The importance of being on time for meetings

Two recent studies by a team of US researchers highlight the importance of being on time for meetings. The first study surveyed 195 employees in South-east USA and the second study surveyed 665 international participants. The researchers found that 37% of meetings start late, often due to waiting for latecomers. Who was late most often? Less conscientious, less satisfied, and younger employees as well as those who dislike meetings.

And what’s the big deal? Tardiness reflects badly on both the latecomer, who is judged to be rude, and negatively impacts the rest of the meeting members by producing feelings of frustration and being disrespected and feeling generally upset. That, of course, impacts their performance and the meeting’s outcomes.

The researchers speculate (and make a good case for their speculations) that decision-making, employee wellbeing, interpersonal relationships among meeting members and organisational effectiveness (given the high cost of meetings), all suffer from lateness. They also speculate that tardiness can say something about the power motive and deviance of latecomers and their withdrawal from their job, the organisation or their peers.

If you’ve read Section 3 of Chapter 25 (pages 807 – 813), you know that not all cultures regard timeliness as important as the white, European culture which dominates many Australian workplaces. But like they say, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’; being on time for meetings is important, particularly when you take into account the high cost of meetings — just multiply the hourly pay of the attendees by the number of hours the meeting calls them away from their other duties and you’ll see what I mean!

Given their cost in terms of both time and money, it’s crazy not to optimise every meeting’s effectiveness and being on time so that the meeting can start on time is one way to do this.

Discussion questions

The sample sizes of these two studies were small and relied on self-reports by the participants, and so the conclusions are hardly definitive. Nevertheless, do you think the findings would be similar in Australian workplaces? What about at your workplace?

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