Stumpa would take them to the side and give them a 'special' warm up consisting of high-intensity fielding drills and intervals; players were known to vomit and fall in a heap at the end of this 'special' activity. It didn't matter whether it was an Australian Test player or an 18-year-old rookie, they were all treated the same and the message was loud and clear – turn up on time, all the time.
Former Commonwealth Bank CEO Ralph Norris was known to lock the door after his executive meetings commenced, and too bad if you weren't on time. Rob Blain, the CEO of CBRE Asia Pacific, arrives at his meetings 10 minutes early and sits in the foyer so he is calm and relaxed before he walks into the meeting. Company leaders set the meeting culture, and if they are always late this cascades throughout the entire organisation and can literally waste millions of dollars in lost productivity.
$10,000 down the toilet
I sat in on a meeting with a well-known Australian company earlier this year.
Out of the 15 people invited for an 8.30am start, five were present at 8.35am, nine were there at 8.41am and the meeting finally started at 8.47am. Oops, it had started until Mr Big (the senior manager) walked in 'fashionably late' at 9.02am without even a hint of an apology and said “So, what have I missed?”.
The chairperson then spent 15 minutes recapping what Mr Big had missed, who all the while was checking and sending messages from his iPhone and occasionally looking up. Finally at 9.17am - more than 45 minutes after the allocated starting time - the meeting was on track.
Working out the average wages of the people present, a quick tap on the calculator showed Mr Big had just flushed $10,000 of the company's money down the toilet, and that was before the meeting even got started.
Some simple tips to get your meetings back on time:
1. Start on time, all the time – don't allow a culture where it's permissible to always start meetings 5 to 10 minutes late.
2. Be prepared – read the minutes and be ready to start participating in the meeting from the get-go.
3. Compress meetings back to 45 minutes so you have a 15-minute buffer before your next appointment.
4. Free up your diary by deleting the Days of Our Lives meetings you have with the same people at the same time each week where you talk about the same things but never make any decisions.
What importance do you place on punctuality? What is the meeting culture like at your workplace?
Putin is notoriously late to meetings, and has kept people like US President Donald Trump, Pope Francis, and German Chancellor Angela.
We’ve had it up to here with meetings (position your straightened hand under your chin for maximum effect). One to discuss the budget, one for payroll, one for marketing and another for something else that doesn’t benefit your customer…
…you’re sick and tired of meetings!
But they are mandatory and you must go.
Your Outlook calendar bells rings 15 minutes before the start of the next one so you gather up your notes, take one last swig of coffee and head toward the meeting room. Almost forgot, need to make a quick pitstop in the rest room so you can “comfortably” sit through the snooze-fest without having to get up in the middle of it to “go”.
Seven minutes before the meeting starts you reach the room, door is closed and lights are off…not a good sign.
You prop open the door, flick on the lights and decide which chair is the “power position” (depending on your office status) and have a seat. Now you wait…
While waiting you scan the room, patiently waiting for your coworkers. One by one they file in, seemingly unaware of how busy you are. You have stuff to do, clients to call, employee schedules to complete and so on. Come on man, let’s get this started.
Small talk fills the room along with the unneeded complaints of another overworked manager. Shush, I have my own problems, don’t need to hear yours.
A quick glance at your watch to see it’s 7 minutes after the start time and you still are waiting for 3 people and one is the boss!
Finally after a few minutes more, all parties arrive and the meeting starts. No agenda, no clearly defined process to discuss previous meeting minutes, just a gradual ease into today topics.
►Related story:Pet Peeve #2 – Not Returning Emails
Then it happens, the manager’s hands start to disappear. Usually it’s the right hand, now wrapped around their smart phone while out of view in their lap. Another waste of time.
Topics are brought up, discussed and stored away. Did you all understand? Of course not, your nose was buried in your phone, did you have any questions about what we just spoke about? Well, maybe but you really didn’t pay full attention.
Does this sound like one of YOUR meetings?
If so, I’m sorry for you. Sorry for your team and sorry you probably spend more time sitting in unproductive meetings than you do discovering ways to tend to your customer’s needs or developing a new strategy to design or market your product or service to maximize the customer experience.
THAT, my friends, is what meetings should be about![Tweet “If meetings don’t have a “customer first agenda” are they really needed?”]
Ask yourself this; if this meeting was so important, why did your coworkers come late? Why did the boss come late? Where is the expectation of being on time and ready to discuss the matter at hand?
Oh, you were busy, oh, you got caught up in something else…I see.
I used to work for a few “old time” Hilton Hotel general managers, men that had 30+ years experience in the hospitality business. You DID NOT come late for their meetings, unless you wanted a stern tongue-lashing right in front of your coworkers.
There must be a respect for everyone’s time, for the topic(s) to be discussed and for the reason to hold the meeting. If not, then don’t waste everyone’s time. Just tape record your questions/answers and send them out to be vetted by the boss’s secretary and typed-up to be read when needed.
Being on time is a sign of discipline, a sign of maturity. Those that value these traits are the ones to be respected and usually are the real leaders.
Here’s an idea, just like when we were in high school; set your watch 15 minutes ahead so that you aren’t late for school, or in this case, your next meeting. Your customers deserve nothing less.
Oh, and one more thing to think about…[Tweet “Every meeting should conclude with “how does this benefit our customer?””]
If the topics discussed don’t have the customer’s best interest at heart, then why bother?
Do you agree?
►Next Post:The 5 Best Ways to Deal With an Upset Customer
I bet you can tell me, right now, who is going to be late to your next meeting. Is it you? We all know who will be late to our next meeting. Why? Not because we.