22 December 2023 CJPI Insights Leadership

Being Late For Meetings Is Much Worse Than You Think

Delayed meetings are the bane of boardrooms, teams and conference calls alike. Being late to meetings is annoying, and making sure you are not late to any important meetings, such as an interview may well seem like a basic interview tip. While seemingly trivial, its impact on professional environments is far from inconsequential. Recent research by a team of organisational psychologists sheds light on the detrimental effects of this seemingly harmless habit.

The findings paint a stark picture: lateness is not merely a nuisance; it’s a productivity poisoner. Satisfaction plummets, effectiveness evaporates, and group performance takes a nosedive. These are not anecdotal observations, but statistically significant outcomes, underscoring the need for a shift in how we approach punctuality in professional settings.

The Corrosive Consequences of Being Chronically Late:

  • Eroded Engagement: When meetings begin behind schedule, participants’ enthusiasm wanes. The initial momentum dissipates, replaced by a growing sense of frustration and disengagement. This undermines the very purpose of the gathering, hindering effective communication and collaboration.
  • Productivity Paralysis: Lateness disrupts the flow of critical discussions and brainstorming sessions. The precious minutes lost at the outset translate into missed opportunities for generating ideas, solving problems, and driving progress. Each late arrival chips away at the collective output, impacting individual and organisational goals alike.
  • Performance Poisons: The ramifications of lateness extend beyond subjective disgruntlement. Studies reveal a measurable decline in group performance when meetings start off-track. Fewer ideas emerge, their quality diminishes, and even their feasibility suffers. This translates into lost opportunities, hampered decision-making, and ultimately, compromised outcomes.
  • Toxicity Takes Root: Perhaps the most insidious consequence of tardiness is the erosion of trust and respect within teams. Repeated disregard for shared schedules can breed resentment and passive-aggressive behaviour, poisoning the collaborative spirit that fuels success. A culture of punctuality, conversely, fosters professionalism, mutual respect, and a commitment to collective goals.

A Culture of Punctuality:

Combating the epidemic of late arrivals requires a proactive approach rooted in shared responsibility and respect. Here are some key strategies:

  • Schedule Rigor: Meetings should be scheduled strategically, minimising scheduling conflicts and respecting participants’ time commitments. Clear agendas and concise durations set realistic expectations and promote focus.
  • Timely Communication: Unavoidable delays should be communicated promptly and transparently. Early notification allows colleagues to adjust schedules and minimises disruption.
  • Respectful Reminders: Gentle reminders about meeting times, perhaps through calendar invites or internal communication channels, can serve as subtle nudges in the right direction.
  • Leading by Example: Punctuality starts at the top. When leaders consistently set the standard for timeliness, it sends a powerful message and encourages emulation throughout the organisation.

Tardiness vs. Triviality: Is a Meeting Even Necessary?

Before diving headfirst into punctuality protocols, it’s crucial to ask a fundamental question: is a meeting even necessary? In our hyper-connected world, alternative communication channels like emails and calls can often achieve the same objectives without the logistical headache of scheduling and in-person attendance.

In one piece of research which looked at a decade, 90% of employees were found to feel that meetings are “costly” and “unproductive”. With a reduction in meetings of just 40%, productivity improved by a staggering 70%!

Consider these factors:

  • Information Dissemination: If the purpose is simply to share information, a well-crafted email or concise document can reach a wider audience asynchronously and allow for individual review at convenient times.
  • Decision-Making: For straightforward decisions that don’t require extensive discussion or brainstorming, a quick poll or survey can gather input efficiently without convening a formal meeting.
  • Brainstorming and Collaboration: While the synergy of in-person interaction can be valuable for complex problem-solving and idea generation, video conferencing platforms can often bridge the physical gap effectively, especially for geographically dispersed teams.

Evaluate the need for a meeting before scheduling it. This can significantly reduce the burden on everyone’s calendars and minimise the potential for frustrations. Remember, effective communication isn’t always synonymous with face-to-face interaction… But if you do need a meeting, start on time!

CJPI Insights

This post has been published by the CJPI Insights Editorial Team, compiling the best insights and research from our experts.

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