AnnaMarie Houlis
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Journalist & travel blogger

There's always someone who is consistently late to meetings. You know the person who regularly has Wi-Fi connection issues or whose computer happened to die right before the start of the call or who happens to be on another call that seems to be running over... again.

Sure, things happen. These are all valid excuses from time to time. But what do you do when one person is constantly late for meetings? Punctuality in video calls is important. If one person is late, it can affect the schedule of everyone else on the call. It can set back the entire day.

While the work-from-home and dial-in culture throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly made meetings more casual, the necessity of timeliness has not changed. So, here's how to manage people who are always late to your calls.

How to manage a subordinate who’s always late 

If you have an employee who is always late to your calls, here are some steps you can take.

1. Ask them to create a public calendar — and schedule at more effective times.

If your employee is always late to calls because they are always on other calls that interfere with yours, it's probably best to find a different time that works more seamlessly. You can do this by asking your employee to create a meeting calendar that you can see. It's called a shared calendar and, this way, you'll always know what meetings they're in and when — so you can plan your meetings more effectively.

For example, you can say: "I want to cut down on meetings that start late. Please create a shared calendar with your meeting schedule, so we can plan better moving forward."

2. Let them know that their tardiness is unacceptable behavior.

While it should go without saying, your employee might be showing up late to meetings all the time because they feel like they can get away with it. It may be wise to pull them into a meeting or to shoot them an email to let them know that their tardiness is unacceptable. Remind them of your expectations and the repercussions of not meeting those expectations. This gives them a warning, which should hopefully encourage them to be more timely going forward.

For example, you can say: "I understand that things come up here and there, but I expect you to be on time to these meetings. Your tardiness affects the whole team's schedule and it's part of your job to be involved in these discussions in their entirety. Please be on time next time." 

3. Make sure to send reminders.

It's possible that your employee who is consistently late to meetings is juggling a lot and forgets about the meetings. While this is less likely for repeat offenders, there's still a chance that this is the case. Set up meeting reminders and send out notices via email, Slack or whatever other communication platform you use.

For example, you can say: "Hi team! Just as a reminder, we'll be meeting at 12 p.m. EST today. Looking forward to talking soon. Thanks!"

4. Send out the meeting agendas prior to the meetings.

Your employee might be late to meetings because they don't think that whatever comes first is that important for them to hear. While that's unacceptable, you can remind them that it's important they are on time and involved from the beginning. You can do this by sharing the meeting's agenda with a note about the importance of everyone's timeliness.

For example, you can say: "Hi team! As a reminder, we'll be meeting at 12 p.m. EST today to go over the campaign details. I've shared the meeting agenda below. I expect everyone to be on time for this, as we will need everyone's input and want to keep you all abreast of the latest. Thank you."

5. Give your employee a warning.

Let your employee know that, if they continue to be late, it could cost them their job. Of course, emergencies happen and time conflicts occur, but they regularly being late to meetings is not OK.

For example, you can say: "I need to know that I can rely on you to be on time and take your work, including each meeting, seriously. If I cannot trust that you'll be on time going forward, we're going to have to have another conversation about your role here. This is your warning, so please be on time for our next meeting."

How to manage a boss who’s always late

If you have a boss who is always late to meetings, here's how you can handle the situation.

1. Carry on with the meetings.

If your boss is always late, it may just be because they're very busy with everything else on their to-do list. If you can keep the meeting going without them, do so. You don't want to waste everyone else's time, too. Or, do what you can without them until they can jump on the call, too.

For example, you can say: "We're in the call now and can go ahead and get started with X until you're ready, if that's OK with you. We'll wait for you to go over Y. Or we can raincheck for that section of the meeting. Please let me know how best to proceed, thanks!'

2. Take minutes in the meetings.

If your boss can't make it to your meetings on a regular basis, let them know that you or someone else is going to take notes. You can then send them the run-down of the meeting after it's over, so they can still stay in the know about what you're all working on together.

For example, you can say: "We're sorry you can't make it today, but it's important that we get the ball rolling here. We're going to take some notes and send you the minutes after our call. If you have any questions or concerns, I'm happy to meet with you again after to go over them."

3. Record the meetings.

If your boss can't make it to the meetings but wants to tune in on their own time, you can record them for them instead. So long as you don't need your boss' input for the meeting, you can go ahead without them

For example, you can say: "Sorry you can't make it today, but we'll go ahead and record the meeting so you can take a look on your own time!"

4. Send a meeting agenda that explains when your boss needs to tune in.

If your boss doesn't have time for the whole meeting, you can at least let them know when you'll actually need them to be part of it. You can do this by leaving a note in the meeting agenda.

For example, you can say: "Jen, we'd love to have your thoughts on the strategy, which we'll discuss around 1:15 p.m. EST as per the agenda attached. Please dial in around then if you have time, thank you!"

5. Talk to your boss about taking on or delegating work.

If your boss needs to be in the meetings because their input is necessary, but they aren't making the meetings and you can't move them around every time, maybe it's time to  talk to your boss. Perhaps, for example, your boss can delegate some of their work to you or one of your team members. Maybe you or someone else can start stepping in for them in the decision-making process. This can help take a load off of their desk and give you or one of your team members an opportunity to step up.

For example, you can say: "I'd like to have a conversation about taking the wheel on this project so help ease your workload and really immerse myself in it. I am confident I can lead the team to success since I've had experience with this project already. If you're comfortable with that, we can talk about how to start making the transition of work. I think this would save everyone time and help move us along in the right direction."

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.