I’m in trouble for leaving for a business trip without a late coworker

A reader writes:

Recently, a coworker and I were assigned to go on a business trip for a work conference. It was held at a convention center in a different part of the state about two and a half hours away. We’d be taking a company car, and the drive there during rush hour can be horrendous. My manager and I agreed it would be best to leave early in the morning to beat most of the traffic.

My coworker and I were supposed to meet at our office and leave at 5:30 am. 5:45 rolled around and my coworker still wasn’t at the office. I tried calling her three times during that 15-minute period and she didn’t answer. I decided to leave without her because I didn’t want to be late for the conference.

It turns out she didn’t arrive at the office until 6:05 am, which is well past the time we were told to leave. She had no emergency situation so there was justification for her to be so late. She ended up driving her own car to the conference instead of going in a company car.

When I arrived back at work at the end of the day, my manager was furious at me for going without my coworker. I feel her anger is very misplaced because I was not the one who was late and I attended the conference on time as I was supposed to. It is the late coworker who should be disciplined because she was late to the conference and did not come when we agreed to. Who do you think is wrong here?

Well … I don’t love how anyone involved handled things.

Most obviously, your coworker should have been on time. When someone has gotten up early to meet you at 5:30 am, basic respect dictates that you need to be on time. Being 35 minutes late isn’t cool, and neither was not contacting you to let you know what was going on.

But on your side, deciding to leave after only 15 minutes strikes me as premature. I wouldn’t blame you at all for deciding to leave after half an hour, but 15 minutes isn’t enough of a grace period in this situation. It wasn’t essential that you leave exactly on time; you were just hoping to beat the worst of morning traffic and you could have given her a little more time. If she’d hit bad traffic, for example, or had a child care emergency or so forth and shown up 16 minutes late, it would be unreasonable for you to have already left.

That said, even if you had given her a full half hour, it sounds like she still wouldn’t have been there — so ultimately the outcome (you leaving without her) would have been the same.

If I were your manager, I’d be annoyed with you for taking off so quickly, and it would make me question your judgment. But I’d be far more annoyed with your coworker for being 35 minutes late.

Hopefully your manager has talked to your coworker about the lateness (and keep in mind you wouldn’t necessarily know about it if she had). But you’ve got to take responsibility for your actions too — you did jump the gun and leave too quickly, and you should own that and make it clear you’d handle it differently in the future. For example, you could say, “I should have waited longer. When I couldn’t reach Jane at all, I got concerned that she’d overslept or otherwise wasn’t going to be here anytime soon. But in retrospect, I should have given her more time, and if something like this ever comes up again, I will.”

If your manager is really “furious” (which is an overreaction), I’d leave it there. But if she’s just annoyed, you could also say, “How long should I have waited in that situation? Half an hour sounds more reasonable to me in retrospect, but in this case that still wouldn’t have been enough. If something like this ever happens again, what’s the best way for me to handle it?”

{ 959 comments… read them below }

  1. Enginear*

    Let’s say you did wait longer…. like 30 minutes. Your coworker STILL wouldn’t have been there.

    1. AnnaBananna*

      Hence begging for forgiveness and finding out from Boss just how long she’s expected to wait for coworker. If I was boss I would be more pissed that their communication completely broke down. I mean, why wasn’t coworker answering the phone? Did OP leave messages? At a certain point, I would have called or texted Boss and had her make the decision, despite how early it was. I would’ve waited 20 minutes drinking my coffee and listening to my podcasts (in other words, enjoyed the accidental leisure) and then I would’ve CYAed before I took off.

      Seriously, though, I’m curious as to why she never picked up.

      1. HoHumDrum*

        I mean, if she was driving she in theory *shouldn’t* be picking up the phone. And if her commute is on the freeway it may not be feasible for her to pull off to quickly make a call either. Some states are stricter on these things than others.

        …but that all said I’m very aware most people take/make phone calls in the car, particularly if one is running late for something important.

        1. bottomless pit*

          The coworker knew they had left late. They could have called/messaged when they left to advise when they would arrive. Then the OP wouldn’t have to try to chase them down.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Do we know that? I only see in the letter that there was no “emergency situation.” It doesn’t rule out traffic, or some other reason why she could have left on time but still arrived late. It’s likely that’s what happened, but we’re just guessing about about what she actually knew. Surely she knew at some point that she was going to arrive late, but that’s different from us knowing that she left her home late.

            1. Socrates Johnson*

              Wouldn’t you call then though to say you were running so late? I definitely would have.

              1. HoHumDrum*

                Depends on the area, in my area there’s actually more traffic 6am-8am than there is between 8-9 (what I think of as rush hour). That may not be common, but it’s possible.

                I mean, none of this really matters, it’s not really pertinent to OP’s question. The co-worker may have had valid reasons for her actions or she may not have. Why does it matter? OP is asking about how to handle this with their boss. Even if coworker is a selfish monster, how does that change the advice?

              2. Pippia*

                I’ve encountered traffic at that time in three different major metropolitan areas where I’ve lived.

                Just b/c it’s not something you’ve ever encountered doesn’t mean it is impossible or even implausible.

                DH used to commute in Cali on a section of road where the traffic backup started at 5 am and ran until 10 am. It was insane.

              3. OhBehave!*

                We have no idea if this is true. Perhaps it is in your area but we just don’t know about OP’s region!

              4. Mongrel*

                Our old commute on the M25 would often have early, early morning accidents that would’ve affected the drive if I’d left at 05:30. Given that we were heading towards London Heathrow it was always easy to break the M25

              5. INeedANap*

                I commute through a rural area, and even without being in a city – one snow plow going 30 MPH on a 55 MPH road can easily set me back 15 minutes and that’s assuming it’s just me and the plow on the road. Add in a tractor trailer or dump truck, a few other cars driving conservatively, and I have arrived at work a half hour late due to “traffic” despite leaving before 6am.

              6. SleeplessKJ*

                You’re not in a large urban area are you? There’s plenty of traffic at 5:30 am where I’m at. Just sayin.

            2. Mommy.MD*

              When you must be somewhere routine traffic is not an excuse. You plan for it and leave early, early morning or not. An accident blocking all lanes is an excuse. Not calling is very rude. Not picking up three calls is rude.

              1. MayLou*

                Calling or picking up calls while driving is illegal in my country. My car doesn’t have Bluetooth capability so I don’t have hands free calling. On my 50 minute commute to work, the two places where traffic is most likely are also places where it wouldn’t be possible to pull over and make a phone call safely and legally. I’d rather be rude than arrested or causing an accident.

                1. Anonapots*

                  But you can pull off and call, and while it is illegal, it doesn’t mean people don’t do it. It’s not an excuse for keeping people waiting with no idea what’s happening.

                2. Zillah*

                  I think that “I know it’s the law, but you should have broken it” is not generally a great argument to make at work.

                3. The IT Plebe*

                  Then you call as you’re walking out the door to your car to let them know you’ve left late and your ETA. Seriously, there are too many people in this thread making excuses for OP’s coworker when they were much more in the wrong than OP by orders of magnitude.

            3. DiscoCat*

              If someone else is making an effort to get somewhere on time, gets up extra early, faced the dread and tiredness, then I damn well make sure I match that effort and don’t leave them hanging. And if it does happen I try my best to announce that I’ll be late and give an ETA. I’d be irate if I had to peel myself out of bed only to hang around waiting for someone so cavalier to not even bother to get a 30 second voice mail out. You’re already late, 1 minute for a call won’t make a difference.

        2. Stormfeather*

          If she was held up for over thirty minutes by traffic though, that sounds like a blocked freeway/road sort of situation, maybe due to an accident. At that point she wouldn’t be driving so much as sitting in her car waiting. And as others have said if it was because she left late and that’s why she was on the road late, she should have let her coworker know beforehand.

        3. Database Developer Dude*

          Bluetooth is a thing, yo. I answer calls from my car all the time, and my hands are on the wheel, and my eyes are on the road.

          1. Casual Fribsday*

            Bluetooth is a thing, but it shouldn’t be an expectation (unless that’s a standard part of your industry). Plenty of people can’t make or receive communications while they’re driving.

          2. Jessen*

            Bluetooth is a thing, but many people don’t have cars with bluetooth or don’t have phones where you can make a call hands-free. So it’s not a thing that’s so universal that you can assume anyone will have access to it.

          3. Glitsy Gus*

            Bluetooth costs money, yo. Unless you have a newer car or it is somehow required for your job it isn’t a requirement for life.

            Yeah, coworker absolutely should have tried to do something to let OP know she was running behind, but not everyone can afford, or wants access to, all kinds of technology.

      2. lnelson in Tysons*

        If the coworker was driving when the OP sent texts/called, the coworker might not have picked up. Aside from being illegal to drive and text/etc in many places, there are some of us that just don’t use our phone while driving.

        1. Anonapots*

          Then pull over and call back. At that point it’s your responsibility to let your coworker know what’s happening and to figure out a way to do that.

          That isn’t to say the OP should have just up and left without knowing how late the person was going to be. I for sure would not have left, but communication is important in situations like this and one side wasn’t holding up their end of the communication chain.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I have rarely attended an industry conference that started when the program said it would. Even if a conference starts on time there are opening remarks, introductions, and so on. Being late just wouldn’t have raised eyebrows the way the OP seems to think.

      However, I’m sympathetic to a degree. Like the OP, I hate waiting for people. HATE it. When this happened to me, I waited until the last possible minute to leave and be close to on time – fuming, but giving the benefit of the doubt to my colleague. Before I took off, I left one last message for the latecomer, and also my boss, explaining that I waited and why I left when I did.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        I’ve been to some where they close registration at a certain time, usually about 30 minutes after the programs start. I think it’s too context dependent to make a blanket ‘late’s no big deal’ statement. I’d rather leave that to OP and their manager.

      2. valentine*

        I hate waiting for people. HATE it.
        Same. Especially when (1) I started my day at a time when I prefer to close it (2) I can’t sleep and all I can think about is how much more sleep I could’ve gotten.

        I would’ve arranged a deadline to avoid being chastised for everyone else’s secret, preposterous rules.

        1. JM in England*

          I second what you’re saying. Had it drummed into me as a child that being late was stealing someone else’s time…

        2. linzava*

          Yes to all of this! I would have been irate that I’d made sure to get there on time and didn’t receive so much as a heads up text, which the co-worker could have sent while on the toilet because that’s when you know if you’re running late.

          Additional reasons I think people are being a little rough on the OP, we punctual people sometimes have anxiety and/or aggressive driving tendencies when running late. A friend of mine has anxiety with higher levels of traffic(driving or being a passenger), so if she were in a situation like the OP, and waited, she’d spend the entire conference managing symptoms instead of being her normal self. If I’d waited for the coworker, she would have enjoyed her free ticked to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, but I’d have made it on time.

          I also disagree that the OP’s judgement should be in question here, in my life experience, plenty of my past managers would have questioned my judgement if I was late to something I’d committed to. The company car thing complicates things, especially if the coworker’s car isn’t covered by the company’s insurance, but putting this much responsibility on the OP’s choices are seems over the top. If coworker missed a train to the conference, who would be responsible? Better yet, if OP had both train tickets and had to make a choice to board or not board a train, is it still their fault? Do we even know if the OP would have been in trouble for being late if they waited for coworker? You’re phrase “preposterous rules” sums up this whole situation, I really don’t know what people expect from OP, mind reading skills?

          1. Uranus Wars*

            I think the only thing the OP really did wrong here was not text her boss in advance and 15 minutes was a little jumping the gun to leave.

            A text to the boss to just say “hey, judy isn’t here and I can’t get in touch with her I am leaving” would probably have went a long way. Even if the boss wouldn’t have answered.

            1. SleeplessKJ*

              I actually would have texted it as “hey just isn’t here and I can’t get in touch with her – SHOULD I leave?” Let the boss make the choice.

            2. SleeplessKJ*

              I actually would have texted it as “hey SHOULD I leave?” Let the boss make the choice.

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I think contacting the boss is the key missing piece here. If it had been me and I wasn’t able to get in touch with the late coworker, I think I would have tried to contact my boss to say “Dorothea’s not here yet, and if I wait much longer I’m going to be late. What should I do?”

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          Though if the boss wasn’t going to the conference, calling them at 5:45 AM might not have been great either.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            I would have texted or e-mailed the situation. Something like, “Tahari isn’t hear yet and she hasn’t returned my texts or calls (because I would have done both). I am going to wait another 15 minutes and then leave. Can you let her know?”

        2. yala*

          I was gonna say.

          Part of why the boss is so upset is probably that OP made a decision that will give the boss more work (if they have to sort out any kind of reimbursement/etc for the other employee driving their own car) without looping the boss in on it.

          I say this as someone who has a chronic problem of realizing when my boss would want to be looped in on things, but it stood out even to me that a text, at the very least, would’ve been in order.

          1. Caroline Bowman*

            if the person was driving their own car on account of being over half an hour late, there would be zero reimbursement.

      4. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        I think it depends on what your role at the conference is – if you’re just an attendee, NBD to roll in late. If you work for the sponsoring organization, or are part of a vendor setup, or your boss is presenting the opening remarks, it’s pretty dang important to be there on time. And if OP is early in their career and this is (one of) the first conferences they’ve attended, I can totally see making the choice to be on time rather than wait for coworker to show up.

      5. JLB*

        I’m involved in a lot of conferences and most of ours start pretty much on time. Maybe 2 or 3 minutes late but not routinely more than 5 minutes. Most have a very full agenda to follow and cannot afford to deviate much. But more importantly than the conference starting, I find if I’m not there EARLY, parking may be full leading to further delays or seating itself may be limited. Plus, it’s rude and disruptive to arrive late. And that can impact how others view your professionalism. So I don’t agree with those who feel it’s unimportant to be on time.

        I have mixed feelings about if 15 minutes was “enough”. Maybe a bit more. But I imagine that’s a difficult situation just not knowing. Is the co-worker going to arrive in 5 minutes or not at all?

    3. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      Honestly, I suspect the manager is upset because they weren’t *consulted* before the decision to leave without the co-worker was made, whether they’ve articulated that to the OP or not.

        1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

          Of course — the exceedingly late co-worker who didn’t notify anyone (apparently) of their lateness is the one who bears the most culpability. But if I were the boss and had paid for two employees to attend a conference, I probably would have wanted to be consulted before the late person got ditched. That said, I also think if a boss is a decent boss, instead of just being angry, they’d tell the employee that they’d had a conversation with the very late coworker about how to handle this in the future, but also want the OP to handle it (e.g., wait 30 minutes, check in with the boss first, etc.).

          Sounds like this boss did not do that and that’s why Alison’s advice is to clarify what the boss would like to have such a situation handled should it arise again.

  2. Okay*

    I think 15 minutes was enough time to wait for her, especially since you tried contacting her multiple times during that period. 15 minutes is the standard grace period for everything.

    1. Avangelis*

      I agree. 15 minutes is enough time

      I give people 10 minutes as a grace period before I start wondering if they are coming or expecting a text/ call

    2. Impska*

      Yeah. I don’t wait more than 15 minutes for anything. If my doctor is 15 minutes late, I reschedule and leave. My time is valuable. I sure as heck don’t have the time or inclination to wait more than 15 minutes at 5:30 am.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The issue is that this is the company’s time/money. That’s the bigger factor than the personal inconvenience to yourself of waiting another 15 minutes.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          The company’s time and money very much come into play, though, if neither employee gets to the conference on time. Better one of them be late than both.

          I think it’s also worth pointing out you often get, not quite exponentially, but it often takes longer to get there the later you leave, as traffic builds. If I leave for work at X:00 it might take me 45 minutes, but if I leave at X:15 it will take me an hour because I’m closer to peak rush hour and there is a higher volume of traffic. So waiting longer might well have made the OP even more late than the number of minutes she waited.

          I would be at most mildly irritated with the OP but a whole lot more annoyed with the coworker if I were their boss. Being late *and* not calling/answering is a much bigger problem.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Eh, being a little late to most conferences wouldn’t be a big deal unless you’re a presenter at the first session, which most people aren’t.

            1. LittleRedRiding...huh?*

              Sorry to say, but where I’m from being late to a conference with the attitude “meh, it’s just a few minutes” would leave an extremely bad impression and a sour aftertaste….but then again, I’m German and we are famous for our punctuality. We even have a name for the 15 minute lateness of another person, after which we pack up and leave: Akademische Viertelstunde (academically quarter of an hour)

              1. HoHumDrum*

                I have a friend who has the inverse concept as you: Single Digits Late, meaning if the amount of time that you’re late by is still in the single digits you can consider yourself basically on time.

              2. Miso*

                That… is not what Akademische Viertelstunde means at all…
                (For those who are wondering: if a lecture at university starts at 8 c.t. (cum tempore), it means it actually starts at 8.15.)

                As an unfortunately chronically late German, I think the LW left too early as well (but obviously the coworker is more at fault.)

                1. Myrin*

                  Yeah, I was gonna say…
                  (And for anyone who is wondering even more, if you want to make it clear that a lecture starts at 8 sharp, it’s s. t. (sine tempore).)

                2. Julia*

                  Exactly. The akademisches Viertel exists because lectures are often scheduled back to back, but students and professors have to move. At my alma mater, I had lectures from 8-10, 10-12, 12-14 etc, which in theory went from 8:15 to 9:45 and then 10:15 to 11:45. (Still not enough if your lecture rooms were on different campuses, and forget about having a proper lunch if you don’t give yourself a free period around noon.)

                3. StudentInBelgium*

                  That’s… not what it means in Dutch though, where we have the same concept. If the professor isn’t there within 15 minutes of the starting time, you’re allowed to leave as a student.

                4. LittleRedRiding...huh?*

                  But that’s exactly what I said….you have 15 minutes leeway.amd then you’re late. Maybe I didn’t phrase it correctly.

              3. Koala dreams*

                We have that in my language too. At some institutions, it means the practise of considering a quarter after the hour as “on time”. Outside those institutions, it means the quarter of an hour you wait for late people until you give up on them. ;)

              4. Ele4phant*

                I mean, I’m not sure what country or industry this LW is in, or what the exact purpose this conference is for, but 99.99% of the time I’m going to network and market our firm.

                So definitely my company wants me there, wants me mingling, but do they care if I show up the minute the registration desk opens? No definitely not. Do they care if I make all (or even most) of the panels? Not really, not for the content at least. Not unless I was presenting.

                I would be majorly annoyed to be somewhere on time, early, and have no clue where my coworker was.

                But in my experience, conferences are not something you need to “be on time” for.

              5. Norra*

                I so agree with you! I’m from the Nordics and I’d’ve ditched the waiting at 5 minutes. If there is a schedule then there is a schedule and you stick to it. There is no such thing as being little late, there is just late, on time and early. And if you’re late, you apologise. Even for a minute. When it is a work event, that requires special care at being either on time or early. I feel it is about common manners and respect for other people. If you can’t be punctual, then set a time frame, not a sharp time. In this case, “we need to leave early, could you make it to the office some where between 5:25 and 5:40?” Coworker would still have been late and had I been OP I’d still have left at 5:45 but my point is, don’t set exact times and then treat them like suggestions. If time for departure is set at 5:30, then you leave at 5:30. Not 6:00. I know I’m really uptight about this but really, someone has made the plans with you and has made the effort to be on time, please respect that. Trains, planes and busses won’t wait you, even a minute, why should your coworker have to wait half an hour?

                1. Caroline Bowman*

                  I agree and especially at a really inconvenient time of day that requires special effort. That’s not a context where a few minutes is NBD, to me at least. I set the alarm, got there much earlier than I normally would for work, and then get berated for daring to not wait more than half an hour for some other person who not only was late but failed to communicate.

                  No.

            2. Jules the 3rd*

              I’ve been to two conferences in the last decade (out of 7) where they closed registration shortly after the initial speaker started. If you missed registering, you had to work with the hotel staff to find the right person to get a badge, which basically ate the whole morning.

              I can’t speak to how long OP should have waited, but being late could be a bigger deal than your answer implies. It’s intensely industry specific.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                This. And if they have a first come first serve model for seating, you could end up locked out of whatever seminar you need to take if you don’t get there early enough.

                I’m with OP and would have left after 15 minutes, too. If you know you’re going to be running late for something and someone’s waiting for you, it takes a minute to send a text and explain what happened and provide an ETA of when you expect to arrive. The coworker was rude AF.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I think that’s an outlier! Lots of people further down are confirming that it’s not a big deal in their fields, in most cases. But certainly the OP would need to know their own field in this regard.

                1. Blue Eagle*

                  I think the bigger issue is that the OP tried to call the other person 3 times and the other person never answered. If I’m running late I always make sure I have my phone on just in case the other person calls and I don’t have that person’s phone # – but mostly I always call first to say I’m running late. I agree with the OP that 15 minutes is enough to wait.

                2. RunningLate*

                  It was important to OP to be on time. Coworker arrived at least 35 minutes late. Coworker did not call, text, answer multiple calls. Problem lies with the coworker. OP should have texted Boss. Boss should have reprimanded coworker for unprofessional behavior. Whether or not conference was important enough to arrive on time isn’t the point.

                3. Uranus Wars*

                  Well and we really only know that they were late to meet the OP, who admitted they were leaving extra early. The co-worker may not have even been late to the conference itself. It doesn’t say.

              3. tamarack and fireweed*

                This may well have been the case for your particular conferences, but it’s completely improper to conclude from that what’s what with the OP’s conference.

                I 100% agree with Alison’s comments in this thread.

                Ultimately it seems to me that the issue is that the OP’s judgement deviated from their manager’s. Apparently, the manager expected that the OP prioritizes the task of getting themselves and their colleague to the conference over being on time. Whether that’s disruptive or not to the conference may or may not be the case, but regardless, the manager didn’t agree with the OP’s choice here. Now of course there’s no reason to express this in a jarring way, especially since in the end everyone got where they needed to be and apparently no lasting harm was done.

                As for what the OP should say, there are already some excellent suggestions. My approach would be along the lines of “I’m sorry I didn’t handle this the way you expected. I really dislike being late, and since Pat wasn’t there a the agreed time, I didn’t have too many choices. And even if I had waited for half an hour, the outcome wouldn’t have been different except that I’d have been even later. How should I handle such a situation?” [Shorten the justification according to the manager’s attitude. A reasonable manager would help you out, but the way the narrative is going, sounds like everyone is at least a little bit at fault here.]

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  I didn’t conclude that it was relevant, simply pointed out that you should not *assume* it’s not relevant.

                  I actually agree with you, that the key for OP is to figure out their boss’s expectations. But for the audience, I think that ‘how important is it to get to the conference at start time’ should be a factor if they ever have that discussion, rather than assuming that being late is not a big deal.

                2. Zillah*

                  The justification comes off to me as kind of passive aggressive and defensive, tbh – I think it’d work better cut off at “I’m sorry I didn’t handle this as you would have preferred – how should I approach situations like this in the future?”

            3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Or need to set up the conference booth or they close registration or it is small enough that the CEO of your company who is the plenary speaker will notice when you walk in late or the plenary session is covering the meat of why your boss wants you to attend. Being late to some conferences is NBD, but in others it is a very big deal.

          2. RunningLate*

            I agree that’s the bigger problem. How much could it cost the company to reimburse a single driver? Car had already been paid for. I think a huge part of the point is being missed. Whether it’s bad optics to arrive late is not really the driving point. The answer seems dismissive to the OP.

            1. Gatomon*

              It could cost quite a bit to pay for 2 vehicles to travel the distance instead of 1. They’ll have to reimburse mileage and gas for the personal vehicle in addition to the gas spent in the company car for the trip. At my old job this would’ve been a serious issue just getting the reimbursement through!

              I suppose I would’ve deferred to my manager, but hindsight is always 20-20.

              1. Caroline Bowman*

                but why would they pay for two vehicles? There were arrangements in place and the late person failed to communicate why they were more than half an hour late, so… they can pay for their own expenses.

            2. LeslieCrusher*

              I mean at the point at which the person was late I don’t believe the company would be responsible to reimburse them anymore nor do I think it’s good business practice for them to do so.

              1. Zillah*

                This doesn’t seem legal to me – late or not, the person is still going on a trip for work.

        2. Just wondering*

          To me, this seems like the key point. If it was a personal appt. 15 min would seem okay to me. But if it’s business time and they’re paying me whether I cool my jets waiting for ms. late, or whether I’m on the road, who cares.

          The only two things that seem important to me are, what does my boss think is a reasonable amount of time to wait on someone? And what parts (if any) of a conference would my boss be annoyed I’d missed due to being late?

          It sounds like this is a learning experience for OP and they’ll know better if this comes up again.

          Also, while you can’t know for sure if ms. late also got reamed out by your boss, I really hope they did. Unless they had a very good excuse and were very apologetic (this is where letting people know you’re mortified/this is not something you usually do comes in handy), I would also be pretty p.o.ed too.

          1. Door Guy*

            Just because you’re on the clock and getting paid doesn’t mean it’s okay to just sit around doing nothing. There was a 2.5 hour drive each way ahead of them, in a vehicle that is not their own. 5 hours on the road, more if being late pushes them into that busier traffic they were trying to avoid by leaving early. OP likely wasn’t sitting in their office, playing on the computer while waiting, they were likely sitting in the car waiting for coworker so they can leave ASAP when they arrived. It’s extremely dismissive of OP, or anyone, to just play it off as “You’re on company time” when they made the effort to complete their end of the agreed upon start time. Paid or not, how much more was not having to wake up and leave early was worth to OP (and if they were salaried they got paid the same regardless) I’ve done jobs that required waiting for people on occasion (some days it felt like waiting WAS my job), some required 15, others 30 minutes. 30 minutes is a long time to hurry up and wait, while the person you’re waiting on doesn’t answer so you don’t know if they are just around the corner or still snuggled up in bed.

        3. Impska*

          It’s not just a personal inconvenience. It’s a professional inconvenience. Why would anyone want to create a company culture where it’s ok to be 30 minutes late to things and have every expectation that your coworkers are going to wait for you? That’s a permissiveness that costs a lot more than a simple mileage reimbursement. This time it was a conference, which some people think is no big deal (I disagree – I go to conferences because I’m interested in the topics and I want to be respectful to the speakers and other attendees by not walking in late). Next time, what if 5 people are going to a client site? Do they wait, knowing they’re eating up the equivalent of 3 paid hours and giving the impression to their client that their firm is not punctual? How many days in a row do they wait?

          Is it ok to be late if it’s only one person that you’re disrespecting, but not 5? Do we still wait 30 minutes if we know the coworker has a reputation for lateness?

          I have a feeling that chronic lateness would play differently in this advice column, but by punishing someone for not waiting more than 15 minutes and saying nothing to someone who is 35 minutes late, the manager creates a corporate culture where lateness is totally permissible and encouraged.

          Ultimately, 15 minutes is a totally reasonable amount of time to wait for someone with no contact. It would be different if the late coworker had called or texted, but they didn’t.

          1. yala*

            As for the whole “being 30 minutes late to things” I think one thing standing out to me, as a chronically late person with ADHD-related time-blindness is that the coworker probably WASN’T late to the conference. They were late to being early.

            I can’t help but wonder exactly how the departure time was phrased. I know folks can hear “5:30” and think “We leave at 5:30 sharp” or hear “5:30” and think “Somewhere in that general vicinity.”

            Not saying that excuses an entire half hour. That is pretty late.

            But also…it’s incredibly early in the day? I could see where someone might not be firing on all cylinders if they’re not used to waking up at 4:30/5am, and that could compound lateness and other issues.

            Which isn’t to say it was OK to leave OP waiting with no contact at all. Just…there aren’t a lot of early morning trips I’ve ever been on that left at exactly the starting time, especially if the stated starting time was already intended as a buffer.

            1. Door Guy*

              In the end, though, it doesn’t matter if they were “late to being early” or not. It was agreed upon to leave at X time, whether that time left you tons of leeway or cuts it down to one long stoplight making you late, is irrelevant. If your trips are habitually late starting because once you’re all present ON TIME, you take a bit to get going so you met at the start time even if you didn’t leave, that’s one thing. If you’re mostly late because people are LATE, that’s a completely different issue.

          2. Zillah*

            This is jumping to a lot of pretty big conclusions. “I don’t like how you handled your coworker being late” is not the same thing as saying “being on time doesn’t matter in this workplace.”

        4. Nina*

          No, the coworker who was late lost them money. Not the person who behaved entirely reasonably and followed up and waited the exact amount of time everyone but you here sees as the normal amount of time to wait.

          I’m both terribly disappointed in your response as well as your defensiveness in the comments. How can you stand behind your advice regarding pushback as employees on real work policies in the real world if you can’t allow minute pushback on consequenceless disagreement here?

          1. Zillah*

            I’m really not sure Alison is the one getting weirdly defensive here, and I don’t see anything approaching unanimity on whether 15 minutes was long enough to wait.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’m not sure I’m following this. I engaged in the discussion a bit and in some places disagreed but I’m not sure where you’re seeing defensiveness or refusal to allow disagreement. There’s loads of disagreement in the comments here. (It’s also definitely not true that everyone else thinks 15 minutes is the right amount of time to wait, as you’ll see if you keep reading.)

          3. LadyL*

            I mean, what else is LW supposed to do besides what Allison has advised??? Go to her boss and explain that actually she’s found a few hundred strangers on the internet who believe that coworker deserves more blame and thus boss needs to un-chastise LW?

            The LW’s question was not “Do you agree that it’s ok my coworker was late?” it was “My boss didn’t like how I handled that and I don’t know why or what to do now” and then Allison responded explaining the boss’ possible reasoning and potential next steps. It literally makes no difference whether being late or not is ever ok, or whether you personally would have done the same thing. The crux of the question was “I did a thing but my boss is mad, what do I do now?” not “Is my coworker a monster or not?”

      2. Angwyshaunce*

        I’m confused about your reasoning. It’s probable that waiting a few extra minutes for the doctor would take less time than making the same round trip (at least) twice.

      3. Antilles*

        If my doctor is 15 minutes late, I reschedule and leave. My time is valuable.
        I hate showing up to an appointment on time and being asked to wait also.
        But when you consider having to schedule an appointment weeks in advance, the time wasted driving to the office, showing up to work early so I can flex-time my way to leaving early, the hassles of rescheduling, and so forth, that doesn’t doesn’t seem like an efficient use of your time.

        1. Antilles*

          (Sorry about the italics not turning off, no idea why it didn’t close the tags after the quoted first sentence)

          1. i_am_eating_cheetos*

            More importantly, please introduce me to the doctor who will see you LESS than 15 minutes after you arrive.

            1. A Simple Narwhal*

              Ha seriously! I’ve honestly taken to showing up a little late to my doctor’s appointments, usually between that and the checking in process/etc I don’t end up having to wait too long!

              Note – this is just for my GP that I’ve been to forever, not specialist appointments. Annoyingly I had an appointment recently to see an ENT at 2 and didn’t end up getting seen until 3. I am amazed at the idea of being seen at a doctor’s within 15 minutes of the actual appointment.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                Yeah, I don’t think that’s ever happened to me to the point where, like you, I show up 10-15 minutes late to my appointments because I know I won’t be seen at my actual appointment time. The exception to this is my dental office – I may only wait five minutes for them.

                1. Professional Confusion*

                  I wish I had that luxury. I’ve been fined and made to reschedule before after being late to doctors appointments, and that’s even after I give them a courtesy call to let them know I’m running late (which is rare).

              2. Burned Out Supervisor*

                Always make appointments for as early in the day as possible. Appointments can end up running long due to unforseen circumstances or your doc is a softee and took too many work ins. I wait considerably less if I’m the first or second patient of the day.

                1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

                  Yep, I always grab the earliest doctor or dental appointment possible for this exact reason.

                2. Diahann Carroll*

                  That’s probably why I don’t wait long at the dentist – I go first thing in the morning.

                3. Shad*

                  The one time I’ve had to reschedule due to a late doc (I took my break between classes to see the doc, so I had a hard limit on how long I could wait), that’s exactly what they recommended—either first thing in the morning or first thing after lunch (and they told me what time that was).

                4. really soon to be former fed*

                  I booked the first appointment and someone was already there when I arrived, on time! That’swhen I discovered that this doctor routinely double booked. I wasn’t feeling well and kind of lost it, as this was a specialist I really needed to see. So, booking early is no assurance of being seen promptly, I waited over 30 minutes.

              3. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

                About 15 years ago, I went in for my yearly OB/GYN appointment. I was shown to a room, given the paper gown and told the doctor would be in shortly. I woke up two and a half hours later and the doctor still hadn’t come in.

                Turns out he had an emergency baby delivery and his staff forgot about me. They did seem quite surprised when I came bopping out of the room wondering what the hell was going on and where is the doctor?

              4. Lost in the Woods*

                Not to others, PLEASE do not do this. This is a prime reason doctors start running late, because someone who needs to be seen shows up late. It also sucks for everyone else involved in medical care. Our last patient yesterday was 20 minutes late, the doctor had his coat on. Patient showed up with an acute issue, needed to be seen, we were all out 40 minutes later than expected. Patient had assumed we’d be running late so she was fine to be as well.

            2. Doc in a Box*

              Me! I think it’s incredibly rude to keep patients waiting. It also makes me anxious because I’m halfway watching the clock instead of listening to and thinking about the patient in front of me.

              Sometimes an unexpected thing happens, like the patient right before you says, when my hand’s on the doorknob, that they’ve been having suicidal thoughts — I’m not going to let that one slide. Or someone shows up 25 minutes late for their 30 minute appointment and insists on being seen right away. But 99% of the time, I run on time. (My big secret: I refuse to double-book — some physicians do that to try to compensate for no-shows, but then when two people show up at the same time, it’s a mess you never recover from.)

              1. I read AAM*

                My standard responds to the doctors tends to be ‘Eh, I’m sure you had better things to do’ (and it took a while before my psychiatrist understood that wasn’t my inferiority complex speaking). I mean, I’d be offended if he was late because he had worse things to do than see me, and still did them instead of seeing me!
                Because I’ve been the ‘better thing’. I’ve been the patient that needs to be fitted in urgently for a honest-to-god emergency of ‘any time between now and two hours from now will do’, I’ve been the patient that needed a few (or a lot of) extra minutes, I’ve been the patient that calls in the morning to ask if I can please have a phone appointment that day.

                When doctors are late, my default thought is ‘How nice that they are flexible enough to give every patient the time they need.’

                (That’s not to say I don’t get frustrated in the moment! Or when I have something shortly after the appt, extremely frustrated. But overall, I tend to see it as a positive.)

                1. AnonLurker Appa*

                  I love how you think about this! I’d never considered looking at it quite this way

                2. Morning Flowers*

                  Yes — sometimes doctors have soberingly good reasons to be late. Once my mother and I didn’t LET my pediatrician apologize for being hours late. We could hear the whooping cough through the walls and told him we’d been praying for that baby. :-( I go back to that memory when I need to remind myself to be patient with someone’s lateness … You never know what’s happening just out of sight.

                3. Clumsy Ninja*

                  I told my cat’s oncologist once that I expect to wait, and I come prepared to wait. And I never want to be the one that they drop everything to get in immediately. Doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated by waiting – I still try to get the first appt of the day. But it sure helps!

                4. Door Guy*

                  Clumsy Ninja – Our normally very active cat was ill to the point where we broke down and went to an emergency vet 3 towns over on a weekend instead of waiting for his scheduled appointment on Monday morning. We sat in that waiting room with 3 other pet owners for almost 3.5 hours before being shown back. We knew why we were so pushed back, all of us waiting could hear the crying, and see the solemn faces, and witness not one, or even two, but three families leaving with cardboard boxes instead of pets.

                5. Casual Fribsday*

                  Yep, being the reason that a health professional is late to other people makes this very clear. My therapist ran over with me several times when I was in crisis and could not afford to access the resources I really needed. For the rest of the three years I saw her, every time she was late I thought, “I’m so glad that person is getting what they need.”

                6. Kiwi with laser beams*

                  At the other end of this, I’ve been waiting over six months for a procedure, including being mistakenly referred to a severely understaffed branch of our medical system when they weren’t even the people who needed to be doing my procedure. I don’t think triaging should be thrown out the window to accommodate my less life-threatening condition, I don’t think my doc is a bad doctor for making a mistake with the referral and I’m certainly not complaining about the fact that we have national healthcare, but I’m at a point now where sensitivity about people who have it worse has to be combined with picking up the phone and saying “hi, can I confirm when this appointment is going to happen?” And balancing those two things is a life skill that will probably serve me well when dealing with all kinds of lateness.

              2. Mommy.MD*

                I wish no patient ever had to wait. It’s not realistic. That depression is suicidal ideation. That UTI is pyelo. That fever is sepsis. That heartburn is angina. Healthcare providers do not want people to wait or get frustrated. But most times it’s unavoidable and the nature of the beast. I lol about a 15 doctor visit wait being unacceptable. I can hold my breath for 15 minutes. Wish my vet was so timely.

                1. WS*

                  I had an appointment with a specialist who scheduled everybody for 9 am and then you just had to wait while he called people in over the next 7 hours. And if you left for more than a toilet break (which you had to tell the receptionist) you lost your spot. Someone started complaining that they had driven over an hour to get there, I said I’d driven 4 hours, and someone else laughed and said they’d had to catch the train for seven hours the day before to make it at 9am! But that guy was a (very rude) outlier.

                2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

                  Sometimes it’s unavoidable. And sometimes it’s a doctor who instructs his receptionist to book six 15-minute appointments per hour.

                  I handled that because I lived around the corner from the doctor’s office, literally, and they were fine with me walking in and saying “I have a 3:00 appointment. When is he going to be ready to see me?” and then going home for an hour and a half. If they’d insisted on me sitting in the waiting room, I’d have gone elsewhere.

              3. really soon to be former fed*

                YES!!! (see my post above). I understand that here are no-shows, but they should be charged for that. Double booking is horrible. I’m sure 50% of patients don’t blow off appointments. Thank you for not engaging in this horrible practice.

              4. Syfygeek*

                Thank you for not double booking. I worked in a practice that was run by the doc/owner. He insisted appointments be scheduled every 10 minutes, beginning at 8AM. By 8:20-ish, when he strolled in, I’d have patients in 3 rooms, ready to be seen. It made the patients cranky, it made me cranky.

                For the question though, I hate to be late. I don’t know that I would have left at 15 minutes, because I would be frantically checking to make sure I had the time and place right, I didn’t miss a change, was I supposed to pick up co-worker, etc.. But with a no show/no answer at 30 minutes, I would have called or left a message for the boss and headed for the event.

            3. Quill*

              This truly only happens for early appointments or if there are a lot of people who drive off in a huff after 15 minutes. :)

            4. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              I have a doctor who will see you if you’re early! I’ve finished appointments before my scheduled start time. It’s really nice.

              1. really soon to be former fed*

                That happened to me before and it was delightful. When docs aere running late, they should keep those waiting informec instead of just letting cobwebs grow on you in the waiting roon. Having to repeatedly asking the receptionist for status is aggravating. I’m not a good waiter but do better when I know what to expect.

            5. MtnLaurel*

              Really! WE have had waits of over 2 hours. I’m more lenient when it comes to a medical professional as emergencies are more likely in those fields than in others.

              1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                For example, when my obstetrician was late for clinic because of a complicated delivery. It’s inconvenient, but sometimes one is grateful to be the least urgent case!

              2. Door Guy*

                Even for non-medical fields, sometimes the previous appointment just goes off the rails. I’ve done field service work for almost 7 years and there have been many “quick” calls that should only take 15-20 minutes, but you end up opening Pandora’s Box. We always tried to be considerate and give notice to our later appointments, but that doesn’t help those who took off work or make special accommodations.

                Add to that when we had to wait for the customer to arrive and it pushes the whole day back. We could be running smooth with no emergency or “long” appointments and still be late if we have a few customers who made us wait for them. “Sorry I’m late, but Jane decided to run to the store, Fergus didn’t leave work until we called asking where he was, and Sansa got caught up talking to another mom when dropping her kids off at school.” This is a topic I could write about for pages and pages both as a pet peeve and to highlight the dynamics that most don’t realize going on behind the scenes.

            6. Jayn*

              I get in on time with my GP, but I had a psychiatrist once where I scheduled my appointments 20-30 minutes ahead of when I wanted because she was always running late.

            7. Socrates Johnson*

              My ob/gyn will actually tell you when you arrive if they are running 20 min or more late and offer to reschedule. I don’t know how they do it there because the volume of patients is so high (and the care is good, the doc isn’t rushed). I suspect it may be they allow for a lot more time than each patient. They also know people can’t just wait around all day. They are the best!

            8. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

              That seems to be very regional: I had long waits in New York, then not in Seattle or the Boston area.

            9. Snake in the Grass*

              My doctor! I’ve met doctors with more sympathetic manners, but she’s knowledgeable, efficient and timely. She’s never missed anything or skimped, but she’s just naturally brisk. I am in NZ, however, so I doubt I face the same issues as some of you do.

            10. AntOnMyTable*

              I was wondering about this too. I don’t know when I last went to a doctor/vet/dentist where I didn’t wait around 15 minutes or more. And I almost always schedule myself first thing if I have that option. I just went to the dentist and I was the hygienist’s first appointment and I *still* waited 17 minutes after my appointment time.

        2. Lost in the Woods*

          I am not a physician, but I work in medicine, and we hate this attitude. We get that your time is important, and we try to keep things running, but if you want the doctor to spend the necessary and appropriate time with you, then you need to realize that sometimes the doctor will have to spend time with other people. I work in ophthalmology; sometimes someone comes in for a routine appointment and they have a retinal tear. We actually had this happen twice yesterday! Clinic was off the rails for most of the morning; it was unfortunate, and I can tell you that the patient who kept coming up to me while I was trying to do things and complaining about the wait did not help at all. If you need to leave at a specific time for whatever reason, let us know and we will do our best to get you seen before then. But it 100% does not help to complain; we know, and we are working on it.

          There is a doctor shortage in the US. Expect this to get worse over the coming decade.

      4. CheeseGirl*

        Oh man, you have more nerve than I do. I have wanted to do this so many times, but if I did, I’d never see a doctor on my first try at the office :/

      5. bluephone*

        Where do you live/what doctors are you patronizing because if I tried this with any of the doctors I’ve ever seen, their office would hit me with their no-show fee (all of them have extended the minimum amount of time they want for cancellations from 24 hours before your appointment to 48 hours). I would *love* to push back on doctor’s offices who have you waiting 30, 45, or even 60+ minutes because “we’re backed up, it’s not our faaaaault!*” but I’m sure as hell not paying $75 to prove a point

        *to a certain extent, Karen, it is your office’s fault because I’m sure as hell not the one triple-booking appointments out here

        1. valentine*

          If you arrived on time and it’s past your appointment time, you’re not a no-show. You should push back on this. They’re acting like you have no life outside their office.

          1. Burned Out Supervisor*

            Exactly. I would push back hard on that, to the point I would make a complaint to the Attorney General or their financial regulatory board.

          2. Mommy.MD*

            You are a no show if you leave or don’t arrive at your visit. It’s coded as no show. Too many of them and your doctor can fire you. Left without being seen is another diagnosis for no show.

            1. Burned Out Supervisor*

              How long would I need to wait before leaving? Because if I was kept waiting for an hour and then left and was still charged as a no show, I would have words with patient relations.

            2. Burned Out Supervisor*

              Also, I could just as easily bill my doctor for the time I missed at work due to the lateness of the appointment….

              1. Deejay*

                I used to have a dentist who was always calling in sick on the day, resulting in cancelled appointments. Someone I know cancelled an appointment with him slightly less than 24 hours beforehand and was told he would be charged a fee. The receptionist backed down when he replied “Then I’ll charge you a fee for all the appointments you cancelled at much shorter notice”.

            3. Antilles*

              I’ve never once had an issue when I arrive on time, sign in, then after waiting politely ask the receptionist how much longer, and we agree to reschedule on the spot…but if you left in frustration without saying anything or rescheduling the appointment, I would guess your experience would be a lot different and you’d probably get the no-show fee.

            1. doreen*

              I arrive at 1:45 for a 2 pm appointment. At 4 pm, I tell the front desk I am leaving because it’s 2 hours past my appointment time and I have not yet been seen. I am not a no show – I was there on time.
              I can understand plenty of doctors getting behind, but two hours is a bit much – especially for a dermatologist.

      6. MsChanandlerBong*

        Wow, you would literally NEVER get to have an appointment with a single one of my doctors. If they were only 15 minutes behind, I’d be thrilled.

      7. Enginear*

        If my doctor is late, I’m staying my butt there cause I cleared a spot in my schedule to be able to make it to this appointment plus I drove all the way there lol

    3. I edit everything*

      To me, calling and not getting an answer would suggest that the person might be on their way (being a safe driver and not taking a call while driving), so I should wait a little longer.

      1. BT*

        True, but they still obviously knew they were running late and still chose not to give a heads up to OP.

        1. I edit everything*

          Yeah, coworker should definitely have somehow communicated their lateness. Maybe they were hoping to drive through a hole in the space-time continuum and arrive on time despite having to make a 40 minute trip in 5 minutes. He Edits Nothing would be guilty of that kind of thinking.

          1. Creed Bratton*

            This reminded me a story of my Always-Late-Sister. In the early days of GPS she borrowed my Garmin to help her to an out of town medical appt. The morning of she calls me wanting to know how to change the ‘time thingy.’ When I asked what she meant she tells me “well, it says we’ll arrive at 9:45 am but my appointment is at 9:15!” Of course she left the house late and once I explained she couldn’t make up all that time by speeding she realized, somehow, the universe did not revolve around her and the steady passage of time did not care that she was having a bad hair day. ;)

          2. Gatomon*

            See I think wormholes are the reason I’m perpetually late. I swear I start out with good intentions and then wham, suddenly it’s taken me 10 minutes to get down the stairs and into the car instead of 2 minutes…. clearly there is a cosmic disturbance on the stairwell, right??

          3. iantrovert (they/them)*

            I’m a chronically slightly-late person myself (I think I can complete more tasks in x minutes than I can in reality so I’m 5-10 min late to everything) but there are people who just Don’t Understand the flow of time and will show up anywhere from 5min to several hours late without a reason, and I don’t get that at all. The pilot episode of Deep Space Nine includes Sisko trying to explain the concept of linear time to a bunch of wormhole aliens who exist in all times simultaneously. I’m starting to think that might be a reasonable explanation for those people.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          That’s a valid concern. But we can’t really give OP’s coworker that advice because they’re probably not reading this. It’s more important, I think, for OP to focus on the things they can do, not the things their coworker should or should not have done.

        3. SomebodyElse*

          Unless they didn’t know until it was too late to call…

          I can leave for work at the same time every day. But the one day that there’s an accident I’m screwed. If I don’t have a chance to answer a phone, can’t pull over to dig out the coworkers number, or I’m eyeball deep in stupid drivers and don’t want an extra diversion or so on.

          It’s very often not possible to reach somebody in the middle of being late.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            No it’s not. It’s very rare to not be able to reach people when you’re running late. Everyone has a cell phone. Pull over, call or text, get back on your way.

            1. HoHumDrum*

              Eh, I drive on a freeway that would be extremely dangerous to pull over on if it’s not an emergency. I’ve made calls before while driving but it’s definitely not best driving practices. Once I’m on the road to work I’m kinda just…on the road until I pull into the parking lot.

              Obviously that’s not all roads but…can we at least agree that we don’t fully know OP’s coworkers situation re: calling on the road? Clearly it varies greatly depending on your circumstances.

              1. Socrates Johnson*

                If you’re in traffic though you are probably stopped. Not hard and not dangerous.

                Also, my phone answers through my car so I don’t have to do anything to talk to someone on the phone.

                1. HoHumDrum*

                  Eh, I almost rear ended someone because I was busy trying to use my phone during “stopped” traffic, I would not recommend it. Again, obviously people do this regularly, but it’s really not safe and is not ideal. And I can’t afford high end tech like that, if I want to make a “hands free” call I have to dig through my purse to find my headphones and I still need to operate my phone manually.

                  I mean at the end of the day it doesn’t matter *why* co-worker is late because it has nothing to do with OP’s real question, so why are so many commenters so focused on proving co-worker’s fault level?

                2. whingedrinking*

                  I learned to drive late, so I’m only on the second stage of my driver’s license (in my province it’s a three-stage process). One of the restrictions is no devices, even hands-free, for talk or text, while the car’s engine is running. I can get quite a hefty fine for breaking this rule.

                3. Was a ChurchLady NowAFed*

                  In my state, it is no illegal to have a phone in your hand, even if you’re in stopped traffic, at a red light, etc. Hands free only. Of course, if you set your phone and put it in your hands-free holder, you can use it voice-activated.

                4. Helena*

                  Completely illegal everywhere I’ve held a licence too. You can’t make a call while the engine is running – even if you are stopped. You have to be parked up, engine off.

                5. Dancing Otter*

                  Under Illinois law, being stopped is not enough. You have to be off the road to touch your phone legally.
                  Hands-free is legal, but I still would find it distracting trying to find a colleague’s phone number. Anyone not on either speed dial or the recent call list would just take too much focus away from the road.
                  Accepting an incoming call, though…. that’s totally reasonable to do.

                6. Gatomon*

                  Some of us still have dumb cars with features like “CD player” and “power windows.” I suppose if I shouted at Siri enough I could get her to make a call, but first I’d have to dig her out of my work bag, which isn’t always a good idea in stop-n-go traffic. (It’s a 2011, for the record. No Bluetooth, no cruise control, no keyless entry start button thing, no auto dim mirrors or auto lights even, but it drives from A to Z very capably and has less breakable parts.)

                7. The Rules are Made Up*

                  Unless you’re in bumper to bumper huge accident traffic its more likely that you’re in a frustrating stop and go. And LA traffic goes from ‘stop’ to ‘go’ back to ‘stop’ reeeeal quick.

                  I almost rear ended someone trying to send an “I’m 5 minutes away!” text to a coworker quickly in traffic so 0/10 would not recommend. It takes 2 seconds to cause an accident.

                8. Jeffrey Deutsch*

                  (1) You don’t know how long you’ll be stopped — and talking on the phone may distract you when you’re expected to move again.

                  (2) Most people aren’t using your car, so your own car’s setup is irrelevant.

                  (3) Talking on the phone while on the road distracts your mind, even if it doesn’t distract your hands. And distracting your mind is the main danger of using your phone on the road.

                  (4) In many US states and possibly elsewhere, it is still illegal to talk on your phone in your car even if your car isn’t moving — as long as it’s still in the flow of traffic.

            2. Drax*

              plus with the rise of hands free cell phone assistants it’s even easier
              “Hey Siri – text Trout ‘running late’ ”
              “Hey google/ cortana / Alexa” (and if you don’t know this – you can install the Alexa app on your phone and change a setting so it activates with Hey Alexa from your phone)

            3. The Rules are Made Up*

              Yeah “pulling over” in highway traffic isn’t a thing unless you’re already in the far right lane. It’s especially not a thing in LA. LOL at the thought of anyone letting you over in order to even do that. Then by the time the person pulls over texts you and gets back into traffic they’re 10 minutes later than they already were. I do agree that the coworker should’ve contacted OP when she knew she’d be late (likely when she left her house).

            4. Jeffrey Deutsch*

              Nice job denying SomebodyElse’s lived experience.

              Good luck pulling over when there is no shoulder, or when you’re not in an adjacent lane to the shoulder and the lanes in between are busy. Or if the road is so busy or traffic moving so fast that getting back onto the highway would be difficult or dangerous.

          2. Avasarala*

            But we know that wasn’t the case here: “She had no emergency situation so there was justification for her to be so late.” She was just late.

          3. zinzarin*

            If you drive in traffic that can do this, get a bluetooth earpiece for your phone if your car doesn’t have that feature built in. You owe it to your family, friends, and coworkers to be able to communicate about delays.

            1. HoHumDrum*

              I mean, we all used to survive just fine before cell phones and GPS trackers were a thing, I do not agree that it’s a moral imperative to buy expensive electronics that are actually kind of dangerous to use while driving (and still illegal in some states) so that no one in your life ever has to be uncertain about your whereabouts ever.

              Life happens sometimes. LW made a reasonable choice about how to respond to this, but unfortunately her boss didn’t agree and thus Allison gave LW advice as to how to handle the issue with her boss. What kind of technology the co-worker owns or doesn’t own, or how rude the co-worker may have been literally has nothing to do with it, so why is everyone so focused on the fault of the co-worker here? Are we just all re-litigating the debate on lateness from last week?

      2. hamsterpants*

        Co worker could have pulled over after hearing her phone ring three times. Instead, she just left OP hanging.

        1. PollyQ*

          But if she were on the highway, doing that might’ve added another 5-15 minutes to her arrival time.

        2. ASW*

          That assumes she heard it. My phone is always on silent and when I’m driving, it’s in my purse.

          1. Maris Crane*

            So…if you saw that you were going to be more than 30 minutes late you wouldn’t do anything to let your coworker know? I never touch my phone while I’m driving, but if I see that I’m going to be more than 5-10 minutes late, I find a way to contact the person waiting for me.

              1. really soon to be former fed*

                Exactly what I was thinking, my 2010 has it, and it can be retrofitted also.

              2. Gatomon*

                No, they don’t. My 2011 doesn’t have it and I’m not dropping money pulling out a perfectly good stereo to install one with Bluetooth so I can make a phone call via my car. Bluetooth may be pretty standard now but there are millions of older cars on the road without it, and happy drivers.

                1. Door Guy*

                  When my state passed the law last year about no phones in hands, we needed to retrofit our work trucks because none of them had bluetooth. No pulling out of radios required. Connects to the aux port and then you just had to mount the little button to answer your incoming calls on your dash. They cost $12. Our service van didn’t have an aux port and we were able to order one that connects to your car via radio frequency for $9. Not quite as efficient if you’re in an area with lots of radio stations but still enough to answer and say “I’m running late!” when they call.

        3. Brett*

          My work phone (not my personal phone, but a co-worker would have my work number) blocks all incoming phone calls when I am driving. No ring. Just straight to voicemail.
          It’s an enforced setting. I cannot turn it off.

        4. SleeplessKJ*

          My new iPhone defaults to “do not disturb” when I’m driving. It doesn’t even let me know I HAVE a call until I’m parked.

      3. ACDC*

        Interesting. To me, calling and no answer (at 5:30am) would suggest that the person is asleep and not coming.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          To me, it could mean either of those things or something else that I have no way of knowing about! I would assume that I cannot get hold of this coworker, for whatever reason, and that it is likely that they aren’t coming up to meet with me anytime soon.

        2. Gumby*

          At 5:30 a.m. my phone does not ring because I have set my DND hours. Multiple calls in quick succession override that, but it would depend on how much time OP left between attempts at contact.

          I also would have figured that said person forgot to set an alarm and wasn’t coming since 5:30 is quite outside of normal arrival times at my job.

          1. Daisy-dog*

            I had an a-hole co-worker who figured out how to manipulate DND. She’d call her direct reports (who were non-exempt, by the way) and get sent to voicemail immediately, so she’d call back once or twice as fast as possible to push through.

      4. putt putt*

        To me, calling and not getting an answer at that time of day would suggest that the person might be still asleep, in which case you would have no idea how much longer they will be.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          It could also mean that the coworker was on the road and driving. The state where I live passed a hands-free driving law, so you can’t use phones while driving unless they’re voice-activated. Not everyone has a voice-activated phone. Now personally, if I was going somewhere for work and knew I was going to be more than 10 minutes late, I would pull over somewhere if possible and call, but maybe the coworker didn’t have that option for some reason.

          1. putt putt*

            You’re making the same point as the comment that I replied to. I guess I could modify my comment to say:

            To me, calling and not getting an answer at that time of day and not receiving a call from the person telling me that they are late would suggest that the person might be still asleep, in which case you would have no idea how much longer they will be.

            1. Close Bracket*

              Calling and not getting an answer and not receiving a call from the person could still mean they are on the road. You just don’t know. Why default to the least flattering assumption? If it galls you give anyone benefit of doubt, try defaulting to “They could be late for any reason, they are Schrodinger’s Late Cat.”

              1. putt putt*

                I’m not defaulting to the least flattering assumption. I’m defaulting to the most likely explanation. Like many other commenters have said, if the coworker were awake and on their way, they would probably either answer OP’s calls or call OP themselves to let them know they are running late. If you can’t reach someone that you are supposed meet at 5:30 in the morning, it’s most likely because they overslept.

                1. GothicBee*

                  To be fair, the coworker arrived at 6:05 am, which makes it highly unlikely that they were asleep at or after 5:30 am unless they live close enough that they’re walking. Also, in general I just don’t think “they must be asleep” is ever going to be the most likely explanation for “my coworker isn’t here and it’s 15 minutes past our planned meeting time”. Is it a possible explanation? Sure, but not the most likely.

              2. Amethystmoon*

                That was what I was trying to get at. I have had people try to call me when I was driving and couldn’t pick up in the moment. I had to wait until an exit came up and drive to a gas station nearby.

              3. Lady Heather*

                I disagree. If you leave late, you call in between grabbing your car keys and starting you car. (If it’s due to oversleeping, call on speaker while getting dressed.) If there is no call, the most flattering assumption would be that someone accidentally overslept. The less flattering assumption would be that they just didn’t bother calling.

                1. Belle of the Midwest*

                  this right here. signed, I Am Not A Morning Person But I Bust My Tail If I Have to Be Somewhere Early

                2. Avasarala*

                  This!!!!!!!!

                  One time I was responsible for transportation with a coworker. I forgot to set my alarm and woke up when we were supposed to leave. I called my coworker immediately and said go without me.

                  No call? I would have assumed coworker was driving (hence waiting 15 min) or sleeping. If she was driving and would take more than 15 min, she would know she would arrive late and should have called, or pulled over and called. If there was an accident or emergency then she would be much later. I don’t think OP did too much wrong here.

                3. Amethystmoon*

                  But what if you leave early or on time and there’s still an accident? It does happen. There have been times where I sat on the highway for over an hour due to an accident, and couldn’t take an exit because traffic was totally stopped. This was thankfully, on the way home from work. But morning rush hours can also be terrible in my city. I’m so glad I work closer to home now and don’t have to go on the highway at all during rush hour.

                4. Door Guy*

                  Exactly this!!!

                  I’ve had early morning calls with my manager talking to my speakerphone while my phone was perched over my bathroom sink and I was in the shower. (Also the other way, he was in the shower because he slept in. We did a lot of coordination around 5-5:30 even if we didn’t need to leave our respective houses until 7.) I’ve made the call while I’m putting on my boots and grabbing my lunch box, while I’m packing my laptop, or whatever task I needed to accomplish between waking up and getting in my vehicle. Unless the delay was caused by something while you were already on the road, you know how long it takes to get from home to work and if you’re going to be late you can spare the few seconds to be responsible.

      5. Case of the Mondays*

        For all the people that won’t answer a phone while driving, do you have the built in bluetooth system on your car? Mine rings over my radio and I press a button on my steering wheel to answer it, never taking my eyes off the road. My phone stays in my purse the whole time.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          I have bluetooth and I still won’t answer the phone when driving.

          First, because it’s my work phone and we have ‘no cellphone use’ while driving policy.
          Second, it’s rarely something quick and easy
          Third, because the damn phone can wait until I’m ready to answer it.

          1. mark132*

            Even if you are running 30 minutes late to meet with a coworker, and it’s them calling you asking where the heck you are?

            1. SomebodyElse*

              Did you not see the bit about the no cellphone use while driving?

              Yes, people have been called out for calling into meetings while driving (by our CEO no less) and told to hang up. People have been disciplined for this for answering their boss’s call.

              If I’m stuck in the middle of an accident traffic jam, it’s going to add 30 minutes to get off the road make the call/text and then get back on the road on top of the delay I’m already sitting in.

              1. valentine*

                do you have the built in bluetooth system on your car?
                No. The phone is off because its ring would freak me out and, once I remembered its existence and purpose, annoy me because I won’t answer because I don’t want to break that law. Sirens and horns in songs are bad enough.

                1. Case of the Mondays*

                  I hate sirens in songs too. Using a hands free device is not illegal where I live so I’m not breaking the law. You are all correct that many cars do not have Bluetooth. I also drive used cars but I’ve just been lucky that even my older used cars came with Bluetooth. My husband’s 2011 used truck had it. I’m sure that made the truck a lot more money in 2011 but didn’t make much of a difference in 2016 when he bought it.

              2. Hiring Mgr*

                Seems a bit draconian. You can’t use the phone while waiting in standstill traffic? And you get disciplined because your boss is calling (shouldn’t the boss be disciplined too?) . I know driving while using the phone isn’t great, but damn let people use their own judgment

                1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

                  Yes, one of my bosses answered a text from his boss in standstill traffic and got a $250 fine.

                2. SomebodyElse*

                  This is the same company that puts all of their employees through annual driving tests written, annual driving test (on the road for anyone who drives for work), and requires us to back in to parking spaces in your personal car in the company parking lot.

                  My company was once in the oil industry which is notorious for strict driving policies for all employees.

                  On the other side of the coin, “Oops.. Sorry.. I missed your call I was driving” or “Can’t make that conference call I’ll be be driving to the airport” is a valid and accepted excuse to everyone, including the CEO.

                3. Hiring Mgr*

                  I can understand driving tests I suppose if you’re driving for work, but why does everyone have to back in to their parking spaces?

                4. Captain Raymond Holt*

                  No.

                  My personal policy is the “no touchy” rule. I will not touch or use my phone unless the car is in Park. I’ll let it play music through the stereo, and I’ll have the GPS map up at eye level but I will not talk on the phone, use Siri, etc. It’s my opinion that distracted driving is unethical and I won’t waver from it. I’m with SomebodyElse on that one.

                5. caffe latte*

                  where I live using the phone without hands-free is … something like a $400 ticket and 3 points off. It has also been applied when the phone is visible to the driver and not in use.

                6. Mongrel*

                  “Seems a bit draconian.”
                  Probably makes the company insurance a lot cheaper.
                  But… in the UK it’s still illegal to use a phone when the car is stationary in traffic (hands free is fine), which I’m fine with.
                  Given how people use their phones it’s a few short steps from “Ok when I’m stationary” to “Well, it’s fine in stop start traffic, I’ll just put my phone in my lap for easy access” to “We’re moving really slowly, I’ll just check my phone “.
                  And yes seen all of these, frequently. Also newspapers\clipboards across steering wheels, eating a bowl of cereal, shaving & makeup plus many others. People get too blasé about driving and keep trying to push ‘the line’ of what’s acceptable\legal so I’m all for binary “You can not do this”, there’s no room for argument or fuzzy interpretation.

                7. Amethystmoon*

                  Some state cell phone driving laws are pretty draconian. I guess it all depends on who can afford the fine.

            2. cacwgrl*

              In that case, I would have been adult enough to call the person I’m supposed to meet to tell them I’m running late. That’s my responsibility and let’s be realistic here, it’s likely late coworker left well after 0530, when they should have already been at the designated meeting spot.

              1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                I haven’t got to the bottom of the comments yet, but I haven’t seen anyone remark that they were meant to be meeting at the office and then LEAVING at 5.30, so colleague should have been at the rendezvous no later than 5.29, and it would seem courteous to aim for 5.25 or similar.

                The AAM commentariat discusses punctuality frequently, and is sympathetic to the very real difficulties people face in achieving it. But I think we should trust the LW when she says her colleague had no emergency but was just late; and we should remember that the agreed time was a deadline rather than a target.

                1. Door Guy*

                  I haven’t reached even 1/3 of the way down yet, and I’ve seen tons of “But what if!!!” comments, or “We can’t do X here!” comments. All I can say is: if that is the case that there was an accident, or you hit that 530am traffic jam, and it’s against the law to make the call or be on the phone, then you have a justifiable reason. A reasonable manager should understand that. If you can show you had made reasonable accommodations to be on time only then been held up by something outside of your control and were prevented by law from making contact without making yourself even later or putting yourself in danger, that is life. If it means you missed your ride, than that is unfortunate but still a reality of being delayed. If you missed your ride because you overslept, didn’t give anyone a heads up, and just expected them to wait for you indefinitely, that’s on you.

          2. Quill*

            Yes, just like texts are more convenient than answering machines. Also, I have attempted to hook my phone up to my car like six times now and it’s failed for a different reason each time, some brands of phones just aren’t that connective with everything around them.

            (Or: people may still have cars made before 2015!)

            1. Pomona Sprout*

              “(Or: people may still have cars made before 2015!)”

              Yes, as someone who drives a 2006 car because it’s literally all I can afford, my reaction to that comment was “Gee, thanks for reminding me of yet another of the latest bells and whistles that is unavailable to me, lol!”

              1. Quill*

                I mean, much like Sirius radio or whatever, I don’t really need it (hi, battery powered phone speaker from 2005! You still work!) and don’t want to take half an hour to set it up.

                I’m far more interested in the backup cam and the airbags, thanks. :)

          3. Socrates Johnson*

            Right, but in this case you are late and someone is waiting for you in the dark at 5:30 in the morning and it’s probably them calling so you wouldn’t work around that in any way shape or form?

          1. Professional Confusion*

            My first car, which was a 2001 Jetta, had aftermarket Bluetooth because I upgraded the stereo when I got it. It’s not that unheard of to have Bluetooth in a pre-2010 vehicle.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              It’s not unheard of, but it’s also uncommon, which I think was more the point. (Putting a new stereo in my 2005 would pretty much make the sound system worth more than the car.)

          2. Bonnie McMurray*

            I don’t have bluetooth but I can still answer a call while driving safely when my phone is in bluetooth mode.

        2. Tomato*

          On bluetooth, you are assuming a lot. I drive only old cars (1991, 2004 and 2007). All are paid off, cost almost nothing to own and maintain, and get me from point A to point B. Don’t care about the newest bells and whistles. Bluetooth would be convenient,but I can’t multitask so no loss there.

          1. Ophelia*

            Hah, even my “newer” car (2011) doesn’t have bluetooth! I just don’t answer the phone in the car, though in this case if I were the late co-worker, I would definitely have called before I left, when I (presumably) knew I was running late.

        3. Amethystmoon*

          My car isn’t new enough to have one. Someday, I hope to have a car that is new enough, preferably after I pay my student loans off.

        4. NotAnotherManager!*

          I drive a 2005 car that only plays my music from my phone through the speakers because my husband ran an auxiliary cable under the dash. Car runs great, has low miles for age, and has been paid off a long, long time ago. (Given the higher rate of accidents and traffic in DC, it’s not unusual to have a similar commuter car.)

          Our other vehicle, which is circa 2010 HAS phone/bluetooth, but it’s early generation (old in technology years) and very glitchy, so neither of us use it. My husband doesn’t get mad easily, and the phone pairing/use process in that car drives him to profanity.

        5. coffee cup*

          Talking on the phone is still distracting, whether or not your actual phone is involved. Unless it’s an emergency, I wouldn’t. It’s a multitask that isn’t as easy as it seems.

          1. really soon to be former fed*

            Navigation apps talk to the driver, and that’s better than looking at the phone.At least you don’t have to talk back to the app, although I do cuss at it on occassion.

        6. RussianInTexas*

          My car is 2012. No Bluetooth. Only this weekend I installed a 3-rd party Bluetooth receiver for music, but it still doesn’t do calls and texts.

      6. Enginear*

        If I knew I was meeting up with someone super early to head out somewhere and I was 35 minutes late, I would absolutely at the minimum send a text to the coworker to let them know.

    4. Granger Chase*

      I agree. Especially if you tried calling three times and she never picked up. Even if she does not answer calls while she is driving, if I knew I was running late and the person I was meeting had called three times, I would find a quick place to pull over to call them back and let them know I was late. I feel like you gave your coworker enough time, especially considering how early you got up to meet them!

      1. EPLawyer*

        Heck I would text at the stoplight. But I would have called/texted BEFORE I left the house to let the person know I was running late and to give an ETA.

        15 minutes with no idea if the person is on their way/haven’t left the house yet/still asleep/sick/whatever is more than enough.

        IF someone lets me know they are running late, I will wait longer, but only if I have communication.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          But I would have called/texted BEFORE I left the house to let the person know I was running late and to give an ETA.

          OMG, THIS. Why would you wait until you were in the car to contact your coworker you know is waiting for you and was calling you several times to see where you were? If you overslept or you had an emergency early that morning that needed to be dealt with, take a minute before you get behind the wheel and send a text apologizing and giving an estimate for when you expect to arrive. To just not answer numerous calls or to even proactively reach out is rude as hell.

          1. SomebodyElse*

            Maybe because they didn’t know they’d be late when they left their house with plenty of time to get there?

            Have you never been driving and with no warning been stuck in the accident traffic that happened with no warning in front you?

              1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                …so, I used to live in a very rural area with lousy cell reception, and I had about an hour commute. One very foggy morning I come up over a hill to find five heifers hanging out in the road. They weren’t at all scared of my car, there were no other humans out and about that I could appeal to, and my phone had no reception at all. Turning around and backtracking would have added 20-30 minutes to my commute (passing a big dairy that closed the road for morning milking). Convincing those stupid cows to get out of the way took a solid half hour that morning.

                Guessing that wasn’t the case here, but it can totally happen!

              2. Le Sigh*

                In the metro area I live in, rush hour starts around 5:30. Any and all late night hours are when the DOT does roadwork. So I’ve hit delays at all kinds of hours.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              No, I haven’t because I don’t drive. But again, if you’re stuck in traffic due to an accident, you can’t send a quick text that says you’re running late? The onus is on the latecomer to communicate with the driver going to the conference.

            2. really soon to be former fed*

              OP didn’t say it went like this though, and coworker certainly would have told her if it did.

            3. Door Guy*

              Then you tell your boss “I’m sorry, but I was set to be on time until traffic came to a standstill from an accident. I could not send out a message because of X (illegal, phone in bag, no bluetooth, safety issue, etc). This was the earliest I could inform anybody and I apologize to you and (coworker).”

              Life happens, and accidents are accidents. It’s how you deal with it after that counts.

    5. Alli525*

      I have so much anxiety around being late that there’s just no way I could have waited for longer than 15 minutes. At least OP’s client had SOMEONE there at the pre-arranged time – it would have been worse to have the client sitting around wondering where everyone was (because it’s entirely possible that the client had to wake up early too).

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Irrelevant: Conferences also have start times and you miss information that you’ve paid to hear if you get there late.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            Eh, that really depends on the conference. A lot of them start with a generous window for registration, refreshments and networking.

            The exact timing and agenda matter here, I think, for whether OP should have waited longer. Plus their roles at the conference.

            1. kittymommy*

              Yeah, I can’t think of a conference I’ve attended or booked for that doesn’t have a built-in networking/mingling time, generally 1/2 – 1 hr. (And one where 1-2 people being late is going to have a huge, noticeable impact.)

            2. Spencer Hastings*

              I think if the LW is talking about being late for the conference, she probably means the start of the sessions proper.

          2. Derjungerludendorff*

            Yes, but it’s less important to the company that you get some information than it is to keep a client happy. So in my opinion the difference is relevant.

          3. CheeryO*

            I don’t think it’s irrelevant. There is nuance to everything when it comes to work, and having a strict “I wait for no man!” policy isn’t going to serve anyone well. Unless they were presenting or manning a booth, no one else was depending on them being on time. The coworker might not have even missed any real information, depending on how the conference is structured.

              1. Maxie*

                Alison, how did I go wrong in asking the commenter to used the inclusive staffing rather than the gendered manning the booth? Should I have contacted you privately instead?

          4. Jules the 3rd*

            Hard disagree. Client meetings are always ‘you must get someone there on time’, while conferences are a lot more variable.

          5. Smithy*

            This is also going to be employer specific. If I wanted two employees to use the drive to a conference to get on the same page about approach and messaging, then it would be far more important to me to have them show up late for an opening plenary session but aligned.

            I think a key piece of this is that while arrival at X time may have been a key priority to the OP, it was less important to the OP’s boss than the effort to arrive together. This may be a case where the OP and their boss can be better aligned in setting priorities and handling unexpected hurdles – and I see that as more relevant than the time specifically.

            I used to work in a part of the world where due to security realities, travel to a city where I had a number of meetings could range from 30 minutes to 2 hours. The decision with my boss was always to budget for around 50 minutes because giving myself 2 hours would too often have me wasting time waiting for a meeting. Occasionally I’d arrive very early, a little late, or acknowledge I’d be so late I’d miss the meeting/need to reschedule. Regardless of my personal approach to time – this was the business decision that I reached with my boss.

          6. yala*

            Irrelevant: they’d already planned a considerable buffer into their leave time, and even waiting 30 minutes seems unlikely to have made them late.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Unfortunately for LW, you’re not her manager. If the BOSS says that wasn’t long enough, LW needs to step back and ask how much time *is* enough in the future.
      Also, remember that if co-worker is driving without a handsfree device, they can’t answer the phone *OR* call it in. Some drivers put hands-required phones in the trunk so they might not even have heard the phone ring. Some roads don’t have places where it’s safe to pull over and return the call.
      And when I was a LIRR commuter in NYC, the train sometimes got stuck under the river with no bars of service for more than 15 minutes. (I’m a bit claustrophobic so I’m painfully aware of how long we were at a standstill underground & underwater.) Any commute through a tunnel could have the same issue — and in many areas, there’s poor service coverage.

      1. Yorick*

        But eventually, the train was no longer stuck under the river, so you’d’ve been able to text at some point before arriving at the office.

        And let’s be honest- most of the time, if you’re 30+ minutes late, you left late and could’ve called your coworker to let them know before you started driving.

        1. Door Guy*

          Right, all these comments about being on the highway or interstate and “can’t call!”, unless you work so close to the interstate off-ramp that it would take you longer to stop and call than it would to just finish the drive, you could still have called with some notice.

      2. Trout 'Waver*

        Yeah, no. Coworker knows how long it takes to get to the office and what time she left. She could have just as easily called before she left or pulled over to call when she realized she was late. Leaving someone waiting that long for you without notice is rude and unprofessional.

      3. Public Sector Manager*

        I love this comment and couldn’t agree more. It’s pretty much irrelevant for the OP whether we all think 15 minutes is acceptable or not. For the OP’s manager, 15 minutes was not long enough. That’s what OP needs to focus on, not on who was right or wrong. We aren’t paying OP’s salary. That’s why the script here works so well–in the future, how long should the OP wait? Is OP free to leave in the future if the late coworker doesn’t call before the late coworker leaves their house? What is OP’s manager’s expectation in this situation?

        But just to chime in, I’m a stickler for being on time. However, 15 minutes is way too soon to leave if it’s a work function. Depending on what part of the country your in, being 15 minutes late even at 5:30 am is entirely reasonable because of traffic and construction. Also, companies that have company cars use company cars so they don’t have to reimburse mileage for their employees’ personal vehicles. Now the OP’s manager has to justify both the use of the company car by one employee and the reimbursement of mileage for a second employee.

      4. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Yes, this. I’ve worked several places where we have staff who a) are in outside of standard business hours and b) who function on a coverage basis but c) may have to commute in unpredictable traffic and on mass transit systems that are having some reliability issues.

        We went over BOTH people’s responsibility in each situation. If you’re the late person, it’s your responsibility to call in ASAP…but you’re expected to use good judgment in doing so, including following all relevant laws for phone use and driving, and all prudent safety measures when biking/walking/etc.

        If you’re the person whose coverage is MIA, it’s your responsibility to contact your relief if you haven’t heard from them, stay as late as you possibly can, contact your boss AND get a response from your boss (so don’t just text, keep calling until they pick up), and if that still doesn’t work, then and only then can you make alternate plans. The alternate plans also have to pass the muster of good judgment.

      5. Smithy*

        Completely agree.

        I also think that without knowing the exact hierarchy of the office – how much time you wait is going to fluctuate wildly. I’ve planned offsite meetings for our CEO that included the “we must leave by X time at the latest to be on time” – and if he shows up late, we all leave late. For everyone here talking about how if someone’s 15 minutes, they’re outta there – I struggle to imagine that opinion applying to whether or not their boss was late.

        Is the coworker more senior? Does the coworker report to a different boss who has a less friendly relationship with the OP’s boss? Was the coworker agreeing to drive with the OP as a favor with the intention of providing mentoring insight?

        Similar to a dress code – how long you wait should be nuanced. And if the OP and the OP’s boss have mismatched views, it’s not going to help the OP at their job long term.

    7. Sara M*

      I usually agree with Alison on most things. I think in this case she’s mistaken. I think waiting 15 minutes and calling three times is absolutely sufficient.

      Of course, if she’d contacted you back, or called, or anything–that would be different.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        But clearly it was not sufficient, or OP’s boss wouldn’t be mad about it. That’s the specific problem the OP wrote in about.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            I wouldn’t say OP’s boss is bad from this one incident – just irrational in this particular case. This is solely the fault of the late coworker.

            1. yala*

              I don’t think there’s anything that irrational at being upset that OP made the call to give the boss more work and have the boss have to sort out reimbursement for a second vehicle without looping the boss in or considering whether it was more important that they both get there together in the same vehicle than that they miss any early morning traffic.

              1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

                OP didn’t do that–late co worker did. Boss should be mad only at the late one. They were supposed to leave at 5:30 AM. That means being at meeting point at 5:20, 5:22 or so. This is all on late co worker and boss is irrational.

                1. yala*

                  It’s on both of them.

                  Coworker caused the initial problem. But OP had a call to make as well, and chose to make the call that resulted in more money/effort from the boss. It’s a problem that could have been avoided by the coworker being on time, but after that ship had sailed, it STILL could have been avoided by the OP either contacting the boss (since OP was driving a company car that was supposed to leave with TWO people).

                  The boss isn’t irrational. The boss had different priorities than OP. The boss’s priorities were: Both employees get to this conference for the least amount of money.
                  OP’s priorities were: I get to this conference before or exactly when it starts.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          The question wasn’t “is my boss furious?” The question was “who is right?” And the answer to that is, judging by the comments, not clear at all.

    8. Not So Super-visor*

      I’m on your side with this. It sounds like the co-worker was ignoring the fact that she was late and expected you to wait. I assume that if she had called OP 5 minutes after OP had left, OP probably would have driven back to the office and waited for her. It sounds like the coworker never reached out to OP at all. My first thought if I’m running late to meet someone is to call them.
      Alternate theory: did coworker not want to leave so early and express that? If so, I wonder if she tried to force you to leave later by passive aggressively being late and not returning calls.

      1. Tisiphone*

        Agreed! If you’re running late because of an unexpected traffic incident (surprise lane closure, accident, a lot more traffic than normal), these things often show up on traffic incidents maps. Even google maps can guestimate arrival times and show areas of heavy traffic. If the traffic map or google maps isn’t showing accidents, lane closures, or heavy traffic, the obvious assumption is that the coworker got a late start and should have called.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          That only works if you’re checking in their direction. I wouldn’t know most of my co-worker’s start points to check.

          1. kt*

            A lot of states have state traffic maps; in my state it’s easy to check real-time state and metro traffic, so you don’t have to know the direction your coworker is coming from — you can just see if there were any nearby incidents to get an idea.

            1. Tisiphone*

              That was my thought. If the map is clear, then there wasn’t a traffic-related hold-up.

              Trouble is, when you’re stuck waiting for someone who doesn’t respond to your attempts to reach them, you can’t know what’s going on. This is at least one way to eliminate the most obvious.

              Lots of accidents on the road and massive slowdowns everywhere? OK, I’ll stick around a while longer.

    9. Trout 'Waver*

      Completely agree. The fact that she didn’t pick up the phone is relevant here. She knew she was late. She could have let OP know and given an accurate time. OP had no way to know if she would show up in the next 15 minutes or 2 hours from now.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I actually don’t think it’s relevant. I don’t think ANY of the coworker’s behavior is relevant, because there’s nothing the OP can do about it. OP can talk to their boss and get clarification to see what she recommends if this happens again, but OP really can’t go to their boss and say “but coworker should have done all these things and she didn’t so I shouldn’t be in trouble!” That’s not going to be a good look. It doesn’t matter why the coworker was late or what she should have done about that lateness. It matters how OP cleans this up with their boss going forward.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Yes, it is relevant. When you’re being treated unfairly by unreasonable people, it can be very helpful to be told that you are the reasonable one, if it doesn’t change what you can do about it.

    10. Grumpy Cat*

      I agree.
      I haven’t read all the comments but it seems to be divided into those who think 15 minutes is enough (like me), versus those who think the LW should have waited longer.

      I detest being at a conference on time and having latecomers arrive past the starting point -it’s disruptive!; it’s even more annoying if the conference speaker delays the start to catch those latecomers!
      All the nope!

      It’s infuriating to have to wait for people who are late with no good reason.
      If you’re late you miss out – that’s the incentive to be on time. It’s unfortunate of it can’t be helped (such as an accident on the way there) but if you’re normally on time, people will give you more leeway when you *are* late.

      As you can tell, this is a grumpy topic foot me :D

      1. whingedrinking*

        At first I read it as a “grumpy foot topic” and I thought, “What a cute idiom!”

    11. BasicWitch*

      It depends on the context and costs involved. If being a little late costs nothing, extending some patience to a coworker (whether or not they deserve it) is good, respectable move to make. On the other hand, being late at the start tends to snowball badly as the day wears on… and I really, really have a hard time believing anyone agrees to set out at 5:30am unless they absolutely must!

      OP’s coworker was 100% inconsiderate (I’ve called in late coming back from a lunch break because I had been struck by a car. One takes the time if one cares to), and I think 15 minutes is the most grace period anyone should reasonably expect.

  3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    I think the only thing that’s missing from Alison’s answer is the financial angle. If she drove five hours round-trip in her own car, that would likely incur an expense the company would be expected to reimburse (gas and mileage) — hence taking a company car. With that in mind, you definitely should have waited more than 15 minutes before leaving without your coworker.

    I agree that your coworker being late without any notice to you, or any response to your calls, was incredibly rude of her, and I’m curious how she reacted at the conference or afterward. Did she apologize for being late? Did she express to you any reason why she missed the time by so much?

    1. Ali A*

      That’s a valid perspective I hadn’t considered! Otherwise I’d have been in the “15 minutes” crew.

    2. JSPA*

      important missing info, to gauge that, is what sort of conference / what were their relative roles.

      If OP was presenting, and needed to get there ASAP, or it was the sort of conference where late arrivals do a Walk Of Shame in full view of all the on- time attendees, that’s very different from

      “it’s nice to have an easy drive and grab coffee and donut before the welcome address”

      and that, in turn, is different from,

      “coworker is presenting at 9:30, OP gets to go along because OP driving means coworker hits the stage as relaxed and prepared as possible.”

      Then there’s, “both people are presenting together at 11, the drive was intended as a chance for them to practice.”

      If OP is presuming that “general manners” that would apply in private life always apply / always outweigh any other specific work goal, then OP could be very much at fault.

      And EVERYONE is at fault for not having a contingency plan.

      1. I edit everything*

        I gathered they were simply “attending” a conference–a convention-center conference, even, suggesting lots of people, the first half hour being just mingling with coffee and mini muffins, followed by opening remarks, then lots of shuffling around as people got to their chosen sessions. I doubt lateness would have been remarked upon, if even noticed.

      2. OlympiasEpiriot*

        I second this entire comment.

        Would also add if the co-worker then expensed their mileage that might come into play as well that once the co-worker knew they were running late they absolutely should have contacted the OP somehow. Am also wondering if they were being paid for their travel time (although that isn’t a large consideration).

      3. yala*

        My understanding was they were leaving very early to avoid early morning traffic.

        If I wanted to be in Houston for 7pm and miss the 5pm traffic, I’d leave at 3. But if I left at 4, I’ll still be there for 7, I’ll just have had to drive through some frustrating traffic.

    3. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Yes, when I was reading the letter, I thought the complaint was going to be, ” . . . and then coworker submitted a travel expense reimbursement, and now I’m in trouble for leaving in the company car.”

    4. RC Rascal*

      Great comment. Companies have budgets. Current federal mileage reimbursement is $.0575/mile. I would estimate the coworker driving separately probably cost $250-300 in gas and mileage, depending on vehicle type and gas cost in your location. For some organizations, this would be a huge issue.

      1. merula*

        Minor but critical typo: $0.575/mile. A bit more than an Eisenhower halfdollar, not a bit more than a nickel.

    5. Ravenclaw Rantings*

      I came here to say this exact thing. They likely gave them the company car to avoid having to pay more for two people’s travel expenses. While I’m the type of person who gets to work 30 minutes early every morning, I’d definitely wait for my coworker at least a half-hour so that I didn’t waste company resources. I’d probably even have shot my boss a quick note saying that I called three times and coworker had not shown up so I was heading to the conference alone. Boss was probably blindsided by a note from the coworker saying that you’d left. Thus the anger.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          That’s what I would have done – called coworker three times and, when she didn’t answer, called or emailed boss and told her that I waited for close to a half hour, coworker didn’t show or respond to my calls, so I left.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yep. The only fundamentally bad call the OP made was not contacting their manager before they left. Otherwise, 15 minutes isn’t great but leaving the coworker sounds like the ultimate decision that would have been made either way.

    6. AW*

      I’d be denying that expense claim so fast it wouldn’t be funny.

      The company paid once for transport, co-worker who can’t make on time for it can suffer the consequences.

      1. RC Rascal*

        Be very careful about this. I have seen expense report denials escalate into major internal fire fights. Especially over this kind of situation.

        Now if co-worker was really, really late–say an hour or two–you would be within your rights. But when the one with the car left after only waiting 15 minutes? This is not worth the consequences of ensuing fight.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              I don’t think they’re saying to deny wages, just to say they won’t reimburse mileage from having to drive her own car instead of riding in the company car.

              1. yala*

                Yeah, but they owe her that mileage for having to drive her own car. That’s money she had to pay to attend something for work.

      2. The Tin Man*

        This gets under my skin because isn’t employees making mistakes that cost the company money a pretty normal thing? I mean it’s not to be encouraged and should be minimized but employees are people. You’re saying you would essentially charge the employee for making a mistake by denying the expense report.

      3. Brett*

        When I worked government, this was not optional. If I drove my own vehicle, it had to be reimbursed. The federal grants that paid for most of our conference attendance allowed zero flexibility on this.

        1. doreen*

          In my government agency , I might be reimbursed for driving myself if I missed my ride in an agency car – but I’d probably also be counseled for being 30 minutes late with no contact.

      4. zora*

        That is illegal in California. It’s similar to people working unapproved overtime. You are required by law to reimburse employees for business expenses. Even if they weren’t approved to spend that money.

        1. really soon to be former fed*

          Not in the federal gov. We have this little thing call unauthorized committment, whichis a violation of appropriations law.

      5. Gracie Loo*

        I’m not sure where you work but all the larger companies I’ve worked for if this had happened I could have went to HR and got it approved. Any work trip over 2 hours any decent company pays for the mileage and gas or form of transportation. It would be a Jerk move on any boss in my mind that denied this.

    7. Quinalla*

      Agreed that this is a missing piece and OP should have given boss a heads up that she had tried to call 3 times with no response, should I leave now or wait longer? If boss doesn’t reply, then its a judgement call again. I am frustrated along with OP that their coworker did not reach out to them to say they were going to be late and I am quite certain boss is a lot more put out at coworker too.

      I’ll be honest, it would depend on circumstances, but I probably would not have waited too much longer myself with no answer of the phone, but my coworkers always answer their phone. When I’ve been in a situation when I’m running late, I always call or text and they do the same, so this situation is just bizarre to me.

      I’d ask boss how long you should wait in the future or what other steps you should take if it happens again (call boss, etc.) I really find this whole situation so weird if the other person had no emergency. Why not just call and say you will be late and sort it out? So weird!

      1. zinzarin*

        Message to boss (text or voicemail): “Coworker is 15 min late; I’ve reached out three times with no response. I’m inclined to leave; if I don’t hear back from you otherwise within the next 5 or so minutes, I intend to head out to the conference. Thanks!”

    8. TechWorker*

      To be honest this is the only possible reason I came up with for boss being mad at all. If coworker wasn’t expecting mileage then honestly why would boss care? Is there any other reason not waiting half an hour would be a bad thing to do..?

    9. MissDisplaced*

      Yes, I’m sure that’s why the boss is mad.
      But STILL the issue is and should be with the person who was late and didn’t call to say they were late.

      Ask yourself this: would being 35 minutes late without a call be tolerated in other situations?

    10. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      The mileage expense is on the late co-worker, not OP. OP shouldn’t have to be held hostage by the co-worker’s lateness.

    11. yala*

      Basically all of this. The coworker wasn’t in the right, but the whole “I gave a generous 15 minutes and then left” is, at best, Technically Correct, without actually being helpful, because it probably going to cost the company on the whole more (both in cash and effort) than what another 15 minutes or so would’ve been.

      I think the issue is it wasn’t really the OP’s call to make, and now inconveniences their boss.

      1. Frankie*

        Thanks–that’s where I’m sitting, too. OP allowed their own time preferences to rule without seeming to consider that they might need to make an adjustment.

        15 minutes is definitely late, but it’s way too soon when the stakes were that high. Was coworker inconsiderate? Yes. Was OP? I mean, yeah, come on.

  4. cmcinnyc*

    This is kind of an office culture thing. I get Alison’s advice here… but at my office, failing to be there at 5:30 would mean you were on your own. Now, failing to be there at 9:00? I’d expect people to wait a bit. But when you have to get up before dawn to meet so early, being late/out of touch is rude enough to warrant being ditched. Yes, it could have been a situation. But when people have a situation, they handle it–as in, driving their own car to the convention and arriving late because it couldn’t be helped. I don’t get the “furious” part here.

    1. Marny*

      Agreed. And if I’d sat there waiting for half an hour at 5:30 am, I would probably be very poor company sitting in the car with the person who kept me waiting.

    2. BadWolf*

      Yeah, at my job if you were 15 minutes late for 5:30AM leave time to avoid rush hour getting to destination…you’d be left too and expected to drive yourself.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Where I work too, especially if you didn’t text/call and let the other folks in the car know what was going on.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        This is the sticking point to me. If we were going to leave during normal work hours, I can roll with 15 minutes late (or even 30+, as this ended up). But if I get to the office at FIVE FREAKING THIRTY and you make me wait? There’s a lot higher chance I’ll drive off in a huff without you. Especially if you’re not on the phone saying “sorry, I have a flat tire!”

      3. Ele4phant*

        I’m very punctional – I don’t understand people that are just late by nature.

        I am not a morning person, it takes me a tremendous amount of effort to not only be up but be somewhere before 8am.

        So I would be so so annoyed if I were you LW.

        But, you left to soon. Honestly, at the 15 minute mark, after multiple attempts, my next move might’ve been to text or email my supervisor, let them know what’s going on, and what do they want me to do? Maybe not to wake them up and to deal with it, but to establish a paper trail that hey, I’m there, this is unreasonable, what to do?

        Give it maybe another 15, make more attempts to reach coworker. Then at that point maybe another call text to supervisor that says – I waited and have continued to try to get in touch with coworker and have been unsuccessful. It’s getting to the point where if I don’t leave I won’t make it on time so I’m just taking the initiative and am going now.

    3. Diahann Carroll*

      I don’t get the “furious” part here.

      Me either, especially when rude coworker had a vehicle and was able to drive herself to the conference anyway. If she was unable to drive for whatever reason, I could see being miffed at OP for leaving her stranded, but again, this is where personal accountability comes into play. Rude coworker knew she was going to be late and said nothing – it takes a minute or two to send a text with your ETA for arrival. That’s on her at that point.

      1. yala*

        “Me either, especially when rude coworker had a vehicle and was able to drive herself to the conference anyway.”

        And now the company has to compensate them for that. Which is probably where the “furious” part comes in–that OP made the call for herself without looping the boss in, and it’s going to cost the boss/company more than the additional 20minutes of waiting would have in effort/money.

    4. Avasarala*

      I agree, so much depends on office culture and situation.

      If we’re meeting foreign clients for an all day tour? You are getting left behind. Whoever can get there gets there as early as possible and do your best to cover, and late person better catch up and apologize.

      If I’m going with my boss/senior employee to a conference just to attend? I’m not leaving without them. That would be pretty presumptuous!

    5. yala*

      “failing to be there at 5:30 would mean you were on your own. Now, failing to be there at 9:00? I’d expect people to wait a bit.”

      That’s so odd to me, because I would feel the other way around. 5:30 is such an obscenely early time that I could fully understand someone being late–you’re not used to waking up that early, alarms can get slept through, getting ready takes longer because your brain is still on the pillow, you’re not used to the traffic you might encounter, etc etc.

      Not saying it was cool of OP’s coworker to be late AND out of touch. Just that being late for anything before the sun makes an appearance seems more understandable than being late for a 9am thing.

  5. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    After years of putting up with late people, I’m a “15 minutes without a call/text is a reasonable wait” person. Half an hour would only be given to someone who notified me that they were stuck in traffic/changing a flat/lost/stuck at a railroad crossing or in some other way detained by external forces rather than just running on their own time.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      I agree with this in regards to a personal situation as I loathe waiting more than ten minutes for people – a friend was once 40 minutes late meeting me with no call or text and the friendship didn’t survive long after that because it was a recurring problem but that was the straw that broke the camels back – however, in regards to a professional setting as described in the letter…I don’t know. I think 30 minutes is okay. Still annoying as anything and if the co-worker didn’t apologise, I’m not sure I’d be able to keep quiet, but considering that the company hired a car for the two of them, a little more leeway time might have been appropriate.

      I do agree that the late co-worker should also have been reprimanded, and if I was the OP I’d also be angry at how this was being handled.

      1. Why isn’t it Friday?*

        Yep, I’m in the my time is valuable boat too. I had a friend who would show up to dinner 45 minutes or an hour late and would thoughtlessly text me to “get a drink and relax” while I waited for him. That friendship also did not last long. He never had a good excuse for being late. He just was. Drove me crazy.

        1. Elenia*

          Same. It’s always “enable the late people”. Sorry but no. I cut late people out of my personal life whenever I can. I actually understand we have different priorities and other people don’t think being late is a big deal – but nothing will ratchet up my anxiety faster than being late. I prefer to drive myself whenever possible.

          Fifteen minutes is more than enough time to send a quick text or a phone call. And let’s remember she wasn’t fifteen minutes late, she was THIRTY FIVE minutes late with no call and no notification. Not only would I have left her, I would try never to travel with her again.

          1. Ms. Ann Thropy*

            Agreed. Coworker is late because the consequences of being late are not severe enough to deter her.

            1. Rabbit*

              This is ludicrous projection. All we know is that this happened one time, given OPs indignation I’m pretty sure that they would have mentioned if coworker was habitually late

              1. yala*

                Seriously though.

                Is it so bizarre that someone unused to having to wake up and get ready before 5am might just screw up once?

          2. Leela*

            You know how they say “Don’t apologize, say thank you?” As in don’t say “I’m sorry I’m late” say “thank you for waiting”? I think there’s certainly a time and place for that but for stuff like this, I’d be really upset if a coworker I’d gotten up early to drive somewhere came 35 minutes late and said “Thank you for waiting!” knowing that I didn’t really have a choice and that they forced me to.

            1. Avasarala*

              “Don’t apologize, say thank you” is for when you’re compulsively saying sorry for things that aren’t actually offenses. Like asking a waiter to bring you water and apologizing for their inconvenience–instead thank them. If you do something actually wrong to offend someone, you should absolutely apologize. If you’re quite late you should apologize.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          A friend running 30-45 minutes late to a dinner and texting me to get a drink and relax while I waited, was how I met the man I’ve been seeing for the last two years. (An old friend from a previous job. He walked over to the bar where I was sitting, said hi, and gave me his number while I waited for my friend to show up.) So I cannot really underestimate the benefits of a friend running late to a dinner /s. But this was not a dinner with a friend. This was a work conference that OP’s management had stressed the importance of being on time for! Had OP waited longer, the rush hour would’ve kicked in and they would’ve both been late. As willing as I am to tolerate lateness in my personal life, I would’ve been far less tolerant of that.

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          I understand what you’re saying, however, I guess I assume two things in this situation which causes me to disagree that the travel time belongs to the company and therefore the OP should have waited. If the OP and her coworker are being sent to a conference 2 hours away, they are probably salary exempt and not being paid exactly for every minute in the first place. And assuming the conference is going to be about 7-8 hours of “work time” (I would hate to think that they are traveling 4 hours round trip for less than a full-day conference) the travel time is not REALLY being paid for by the company, it’s just expected that salaried employees give as much time as is needed; okay…up to a point. But I don’t think this is the same as expecting to wait until everyone arrives for a meeting in the conference room during the work day, or waiting for the key holder to unlock the front door before work begins. Those are situations where I agree that they need to just wait because it’s company time. In this situation, unless the OP’s usual start time is 5:30 am, they are on their personal time as far as I’m concerned — the same as my morning commute is my time and I can leave on my schedule, get coffee, run errands, have passengers or not, etc., and my employer doesn’t own that time.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            I think it matters that he was taking the company car. It’d be different if they were taking their separate cars and had decided it would be nice to caravan, but here they were trying to coordinate joint use of company property to get there, to an event paid for by the company.

            1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

              Sort of. If the OP had taken their own car and left the company car for the late coworker — who at that point wasn’t even a sure thing to show up at all — the company would be in the same position. While they could reimburse the late worker for gas/mileage on her personal vehicle, they don’t have to.

      2. momofpeanut*

        As Alison pointed out, we don’t know if the late coworker was disciplined, so being angry about how it was handled is ….perhaps misguided?

      3. GothicBee*

        Yeah, I think that since the company was renting the car and presumably you’re being paid to go to this conference, it’s not the OP’s time that’s being wasted here, it’s the company’s time. And presumably since the OP left without coworker, the company will end up having to reimburse the coworker for gas or other expenses. It’s not hard to see why the company would prefer they both be late rather than having them leave separately. Plus 15 minutes (for a conference where presumably you’re not leaving at the last possible minute) is a bit premature. I’m with Alison in thinking closer to 30 minutes is ideal, but I’d have at least tried getting hold of my manager or someone before taking off in a company rental without a coworker.

        Note, I’m not saying it wouldn’t be annoying to have a coworker be that late with no apology, but if I were in that situation. And try looking at it as a waste of company time, rather than a waste of your own.

      4. Batgirl*

        Exactly. Draw your own personal boundaries all you want, but when on your company’s time you stick to the bosses’ requested plans as best you can.

    2. Quill*

      To me it’s really going to depend on what I know about the conditions / distance.

      Like, coworker 15 minutes late at 8 AM? With the distance I drive to work that’s easily a single accident causing a traffic jam, and not necessarily the time to pull over and call or text because you have to watch for the people trying to merge into the 2 inch gap between you and the person in front of you.

      15 minutes at 5:30 is going to require an explanation, because of the less traffic. But also your meetup time should have 10 minutes of padding before you “really” have to leave built in, so people can use the bathroom / get gas, obtain copy.

  6. MuseumChick*

    I’m someone who is always early to thing and get frustrated when someone makes more late so I completely understand your perspective here OP. That being said, Alison is correct, you should have waited longer in this case. At a minimum, you should have waited for 30 minutes. Think about how these two statements sound compared to each other: “Jane was 15 minutes late and I couldn’t get a hold of her so I left.” vs “I waited for 45 minutes and couldn’t get a hold of her so I left.”

    If I were your manager I would be annoyed with both of you.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Yeah, but then OP would have been late for the conference. I think OP being on time is more important.

      1. KayDeeAye (Kathleen_A)*

        Well, maybe she would have been late, but maybe not. The letter reads as though they planned to leave at that (disgustingly early) time so as to allow for extra time in case traffic was especially bad. So it kind of depends on how big of a time cushion they left – and of course, how bad the traffic was.

        It could be that the reason the supervisor is annoyed is that the OP heard “Leave by no later than this” whereas what the supervisor said/thought she said was “It would be a good idea to leave by around this time.”

        Don’t get me wrong, if I’d hauled my oh-so-not-a-morning-person butt into the office by 5:30 a.m., I would be extremely annoyed if a coworker didn’t get there until 6:05 a.m. But on the other hand, if I’d gotten there at 5:46 and found her gone, I would have been made at that, too. We have, after all, no idea why the coworker didn’t pick up the phone. It’s unlikely she did so out of carelessness.

        1. Lioness*

          And with the information given, she would have been late. Her coworker was late to the conference.

          Yea, she wouldn’t have known.

          Also, was the plan to meet up at 5:30 and leave or to meet up earlier and leave at 5:30?

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Presumably they would leave promptly after meeting up, so does it matter? It sounds like they were only meeting up to drive together.

            1. TechWorker*

              Yeah if I need to leave somewhere at 5.30am I’m not building in a 15 minute cushion because I’ll spend all of it furious that I’m not currently asleep ;)

          2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            The letter says leave at 5.30, not meet at 5.30. I think there’s room for miscommunication between those two positions, but 6.05 without warning is beyond “leave around 5.30” for me.

        2. Daisy-dog*

          If I get a call the minute after I left that my coworker has just arrived – I turn around and go back.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        It really depends. Were they presenting, or setting up a booth? Or were they just risking missing the keynote speaker (which, in my experience, is never a big loss, although I know it very much can depend on the conference)? That would have helped to know.

        I think the key thing here is that the OP had a company car, and took it without knowing for sure if the coworker was coming or just hit some traffic. (It also matters where the company is; if people normally have hour+ commutes, 15 minutes late isn’t much; if this is a small town where everything is 5 minutes from anything else, then 15 minutes is *almost* reasonable.)

        1. Triumphant Fox*

          Are keynote speakers usually first thing in the morning? I’ve only ever had them in the evening or on the busiest day so the most people can be there. There is often a kickoff, but conference organizers seem to understand that first thing on the first day is going to miss a big portion of the total audience. Is this different in other fields?

          1. Kendra*

            Sometimes; I’ve been to library conferences that have three or four of them at various times (or, at least, they call them keynotes; they usually aren’t, just some of the bigger-name presenters).

          2. Diahann Carroll*

            The conferences I’ve attended across two industries have had keynote speakers first thing in the morning on the first day – I have never seen a single one because I’ve still been sleep.

        2. Not a cat*

          Why does everyone think it is OK to miss the keynote? These days everyone’s doing social media constantly during conferences and the opening keynote usually sets the tone for those posts. I would have left after 15 minutes with no call. The co-worker is rude and unprofessional.

      3. Kendra*

        Okay, admittedly, I’m only speaking from my own experience, but I’ve never in my life attended or even HEARD of a conference where “being on time” matters the least, tiniest bit, within at least a 1/2 hour margin of error (and usually more like an hour or even two), unless maybe you’re the opening presenter. The first bit is virtually always reserved for things like registration, mingling/networking, figuring out the layout of the conference center, etc. I find it very, very difficult to believe that waiting that extra 15 minutes (30 total, or even the full 35 until Coworker actually arrived) would have made OP late enough for anyone else to even notice, much less care.

        If it had been, say, a meeting with a client, being 15 minutes would be a big freaking deal. But a conference? OP jumped the gun, and if I were their manager, I’d be annoyed with both of them, too.

        1. LilyP*

          They were leaving early to avoid rush-hour traffic though, so the 35 minutes of delay could pretty easily translate into being an hour or more late depending on the area, which is enough it could matter. Although we don’t really have enough info to know if OPs judgement of how important it was to be on time was reasonable or not.

      4. EventPlannerGal*

        Why? We don’t really have any information on what type of conference it was, what they were doing there or why they were specifically assigned to go. Maybe if they were both late it wouldn’t have mattered at all. Why is it specifically so important that OP should be on time, when that clearly isn’t the opinion of the people who were sending her, who think she ought to have waited longer?

    2. Marny*

      If I were the manager, I’d be angry at the late employee for rudely keeping their coworker waiting at such an ungodly hour. Maybe OP should have waited longer, but it’s the late employee who was inconsiderate, uncommunicative and, well, late. She’s the one who caused the problem.

      1. Krabby*

        I’m actually curious if the boss knows about the communication. The fact that OP didn’t contact her boss to say she was leaving and that she’d tried to contact her co-worker 3x… Now boss is coming down hard on OP…

        I wonder if maybe the issue here is that the story the boss heard was, “I showed up late for sure, that’s on me, but I didn’t hear anything from OP and then I wasted even more time looking around for her so we could leave.” I’d still be mad at co-worker, but that would definitely make me mad at OP as well.

        I think the biggest piece OP missed was communicating with boss as well as co-worker.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Or maybe the coworker didn’t even mention she was late and just said, “I got to the office and OP was gone – I waited for her, but didn’t see her arrive and the company car was gone, so I figured she left early.” I’ve had some coworkers who have done similar in the past.

          1. Door Guy*

            I’ve worked with those coworkers who are NEVER at fault. Everything that happens is someone else’s mistake. Like last week when a worker didn’t show up to work, and then blamed me for not telling him that his PTO had been denied, despite the fact that he was the one who gave me the alternate date after he was denied for that day…

  7. Detective Amy Santiago*

    If I’m reading this right, your coworker was actually late for the conference overall, not just for meeting you? That tells me that you guys probably should have planned to leave even earlier to give yourselves a cushion. Did your coworker say why she didn’t answer your repeated calls?

    I probably would have done the same thing you did and I disagree with Alison that waiting a full half hour would be appropriate, but you do need to ask your boss how to handle it if something like that happens in the future.

    1. BethRA*

      I think that really depends on the conference – most of the ones I’ve been to, you’re not going to miss much by running 15 or even 30 minutes late.

      I’d have been livid for having gotten up early for no reason if a coworker ran late like that, but if the choice is between missing intros in the first session vs. doubling travel costs for the organization, I’m missing intros and not getting coffee before the first session.

        1. Maris Crane*

          Wait…so it’s better to be late to the conference and potentially giving a bland impression of your company? Really?

          1. Maris Crane*

            *bad impression. Good grief, I’m full of typos today. Though I kind of like bland as well…

          2. Guacamole Bob*

            “Conference” means so many different things – many conferences have enough attendees that no one will notice who arrives late or know what company they’re affiliated with.

          3. BethRA*

            Unless you are presenting or tabling (and I suspect OP would have mentioned it if they were, and I’d bet the managers response would have been very different in that case) – the odds of anyone noticing AND connecting you with a specific company are slim to nil. Honest, none of us are that interesting.

          4. JSPA*

            If most people are either flying in and staying in town or are based in town, I’m not going to automatically look askance at the ones who have a 3.5 hour drive being 6 minutes late. Depending how the conference is set up, a late entrance can be excruciating, or really no big deal. (This is something that should have been discussed in advance.)

          5. Antilles*

            It really depends on the conference.
            First off, as BethRA notes, a lot of the time the first session starts off with general chitchat/coffee time or background about the speaker or etc.
            Secondly, even if they do jump straight into a speaker’s presentation, there’s usually a few minutes of float time. Sure, the written invitation says the first presentation begins at 8:00, but in reality, if you saw my internal schedule, you’d see that it doesn’t actually start till 8:05 to account for people slowly filtering in after I announce “okay, let’s all grab our seats”.
            Third, in the era of smartphones and employees being glued to email and etc, it’s usually extremely easy to sneak in a couple minutes late and sit at the back. As long as you’re quiet and seat yourself near the back, nobody blinks twice about the fact you’re five minutes late.

          6. putt putt*

            In my experience with conferences, there are always a few people who show up a little late, especially if they are traveling long distance. It doesn’t generally give a bad impression unless you show up half way through the day.

            1. Just wondering*

              I agree. I organize conferences and for every single one, attendees come and go as they please. The arrive late, leave early. These events are always in some nice resort with lots of fun distractions. While we (the staff) and our speakers and vendors must be punctual, there are no rules for attendees. They are adults, they (their company) paid to send them. It’s up to their bosses how/if they will be held accountable for attendance.

              I should add we combine our check-in and info. desks after day 1 so there’s no such thing as too late to check-in for us.

          7. AnotherAlison*

            Honestly, my department puts on a small annual conference for for clients, so while I would notice an attendee come in late because the group is small, I’d assume they were dealing with an important business issue and would not have a bad impression of them. Few people’s day job is attending conferences, and people often have to step out to take calls, etc. A late presenter or someone who missed a during-conference one-on-one meeting with me would be a different story – I would notice and it would be a bad impression.

          8. Mommy.MD*

            Or give the impression they can waltz in whenever they feel like it? Are they doctors? J/k.

          9. Librarian of SHIELD*

            In my industry, conferences usually have hundreds, if not thousands of attendees. Nobody working the conference has the time or energy to care about linking late attendees with their organization and filing that away in the “employees of this org are bad” category.

            1. Not a cat*

              In my industry, there are compliance conferences where you get job necessary certification hours for attending classes. They do take attendance, you are expected to be on time. There is exactly a 5 minute grace period. Latecomers are turned away and do not get credit for the class.

          10. SimplyTheBest*

            Every conference I’ve ever been to had people who were late. Sometimes a few minutes, sometimes an hour, sometimes half a day. It would never cross my mind to have a bad impression of anyone for being late. Sometimes there’s traffic. Sometimes people are coming in from out of state and have to deal with traveling and public transport. Sometimes people have other work responsibilities that mean they can’t attend in the morning, but can make it for the afternoon sessions. Literally there are so many reasons why someone might come late to conference.

          11. Tzeitel*

            This is entirely field dependent I’m guessing. I’m a lawyer and if I showed up a half hour late to a conference, that’s probably when the conference actually started. I’m also from a major city where public transportation can be a disaster and you could be without service underground, so waiting only 15 minutes for someone would be bizarre.

          12. Ele4phant*

            I’m sure it varies but in my industry if I’m getting sent to conferences, I’m being sent to network and so is everyone else at that conference. The conference itself is but the excuse to get us in the same place.

            People show up late, skip some days and only come part of the time, skip or leave panels early to grab coffee or lunch with a contact, peace out back to their hotel room to deal with actual work, or blow off the morning sessions because they’re still hungover from last night’s happy hour(s).

            No one would think less of you if you didn’t have grade a attendance because no one else does, either. In fact if you’re *not* ignoring the actual proceedings in an attempt to schmooze, you’re doing it wrong.

            This is my experience, and for this LW this is supposed to be an actual educational experience that requires them to be there attentive the whole time. But still, if you’re late to registration and slide into the breakfast keynote or whatever, I can’t imagine it will reflect poorly even then.

      1. TCO*

        Given OP’s mention of traffic, it’s possible that leaving 30 minutes later would have made them arrive an hour later or something like that. We don’t really know, but I also don’t think it really matters. If everyone was in agreement about the departure time, then it’s not OP’s fault that her coworker didn’t uphold that.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        Yeah, I think this matters. Were they planning to arrive 15 minutes before an hour-long registration and breakfast period started so they could find parking and have the full registration time to network? Or would continuing to wait for the coworker mean that they would miss the first session that was on a relevant topic?

        I don’t think there’s a hard-and-fast rule about how long OP should have waited, but it’s longer if waiting wouldn’t have made them miss anything important.

      3. LKW*

        But in a lot of metro areas if you leave at 5:30 the trip takes 2 hours. If you leave at 6:30 the trip takes 3 + hours – so it’s not a situation where a late start means that time is merely added to the arrival time, it means you have doubled, tripled or quadrupled that time.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          This is very true!
          I’d be super annoyed if the person was late like that, especially if they didn’t call or answer their phone to explain/ask to wait.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I agree with the first part of your comment, that they didn’t allow themselves enough cushion. I’ve left at obscenely early times and carpooled with coworkers to go to clients’ offices 3 hrs away, and if it was critical to be on time, then 15 minutes wouldn’t be enough to account for a major issue.

      However, I also question how critical it was to be on time for this. Were they just attending the conference or presenting? Was it a large conference? Was there a client breakfast meeting or something else driving them to be there “on time”? I’ve been to a lot of conferences, and most of mine would not have been critical to arrive on time just to be an attendee in the audience. You might miss the open remarks. Sure, ideally you paid to go and you should be there, but it didn’t sound like a mission critical thing if you were 30 minutes late.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        It sounds like this was a single-day conference which probably means a tighter agenda, but I’ve been to multi-day conferences where between registration, breakfast, opening remarks, and a general-interest keynote there was no content specific to my interests until after lunch the first day.

        On the other hand, I’m going to a conference next week where there are a couple of interesting 8 a.m. sessions the first day, so it really depends.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Agreed – the impact really varies from conference to conference, and industry to industry.

      2. Ms. Ann Thropy*

        It doesn’t matter if they were going to a conference or a client meeting or a baseball game. If you have agreed to meet at 5:30, you are there at 5:30. If you know you will be late, you contact them. And if they call you, you answer the phone. You can bet coworker wouldn’t have kept the boss waiting.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Your advise is all about what the coworker should do. What should the OP do? I disagree with what you say and think for the OP, it is highly dependent on what you are going to be late for.

          Let’s say it was a baseball game. Just the OP and coworker? You wait for her. Alternatively, OP and coworker are meeting clients and OP has the tickets? You leave and go meet the clients who will be stuck outside the stadium if you don’t. We don’t know all the specifics of the conference to say if the OP’s decision to leave after 15 minutes was the right one.

          I’m one of those uptight, punctual people, but you have to roll with things a little more when you’re working outside of your norm.

        2. Marie*

          Honestly, a person with ADHD might well keep the boss waiting. Is it good for one’s job security, no, but disabilities aren’t called that for nothing.

          1. Chronically early*

            On the other hand, a number of us with ADHD get anxiety over time and show up much earlier than expected. Not sure I’d exactly blame ADHD for this.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              Yup! I am often a little late to a normal day, but on days when I am supposed to be somewhere early for an important reason I usually end up being SUPER early because I’m so afraid of being late.

          2. yala*

            ^+1

            And I don’t know that it’s a matter of “blaming” ADHD for anything, because we certainly can’t diagnose someone over the internet from a letter about a single instance of lateness at obscene-o’clock, but as to the whole anxiety vs time blindness thing, it’s worth remembering that disabilities can affect folks differently. So yeah, some ADHD folks are really early for things. Some are not. Some of us are adults only just now being given tools to manage our condition.

        3. yala*

          ” You can bet coworker wouldn’t have kept the boss waiting.”

          Would the OP have waited for the boss?

      3. Samwise*

        It sounds like OP left plenty of cushion. Leave at about 5:30 am, drive 2 hours or so. Leave after 6 am, get stuck in rush hour traffic.

        Where I live, if I’m going to a conference in a city about 100 miles away, I have to time it to leave to avoid traffic in my town AND traffic around the city I’m driving to AND a notorious clog at an interchange between the two places. 30 – 45 minutes difference in departure time can add substantial time travel time and aggravation.

        I’m with the OP. If I have to get up at O-dark-stupid to make the drive a reasonable one and you’re not there and you didn’t bother to text me or answer my calls? Buh-bye, get your ass there yourself.

        I’d take Alison’s advice in how to talk to the boss about it, but I would not truly feel the least bit bad about my decision. And I would not offer to drive that colleague in the future. Let her drive the shared car and deal with the traffic.

    3. Donna*

      Yeah i dont think 30 mins doesn’t make that much of a difference. especially since the coworker was more than 30 mins late, so she would have ended up being ditched anyway. I don’t get why the OP is in trouble, she called 3 times to no answer. what else was she suppose to do, wait around for an hour??? At 530am, i would have assumed the coworker overslept and also left without her.

      The coworker is the one at fault here. you know people you are meeting people, why not call to let them know you are running late, or at minimum answer the phone when they call you!!!

    4. Dagny*

      Depends on what part of the country they are in. There are a lot of places wherein waiting an extra half hour delays you by an hour or more because of how fast traffic builds.

      1. BadWolf*

        Yes, I have friends who have it down to a 10-15 minute window. If I leave at 6:50, okay. If I leave at 7:00, bad news.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          My area, 7:15 vs 7:30 can lead to an extra 30+ minutes in a 30 minute base commute. For people on the other side of town (who have to cross town to get to the major employment area), 6:45 vs 7 can mean another 60 minutes.

    5. MistOrMister*

      I don’t think the co-worker was late for the conference. The OP’s wording is weird, but I read it as coworker was late getting to the meeting spot so OP left because they had been told to be on time and by golly, they were going to be on time!!! I think if the coworker had been late to the conference the OP would jave explicitly said so.

        1. Yorick*

          OP says the coworker was late as a defensive statement against the manager’s criticism. She doesn’t say how late the coworker was, exactly what the coworker was late for (a panel, the networking breakfast, some other opening part, etc.), or whether it mattered to anyone that the coworker was late.

          I’m really into punctuality and I would’ve been so mad. But in this situation (with the carpooling in the company car) you do have to wait for the coworker until you just really can’t wait anymore.

        2. BethRA*

          “Late to it” is not the same as “unable to attend because the doors had been barred and the drawbridge raised.”

          OP’s coworker was rude, but she should have waited longer than 15 minutes.

    6. nom*

      Actually, the difference in traffic based on leave-time might make the original cushion sufficient.

      For example, where I live, leaving at 5:45am and leaving at 6:15am mean radically different traffic patterns due (in part) to shift change at a nearby military base. If you leave at 5:45, you can get to nearby metro city-center by 8:30am. If you leave at 6:15, the same trip will take until 10am.

      Not saying my experience is definitive or anything, more that we can’t assume what OP (and their colleague) experienced.

      And I 100% agree that you need to ask your boss how to handle similar situations in the future.

    7. WellRed*

      Seriously. I think many of us have been to keynotes where the message was to swim with the dolphins as metaphor to business success.

  8. Maris Crane*

    15 minutes, and 3 attempts to contact to coworker, is plenty. 30 minutes is ridiculous. I get that some people have a trouble with time management but it’s not a colleague’s responsibility to manage that.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Perpetually late person here too, and I would’ve definitely found a way to either answer the phone, or (more likely) to call/text OP saying that I was running late and by how much. The “no contact” part of this is what irks me the most. How can OP make an informed decision on whether to leave and at what time, when she has no information whatsoever about what’s going on?

          1. Leela*

            Also I’m seeing a lot of replies that the boss is probably mad because now they have to pay gas/mileage to the coworker, but there are loads of industries/roles the OP could have had and would never have been a part of that process to think about it at all. Without that context, I do find the boss being “furious” surprising…someone without that context might have far less pressure on them to wait than if they knew this was a possibility (and you might not, if you’ve never worked in HR/payroll/management, and especially if you were really green to the work world).

            As to whether leaving after 15 minutes was right or not, I feel like there’s so much nuance in it (what kind of conference? What were they doing there? What industry? How much would it impact if she’d waited longer? Does this coworker have a track record of just not showing up/being impossible to work for? All of those would factor in to what I’d decide)

        1. Autumnheart*

          Yep. As a sometimes-late person (improved from perpetually late), if I am leaving and KNOW that my departure will result in a late arrival, I text with my updated ETA and an apology.

          Leaving someone cooling their heels with no communication is just not acceptable for a work event where travel is required.

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I think in a social setting yes 15 minutes is plenty, but in a professional setting for a work trip 30 minutes is not ridiculous. Especially when it is that early in the morning, I think the early a meeting time is the longer the grace period should be provided. Living in a major metro area due to traffic/public transport issues someone might arrive +/- 15 minutes of the stated start time.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        OMG yes it is. In a professional setting the coworker should have had *more* incentive to be on time and/or contact the LW!

        1. Derjungerludendorff*

          Yes, but the reverse applies to OP, and the coworker isn’t writing in.
          Coworker is at fault either way, but OP probably should have given more leeway for a long work drive.

          1. yala*

            Honestly, for a drive that long where they had to leave that early and apparently half an hour made the difference between late and on time, I really think the company should have put them up for the night.

            If you’re not used to waking up at 4, it’s hard to be on all cylinders at 5:30, and driving long distances while groggy is dangerous!

        2. CmdrShepard4ever*

          Yes the coworker and people in general should be more conscious of being on time for professional events. But if work normally does not start til 9 am and asking people to meet at 5:30 am a longer period should be allowed. I’ve been to plenty of conferences and unless OP was presenting, I don’t know that is was super critical that they be on time to the conference. It is usually some kind of motivational/keynote speaker that opens the conference, or a networking coffee/bfast.

          In fact I think it is bad conference planning to schedule critical parts of the conference at the very beginning or very end and not account for flights/transportation being delayed or people needing to leave early from the conference.

          1. MissDisplaced*

            Would you say the same if they had to get to the airport for a flight?
            You also have to be at the airport *early* to return the rental, get through security, etc. Is it essential? One never knows! Same with the conference. Better early than late.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              Again I would say it depends on what time the flight is and how early they are trying to get to the airport.

              I have to deal with this constantly, my partner has anxiety and they like to get to the airport super early about 3/3:30 hrs before the flight, I am usually a 2 hours before the flight person. I hate waiting at the airport it is my personal hell. I don’t think it has ever taken my over an hour to get to the gate (check bag in, security, walk to gate) at my airport and it is one of the busiest airports (T3-5) in the US. Personally we have both compromised and we get to the airport about 2:30/2:45 before the flight.

              In the airport situation if 5:30 am departure would get them to the airport 3:30 hrs before I would absolutely say wait at least 30 mins, even waiting an hour would still have gotten them to the airport about 2/2:30 hrs before the flight. But if 5:30 departure was already going to cut it close to arrive at the airport (1/1:30 hrs) then yes 15/30 mins is reasonable to wait.

              But flights and conference are not the same. A flight if you miss boarding you are not getting on that flight. But at a conference you can show up late and still check in and attend the conference (if you really can’t that is a different story) sure you might miss the beginning part but while useful it might not be critical to the main business reason you are there. If OP was the opening keynote speaker then yes it would be critical for them to be at the start and I would say 15 mins was okay, or if the purpose of the trip is sales lead development and it mainly happens furring the opening breakfast meet and greet then yes OP would have been right to leave.

              But the key in OP’s letter is it seems that while the coworker was a jerk and rude, the boss thinks it would have been better to be late to the conference than having two cars drive desperately to it. While it might be OP’s preference to be early and ready for the start of the conference the boss can make the call that it is better to be late.

        3. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Agreed!

          Or at least answer the damn phone or shoot off a text to OP letting them know what’s going on.

        4. Arctic*

          And that’s something to take up with the manager later. Not to take it upon yourself to double travel expenses after only 15 minutes.

            1. Krabby*

              Yeah, I’m betting the manager wouldn’t have made a peep about this if she’d come into work to an email from OP saying, “Coworker is 10 minutes late. I’ve tried calling her 3x with no response. I’m going to give her another 5 and then call again. Please let me know how you would like me to proceed if she doesn’t respond, otherwise I’m going to head to the conference at 5:45.”

              The boss probably got a frantic call from co-worker at 6:05 asking where OP was (yes, despite the calls). Of course she’s mad.

      2. Valprehension*

        Hard disagree. The earlier the meeting time the more pressure on everyone to be there on time. If a coworker made me wait an extra half hour, that’s a half hour I could have slept if I had known! But I put in th effort to be on time, so I should suffer? Naw.

        1. Cercis*

          Not to mention that it’s much less safe to be sitting in a car (or anywhere outside) at an office at 5:30 am. There’s no one around, so no one to watch out for you. I used to take the early bus to walk to along the Riverwalk (San Antonio) and I knew what I was doing was terribly unsafe so I made sure to get to know the very few folks who were out at that time (mostly people maintaining the river and the homeless population). I carried snacks to hand out to the folks I met. One day as I’m walking, I heard a shout behind me “you leave that lady alone, she’s NICE” and I will always wonder what I avoided. I stopped taking the early bus after that day.

          If I were sitting outside in my car waiting for someone at that time of day, I’d be worried and on constant alert. 15 minutes would have felt more like an hour and I’d have honestly been too keyed up to drive safely.

          I occasionally meet up with folks to carpool for meetings. I text them when I leave and my ETA and they text me the same. I then text when I arrive at the meeting point (usually a grocery store parking lot – it’s open 24 hours and patrolled, they don’t seem to mind us leaving our cars) and they also do the same. It’s something we worked out because we’re all women meeting at an ungodly early hour. And that’s with the parking lot being patrolled.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is where I really realize that living in DC for so long has totally jaded my sense of time. DC traffic laughs at any plans you make, so someone being 15 minutes late wouldn’t even register with me; I’d just assume they got stuck on 66 or the Beltway or, god forbid, the Metro. When we start pushing closer to 20-30 minutes with no contact, that’s when I’d start to get concerned or antsy. Obviously, many other people live in places that aren’t Traffic Hell, but I hear 15 minutes late, and I’m like, “Eh, sounds like Tuesday.”

      I think that coworker’s big offense was not contacting OP with their ETA and not answering calls. I’d really love to know what their manager expected them to do in light of the fact that their coworker didn’t contact them, didn’t respond to calls, and didn’t show up for 35 minutes, though. I think the 15-minute departure was jumping the gun, but, in this situation, even waiting longer wouldn’t have helped. I’d have sent them a text or email (depending on company communication practices) at 25-30 minutes wait and basically said, “Call me and let me know where you are; I’m leaving at 6 a.m. if I don’t hear from you.”

      1. Tzeitel*

        I’m from NYC and baffled by this discussion entirely for the same reason you are. 15 minutes late is like… so your commute was better than expected!

        1. Bluephone*

          Used to work and live in Philly so yeah, 15 minute delays is considered a Great Day, traffic wise. Although for a 5:30 AM meeting time, I’d expect that I wouldn’t hit too much traffic going into Philly because morning rush hour hasn’t really geared up at that point. And if I were meeting someone at 5:30 so we could carpool to a work event…
          My take is that everyone in this letter was a bit of a dingleberry so next time they’ll do better.

      2. lnelson in Tysons*

        I traded DC traffic for Boston traffic. Both of which are horrible and yes leaving 15 minutes later than double+ the amount of time it takes to get to your destination.
        Granted I do not know the length of the commute for the co-worker, but common sense (I know it’s not common) should had told the co-worker “Hey, I am already leaving at a time which will make be late, I should let OP know.” So, if the co-worker had a 30 min drive to get to the office knowing at the very lest that they would be meeting at 5:30am and the co-worker is leaving her home at 5:30am something is not right in the co-worker’s thinking. I am on board that the OP left after 15 minutes, but probably should have shot the boss a note about why OP was leaving without the co-worker.

    3. Batgirl*

      Oh the co-worker absolutely deserved ditching and she personally has no room to complain.
      But the manager does have room to complain. Neither employee followed the directive to do their best to go together, presumably for cost reasons.

    4. yala*

      “it’s not a colleague’s responsibility to manage that.”

      But in this case, it WAS OP’s responsibility to drive BOTH of them to the conference in the company car. That was what the boss had understood would happen. If something changed to make that not feasible (eg: coworker not showing up for half an hour and being AWOL despite multiple contact attempts), the boss should’ve been looped in before the OP made a call to change that.

    5. Courageous cat*

      Agreed and I also am obsessed with your username. Still kind of wish they’d casted her.

  9. Senior Accountant*

    I’m of the mind that when you travel to somewhere for business, it’s all for one and one for all. Nobody gets left behind.

    Coming home, however, is every person for themselves.

      1. Derjungerludendorff*

        Depends on the situation.
        But I would have been mightily miffed to get stranded several hours from home by my coworkers. Especially if there wasn’t a big time pressure involved (like catching the last night train or something).

      2. Senior Accountant*

        It’s easier to herd when you’re coming home, but if people could jump onto a standby flight, or upgrade with points and get home sooner, that’s cool. If they were late getting to the car from their hotel room on the day to return because they got too sauced with the client, that’s on them and they can sort out the expense report and explanation.

    1. Daisy*

      I agree with you. I think in this situation (sharing a company car) it would have been better for them to both leave late together than one leave on time and one later, and if there’s any consequences sort it out afterwards.

    2. Cordoba*

      I’m the other way. We’re all professionals, and responsible to manage our own time or communicate pro-actively if there’s a delay. If I’m managing logistics then the car is leaving at X time, with or without you.

      I wouldn’t leave a co-worker stranded or in an otherwise dangerous situation, but if somebody is driving to a rally point and just can’t be bothered to show up on time or let me know? Not my problem to manage.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I’m with you, and I say that as someone who is perpetually late to things – just not when others are needing me to be there for travel time.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Considering I just came off a longer than necessary “wait” period for someone who decided to drive themselves after all, without telling me *grumble*, I’m still of the same mind.

      Only it’s for both directions. But I’m also casually responsible for these cats that are so hard to herd in the end.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Unless you are carpooling from the office to the airport and your coworker is late. I once left someone when we were catching a flight. He was supposed to meet me at the office at 8:00 am for a 10:20 flight (already cutting it close with TSA lines). He wasn’t there by 8:20 (and didn’t reply to texts or calls) so I left. He texted me at 9:30 saying he was at the office and I replied that I was at the gate and boarding had started. He missed the flight. He was kind of pissed at me, but not as pissed as our boss was about him missing the flight.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Yes! Exactly!
        Granted, the conference may or may not have been as important. But often your company pays for you to go to these things, so being punctual is at least as important as being to work on time.

      2. GS*

        I had a friend in academia who was supposed to be flying to a conference with a boss and another person from his institution. Both his boss and the other attendee were late enough to miss their flights.

  10. Jean*

    Ugh. Your coworker and your manager both suck here. Someone being late to meet up at noon is one thing, but 5:30 AM? You better have a really, REALLY good reason.

    1. CM*

      I had this thought, too. If the thing’s 2-3 hours away and you have to get out of bed at 4AM to be there on time… why would you not drive down the night before and stay in a hotel?

  11. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I used to give dates and professors a 20 minute grace period. A 15 minute waiting period is okay by me.

    Coworker A and Coworker B were supposed to go to an all day event together that was two hours a way. Coworker B had a history (and still does!) of committing to everything and then bailing day of. Coworker B wanted to drive with Coworker A. Coworker A shows up at Coworker B’s house at 7:30 AM – the appointed time. Waits, waits, waits. Calls, texts, calls, texts, etc. Nothing. He leaves without her. Just past 8, she texted to say she couldn’t make it. Coworker A was understandably furious. Coworker A proactively tells Boss to head off any complaints.

    Never heard what happened after that.

  12. Autumnheart*

    I feel like the manager has to consider the optics and practicality of the situation. Which is worse: your entire company representation showing up late, or at least one person being there from the beginning, who can then catch the late person up when they arrive?

    I definitely think “enable the latest arrival” is the worst solution here. I have a long commute, and it’s certainly true for me that leaving half an hour later can mean spending an extra hour in traffic. If this were true for them, now they’re arriving at least an hour late, plus all the good parking will be taken, plus the extra-long walk to the entrance, plus the late check-in. It’s not a good look, and it’s not a good use of the time and money invested in attending the conference. I think OP was smart to leave when they did, in order to ensure that at least one of them was there on time.

    1. Important Moi*

      All conferences are not created equally.

      LW has not provided that anything “bad” happened to them at the conference on they arrived after they left later than desired. I get it,really, but it may not matter.

    2. JB (not in Houston)*

      It depends on the conference, of course, but I’ve never been to a conference where people would care if reps from a particular company were late, unless they were presenting or if it meant they were late for a client meeting. The “optics” of them being late was likely not an issue. A more probable issue is the expense of paying for the company care and also paying mileage to the employee who had to drive on her own.

      1. CM*

        Same. Some people use the word “conference” to mean certain kinds of meetings/workshops where people would notice that you’re late or absent. But I think conference is kind of a misnomer in that case. Every non-workshop conference I’ve been to has been a thing where you pay to attend and it’s pretty anonymous unless you choose to make it otherwise (and, TBH, most people drift in and out a little bit, depending on which parts of the conference they’re interested in).

      2. Dancing Otter*

        Accounting conferences generally involve continuing professional education, which is required to keep one’s license. Miss the start of a session by too much, and you don’t get the CPE. That’s a big deal.

  13. Marissa*

    In addition to asking your boss how long you should wait, I think its good to have a “the car is leaving by X time at the latest” conversation the day before. Generally if you have forewarned someone that you are willing to leave without them, it forces them to arrive on time or communicate that they will be late.

    1. AAM Canadian fan*

      Of course for some people “the car is leaving by X time at the latest” means they will only plan to show up at X time!
      As a perpetually early person, this sort of stuff drives me nuts. I sympathize with the OP

      1. Quill*

        We all have family members and friends who get the “fake time” so they’ll plan to show up 15 minutes before and therefore… actually get there on time.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          We do this with my mother. She showed up on time once (and only once), realized we’d padded her 30 minutes (and that it was a regular practice), and was (in my estimation, undeservedly) pissed.

          1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

            I’ve had friends we had to do that with. Once they figured it out, they got annoyed. With one chronically very late friend, I even tried to arrange our plans so that it wouldn’t matter how late she arrived, so her lateness wouldn’t affect me or others, but she caught on and then did her best to make it matter. Super obnoxious- that friendship didn’t last.

          2. Quill*

            Managed with a relative to make it a joke and also not their fault, as in “Hey, we asked you to show up at 1:30 for a 2 pm christmas celebration because you have cosmically bad luck with traffic, we didn’t want you to feel rushed or miss the food being hot!”

            With a friend we managed to make this a joke but she also knows it’s her thing, like “Betty, the lunch gathering starts at 11 AM,” so that she’ll be planning to make it there at 11 AM on the dot for a 45 minute drive, which involves multiple steps of underestimating the drive time by about 10 minutes, procrastination of the “I have to go in 5 minutes, have now gotten on facebook for 15” variety, forgetting her phone/keys/headphones and having to find them, and one or more wrong turns. Add another wrong turn and another 5 minutes padding for every 15 minutes she has to drive, and at best she turns up on time at 11:30 when we’re still waiting for our table to be cleared, usually she turns up at 11:45 when we’re being seated, and at worst she turns up with the appetizers.

          3. annon late person*

            Just a PSA about this approach; one Christmas when I was a child my extended family thought it would be a fine joke to tell us that the family party was starting an hour early (we were often late, but by 10-20 mins for a pretty unstructured house party). We arrived “on time”, to the surprise of my aunt and uncle who hadn’t planned the joke and weren’t ready for us, but the worst part was that to be on time, we had skipped lunch, assuming that the earlier start meant that we would be eating (or at least heavily grazing) soon after arrival. I’m diabetic. So the rest of the family arrived, on time, to find me mostly passed out in a chair with my parents desperately trying to revive me with juice. They never tried that again, at least.

      2. Doubleglazed Bill*

        Being perpetually early can be as much of a vice as arriving late to everything. The one who is early gets fed up with those who merely arrive on time. You arrive at my house half hour early at 5.30 am you will find yourself kicking your heels for half an hour. Possibly more if you get in the way of me having a bowl of cereal, a cup of tea and a cigarette before we go.
        Having said that there was no excuse for colleague not repying to three calls. If I was going to be late and discover it on route , that is what bluetooth connectivity was invented for. Mine is built-in on my car with the sat-nav, an eight years old Toyota Yaris. (I think you Americans call that a compact or possibly subcompact). I also believe there are easy ways to retrofit something to at least answer if not initiate calls while on the move.

        1. MonteCristo85*

          One can be early without hurting anyone else. You get to someone’s house early you just circle the block or find a nearby gas station and camp out. And you certainly can’t be annoyed with people on time, or even count that time when you are describing how late someone is (if you got there 15 mins early, and they were 15 late, you waited 15 official minutes, not 30). It’s about consideration, either direction.

        2. Close Bracket*

          Yo, I’m not retrofitting my car just in case one day I am supposed to drive somewhere with a coworker, get caught up for some reason after I leave, and am unable to stop to make a phone call.

        3. Samwise*

          But 5:30wasnt early on this case. It was the agreed upon time, chosen specifically to arrive at the conference in a timely way. It wasn’t a short drive either.

        4. Daisy-dog*

          I don’t blame anyone who isn’t ready when I am early. I’m cool with sitting in the car with my audiobook and breakfast when I am 10-15 minutes early. Plus, this was at the office and not late co-worker’s house.

    2. always in email jail*

      I think, in the future, it is on the manager to make sure all parties traveling in the company are aware that X:00 AM is the hard departure time, and if you do not make that time, it means you (must attend without being reimbursed) (will not get to attend) (will attend with mileage reimbursed at a reduced rate) (face X disciplinary action) (whatever consequence)

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          You can still tell them they don’t get to go to the conference or have them face some sort of disciplinary action, though.

        2. JSPA*

          Even if employee is at that point no longer expected / directed to go, but rather, allowed to do so for their own development? Because, dang, if I were the tardy employee, I’d be doing what I could (to save face), not claiming miles or expecting reimbursement. But that might be illegal if it counts as “volunteering at your own workplace” (even though its offsite). Anyone in CA know the answer?

    3. Yorick*

      That would’ve been good, but they were gonna use a company car so OP wasn’t really the person to make that call.

    4. Trout 'Waver*

      All a chronically late person is going to hear from that message is that the deadline is X. They’ll just see it as permission to be late by that amount.

      1. SimplyTheBest*

        If the car is leaving at X and I’m there at X, I’m not late. Don’t tell someone X if you really mean R. Don’t ask for 15 pieces of flair when you mean 37.

  14. CmdrShepard4ever*

    OP was the coworker actually late to the conference or just late to the meet up time? While I agree 35 mins late is rude and not considerate, if waiting 45/60 mins after the original time would not have made you late to the conference you could have waited. Once the coworker arrived if you could have made them drive so that they were the one to deal with the bad traffic. But I can understand why your boss is mad now they have to pay for the company car and for the coworkers mileage as well instead of just paying for one.

    1. Sorin*

      from the letter:

      “the late coworker who should be disciplined because she was late to the conference”

    2. KayDeeAye (Kathleen_A)*

      But…but…what does “late to the conference” mean? If all she missed was the coffee and doughnuts period plus some introductory remarks, I’m not sure that is something that someone should be disciplined for. If she missed the keynote or a breakout session that she had been delegated to attend, that’s a different matter.

      1. Derjungerludendorff*

        It also depends on what “disciplined” means.
        A simple verbal reprimand to not let your coworkers wait/be on time for work things would be appropriate either way. But more than that seems excessive (assuming the start of the conference wasn’t very important, not a recurring issue, etc)

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          My experience with people who make very Rigid and Literal Decisions at work, is that they are not necessarily reliable narrators either. Because the same thing that made them think, “She was late for carpool so I should leave without her and that is The Right Thing To Do,” also does not let them see the difference between “She missed complimentary coffee hour,” and “She missed her scheduled talk time and the moderator had to reshuffle the order of presentations.”

          1. JJ*

            Leaving after waiting 15 minutes for someone who’s not responding at 5:30 in the morning really doesn’t warrant this level of snark toward OP. Geez.

  15. Jennifer*

    I’m torn here. Your coworker should have called you and told you she was going to be over 30 minutes late. The fact that she didn’t is incredibly rude.

    OTOH, was she late to the conference? I didn’t see that in the letter, unless I overlooked it. It also doesn’t seem that your boss told you you had to leave at 5:30, it was more of a suggestion to beat traffic. If she ended up getting there on time even though she left later, then that kind of weakens your argument that you had to leave her in order to get there on time.

      1. Rabbit*

        But does that mean actually missing a session or just an informal coffee or meaningless speech?

    1. Myrin*

      It’s a bit buried but it’s there: “the late coworker who should be disciplined because she was late to the conference“, in the second-to-last line.

    2. Yorick*

      The letter DOES say “late to the conference,” but I don’t think there’s enough information there to know. How late was she? Does the OP assume she was late because she didn’t leave on time, or did OP see her arrive late? Did her lateness actually matter in any real way? Was she late to an actual event that she needed to be at, or was she on time for all those? And crucially, was she even later because she arrived at 6:05 and OP was not there and she had to figure out that she needed to drive her own car?

      1. yala*

        That last bit especially. Coworker almost certainly had to call the boss and figure out what the next step was, which probably tacked another 5-10 minutes onto their departure time.

  16. AvonLady Barksdale*

    Something baffles me a little– maybe the OP can come in and clarify. It sounds like the OP and her manager agreed on a time to leave, but did the co-worker object or disagree? And what was her justification for being late? I can totally see a scenario where one person says 5:30 and the other thinks it will be ok to leave at 6, and no one actually pays attention to the other because they’re firm in their respective viewpoints for various reasons.

    1. Nicole*

      Yes, that stood out to me to. OP and her manager had a discussion on when to leave…but shouldn’t the co-worker have been in the loop for that too?

      1. Kendra*

        This was where I was at, too; did the coworker even KNOW what time the OP and her manager had set? From the letter: “My manager and I agreed it would be best to leave early in the morning to beat most of the traffic…My coworker and I were supposed to meet at our office and leave at 5:30 am.”

        Was the coworker in on this conversation at any point? It really doesn’t sound like it, and in fact I can even see room here for the coworker not to have known they were “supposed” to be there at 5:30 at all (otherwise, wouldn’t it be more like, “My coworker and I AGREED to meet at our office and leave at 5:30 am,” or even “I TOLD my coworker to meet me at 5:30?”). There’s no indication that this was ever actually communicated to the other person.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          So you really think there’s a possibility that LW and Boss decided it would be best to leave at 5:30, but no one bothered to tell coworker? Because that seems very, very unlikely to me.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Same. Boss would have asked OP, “Well did you tell her to meet you at 5:30?” once OP explained what happened, but more importantly than that – why wouldn’t OP have said, “Hey, boss and I talked and agreed we should leave tomorrow at 5:30 to beat traffic. Meet me here in the parking lot by then.” Basically, it makes less sense that OP didn’t tell the coworker, otherwise, I don’t think she would have been so mad about the boss being angry and she wouldn’t have written in in the first place.

          2. Kendra*

            Yes, I do. If anything, I think it’s actually pretty likely, considering the OP doesn’t know why the coworker was late. Most people, if they thought they had run more than 1/2 hour late, would at least try to explain themselves. But someone who thinks they were only 5 minutes late, only to find out their coworker ditched them to drive 3 hours to a conference? That sounds a lot more like someone who wouldn’t at least say, “sorry, I overslept.” The complete lack of any reason for them to be late is really, really weird to me otherwise.

            1. Samwise*

              That’s because you’re a reasonable and polite person. I’ve had a colleague for the last eight years who is never on time. Never. Not for anything. Not for the start of the workday. Not for meetings. Not for events that she’s the head planner for. Not for classes. Not for meeting up to drive somewhere together. Not for lunches with the dean. Nothing.

              She does not call or text. She rushes in late, with a half assed apology.

              I do my very best to not be on a team with her. I won’t do a presentation with her. I never drive anywhere with her — I won’t volunteer to drive her, and I won’t ask to her to drive me. I refuse to look like *I’m* late because of her.

        2. lnelson in Tysons*

          I will be that the co-worker knew the meeting time as it was rather early in the morning and also going to assume that their normal work day started more like 8 – 9, so a mention of the early meet was there.

    2. hamsterpants*

      I actually think the post-hoc justification (or lack thereof) is beside the point. If you’re supposed to meet someone somewhere, they don’t show up, and they don’t contact you, there has to be a point where it’s ok to leave. The okness of the action can’t be based on knowledge acquired after the fact — such as whether it was a “real” emergency or not.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        That is true but I think in a work setting the minimum wait time is 30 minutes, 15 minutes is just way to short. It seems like the boss thinks OP should have waited 45/60 mins. Being late to the conference might not be as big a deal as OP thinks it is from a business company perspective. Often times opening might be a breakfast with a keynote speaker, or a networking bfast, that while beneficial is not as detrimental as the coworker having to take their own car and the company have to reimburse.

        1. Yorick*

          Right, the manager thinks being late would’ve been better than leaving the coworker, and he’s in a better position than any of us to know whether that’s true.

        2. MissDisplaced*

          I don’t think 15 minutes is too short if there was no answer or call from the late party. Had they called, sure 30 minutes.

    3. Maris Crane*

      The coworker was late to the conference, so does it matter? The OP left after a 15 wait as she didn’t want to be late, and she wasn’t. Seems reasonable.

      1. PrgrmMgr*

        I feel like each of them may have been set in their idea of what is an appropriate time to leave and arrive. If leaving at 5:30 with the expectation is to arrive at 8:00, I’d bet the OP interprets the start time of the conference as an hour of coffee, pastries, and getting your name tag (which is how every conference I go to starts), while the coworker may have felt leaving at 6 gives them 3 hours to get there before a 9 AM speaking program starts.

    4. Jennifer*

      Good question. When was she told she needed to be there at 5:30 am? Does she have a history of being a bit flaky or is she normally dependable? If she’s dependable, showing up 30 minutes late would be very out of character. Maybe she thought she was on time, or only five minutes late.

    5. Half-Caf Latte*

      Jumped out to me as well!

      OP and manager had the convo, but the what, how and by whom it was communicated to coworker might really change the tone.

      OPs letter left me with the impression they’re relatively junior, and if coworker is more senior/reports in a different structure, they may have had veto power, and something got bongled in translation.

  17. Jam Today*

    I don’t answer my phone when I’m driving so that’s a reasonable answer to why someone doesn’t pick up.

    But, if I am running late I will text or email the person waiting for me.

    1. I edit everything*

      Yeah, not getting an answer to my calls/texts would suggest that maybe the other person is on their way, so I’d be inclined to wait longer. But not getting an “I’m going to be [X] minutes late,” alert was rude. Coworker shouldn’t have been surprised OP didn’t wait.

      1. AW*

        Or their phone is on silent and they are still soundly asleep.

        The co worker needed to let OP know they were on there way if they expected to get a ride.

      2. Lizzy May*

        But at 5:30am it could also easily mean “I’m still asleep.” That’s why the greater responsibility should be with the late coworker. They were 35 minutes late, didn’t communicate and didn’t respond to communications.

        1. SimplyTheBest*

          At 5:30am when I’m supposed to meeting someone, it’s far more likely (and seems to be the case here) that it means on my way and not sleeping.

    2. Doubleglazed Bill*

      On my built-in bluetooth it is one button push on a steering-wheel control to answer voice call. I only answer calls, I don’t make them unless I am parked. The call in this case should be a fairly quick reply, to give ETA. In the UK you can have handsfree, but not touch the handset while driving. Voice calls I take, text or email wait until I’m parked and can safely take my eyes off the road.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I was going to point out the bluetooth thing. My oldest car is a 2012 (so like 8 years old) and even it has this option. Plus Siri calls/texts for me if I need to send (not read) a “running late on my way..” type thing.

  18. MCL*

    Hm. I think that a 15 minute grace period is sufficient, especially since you tried to contact her and she didn’t respond. Depending on the rush hour traffic situation, which the OP says is pretty bad, waiting for 30+ minutes might mean that they’d be late for the conference. If I were in this situation with no idea whether the person would show, I’d probably take off after 15 minutes too. It was your co-worker’s responsibility to contact you when she knew she was running late.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      I think this is where I fall too. If 5:30 was the time to leave in order to be really sure they wouldn’t be late and 15 minutes would risk being late, then 15 minutes is all I would wait absent any communications from the coworker.

      As it is, the coworker was late enough leaving to be late to the conference so half an hour would have been too long to wait to avoid being late.

      FWIW, traffic is a Big Deal around here and if I’d been OP I would have been really agitated to feel like I had to wait so long to risk a really unpleasant drive after having woken up painfully early to avoid it in the first place.

  19. Mama Bear*

    My old boss said that 5 minutes early was 10 minutes late.

    Overall it doesn’t look like everyone is on the same page and before the next event they need to get there. I would also wonder if the manager’s ire is because the coworker is very upset and therefore it’s just rolling downhill. Where I live, 15 minutes could be significant in a morning commute. It could increase travel time by half an hour, so while 15 minutes seems short, I can understand OP wanting to get going, especially since the coworker wasn’t responding. OP had no idea if the coworker was running late, stuck in traffic, or not up yet.

    1. Mommy.MD*

      Fifteen minutes can EASILY mean a delay of one hour in traffic. Thirty minutes can mean two. Professional people arrive on time or early for important events.

      1. Kendra*

        Professional people also get flat tires, or have last-minute issues with a kid or spouse, or are driving through a tunnel when their coworker tries to call. Life happens to everyone, no matter how much we wish it didn’t, and just because OP doesn’t know what was going on with their coworker doesn’t mean they just flaked out.

        1. KRM*

          Professional people who get a flat tire or have a last minute issue also COMMUNICATE that they are going to be late or have an issue preventing them from showing up.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Okay.

            Just two weeks ago, I had the perfect storm of bad scenarios. There was an accident on the highway that caused a significant traffic backup. I noticed the traffic backup late enough that I had to do a hard brake, causing the bag that had my phone in it to slide out of my reach. And traffic was a solid wall of vehicles on either side of me, so pulling over wasn’t a thing that could happen. There was literally no possible way for me to contact work. Thankfully, I wasn’t in a situation where my being late was a huge inconvenience for other people, but if it had been a different day, it might have been. So I really wish everybody in this comment section would stop vilifying this person that we know absolutely nothing about apart from how she was late one time.

            1. ceiswyn*

              And in the situation you describe, how long would you have expected or wanted a colleague to wait for you if your lateness /would/ significantly inconvenience them?

            2. Door Guy*

              Did you contact your work as soon as you were able – when you were no longer stuck in wall to wall traffic on the highway? Or did you just walk in when you finally got to work. Huge difference between calling at earliest opportunity and not calling at all.

      2. Churrup*

        I organize a big conference every year. I have had very prominent people (think cabinet secretaries and big name venture capitalists) arrive late. You can climb on your high horse to excoriate them, but of course that’s not how things work. I assure you that these people are well regarded in their field and your branding them as “not professional” will not change that.

          1. Churrup*

            No, they are most certainly not. They are literally rockstars in their field, and I don’t mean that in the usual AAM sense where everyone is a rockstar. That’s what their judged on, not whether they successfully guessed how crowded Highway 101 was that morning.

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              “Rockstars” are often notorious for being rude and unprofessional and getting away with it because they’re Super Important Geniuses, often in more drastically rude ways than just chronic lateness.

            2. MissDisplaced*

              I don’t care who they are, being late without a reasonable explanation/call/notification is rude. And not professional. [I’m talking more about the not notifying part, not the lateness itself, which can happen to anyone]

              You are basically making people wait for you and possibly disrupting all other meetings or speakers. It’s entitled and unprofessional, “rock star” or not. They just get away with it because they are in a position of power. but I guarantee THEY probably wouldn’t tolerate it from their staff or subordinates.

          2. SimplyTheBest*

            I don’t know, I find allowing for humanness to be far more professional than rigidly vilifying people for one mistake.

              1. yala*

                Well, firstly, I think you’re definitely skirting close to the line, if not outright crossing it, in regards to the rules about being kind here.

                Secondly, in these comments, we’ve had someone say of the coworker:

                “OP is dealing with an entitled, arrogant person who tries to hide their own bad behavior by casting blame on someone else.”

                That seems like “rigidly villifying” to me.

      3. Yorick*

        But this isn’t always the case. People often build in time to road trips in case of bad traffic, but then everything goes smoothly and they arrive in plenty of time. OP says traffic can be bad, but we don’t know if it’s reliably bad enough to warrant leaving your coworker who’s supposed to travel with you before 6am.

    2. Green Kangaroo*

      My boss believes this, too. It’s also the way my husband and I were both raised, and we live in the Midwest, which seems to place more value on punctuality than other places in the world.

      My boss has been known to close and lock the doors to the meeting room at precisely the start time, so if you’re late, you have to knock and be admitted, along with a good excuse for your tardiness.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Does he hand out potty passes if you need to go to the bathroom during the meeting too?

      2. Automated*

        Uh? Midwesterner here. Plenty of us are late. Your hudbands practice sounds overly rigid and frankly detracts from the meeting way more then a person being late.

        1. Jen2*

          Yup, another Midwesterner here, and in my office, people typically don’t leave their desks until the scheduled meeting time. If you get to the conference room early, you’d just have to wait outside in the hallway until the previous meeting finished up.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      Had your old boss been in the military? I’ve heard more than one iteration of “There is no on-time, there is only early or late.”

  20. Anon for this*

    “If you are early are early, you are on time. If you are on time, you are late. If you are late, you are fired.”

    This was the mantra of one of the partners I used to work with. He held it to it. And it definitely applied to meeting up for driving to meetings, conferences, etc. It was well known that if you were not at the meeting point at the assigned time, you were left behind. With a serious reprimand to follow.

    15 minutes. Three phone calls. All at 5:30 am. You did what I would have expected you to. Especially if you absolutely had to arrive at the conference on time.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        I assure you that nobody in Minnesota, Illinois, or Michigan, who isn’t a Packers fan calls it that.

  21. Fuzzyfuzz*

    I disagree with Alison on this one–I don’t think the LW is in the wrong at all. If arriving at 6:05am did indeed make the coworker late for the conference, you could argue that the 5:30 meeting time was a little on the thin side and waiting until 5:45 was cutting it close. If there was traffic, an accident, etc.–it could have made the difference for the LW being on time vs being late. Being 35 minutes late without a call or text message is pretty bad.

    1. Kate R*

      I agree. Leaving at 5:30 could have meant they would be through the toughest part before commuter traffic starts pouring in a 6. I used to commute from one side of Washington DC to the other, and 30 minutes could easily mean the difference between an hour commute or two (and don’t even get me started if there was an accident along the way). If you’re running late, you should be making every effort to contact the person you’re meeting. Even someone with a childcare emergency has time to send a quick text saying, “I’m running late. Can you please wait for me?” I understand why after 15 minutes with no word from the colleage, OP felt she had to make a judgement call, and given that the colleague did end up being late for the conference, it sounds like she made the right one.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Okay, but it doesn’t matter if you think the OP was in the wrong. The OP’s *boss* thinks they were in the wrong. A whole comment section full of people saying “OMG, LATE PEOPLE ARE THE WORST” is less than zero help to the OP, who has zero control over her late coworker.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I just re-read this and realized it came out a lot snippier than I intended. Sorry about that, Fuzzyfuzz.

        1. Fuzzyfuzz*

          No offense taken.

          Part of the question, though, is whether the LW is reasonable in thinking that her boss is being unreasonable. And, I think that boss is completely wrong here. I am definitely not a “LATE PEOPLE ARE THE WORST” person–not by a long shot (I routinely show up at work 20 minutes after our ‘start’ time because it works better for me and it’s not affecting anyone else and am late to appointments, etc. more than I’d like to be). However, with travel plans and arrangements dependent on someone else, the coworker at least owed her a phone call or apology. And boss should recognize that traveling/conferences = specific timelines.

        2. Not a cat*

          I’ve been reading through this entire thread, and I think:

          1. You are a late person
          2. You are taking this whole thread way to personally

  22. Happy Lurker*

    I did the same thing years ago in school, 20+ years ago. I am habitually 15-30 minutes early. I was at a friends home to pick them up for a seminar and they never came out. Apparently, they had stayed somewhere else and showed up 5-10 minutes after I left. I felt bad, as the other person was a friend.
    I have since learned my lesson and explain to everyone that I am rarely late and mostly early. Communication is the key. OP – I think you have to accept your boss’s ire, because they are the boss. However, I think a lot of the blame for this falls on your coworker for not adequately communicating their situation. Thirty five minutes is a long time, at that point should you have waited 60 minutes, 90?
    More concerning is if the boss or the coworker is blowing this up. I really don’t think this is a huge thing and would give side eye if they were still talking about it a couple days later. This should be a one and done annoying mistake and no one should be furious.

    1. Autumnheart*

      It seems especially wrongheaded for people to be furious at OP for leaving 15 minutes late, and not at the coworker who didn’t even arrive until she was 35 minutes late.

      1. filing cabinet cabbies*

        It’s the amount of potential damage to the person. The OP’s risk was being late. The coworker could have been stranded.

        1. Autumnheart*

          The coworker would not have been stranded, since obviously people were driving to the meeting location.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          Stranded… at her normal office? Nah. If this was the homeward journey I’d agree with you, but outbound, any damage / risk the coworker faced is on the coworker to manage not OP.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          Potential damage? Stranded? Because she showed up at her own office, with her own car, and no one was there to meet her?

        4. Kendra*

          If they’d had a breakdown/flat tire/accident or whatever on the way to the office, yes, this. I think it’s the fact that OP left without making sure their coworker hadn’t been in, say, a life-threatening accident that’s setting my teeth on edge about the whole thing.

            1. Kendra*

              By calling or texting their manager, for starters, and making sure the coworker hadn’t contacted her. She might also have emergency contact information, or the coworker might recognize her number and answer a call from her, where OP’s calls might be dismissed (or blocked by Do Not Disturb, or whatever) if the coworker or her phone didn’t recognize their number.

              The OP could also have just waited a few minutes before trying again; three calls immediately in a row could all get missed very easily (bad cell phone reception, a phone left in another room while coworker was getting ready, etc.). Waiting ten minutes before trying again might have been all it took.

            2. Hekko*

              And was was OP going to do about it if they had (assuming emergency services had been contacted first)?

            1. yala*

              But they didn’t contact their boss before taking the company car without someone who was supposed to be IN the company car. That’s less reasonable.

      2. hbc*

        I don’t see anyone but the boss furious at the OP, and he probably read the coworker the riot act. It’s perfectly legitimate to believe that OP chose wrong in the bad situation that was created by her coworker.

      3. Derjungerludendorff*

        I don’t see anyone being furious at them or denying the coworker is at fault. Just pointing out that 15 minutes is too short for work travel.

      4. Yorick*

        If the manager is furious at OP, then it’s because she made a mistake in leaving after 15 minutes and should’ve waited for the coworker. The manager is in a better position than us to know whether it’s ok to be late to this particular event.

          1. Yorick*

            I wasn’t responding to Happy Lurker, I was responding to Autumnheart.

            I’ve said this twice in different threads, which I guess can be construed as “repeatedly,” but that seems sort of misleading.

  23. Ashley*

    I habitually late to most things but even I wouldn’t be late for a work related event where someone is not only depending on me to arrive on time, but at 5:30 in the morning. The OP did more than enough in waiting 15 minutes and calling multiple times.

  24. Archaeopteryx*

    15 minutes is a really stingy grace period for this kind of thing. At least 20 is reasonable, and if you’d waited 30 then yes she still wouldn’t have been there but you would’ve been clearly in the right.

    1. TooTiredToThink*

      I was thinking the same thing. Like I feel 15 min was stingy too but if OP had said 20 I’d be totally on their side – even though really its only a 5 minute difference.

      1. mcfizzle*

        I think it depends on some history, too. Was this coworker constantly late? A pattern that has exhausted the patience of the coworker? If it was the first time they were late / not answering, I would just be worried. I could be wrong, but I’m getting the sense there are other issues at play here, too.

    2. ceiswyn*

      I think part of the problem here is that a longer grace period would have resulted in the OP being late to the conference as well.

      And a more robust meeting time that could handle a longer wait would have required everyone to agree to meet up even earlier than 5.30. Which might not have been popular. And might have made the OP even more annoyed at unnecessarily missing out on sweet sleep when their colleague was late :)

    1. hbc*

      One of my favorites. The smug entitlement of the writer judging interviewees who don’t thank him for his late call, combined with his condescending, misnamed explanation of “blank box” testing…it’s simply perfect.

  25. Aggretsuko*

    The coworker really needed to have responded back or otherwise contacted OP. For chrissake, if you just disappear, what do you expect to have happen?

  26. M from NY*

    Strongly disagree. Fifteen minutes was more than enough time especially when they didn’t answer phone when called. If you were taking train or plane it would have pulled off on time. Your boss is playing you to appear fair vs. holding your coworker accountable for their avoidable behavior. Waiting 30 minutes would not make a difference so I would not even play the what would you do scenario.

    If coworker drove her own car I wouldn’t reimburse her for the expenses her lateness and inconsiderate actions cost.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Most people don’t pick up the phone while they’re driving, so there’s plenty of explanation why the phone calls went unanswered.

      1. serenity*

        If you were the late coworker, though, the onus is on you to stop to text or call if you’re over 30 minutes late.

        1. Leisel*

          Exactly! If you’re late and you’re driving there, you hear the phone ring but you don’t like to answer while driving, it still makes more sense to pull over and call them back. It would be worth the extra time to tell them “I’m on the way! Wait for me!”

          I understand that’s all circumstantial (are they stuck on the freeway?, etc.), but it doesn’t change the fact that the coworker was EXTREMELY RUDE.

        2. Jennifer*

          Someone mentioned in another comment that it’s possible the coworker didn’t know she was supposed to be there at 5:30. The letter mentions that OP and the manager coming to an agreement about the time they would leave, but the coworker seemed out of the loop. So, if she thought they were meeting at 6, I can see why she didn’t answer the phone or pull over to call the OP. She may have figured she’d talk to her when she got there so why pull over to answer the phone when she was already on her way?

      2. Temperance*

        Then she should have called or texted prior to leaving. There’s no excuse for being 30 minutes late with no warning, especially at such an ungodly early time.

      3. M from NY*

        No there’s not. Coworker allegedly arrived at 605. Once they left house late it was their responsibility to get message to person they were traveling with. If person was on mass transit I might have sympathy as I’ve been stuck between stations with no service but they were in a car. After first missed call you pull over if you’re scared to use bluetooth. Coworker didn’t answer because they didn’t want to admit how far away they really were.

        There are too many people making excuses for the coworker. If you’re late you better make sure you have technology and options to relay your estimated arrival time. Boss is ridiculous with this being mad at both of them.

  27. CheeryO*

    I feel like the fact that this was a conference and not something like an important meeting changes things. In that situation, I would lean toward being late with the coworker rather than being on time alone. Making an executive decision to leave the coworker behind after 15 minutes is definitely not a good look, especially since it was such a long drive. However, being 35 minutes late with no call/text is really inexcusable, so I’d be super annoyed too.

    1. Just J.*

      Even though it was just a conference, was OP one of the greeters? Were they meeting clients at breakfast? Was their company one of the conference sponsors? Did they have to introduce the first speaker?

      I’ll generally agree, as others pointed out, you can pretty much slip in and out of conferences. But I’ve been all of the above at conferences and you better believe that I was there early.

      1. I edit everything*

        I think OP would have said if they were involved in the conference, not just attending.

      2. CheeryO*

        Right, I’m speculating that they were just attendees. I would have to think that more of the supervisor’s annoyance would be on the coworker if that weren’t the case, but who knows.

      3. Yorick*

        I’m guessing if any of those were true, the boss would be pleased with OP, not mad. Especially if the coworker’s lateness meant she wasn’t there to meet her obligation.

      4. Cercis*

        There’s not enough info to determine that. Not all conferences are created equal. I attend a lot of one day conferences (2-3 each year) and they run on a very tight schedule. Only one has time built in for registration and “coffee” (there’s never actually any coffee). If you are even 5 minutes late, you’ve missed part of the learning session (as in, they only do about a 2 minute introduction, if that).

        Now, multi-day conferences in my field tend to have a lot of time built in to the morning, sometimes not even opening the doors until 5-10 minutes past the stated start time, so that wouldn’t be a big deal. Annoying because you’d have to look for a chair (people tend to space themselves out so that you end up having to squeeze between other folks).

    1. Mommy.MD*

      Good point. Could have been 6:20. Or later. If she is self reporting she is probably going to cut herself some slack. Did anyone SEE her there at 6:05? Did she clock or buzz in? She expects someone to wait 35 minutes? No call or text? She’s the problem. Not LW. 5:50 I’m gone.

      1. Campfire Raccoon*

        6:05 is exactly the bullcrap number I’d pull out of my joey pouch if I were trying to make myself look better.

        SHOW ME the gate code transaction history. Or the FOB swipe. Or the clock in. Or the camera feed. Or whatever. Cause I don’t believe you, Karen.

        Ain’t nobody got time for people who don’t answer their phones.

        1. Churrup*

          Particularly the plaintiffs lawyer who sues you for texting while driving after you get distracted and rear end someone.

    2. yala*

      Considering that the coworker probably called the boss in a panic when the car wasn’t there, I’m willing to believe that’s probably about the time they got there.

  28. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    What jumps out at me is that you decided to leave her, not just after only 15 minutes but when you seem to have only called her and nobody else. Yeah it was early but in this case, if someone is this late and you’re in a time crunch, you should have called your manager as well to see what they wanted you to do.

    1. M*

      That’s what I was thinking. I likely would have called my manager and asked if they wanted me to wait longer for coworker to show up – esp since they were taking a company car to the event.

    2. Elaine Benes*

      I think this is where I land. It’s a tough call in the OP’s spot, which is why I would have checked what my manager wanted me to do- extra cost with the car expensing and have one employee there on time, or have OP wait and have 2 employees late but save money.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It would be really hard to call my manager at that early an hour. Sounds like another question to add to the prep list for any future travel: “How early/late can we call you the manager who is not going on this trip if there is a problem?”

        1. Amy Sly*

          Even better! Then the manager can be properly mad at the coworker for forcing OP to wake him up.

      1. Quill*

        I would have shot an email.

        “I can’t get ahold of Lucy Latearrival as of 15 minutes after the departure time, and have no idea if she’s still available to attend. I intend to leave at 5:50 if I don’t hear from her, so if she gets in touch after that please inform her that I’ve already departed.”

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        None of our managers would have a leg to stand on to be upset about this, that’s why they make the big-bucks.

        If employees are out and about, doing company business, then the manager is essentially on call.

        I understand why others would feel like it’s imposing but managers are salaried for this kind of reason.

      3. Ele4phant*

        Eh, I would call or text at 15 minutes, asking what they’d want to me to do. Then in another 15, if I hadn’t heard back (from either), I’d follow-up and say – still no word so I’ve made the decision to leave.

        Maybe they’d wake up, or already be awake and respond, maybe not.

        But at the very least I’m leaving a record of what situation I found myself in, what I attempted to do, and when I made my decision to go.

    4. Mimmy*

      This is exactly what I’d do as well.

      OP – I would definitely talk to your manager about how you should handle this if it happens again.

    5. putt putt*

      This probably depends on the job, but many managers would prefer that people figure most things out for themselves rather than asking the manager’s input on every small decision. I know if I called my boss and asked what to do, she’d have some concerns about my judgement and decision making abilities.

      1. Jennifer*

        Plus at 5:45 I would feel bad about “tattling” to the boss about my coworker being only a few minutes late.

        1. Allypopx*

          I disagree, especially when there are consequences like travel problems and being late to a conference, not just phones going unanswered for a few minutes. That’s an issue to consult your manager on, if you aren’t sure how to handle it.

          1. putt putt*

            If the coworker had no other way of getting to the conference, I would agree with you about calling the manager, but OP knew that coworker had their own transportation and had no idea how much longer they would be waiting. I think it’s a fairly simple decision that doesn’t require bugging a manager at 5:30 in the morning.

            1. Another HR manager*

              Except OP didn’t know anything at that point. They made an un-informed, private decision to leave. OP needed to alert the manager so the manager could assume responsibility for the late staff member — are they a no show 0r is in trouble or just late?

              1. putt putt*

                The OP knew that coworker was driving her own car to the meeting point and therefore knew that it was possible for coworker to drive herself to the conference. The only thing OP didn’t know is when coworker would actually arrive at the meeting point. It could have been 5 minutes or 2 hours. If leaving without the coworker meant that the coworker wouldn’t be able to attend at all, then I could see involving a manager before leaving, but in this situation there was a relatively easy alternative for the coworker to get to the conference.

                1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  But the OP didn’t know if the company budget for this conference had enough wiggle room to cover both gas for the company car and mileage reimbursement for the coworker’s vehicle. This is presumably why they were going to ride together in the company car in the first place. They really should have at least tried to run this decision by the boss first.

                2. putt putt*

                  It probably costs about $100 to reimburse milage for driving 2.5 hours round trip. That’s an extremely small amount of money when you’re talking about business expenses.

                3. Yorick*

                  It may be a really small amount, or it may be a lot if they have a small department budget with a small amount available for travel expenses. These kinds of things can be very difficult for middle managers.

                4. yala*

                  “That’s an extremely small amount of money when you’re talking about business expenses.”

                  Depends on the company (if it’s that small, then surely the company could’ve just put them up for the night to avoid this).

                  But also, it’s still more than waiting an extra 20 minutes would’ve cost.

        2. yala*

          You’re not “tattling,” you’re just asking your boss what they would like you to do, especially since you have a company resource that was supposed to be used by two people.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It depends on the boss, not the job in the end. We’d fire someone for choosing to leave someone behind without alerting management first.

        And I laugh at the idea of being too early to call a manager. If someone is working at a certain hour, it’s never too early/too late to call someone who is a much higher pay grade for assistance in an event like this.

        It’s not tattling. It’s a safety concern in the end.

        This isn’t a small decision. The manager was working with them about the launch time to begin with. And then got mad when the OP made a decision they didn’t agree with…

        1. Jennifer*

          I would call my boss at 5:30 am for an emergency, which are far and few between in my line of work. I think most bosses would be annoyed to get a call that early basically saying, “Janie is 15 minutes late. What do I dooooooooooo?” I think most would rather you figure that out on your own.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            This. I’d call my boss in an emergency. “Janie is late” is not an emergency.

        2. putt putt*

          I still think it depends on the job. Maybe it depends on seniority too. If it were an entry level employee, I could see how calling the manager to help make the decision would make sense. But in every job I’ve had that wasn’t entry level, the ability to make decisions independently is something that I’ve been expected demonstrate, so I absolutely would never call any manager at 5:30 in the morning unless it were an actual emergency.

          Like I said in another comment, OP knew that coworker had their own transportation and had no idea how much longer they would be waiting. I think it’s a fairly simple decision that doesn’t require bugging a manager at 5:30 in the morning. The only mistake that I think OP made was not waiting a few minutes longer.

        3. Kendra*

          This. Forget annoying the manager; when you’re faced with a situation that you know they’re not going to like, however things work out, you should always err on the side of making sure everyone is safe. What if the coworker had been in an accident, and nobody knew to look for her until OP rolled back into town without her that night? “My coworker is missing and it’s 5:30 am” is ABSOLUTELY the kind of phone call any manager hates, but knows they need to answer and respond to anyway.

      3. Brett*

        It is not that small of a decision. This could easily have resulted in the co-worker missing the conference altogether or traveling on her own (which it did) triggering a couple hundred dollars in travel reimbursement.

        Also, there is always the possibility that the person has been involved in some sort of accident or other incident (especially driving early in the morning), and you want to make sure someone is aware of that possibility before you just drive off.

    6. Yorick*

      I agree, if OP has the manager’s number. I don’t have my manager’s personal number, and I wouldn’t expect him to see an email at 5:40am.

      1. Maris Crane*

        Excellent point. I’ve never had a manager’s non-work number, and those were only answered outside of business hours in special circumstances – an important project that was running late (and people were working overtime), a client coming in early or late, etc. I’d never be able to directly contact a manager in this situation. I could call the work number and leave a message, or send an e-mail. Still wouldn’t get an answer in the moment, but I could explain the situation before leaving.

  29. Moira Gilmore*

    Oooh, I had many feelings and thoughts with this letter. First, 15 mins is a hair too short. I’d likely have waited 20, but don’t fault this person for waiting 15, especially if they couldn’t reach the coworker in question. However, I totally understand wanting to get ahead of the traffic and rush hour. I’ve lived in two metro areas where a difference of 15-30 minutes in departure time can result in an hour+ added to the commute. Also, if the OP was the driver of the company car, I’d say they get to say when they want to leave. If they’re someone who wants to get to the conference 30 mins early to grab a coffee, use the restroom, settle in, that’s fine, they’re the driver. I don’t think the manager should be mad that OP left after anything more than 10 minutes, personally. Especially at that hour of the day.

  30. animaniactoo*

    In the age of cell phones and personal experience with getting around *my area*, 15 minutes does seem too short, but 30 minutes seems way too long. I would probably have gone with 20 minutes as being “5 minutes over the grace period”. It’s more or less the point at which I stop waiting for a car service that’s late to actually show up and start calling around for another car or finding another way to get to wherever I’m going, so it feels like a natural cord-cut place to me.

    What I would be saying to my manager was: “I apologize that I appear to have made the wrong choice. My understanding was that getting there on time was more important than traveling together. I also didn’t want to try and contact you so early in the morning, but that also may have been a mistake If something like this happens again in the future, how would you like me to handle it?”

    Honestly, there are places which would be annoyed that you hadn’t left after 10 minutes. I don’t think this is as cut-and-dried as Alison’s answer to it is, and I would treat it as not being cut-and-dried and needing to figure out what *this* manager would have wanted from you, with an apology for misunderstanding the priority.

    1. Important Moi*

      I would be careful with the tone in your voice when speaking to the manager. Getting there on time is important and not wanting to wake anyone up needlessly in the morning is a valid concern, but this sounds snarky and rude.

      The odds are 50-50 the manager feels exactly as the letter writer or not, so it’s possible the manager may not agree.

      1. animaniactoo*

        It’s interesting to me that you read that as snarky and rude, because I don’t think that it is at all as long as you’re not saying it in a tone of voice that reads “well OF COURSE you shouldn’t call and wake people up so early”. If you say it with a hint of confusion, I think it reads as “I get that I did the wrong thing, but I’m confused about how much of what I did is wrong and am asking for help figuring that out”.

        1. Important Moi*

          Because if you’re confused about how much was wrong, I’d wonder about how much you thought was right. All I’m saying is another perspective may exist and letter writer may like it nor get to change it. That’s all really.

          Unless I didn’t see it (possible) all that was provided in the letter is that the manager was furious at letter writer for going without coworker. No rationale was given to the letter writer unless they didn’t mention it. Cost? Safety? Difference perspective on time allowances for being late?

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, I agree. 15 minutes seems short. 30 minutes seems long to me, too. However, in the area where I live (mind you it is a very rural spot), there are long stretches of road without cell service. Knowing that, I would probably give people 30 minutes. However, I’m not sure where I would fall in a more urban area.

  31. there was an attempt*

    I do think 15 minutes was enough time to wait, although 20 or 30 would have been good, but I would also have tried to contact my boss before leaving. (When I had conferences/some travel for work) My boss was always very responsive though, so I would have expected to be able to reach him and get his approval on a decision.

  32. Mommy.MD*

    Coworker did not answer phone. Coworker did not text or call. Coworker arrived 35 minutes late. I’d leave her. No apologies. Coworker is a grown adult who did not leave on time for an important work function when she knew a car was ready and waiting to leave at 5:30. Get up earlier. Boss is out of line. I’d have texted one last “if I don’t hear from you now I’m leaving in five minutes” to cover myself. That’s your only mistake.

  33. Caramel & Cheddar*

    I feel like if you’re asking people to be at a conference 2.5hrs away by (presumably?) 9am that morning, you should book them a hotel room the night before in that city. I’m sure the reason they did it this way was to save money, etc. but asking people to drive five hours round trip during what is known to be bad rush hour seems more than a tad unreasonable.

    1. CheeryO*

      That’s a good point, and it makes me wonder if the cost of the coworker’s gas and mileage was really significant for the company. It’s the only reason I could see for the supervisor to be so annoyed with the LW compared to the person who was super late AND incommunicado.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        That would be my guess. Taking a company car means the company doesn’t have to pay out mileage expenses, which means that the OP’s decision to leave after 15 minutes would sound like “after 15 minutes I decided the company should pay a couple bennies instead of me waiting longer.”

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Yeah, this was where I went too. There’s a big city about that distance away past three medium size cities / traffic snarls, and my employer sends people the night before.

    3. Koala dreams*

      Good point! If the employees usually start at 9 am, it’s pretty demanding to have to get to work at 5.30/5.45. If the employees have a long commute to work, they might need to get up at 4 am or even earlier. To spend all those hours in the car on top of your regular commute and your regular work day must be exhausting.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        No. It’s really not!
        It’s a one day conference your company paid (most likely) to send you to and maybe it’s important you arrive on time or even a bit early. It’s not demanding.
        If the coworker couldn’t handle getting up early ONE day, they should’ve bowed out or made other arrangements for transportation because “it was too early” for them.

        Exactly zero difference if you have to get up at 4am to go to the airport if you’re flying. You have to get there 2 hours early. If you travel a lot for work, you get used to this.

        1. AC*

          If you’re going to the airport, you’re not having to operate a moving vehicle at a high speed. You can take a taxi/airport shuttle/public transit based on your company’s expenses policy, and then doze on the plane. I’ve done this a hundred times, but would absolutely scoff at having to drive somewhere starting at 5:30 a.m. It’s very different IMO.

          1. Caramel & Cheddar*

            Yep. I’d be annoyed but willing to leave for the airport at 5:30am having gotten up at 4:00am. It would be outright dangerous for me to get up at 4am and then be expected to drive for 2.5hrs starting at 5:30am, *especially* because it’s one day and not a regular part of my schedule.

        2. Koala dreams*

          I agree with you about the co-worker being inconsiderate, but from the employer perspective, it’s very demanding of the employees to add such a long drive to their workday. The fact that it’s common doesn’t make it right.

        3. MissDisplaced*

          Jeez people! It’s one day!
          I hate getting up early too, but it’s like one time for a conference that probably happens once a year.

    4. Old and Don’t Care*

      Many people would rather get up early than spend a night away from their family/dog/cat/miss their soccer game. I don’t think expenses need to be the only reason the decision was made to drive up in the morning and I think either way is reasonable.

    5. AC*

      My thoughts exactly. Five hours of driving (starting at 5:30 a.m.) in one day is not reasonable if you’re also expecting them to attend a full-day conference.

    6. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      There’s that too. Sometimes when the company is being cheap, it backfires like this.

    7. yala*

      THANK you.

      I know it doesn’t help OP much, but it just seems so silly to me. You want your employees to be On at the conference and get the most out of it. But you’re gonna have them up at an obscene hour, then driving long distances (while sleepy), and immediately expect them to be paying attention/social at a conference? All while hoping nothing unexpected happens with traffic?

      A hotel room the night before just makes so much more sense.

  34. Lola*

    What’s alarming to me is that the letter writer left without actually knowing where the late co-worker was. The late co-worker could’ve overslept (5:30am meeting time–oof!), but also may have been in an emergency or accident. Having traveled a lot for work in small groups, our practice was to always make sure we were all accounted for. I would’ve been concerned that I couldn’t reach the person, not that they were late. As soon as I heard from the person and figured out what happened, I would’ve been much more comfortable to leave and be annoyed.

    1. Maris Crane*

      How long should you wait? How many calls should you make? How many people should you try to contact? Three calls seems reasonable. Maybe a call to the manager is a good idea, but they might not have answered at that hour. So what do you do?

      1. valentine*

        may have been in an emergency or accident.
        This isn’t OP’s to sort and doesn’t change their priority: being on time to the conference.

        (I read the post title the other way and thought the person afraid of ghosts had become a manager.)

    2. Coco*

      Yeah… I can understand the concern. My spouse was supposed to drive to a business meeting with his boss a while back. Husband arrives to their meeting spot (the office) on time early in the morning. His boss doesn’t. Husband calls, emails, texts multiple times and waits for 3+ hours. Finds out his boss passed away in his sleep after his boss’s boss comes into the office. You just never know.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is why I’m thinking the OP should have looped her boss in.

      “I’m sorry to call early but Jane isn’t here or answering her phone! Should I stay longer or leave now? We’re cutting it close to get there in time…”

      Then the boss at least is aware of the possible issue in terms of accidents or if there needs to be a welfare check request.

      And now when this happens it’s a clear “we need a policy for this stuff” instead of the manager just being furious and hanging out reprimands!

      1. londonedit*

        This is what I’d have done. I’d have waited the 15 minutes, and if I still hadn’t seen or heard from the coworker, I’d have called the boss and asked whether they wanted me to wait or just leave without them. Worst case scenario, you leave a message or send a text saying ‘It’s 5:40am and Jane hasn’t arrived to set off for the conference as we agreed – I’ve tried calling her three times and have sent her messages, but she hasn’t replied. If she isn’t here in the next five or ten minutes I’m going to have to leave, otherwise I’ll be late for the conference’. That’s still not ideal, but at least you’ve covered your arse and let the boss know what was going on and your reasoning behind leaving without Jane.

    4. GothicBee*

      Yeah, I do think the OP would not have come off looking very good if the coworker had been unconscious on the side of a road meanwhile OP has left because they were concerned about traffic.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        The OP called multiple times. Why would they look bad for eventually giving up on someone who wasn’t able to come in, even if the reason the coworker couldn’t come in was because they’d suffered some kind of tragedy?

        1. Brett*

          Because the OP didn’t tell anyone else that co-worker didn’t show up!!

          For all everyone at the office knows, co-worker is in the car on their way to the conference and there is absolutely no reason to think they would be anywhere else. No one would know that co-worker never showed until the OP got back to the office that night.

      2. HR Stoolie*

        What would the OP do if coworker was unconscious on the side of the road?
        Unless this was an EMT or related conference than absolutely n o t h i n g!

    5. putt putt*

      That’s a bit of a stretch. It’s far, far more likely that the coworker overslept or was just running late rather than that they were in an accident.

    6. Cordoba*

      If Bob doesn’t show up to make a rally point to a conference carpool, how is that any different than Bob not showing up on time for a normal workday? Why is either case my responsibility to investigate as Bob’s random co-worker?

      I’m not a doctor or a search and rescue professional, even if Bob had been in an accident there’s not really much I can do about it?

      It might be different if the OP were abandoning a colleague away from home and effectively stranding them, but ditching a person someplace where they already live and can reasonably be assumed to have transportation and shelter is not a Serious Problem.

      1. Derjungerludendorff*

        Bob no-showing on a workday would also be a cause for concern.

        And most people do actually care if their coworkers are in an emergency. Sometimes terrible things happen unexpectedly, and getting people aid in time can indeed save their lives. Even if you’re not a doctor, you can call a doctor. Usually the manager handles that, but in this case only OP knew they didn’t show up.

        Most of the time everything is fine and someone just overslept or something. But the times when it’s not fine is when you can save lives.

        1. Colette*

          And in this case, if the manager thinks Bob is at the conference (because the OP didn’t communicate with her at all before leaving), no one will notice that he’s missing.

          1. Samwise*

            My boss would think I was a baby if I called her to say, Karen isn’t here for the carpool to the conference, I called and called, what should I do? OP used her judgment. Karen didn’t show up on time, she didn’t let the OP know she was running late (she could have called from home).

            If I were in an accident and that’s why I was late and that’s why I didn’t call or answer a call, well, I would not be mad at the person who left without me because that person made a reasonable decision. It’s not up to that person to sit around speculating on the many many things that might have made me late. I wasn’t there, it was past time to go, so go.

            1. Yorick*

              But if you emailed or texted or called or left a note and said, “Karen isn’t here, I guess I’ll wait 5 more minutes and then go,” your boss wouldn’t think you were a baby. And the boss would see that later, call Karen, and find out whether she’s ok.

        2. Cordoba*

          My first thought when Bob is late for work is not “maybe he’s dead in the gutter somewhere, I better investigate!”

          If I was *15 minutes* late for work I definitely would not want my colleagues to assume that I am in distress and start calling my house and family. If they did so I would actually regard it as very weird, and indicative of poor boundaries on their end.

          I don’t expect this is an unusual take.

          What specifically should the OP have done in this case to ensure that their tardy colleague was not in danger or distress? How long should they wait before they either leave for the conference or start checking hospitals?

          1. Jennifer*

            +1000

            Anything’s possible but most people aren’t going to assume someone was in an accident or died in their sleep because they were 15 minutes late.

          2. Koala dreams*

            In some office cultures, being overly concerned about your co-workers coming and goings could be seen as over-stepping. I think it would be fine to send a short e-mail or text message to the boss and tell them you are driving off alone since co-worker didn’t show up, but it would be weird to speculate about them being sick or dead.

          3. Yorick*

            I think the point in this thread is that OP is the only one that knows the coworker didn’t show up. I don’t think these commenters think OP should’ve assumed Bob was having an emergency or whatever.

            If you no-showed to work, your coworkers might be concerned in the late morning or afternoon, especially if they called you and got no answer. But here, no one would think Bob was missing – only OP knew he didn’t show up at 5:30. So if OP left an email or note for her manager, someone else would be able to follow up about Bob, and maybe find out that he’s not ok.

            So this is just another reason that it’s best to leave a note or something in this situation.

    7. always in email jail*

      x1,00 Lola. I commented something similar below before this posted! Abandoning a coworker who was supposed to ride in a company car is something I’d expect my staff to loop me in on before pulling the trigger

    8. Heidi*

      So hypothetically, if this coworker never responded to any calls, would you have skipped the conference and gone to their house to check on them? Or called 911? If coworker is in a coma somewhere, they are not going to call me back and there is no way for me to figure out where they are.

      1. Derjungerludendorff*

        You don’t have to skip the conference by driving to their house. And presumably you’d leave a message to call you if they arrived at the office.

      2. Colette*

        You’d notify the manager and let her make the call – she likely has emergency contact information, for example.

    9. Curmudgeon in California*

      It’s not their job to determine why the other person didn’t make it. In a high traffic area, 15 minutes is plenty of time to wait. No call, no show? No ride. Find out why later.

    10. Jules the 3rd*

      I would not ever expect this on an outbound trip, assuming both people usually work in the office where they’re meeting. Until you reach the meet-up point, any problems you have are your (or the appropriate emergency services team’s) job to manage. If the meet-up time is clear, you only owe your co-workers a ‘reasonable’ amount of time and attempts to contact. I’m open to different definitions of reasonable from 15 – 30 minutes, but anything more than that? nah.

      Coming back, yes, you want to make sure everyone is clear on how to get home, but co-worker’s got a car for getting to work, or even the option to just *not go*.

    11. Socrates Johnson*

      I mean, how could she help if she were in an accident? How would they know where the accident was to help said coworker? It would be fine to notify someone if they didn’t show eventually but…I mean, this seems a little over the top.

    12. Atalanta0jess*

      This makes sense to me if you are in the town that you have traveled TO. I would want help from my coworkers if something happened to me while we were out of town together. But in my home town? When someone doesn’t show up to work, I might call or text, and if I didn’t hear back all day, I might get in touch via emergency contact. But the burden of helping is so much less when you’re in the home town, IMO.

  35. Formerly Ella Vader*

    It’s not clear to me whether your co-worker was part of the discussion about when to leave and why.
    “My manager and I agreed it would be best to leave early in the morning to beat most of the traffic. … My coworker and I were supposed to meet at our office and leave at 5:30 am.” and then “well past the time we were told to leave.” If the decision to leave so early was one where you got to express your preferences and your co-worker didn’t, then it’s not fair to re-tell it as “we were told to”. Or if you suggested 5 am and your co-worker suggested 6:30, and your manager said “earlier than that is probably better” and wasn’t specific to your co-worker about 5:30 being a requirement, you are also not being fair. Take responsibility – take a little more responsibility than you think you deserve – and in healthy workplaces that’s a good way to move forwards. But if you start out trying to prove that none of it was your fault, you are more likely to make other people dig in their heels.

    Maybe she didn’t feel as strongly as you did about beating most of the traffic, so she didn’t see it as a disaster to leave 35 minutes later, just an inconvenience. When you apologize to her for leaving without her, you could take more ownership by explaining any factors you hadn’t explained before in why it was important to you to leave that early, and apologizing for not explaining. (For example, are you particularly inexperienced with big-city driving or anxious about heavy traffic, do you have health reasons that make it difficult or unpleasant for you to spend more than an hour in a car first thing in the morning, were you hoping to do some business with another meeting attendee before the conference started, etc.) Also, you could express regret that the two of you hadn’t talked beforehand about how to communicate in case of problems – that might prompt your co-worker to say, Oh, I’m so sorry, everyone else knows that I don’t have handsfree calling and don’t answer calls en route, this is the workaround.

    Other things you can take away from this situation:
    Maybe your boss doesn’t mean to be as rigid in her instructions as you’re interpreting them.
    Maybe you and your co-worker can hear the same thing but interpret it differently. So you need to confirm your interpretations with people that they might affect.
    Maybe there are other ways where you’re trying hard to ensure people don’t blame you for things that aren’t your fault, because you’ve had experience of punitive workplace or family, so you need to pay attention to whether this might now be hurting your reputation.

    1. Maris Crane*

      The coworker was late to the conference. Does it really matter what her thoughts were on the departure time? 15 mins seems reasonable for a delay. After that, it should be the coworker’s responsibility to get in touch or figure out an alternative plan.

      1. Colette*

        Yes? Because if she thought they were leaving at 6, the OP (in her mind) left 15 minutes early.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      The boss said meet at the office and leave at 5:30. Whether the late person liked that time or not, those were the instructions. If they were not able to make a 5:30 call time for a 2.5 hour drive, they should have called or texted.

      I am definitely not a morning person. However, if I have to be somewhere between 8 and 9, and I know there’s variable traffic, I will leave early enough to get there by 8, which even if there’s a massive crash I’ll get there by 9. If that means getting up before the sun rises, I’ll just grumble and do it. If they want it every day, I look for a new job. (In my area, an 8 am start time puts you in the middle of horrendous traffic.)

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        FEV’s speculating that the boss did *not* say ‘leave at 5:30’, but rather just said, ‘sure, early seems like a wise choice’, and that OP picked a time without clearly stating that time to the co-worker. It’s *possible*, and would explain why the boss is ‘angry’ with OP, so it’s worth OP’s thinking back about whether they were actually clear with the co-worker, and got co-worker agreement to the time.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I wanted to make it really clear that this was speculation rather than something based in OP’s actual text, and to give OP a way to assess whether the speculation was relevant.

          2. Yorick*

            I don’t think anyone’s necessarily accusing the OP of anything. But I think we’ve seen on this site that some people think their communication has been clear and direct when it hasn’t. An example:

            Coworker: What time should we leave? Around 6?
            OP: That should be fine, but traffic can get pretty bad. Maybe we can try to leave a little early. We could plan to meet at 5:30?
            Coworker: Sure

            OP thinks the plan is to be at the office in time to leave at 5:30. Coworker thinks the plan is to shoot for arriving at the office at 5:30 to leave by 6, earlier if possible. *Yes, the coworker is still late in this example, but still*

            I really like to be early, and I’m usually more direct than most (in the Midwest and South), but I still struggle with telling people right out, “No, your plan isn’t ok, we have to leave by 5:30 at the latest.”

  36. hbc*

    I think the manager missed a good chance to explain his thought process. I’m an early person myself (would have been waiting since 5:15), but it sounds like a situation where the extra cost of transportation wasn’t worth getting one person there on time for a conference where they weren’t speaking. I also wonder if the “meet at 5:30” plan had a lot of built-in slack, which was supposed to accommodate extra traffic and/or oversleeping and/or a conference that miraculously starts on time. More of “it’s ideal to leave around 5:30” rather than it being mandatory to be comfortably seated as the opening remarks begin.

    Or, you know, the manager is one of those people who gets angry at a situation and yells at everyone tangentially connected, and will forget when he has a new thing to rage about.

  37. Mommy.MD*

    People who are late for important events, no call or text, are arrogant. They feel entitled to keep others waiting. Let her experience the consequences. Responsible people allow for circumstances and leave early. And they call if something out of the ordinary delays them. You ignore me three times? Drive yourself.

      1. Cucumberzucchini*

        I sometimes thing Mommy MD is a bit harsh in her feedback but I fully agree with her on this one. I would have done the same thing as the OP, except I wouldn’t accept the Boss’s feedback. It’s ridiculous. The only person who should be getting a talking to is the coworker who was 35 mins late (probably more) and didn’t communicate at all. I would have left too and felt zero regrets. Nobody wants to wake up that early so it’s really disrespectful to your co-worker who got up on time and had to wait around wondering what you were up to.

    1. Special Agent Michael Scarn*

      Agree 100%. Late people are my No. 1 pet peeve. Part of being a responsible adult is getting yourself places on time. It’s not hard.

      1. Aficionado*

        My real pet peeve is people getting me up at 4.30 in the morning (depending on how far it was to the meeting point and how long their morning routine takes) and then showing up 35 minutes late – meaning that I could have gotten up at 5 in the morning!! That’s three snoozes! (Four if your snooze window is 8 minutes.)

        My second pet peeve, definitely a runner-up, is people being late for travel.

        Quite closely behind that is people being late without calling me to say that, y’know, they are coming.

        And yeah, people being late in general is my fourth pet peeve.

  38. PopCornAlly*

    Personal preferences aside, waiting 15 minutes for someone/ something is very reasonable in a professional setting.I don’t see a reason to be this late and not reach out to whomever is waiting for you. Society has been drilling this into our heads to be on time or to communicate that we are running late.

    If are 15 minutes late to work, you could be in trouble or have your paycheck docked
    If you don’t check in 15 minutes early at the doctors, they cancel your appointment and charge you a fee
    If you are 15 minutes late to some of my college classes the door is locked

  39. GreyCat*

    Unless the co-worker got stuck in bad traffic and didn’t have access to their phone (or chose not to use it) than they had to have known when they left their house that they would not make the 5:30 meetup, so they had plenty of time to call to warn the OP. Maybe waiting a half hour would have been better optically, but would have ended up with the same result. I think the manager is angry because they probably had to pay out mileage to the late co-worker, but couldn’t they have refused to do so? Stating that the two only had authorization to travel using the company car, so if they missed that trip than they should have stayed home?

  40. Ilf*

    The company doesn’t necessarily have to reimburse her. The company provided transportation and she was late for her ride and missed it. It is a matter of company policy, and in general companies don’t bend over backwards to accommodate this type of behaviour (missing rides/flights without very good reason).

    1. hbc*

      It was a work expense, they have to pay for it. They can fire her for incurring it, but they still have to reimburse her for the cost.

      1. always in email jail*

        Not necessarily at the full rate, though. When I worked for state government, if you declined to take the government vehicle if it was available, you were reimbursed at a reduced rate for mileage. I would interpret this as declining the use of the government vehicle. However, to my comment below, the manager should have had some say in whether OP left behind the other coworker or not, since it potentially had reimbursement/HR implications for the left-behind coworker

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Yeah, I wonder if the manager would still have been angry at OP if OP had cleared leaving without the coworker before doing it.

        2. Brett*

          “When I worked for state government, if you declined to take the government vehicle if it was available, you were reimbursed at a reduced rate for mileage.”
          That was distinctly disallowed at my agency, because one of our key federal grants required conference travel to always reimbursed at the appropriate federal rates. (Because the grant would reimburse the travel at full rate, so an agency reimbursing at less than full rate or not reimbursing at all could use it to build up a slush fund.)

  41. Chili*

    I agree that everyone handled this poorly. Obviously LW’s coworker shouldn’t have been late or at very least contacted LW to give some sort of heads-up as soon as possible.
    It sounds like there was more cushion in LW’s timeframe and they could have waited a bit longer (in the 20-30 minute range), but practically speaking it doesn’t really matter because the coworker was over 30 minutes late.
    One thing I’m unclear on is whether or not LW left some sort of message to say that they would be leaving. I think ideally LW would have left a message for the coworker (by text or voicemail) after 15 minutes of waiting to let them know they would be taking off in 10 minutes (or whatever timeframe) if they didn’t hear anything back. I think there’s a big difference between, “I called and left a message letting you know I would be leaving without you if I didn’t see you by X time,” and “I couldn’t reach you, so I just left.”
    The boss isn’t handling this well because it turned out fine– not ideal, but fine. Unless there’s something not mentioned in the letter, LW didn’t abandon the tardy coworker in an unfamiliar area without resources or something. LW left their coworker with two feasible options: miss the conference or make their own way there on their own schedule. Maybe manager has more of a “no person left behind” mentality than I do, but ultimately, everything was fine.

    1. Chili*

      After reading always in email jail’s comment, I also think LW should have reached out to their boss before taking off. I don’t know if that would have changed the outcome (I bet the boss would have tried to reach coworker and then given LW the go-ahead to leave within 30 minutes), but it would have been wise to have the official go-ahead from a manager and also made sure someone besides LW knew the coworker was missing and not responding. This all turned out fine and to be a straightforward tardiness issue, but I think generally letting a higher-up know would have been a good idea just in case something else was going on.

  42. always in email jail*

    Potentially unpopular opinion, but I would have prefer you contact me (as the manager) before making that call, as I don’t think it was yours to make since a company car was involved. I probably would have advised you to wait 10 more minutes and then go ahead and leave, but I would have wanted to opportunity to know ahead of time what was happening and make the call myself. Working in a government/non-profit sector, there would be potential reimbursement considerations. For example, we may not be allowed to reimburse the employee’s mileage, which would impact my decision. I might decide I need her at the conference late rather than never, or it doesn’t matter if she intends and she can’t go because she’s late, or she has to drive her own car and accept a reduced reimbursement rate because she essentially turned down use of a company car, but those are the manager’s call to make, not yours. And I wouldn’t be mad at you for calling me at 5:45 AM, I’d be mad at the late employee for putting you in the position of having to call me at 5:45 AM

    1. always in email jail*

      The more I think about it, the more strongly I feel that they should have called their manager before leaving. I would 100% say to my employee “I hear where you’re coming from, and I understand the thought process behind the decision you made, but since you were on company time, driving a company car, to a company event, making a decision that affected the company’s ability to reimburse travel, it was not your decision to make alone. Hopefully this will never come up again, but in the future, I need you to call me if something like this happens. There are a lot of factors, such as grant reimbursemnt guidelines and HR considerations, involved in a decision like this that mean I need to weigh in before the decision is made.”

      1. Bubbles*

        I am agreeing with you here. Send a text message to the boss at 5:45am, explaining that you’ve been waiting and have tried calling coworker with no response. Wait another 5 minutes, try one last phone call to coworker, then call boss for clarification on whether to wait or leave. But you want to document your attempts to call coworker and make sure boss is aware of the extra steps you are making in reaching out to coworker. Then let boss decide.

    2. Oof*

      I could not have put this better myself. “And I wouldn’t be mad at you for calling me at 5:45 AM, I’d be mad at the late employee for putting you in the position of having to call me at 5:45 AM” – I may point out that I would not have been mad then, but I am disappointed now in the decision to drive off. That would be contingent on how the conversation went, and if message was received.

    3. t*

      I’m the opposite – do not call me for a simple decision like this. But I also wouldn’t be livid if my team member made the wrong decision. I’d let the person know why I felt 30 min (or whatever) was more reasonable in the future. It’s very much a know your boss situation.

  43. filing cabinet cabbies*

    OP, let’s say your coworker took public transit. It ran late and the person got there late. And, having taken public transit, they then had no way of getting to the venue. Would you still have left?

    1. a1*

      If they took public transit they should have been able to answer their phone. Or better yet, call OP themselves to let them know they were running late and why.

      1. Rabbit*

        I frequently take the underground where there is a small but not unheard of chance that you can get stuck for 30 minutes with absolutely no way to notify anyone

    2. Maris Crane*

      I assume the coworker has a cell phone, as most people do these days. The delay should have been communicated. If the coworker doesn’t have a cell or anyway to get in touch with the person waiting for them, that should have been clearly explained ahead of time. How long should the OP have waited with no communication from the coworker?

    3. Koala dreams*

      Does it matter? The co-worker could have very sound reasons for being late, it doesn’t mean OP is obliged to wait for them and getting themself late for the conference. In this case it sounds like the manager would have prefered the OP to wait, drive through rush hour traffic, and be one or two hours late, but the OP had no idea of that.

  44. Jurassicgoddess*

    Personally, as someone with time management issues, who also shares a carpool with other people…. I have a clearly stated policy speech that I give before planning goes very far. Every person I am planning to rideshare with, the speech goes like this: “I may be late. If I am more than X minutes late and you have not heard from me, leave without me. If you aren’t in a hurry and wait, I will be grateful. If you are in a hurry and leave me I have absolutely NO problem getting myself where I need to go.” I back this up with my actions, too. X varies from 10-30 minutes depending on the situation.

    Some of us don’t have strong internal clocks. Being a time-handicapped person doesn’t have to make me a bad person, coworker, or friend, but it has that potential if I don’t do what I can to mitigate the fact that apparently time passes differently for me. I also set SO MANY ALARMS. My daily carpool buddy set me up with a series of alarms for the end of the day so I don’t work too late and keep her! (They’re hilarious!)

    I’m generally considered reliable because I am not inherently so and I manage myself accordingly!

    The one thing that I can offer is to make 100% sure that future plans are crystal clear on leave time. If she was under the impression that you would be leaving between 530 and 6, her arrival makes a little more sense.

    1. Early is as Early does*

      I am totally borrowing Time Handicapped for ALL of my extended family!
      Also, thank you for being self aware.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I’m also time handicapped. I have a ton of alarms on my cell phone, because I lose track of time very easily. However, this makes me even more picky. If I manage to make it on time for a meet up (which is 95% of the time) and someone else doesn’t, I’m not very forgiving. 15 minutes is a reasonable wait time when there’s a 2.5 hour drive ahead that is often longer due to traffic. I have worked with people who won’t even wait ten minutes – five minutes late and they’re already gone.

    2. Jaybeetee*

      Yeah, as a chronically late person myself (and for me, that tends to equal 10-15 minutes, not 30+ minutes late!), Colleague gives the rest of us a bad name. She should have texted, called, SOMETHING, or at least offered an explanation or apology once she got to the conference or got a chance to speak to OP. 35 minutes is significantly late, even moreso when you know the other person is getting up hellishly early specifically to meet you at a certain time and drive together. I hope Colleague was spoken to about that – OP has no way of knowing. (I *do* think OP was a bit quick on the draw leaving after 15 minutes, but Colleague is the more egregious one here).

      For me, if I realize I’m going to be more than 10 minutes late, I get a message to whoever I’m meeting, and I tell them to start without me if at all possible. I have ADHD and often fail at time (especially early in the morning), but I don’t want to have people waiting around for me or to screw up other people’s plans.

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, as a fellow time handicapped person (love that phrase) I am wondering how clear this was the the exact leaving time was 5:30. When I have driven with colleagues, the plan has always been, “Meet at X leave at Y.”

      1. ceiswyn*

        When there is only one person to meet, why is there a need for two separate times? What are the two people going to do together in the time between meeting and leaving?

        …and how would this have helped given that, even if the OP’s colleague thought that 5.30am was ‘only’ a meeting time, they were still 35 friggin’ minutes late to it?

  45. MicroManagered*

    I wonder what kind of area and what kind of “traffic” we are talking about here. In my city (which isn’t even that huge), changing your departure window by 30 minutes can potentially *add* 15-30 minutes to the trip, not only would OP have been leaving half an hour late, but may have ended up late to the conference?

  46. staceyizme*

    Your manager is an idiot. You’re not responsible for the supposed emergencies of coworkers. It’s not like you left her in the desert or stranded on an island. You left for an event slightly after the agreed upon time of departure and AFTER trying to contact your coworker. Find another manager or team. (To be fair, it would have been fine for her to say “next time, give it twenty minutes”. But furious over your on-time departure? It makes me wonder what else she’s less-than-reasonable about…

    1. always in email jail*

      I think “your manager is an idiot” is a strong response. As a manager, I’d expect an employee to call me and say “Coworker hasn’t shown up yet. I’ve tried calling X times and have texted as well but I’m not reaching her. I’m really worried about hitting traffic and being late, is it OK with you if I go ahead and leave, or is there a certain amount of time you want me to wait?”

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I wouldn’t call the manage. My coworker is an adult. I am an adult. 15 minutes is plenty to wait.

        1. Another HR manager*

          Except even adults are okay with checking in with each other on our decision making processes.

          1. StaceyIzMe*

            It’a a more reasonable move to make a bit later in the morning. But “sorry to call you at 5:45 am, boss. Umm, can I leave now…?” isn’t going to be a great idea in the minds of most manager OR most employees…

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Except this was coordinated with the manager. The manager picked the meet up time with the OP. So the manager is indeed someone already in the loop.

          We’re all adults but we all seemingly have managers and reporting structure in place…so I don’t understand your point with “We’re adults, we leave after whatever amount of time I think is acceptable!”

          The manager is an ass for not having a clear plan in place in the event that this happens though. That’s on them because they’re the person in charge of the “adults”.

        3. SimplyTheBest*

          Not being willing to check in with a manager doesn’t come across as very “adult” to me – more teenager with authority issues.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Calling a manager about another employee at 5:30 in the morning seems like juvenile inability to make a decision without appealing to an authority. Should they ask their manager if their shoes are tied properly too?

            IMO, a good manager counts on their people to make decisions about execution of tasks, and only come to them about prioritization and overall direction. Anything else is micromanagement. If I were the manager, I wouldn’t want to be called at 5:30 about someone who was late for a ride. The manager already discussed the matter, it’s up to the employees to carry it out.

            1. Yorick*

              Your response sounds like OP was giving a ride to the coworker. But that’s not really the case here. OP and the coworker were taking a company car. So it’s not completely up to OP when to leave. She’s making a larger business decision by taking the company car and leaving without the coworker, and that’s why manager approval is needed in this case when it might not be in all cases.

  47. LurkNoMore*

    A colleague and I had an early morning flight out of Newark and had agreed to meet at 5:30am in the Atlantic City hotel lobby. 6:10 and I finally get a text that they’ll be down in five minutes. 10 minutes later (50 minutes late) they show up and we scramble to catch the flight.
    Excuse: they kept on hitting the snooze button and just couldn’t get up….
    I was so surprised they would admit that to my face! It really showed me the value they put on my time and how much future consideration I should show them.

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      That would make me want to hit them. Rude, arrogant, and stupid.

      That would also be the last time I’d agree to do anything that depended on them being on time – unless it was a direct order.

    2. tangerineRose*

      That’s awful! I have a hard time being on time to things sometimes, but for a plane flight, I make sure to be early!

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Flights, to me, are a different matter– every person for themselves when there’s a flight involved! I scramble for no one.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      I think 6am would have been a reasonable wait for this. They’re adults who can catch their own cabs. Unless for some weird reason you’re holding the tickets…

      1. cmcinnyc*

        I wait for no one when I’m going to the airport. And they were going to Newark, one of the NY Metropolitan area’s nightmare trifecta of airports. I would have waited 5 minutes max and ditched with no guilt.

      2. Hekko*

        If I’m holding the tickets, surely I can leave the coworker’s at the reception. If the CW is holding the tickets, on the other hand…

    5. EvilQueenRegina*

      I once had an early morning flight from Manchester to Munich with my relatives and had to wake them up ready to go because they set the alarm…and then turned the sound off therefore didn’t hear it! Think yours may be worse though.

  48. Lana Kane*

    Even waiting 30 minutes would not have worked here.

    I think 15 minutes was adequate. The person who wasted company resources was the no call/no show employee, and not the one who was on time, tried contacting them 3 times, and had to leave 15 minutes late.

  49. Mimmy*

    I would’ve called my manager. I would’ve explained that Co-Worker has not arrived yet, I’ve tried calling her three times with no luck….what do you suggest I do?

    Just leaving without Co Worker was probably not the best solution but I also don’t think it warrants your manager to be “furious”. In reading others’ comments, though, I wonder if the meetup time was made clear to her. You and your manager agreed to that time but was this clearly communicated to the coworker?

    1. always in email jail*

      ^This. I wouldn’t go as far as to be “furious”, but I’d be very irritated that this call was made without contacting me (the manager) first.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      Yes, I would have done this too. The possibility would have crossed my mind that she might have been suddenly sick or something and reported in to the manager, so I would have checked that out. If the manager said she didn’t know where the coworker was, I would then have asked how much longer to give her.

    3. amanda_cake*

      I was reading through to see if anyone else had suggested this. I think after 20 minutes, I would have called my manager.

  50. Another HR manager*

    A manager being “furious” is never a good thing — and that is on the manager. But I am interested in the substance of what your manager said. If they only said that you should not have left and did not give you any of the reasons or more clarity on the time frame, then I understand your upset. But if your manager did include more about why you should have waited or more on how long you should have waited, then you are not being sufficiently self-reflective about whether you need to learn something here.

    1. Another HR manager*

      definitely in the hospital … and then I would wonder if I need to start calling them.

  51. mark132*

    I have to disagree with you Alison, the immutable rule of carpooling is be on time or get left. Any other way leads to madness, as in everyone who is on time for the carpool gets mad as hell. I realize this a one time deal but it’s still a carpool. She was late. So she gets left. The only concession that should be made is some effort to call the person especially since it was a one time deal.

    1. Jaybeetee*

      As someone who struggles with lateness, hearing “the ride leaves with or without you at X o’clock” is actually immensely helpful. Not that it’s super-healthy from a psychological standpoint, and it wouldn’t be sustainable every day, but “Be on time or wrath of hell will come down on you” is probably the most effective tool in the arsenal for me.

      1. Kaaaaaren*

        I also struggle with lateness and hard deadlines for arrival also help me. I need to know there will be actual consequences to my lateness.

      2. mark132*

        It’s not really a wrath thing. It’s just a you get left thing. One of my old jobs had a vanpool. And the rule was the van left at 5 pm from work, with or without you. I wasn’t actually participating in it, but I remember I would be working with someone who was, and at 4:50 pm they would let you know we would be picking up where we left off in the morning, because they would leave. (as a note this was before when cell phones were as common as now).

  52. ElizabethJane*

    Something that’s really helped my particular team (it works well for people who have reasonably close working relationships) is “Text when you are on your way”. So if we’ve agreed to meet at 5:30 our group chat should start lighting up around 5 or 5:15. It just gives us an extra window of communication instead of waiting until people are already late to start trying to find out what’s going on.

    1. Batgirl*

      Yes this is a very sensible rule for early mornings and busy motorways. Tell the other person what your expected leaving time is and then text before you leave.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Yes, I like this. Google Maps (etc) are good at live travel estimates nowadays, so you can even text “leaving now, ETA 5.24”.

        This comes back to “you’re effectively late before you’re literally late, if the tasks yet to be achieved exceed the time left to achieve them” e.g. you’re 45 minutes away from something due in 30 minutes, even though the deadline hasn’t expired.

    2. amanda_cake*

      I agree with this. It gives you an idea of when to expect someone to arrive.

      With friends (I would do this with close coworkers if it was ever needed) who have iPhones, I often share my location for the next hour or the end of the day so they can see where I am. When I take a long trip, I share it with a family member so they will know when I have reached my destination or where I was last if for some reason something goes horribly wrong.

  53. Allypopx*

    Where I am, 20 minutes of a delay leaving can EASILY mean over an hour tacked on to your travel time. I think 15 minutes is more than reasonable when you’re timing is based on that kind of calculation.

    However, if it was really “wheels down” at 5:30-5:40, they should have arranged to meet in the office at 5:15 at the latest to add a buffer and do a last check on everything, so the plan wasn’t great to start with.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      OP doesn’t actually say what time they arrived at the office. Just that the plan was to leave at 5:30. So it is possible that OP did wait 30 minutes.

  54. Special Agent Michael Scarn*

    Sorry late people, but you gotta be on time for a work event that someone else is driving you to! Or, at the very least, let them know you’re running late. If I called the coworker and got no response, I would’ve assumed they were still sleeping, not on their way. I’ve totally been in OP’s shoes before, waiting for a late person as my anxiety keeps going up and up about being late for the event. It’s a crappy situation all around. I don’t think 15 minutes (with no information on their whereabouts) was too stingy.

    1. Yorick*

      But was OP the driver, or were they both able to drive the company car but OP ended up driving because she left first? This isn’t an “OP is giving Karen a ride” situation.

  55. MistOrMister*

    To me, the work context is important here. No, I would likely not wait for a 1st date for 15 minutes. Buy for a friend or in a work situation, I will generally wait 15 minutes before contacting the person. (The exception would be to text as soon as I get there to say where I’m waiting). After 15 minutes, then I would call or text once or twice to see where they were. And I would probably wait half an hour. Granted, in this situation iy wouldnt have mattered but it seems much more reasonable to leave after half an hour than 15 minutes. If I’m to meet someone at 5:30 am but have to pull onto McDonald’s to have explosive diarrhea….yes I feel bad that you’re waiting, but no, I am probably NOT going to pull out my phone and text you that I’m glued to the toilet 5 minutes away. It makes no sense to me that the coworker didn’t make any attempt to contact OP at all, but I stil think a bit more time should have been given.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      Are you going to be in a fit state to sit in a car for 2.5 hours (probably more at this point because rush hour is a concern) and attend an all-day conference in that case?

  56. Jennifer Juniper*

    I’m guessing if OP hadn’t arrived to the conference on time because of the coworker, she would still have been the one disciplined, because she was driving.

    1. Yorick*

      I don’t think so. There’s nothing in the letter that indicates they were working this conference or presenting early, so leaving the coworker is probably worse than being a little late to the first talk.

  57. velocipedestrienne*

    Not saying this is the case here, but to counter some of the “not a big deal to be late to a conference” talk, at THE conference for my industry, in my locale, you must.be.on.time in order to receive the education credits you need to maintain your certification.

    1. Brett*

      If the conference was that critical though, you never have people drive 2.5 hours the morning of the conference.
      All it takes is one winter interstate shutdown or one bad accident along their route and they lose their certification. That’s not a good risk.

      In that scenario, you absolutely have everyone drive in the night before and stay at a hotel on site.

    2. Batgirl*

      There is a chance that’s the case and the bosses’ judgement on conference punctuality is off for their own industry.
      Buuuuut it’s strange that the OP doesn’t mention anything about punctuality being particularly important. She just seems to state that 15 mins and three calls leads to ditching like dems the rules.
      It’s a decent rule too…except when you fail to consider your bosses’ likely priorities.

    3. Important Moi*

      I see plenty of comments acknowledging that lateness can be an issue and it varies by industry.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Nah, it’s mostly me and 2 other commenters, with all the rest being ‘late, shmate’. My guesstimate is about 15 ‘late shmate’ and 3 ‘sometimes it matters’. I just said it multiple times.

        In the end, it seems like OP mis-read the manager’s priority in some way; Alison’s scripts are good ways to get at those priorities for the future. The ‘late shmate’ debate is just to keep the issue on the list of priorities OP should consider, not to make it The Definitive Answer.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Hunh, just scrolled down further, it’s now up to 5 ‘sometimes it matters’, which makes me think ‘being late’ really deserves more weight in the decision making process (ie, ‘decide what the impact of being late will be’ is a required step rather than an assumption) than Alison gives it.

          I could easily see why an employee would *reasonably* make this decision after 15 minutes, rather than call a mgr. OP, you can’t tell this to your manager, tho! Part of your job is to figure out what *that* boss wants, not what internet randos would accept.

  58. AndersonDarling*

    My company wouldn’t allow me to drive 3 hours, go to a conference all day, and then drive back home for 3 hours…so that may be part of the reason the manager is upset. It was dangerous for one employee to handle all the driving when there should have been 2 people sharing the drive time.

    1. valentine*

      I think OP would’ve mentioned this and you can’t always have even a two-driver minimum. If there are only two of you and the designated return driver were rendered unable to drive back, would the company get you hotel rooms?

      1. Rabbit*

        My company would and so would the last one I worked for. If you have strict fatigue or driving time rules then suddenly being on your own isn’t different from the car breaking down or trains and planes being cancelled due to bad weather or something

      2. AndersonDarling*

        Yep. My company would have gotten me a hotel room for the first night, then I would drive home after the conference. It’s our standard practice.
        When reading the letter I wondered why the manager/company was so stingy and didn’t book rooms for the conference, but it may have been more of a voluntary event that the OP really wanted to go to and was trying to keep the expenses down.

  59. Ann*

    I don’t understand why it matters at all that OP left after 15 mins instead of 30. It would’ve made zero difference. In fact, OP could’ve straight up told his/her boss that they left after 30 mins to appease them, because coworker still wouldn’t have been there.

    Personally I’m tired of dealing with lazy, perpetually late people who can’t take accountability for themselves. If you’re going to be late, the least you can do is call.

    1. BethRA*

      It matters because it cost the company more money. They now have to reimburse Latey McSlowpoke for mileage in addition to the costs associated with OP’s car.

      1. Ann*

        How does it matter in this case? Even if OP waited 30 mins their coworker still wouldn’t have showed.

        1. AnotherLibrarian*

          It matters, because the core question here is: What is a reasonable amount of time to wait for a coworker who is late? And this number shifts if not waiting costs the employer money vs doesn’t cost the employer money.

  60. HBJ*

    I completely disagree. If my boss said we should leave at a certain time, and I waited 15 minutes for a late coworker, who I tried to get in touch with, before leaving, and my boss was “furious” with me for leaving without them, I’d take that as a big red flag about my boss.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      Yeah, the previous discussion with the boss about when to leave in order to arrive on time would’ve given me the impression that being on time was a priority. That would’ve colored my actions in the moment of waiting-for-late-person absent specific instructions on how to proceed in the event of other person’s lateness. I would’ve been very surprised at being reprimanded for not waiting when the other person’s arrival was completely unknown.
      Plus if we’re talking rush hour, leaving at 5:30 might get me there only touching on rush hour in the destination area, but leaving after 6 puts me into rush hour both in my local area and the destination. I’d expect that pushback of 35 minutes to mean at least an hour later arrival.

      1. Old and Don’t Care*

        I agree. To me, if it was decided that 5:30 was the right time to leave, it was because it was the right time to leave. Not “5:30 would be a good time to leave but just show up whenever you feel like it; people are just getting coffee anyway.”

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I’m left wondering whether LW remembers the conversation differently from the boss. That is, if they discussed the travel arrangements and 5.30am came up, and LW thought it was a firm “must leave by” time and boss thought it was a “ideal, belt-and-braces, super cautious” time.

        I’m assuming an 8.30 for 9 start where leaving at 6am or even a bit later would probably have been ok but 5.30 is safer (2.5h driving + 20% traffic contingency, + parking and other formalities).

        If coworker arrived at 6.02 and looked around for a couple of minutes before getting her phone out to contact LW, reporting 6.02 as 6am without mentioning her earlier radio silence, then in that context it could look like LW overreacted, especially if boss wouldn’t have planned to leave before 6am anyway.

  61. Kaaaaaren*

    Personally, I probably would have hung around until 6:00 and, if my coworker didn’t respond to my repeated calls and texts by then, I would have left at that point. 15 minutes DOES seem rather a short grace period to me. That said, it’s weird to me that the boss is “furious” at the OP over this. Even we in this comment section have different ideas of what a fair grace period is and 15 minutes isn’t outside the realm of normal — it’s not like the OP took off when her colleague wasn’t there by 5:32. I think Alison’s advice of asking the boss how long she should have waited without any word from the coworker is a good idea so they can all get on the same page about that. And, when OP talks to the boss, I think it would be a good idea to go easy on how inconvenienced she was by her coworker or it runs the risk of looking like the OP ditched her colleague as a kind of punishment for her lateness rather than honest concern about being late for the conference.

  62. Socrates Johnson*

    My question is really what did the coworker say about being late? What was the reasoning? So curious as there is a lot of speculation in this thread.

    1. Kaaaaaren*

      I wonder that, too. OP’s letter implied that there was no good excuse for the lateness, but maybe the colleague just apologized to the boss profusely, took ownership of her mistake or oversleeping or whatever, and the boss is satisfied with that. I wonder, though, if the colleague apologized to the OP — the letter doesn’t say.

      I think when the OP talks to the boss, they don’t lean too strongly into be “the wronged party” here and and instead keep it more neutral like “In hindsight I probably should have waited until 6:00 before leaving if I couldn’t reach Jane. I am sorry for that, but I was eager to get to the conference on time…” vs. this attitude: “It is the late coworker who should be disciplined because she was late to the conference and did not come when we agreed to.”

  63. Todd*

    We’re leaving at 5:30 AIS.
    (an Everybody Loves Raymond reference)

    for the rest of you AIS mean “a** in seat”

  64. Radio Girl*

    The cause of the problem was the tardy and inconsiderate coworker. OP’s handling of it was understandable, but it is also understandable that the boss should be annoyed. In this case, both employees are culpable.

  65. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    Wow, I’m sorry you had to deal with that, OP! I have spent too much time out of my life waiting for others when they are late, so this is really frustrating. The co-worker was absolutely wrong for being late. And your boss was absolutely wrong for her reaction to your leaving after 15 minutes. I think you left after giving the co-worker plenty of time. She should have arrived at the agreed upon time. If there was an issue with that, she should have let you know so that you could decide what to do.

    When someone is late, they are saying that they are more important than you, that their time is more important than yours. Your co-worker either did not get up early enough, or got one more thing done before leaving to meet you. But you were waiting for your co-worker and couldn’t get one more thing done or sleep longer. Because you were there on time waiting for her. It’s so disrespectful and inconsiderate on her part. And your boss is so wrong.

    And if the co-worker got caught in traffic, she could have called quickly, keeping her phone down. Pretty easy to do when traffic is at a standstill.

    1. yala*

      “When someone is late, they are saying that they are more important than you, that their time is more important than yours.”

      That really is such a reductive, unhelpful, and frankly just plain WRONG take, and it’s amazing to see how many folks believe that.

  66. HR Stoolie*

    15 minutes and no contact? I’d be on the road too. Of course I say this as a senior person well into my career.
    In OP’s situation I’d be waiting with high anxiety.

  67. LeaveHerInTheDust*

    In my profession it would be a big deal to show up significantly late to a conference – especially for the keynote speaker on the first day. That’s because the main reason that we get sent to conferences is to get continuing education credits that are required to maintain our professional licenses. The keynote speech is usually approved for a higher number of these than other sessions provide. The way that the CEU’s are counted is by scanning badges at the start and end of the session (to prove that you attended for the number of minutes required to get the credits.) If I were to be sent to a conference hours away from work, to get my annual in-person education credits, but didn’t get them because I was late, that could be a huge problem for the company because I could get my license lost or sanctioned.

    1. Brett*

      In the scenario you described, why would you ever risk same day out of town travel instead of driving the night before and staying at an on-site hotel?

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Some companies are cheap and won’t pay for it (which makes no sense when thinking about the risks).

      2. Mommy.MD*

        Did this once. Very late at night I got a creepy anonymous call to hook up. I’d rather leave early and drive. Someone watching me freaked me out. Some people have kids or pets and don’t want to be gone all night for a day trip.

  68. GB*

    Some of the conference I’ve attended have an education component… that is, Professional Education credits necessary to maintain a license or certification. And, sometimes the ONLY reason I attend is for those credits. Even the introductory proceedings can have education credits. If you’re not in your seat when the presentation starts, you don’t get the credit.

    In a case like that, 15 minutes (or whatever it takes to be absolutely sure you’re not late) is enough. Co-worker can fend for herself.

  69. Koala dreams*

    OP, I understand your frustration. We hear all the time about how important it’s to be in time for work, how timeliness is more important for professional purposes compared to social activities. Yet your boss were angry with you for choosing to be in time for the conference, over waiting for your co-worker and be late.
    As a person with poor time management skills, it’s of course nice to hear all the comments about how your should wait half an hour for late-comers at work, but, it’s at odds with the messages I’ve heard all my life. I would be upset if I managed to get on time to something that was super early and my boss complained because they would have wanted me to go there later. You have my sympathy!

    I agree with the advice that you should check with your boss how they would’ve liked you to manage the situation. Maybe your boss realize they are being ridicoulous, maybe they say that you should have waited for at least 30 minutes, maybe they say something else. Either way, you would then be able to adapt in the future.

    1. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

      I can’t help but wonder if the OP had waited for their coworker and arrived late, the boss would have been pissed at the OP for making both her and her coworker late, and yelled at them about THAT.

  70. OTRex*

    Late is late. If the coworker was running late, she should have called ahead of time. Not being able to answer calls in the car is not an excuse in that case, plus, in most hands-free states, the average person would have a set up to allow this, AND many cars have a hands-free feature automatically built in. I would have left too and would not have felt the least bit bad or in the wrong.

    1. gyrfalcon*

      “ in most hands-free states, the average person would have a set up to allow this”

      Maybe, maybe not. My state just went hands-free, and I have no interest in spending time figuring out the hands-free setup. I just don’t use the phone when driving. Plus I have my phone on “do not notify when driving.”

      Perhaps for being maximally reachable for early-morning meetups (if such a thing ever comes up for me), I’ll have to change this. But I’d still be so inexperienced with it that there’s a good chance I wouldn’t succeed at answering anyway.

      I do think the late person should have found a way to communicate closer to 5:30, though. For me, I pull over to the side of the road when I need to communicate.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        My country has had hands-free laws since 2003, and is looking at banning even hands-free use of mobile phones while driving. It isn’t the best observed law we have (!) but it does mean that heads-up units, hands-free kits, bluetooth headsets etc have been widely available for a long time.

        I don’t routinely use them because I have a hearing deficiency which voice controls are very unsympathetic to. My car has built-in satnav and physical volume/channel controls on the steering wheel. But if I’m making an important non-routine journey such as meeting up with someone then I get SOMETHING set up for that journey. Yesterday it was having my eldest child sending my spouse WhatsApp messages when we hit heavy traffic…

  71. Budgie Buddy*

    Reads to me like coworker was miffed at not being consulted on the departed time and arriving late was a passive aggressive way of pushing back against the early start time.

      1. Budgie Buddy*

        Others have pointed out that the coworker apparently wasn’t asked, and the letter states the coworker arrived late.

        But yeah. Not really trying make an airtight court case in an internet comment section, just agreeing with an interpretation others have offered.

  72. Brett*

    Something missing from here…
    What happened when the co-worker _did_ call the OP?

    Because I cannot think of any scenario where the co-worker would arrive at the office, find the OP not there, see three calls from the OP on her phone, and not call the OP. (I have a feeling that is how the OP knew that the co-worker arrived at 6:05 am).

    Did the OP miss those calls or refuse to answer them? Was there any conversation at all with the co-worker?

    1. Jaid*

      I was wondering about that, too! Co-Worker finally arrives at the office, is no longer driving, and can look at her missed calls…and doesn’t respond? Not even to say she’ll meet up with OP somewhere at the conference?

      Hmm.

  73. arcya*

    I suspect some context we might be missing has to do with the traffic patters! I live in City A, and about two hours away is City B. City B and the surrounding area has famously horrendous traffic, and rush hour is pretty much just gridlock. There are not good public transit options to City B either.

    I have left City A for meetings / conferences in City B, and I typically leave at 5:30 and ABSOLUTELY no later. For every ten minutes added to your leave time, once you hit that City B traffic you’re adding an extra ~30 min to your drive. The OP, leaving at 5:45, was maybe an 30-60 minutes later than they had planned. The co-worker, leaving at 6:05, may not have arrived until 10:30 – 11am.

    The real solution here is robust public transit, but also? I don’t fault the letter writer at all. Have the boss sit in traffic for 2 extra hours while missing their conference and then let’s see how important it is to leave on time.

  74. Phillip*

    I always wait 30 for people not because it’s reasonable to have to wait that long, but because in my mind it’s far enough away from the threshold that no one could hold it against me.

  75. TechWorker*

    I think in this kind of situation you can’t really hold it against someone for making a decision you would have made differently… like *maybe* OP could have contacted their boss at 5.45am and ask them what they wanted them to do, but it was also 5.45am and I doubt boss really wanted to be woken up/OP could have equally got in trouble for that and not handling it themselves.

    OP could have waited exactly half an hour and missed coworker by a matter of minutes (wouldn’t really have been better)…. or they could have waited 45 minutes to discover coworker was sick and had slept in/wasn’t coming… it feels like the sort of sticky situation where in the moment it’s nearly impossible to do the ‘perfect’ thing as you can’t predict the future.

    1. Batgirl*

      Well that’s where the furious part is so out of line. It was a judgement call, not insubordination. The boss could have said “Expenses are killing me, so please always wait for your late coworkers” or even say something like “I think that was misjudged” but it’s OTT to be all “How dare you”.