how to respond to “sorry” when you were inconvenienced

A reader writes:

Recently, I had a meeting scheduled at two colleagues’ request to help them work through some challenges in an area where I have more expertise. They were about 10 minutes late, with no notice that they were running behind. When the first person arrived they said, “Sorry I’m late, my previous meeting ran a bit over.” Normally I would respond with something like “No problem, let’s get started!” but in this instance it was a bit of a problem — I was was behind deadline on another project, so that was 10 minutes of my day I really didn’t want to waste. I couldn’t think of anything to say that wasn’t an untrue, disingenuous deflection.

Can you think of something I could have said that would be collegial but not excuse the lateness? Or should I have just said “No problem” as usual and moved on?

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Getting feedback from coworkers before promoting an employee
  • My employee is upset that I interrupted his non-work conversation
  • Spouses at fundraising events

{ 178 comments… read them below }

  1. H3llifIknow*

    I have meetings run over all the time (I work for the DoD….meetings are my life) and I’ve finally realized it’s OKAY to say, “I have to jump; I have another meeting starting now” etc.. and NOBODY has ever said anything negative about it. Your co-worker, unless they were running the meeting they were in, really disrespected your time and didn’t prioritize your meeting. 10 minutes late to a scheduled 30 min meeting, is 1/3 of your time gone. But regardless, even if you still had almost an hour, I’d definitely say, “well, I do have a hard stop at so hopefully we can get through all of the material,” or something along those lines. Heck I might even say, “Yeah I left my previous meeting still in progress to meet here with you” just to make the point!

    1. L-squared*

      I think this really depends on who the meeting is with and your standing in the company.

      I can say something like that to my coworker but not necessarily a director who called the meeting.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        This sounds like a “know your organization” thing — I’m an individual contributor and have definitely told managers and directors that I have to drop for another meeting. This got very common at our company during and has persisted now that we’re hybrid. Just because someone called a meeting doesn’t mean that they get to hold me hostage until they decide it’s over!

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This. For me it’s pretty normal for anyone to say “I have a hard stop at 3:00” and we work with that.

          For plenty of top people, this would be “Great, Joe has to cut out early and so this will be quick.”

      2. Sleepy*

        Agreed. If they are a junior member, they might not feel like they can jump or were told in advance that they need to keep notes and could not easily jump off.

    2. Smithy*

      I mean…but if someone’s ten minutes late and it’s because they were in a meeting with the CEO or their boss or an external partner with more power than where you work…..

      Lots of reasons people run late from meetings where it would be a worse decision professionally to cut the end time short. Especially when the end result is only being ten minutes late. I get that’s a third of the meeting, but if your meeting agenda was packed that tightly – then the chance of not making it through the full agenda was always at risk.

      1. KHB*

        The CEO’s time is not automatically always more important than everyone else’s time simply by virtue of his being the CEO. And it’s in the CEO’s interest, as much as it’s in anyone’s, that people in the company aren’t wasting time and missing their deadlines because other people’s meetings with the CEO ran over.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          A CEO’s time may not be automatically more important (depending on how you define that), but in many cases a person would be hesitant to tell the CEO that the meeting needs to end. There are a number of reasons why one might not feel comfortable pushing back against the person at the top of the hierarchy for something like that.

          1. KHB*

            Then, as I say below, you need to not schedule meetings with other people (especially meetings where you’re asking the other people for a favor) immediately after your meetings with the CEO.

              1. DataSci*

                Or the meeting with the CEO may have been moved on short notice. Senior execs tend to assume everyone else will rearrange their calendars to accommodate the bigwigs, and move or cancel meetings at the last minute.

            1. Bored Fed*

              … and maybe the big boss (or their assistant) dropped the meeting on the coworker. That happens!

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          I report directly to a c-level executive, and her time is in far more demand than mine is, which requires me to work around her schedule. Most of it is based on priority – how important is the other meeting compared to ours, both people and subject-matter?

          She, however, is excellent about reaching out to me if she is running behind or will not be able to make our scheduled time so I can plan accordingly. And I can, in turn, reach out to my next meeting to do the same. I’m not sitting around for even 5+ minutes wondering if she’s going to show up. That’s where I think OP’s coworkers failed – they should have reached out to advise they were running late so OP wasn’t sitting around waiting for them.

          1. Sparkle Llama*

            I frequently have meetings with my grand boss that run into issues because he is meeting with great grand boss and he is great about sending a message either asking to reschedule or telling us to go on without him. Great grand boss is booked solid so we all have to work around her schedule to an extent which is annoying but good communication makes it workable.

          2. MM*

            This, exactly. In most situations, what makes the difference (at least to me) is whether you showed some consideration for me/my time, way more than whether you were late.

            Like, I had regular meetings every two weeks last spring with the same person for three months. He had suggested that we do these in person rather than virtually, which I agreed to. And then once we got started, every time a meeting was coming up I was basically waiting to find out whether he would come in person or switch it to virtual, or whether he was going to show up and announce he had to leave early that day. None of those things in itself is really a problem. It was the constant uncertainty in my ability to plan my time that rubbed me the wrong way.

          3. Laura*

            I think this is the thing – if I’m on a client call or in a meeting with a board member I’m not realistically going to duck out to make it to an internal meeting with a peer on time. But I will shoot them a slack message or something to say “I’m really sorry, my meeting with X is overrunning, I can be there in 10/is it easier for you to reschedule/etc.”

            You can show respect for someone else’s time even if you can’t drop whatever you’re doing that’s causing you to be late.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              While I agree that’s ideal, if you’re in an important meeting you may not want to start fiddling with your phone lest you should look like you’re not paying attention! I think it’s one of those things that just sometimes happens and if it’s a one-off the best thing to do is give that person some grace.

              1. umami*

                I was thinking the same – being a few minutes late (even 10 doesn’t really seem that significant to me) doesn’t necessarily warrant a message, just an apology. If I am expecting someone at 3 and they show up at 3:10, I am not sitting somewhere doing nothing while waiting, I can continue to work until they arrive. It’s understandable to be annoyed at people being late, but it doesn’t mean the other party is at fault for your feelings or is being disrespectful. Next time I might be the one who has trouble getting out of a meeting on time and need the grace.

        3. Underrated Pear*

          “Excuse me, but it might behoove you to remember that this time is not automatically more important than my colleague’s,” I say politely to my CEO, as I push back my chair and leave in the middle of a discussion of how to best execute a multi-million dollar contract in which I will play a significant role over the next year.

          …sorry, I’m teasing, but… eh?

          1. Underrated Pear*

            And because I’ve seen your replies above: yes, ideally meetings aren’t scheduled back to back, but workplaces and roles vary enormously in terms of schedule flexibility. Among my colleagues, the only criterion for a meeting time is “Is there a one-hour block this week that we both have free?” In a given month, there are maybe two days max that I (and my colleagues in similar roles) don’t have multiple back-to-back meetings, because… we meet with a lot of people. Let’s not assume the LW’s colleague had a lot of choice in picking a time, or that the previous meeting had even been scheduled yet.

            1. mlem*

              Yeah, back-to-back meetings just happen sometimes. (Or Google pretends it’s going to end your meeting early to avoid that, but no one ever actually bothers to end the meeting short of the hour or half-hour, regardless of the time booked in Calendar.)

              One of my colleagues is not only booked back-to-back for nearly every hour she works all year; she’s booked long before and after her start times, and sometimes she’s lucky if she’s “merely” triple-booked for any given time slot. She dips in and out depending on highly complex calculations. (I do NOT want her job!)

            2. Claire W*

              Exactly this – I work in the UK office of a US-based company, so on a standard week (not withstanding daylight savings crossovers) I have about 3 hours of my day to fit any and all meetings that require folks in the US to be involved. It’s really not as easy as “just change the meeting time” or “spread out your meetings so there’s room for running over” in a situation like that.

        4. Allonge*

          Not automatically, always, no, but… at work? Yes, enough times and there is enough power differential that it’s going to be hard to stand up and leave for another meeting in 97% of the cases.

          On the same principle though, if OP was really that swamped that day, they could have asked for the entire meeting to be rescheduled to a quieter week. I was delayes and late from meetings one way or the other plenty of times, had others late from meetings with me at least a hundred times more than that – in most cases 10 minutes late is ‘life happens’, you move on. And I hate being late and I don’t love others being late either.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, I do agree that it’s a lot, and I mean a lot, easier to jump from one virtual meeting to another than when you’re in person!

            That said, our meeting rooms are normally always booked, and most meetings have a hard ending simply because the next meeting is about to start, and they’ll just barge in regardless of who’s booked the room before.

            That said, I normally only have meetings with my peers, or with my manager or grandboss, and 1:1 meetings only with my manager. My manager typically has 5-7 meetings scheduled per day, and she’s rarely more than a few minutes late to our 1:1s. I’ve learned to deal with that, because she’s otherwise a great manager, and very, very busy.

            I hate being late, and I hate it when others are late. I see it as a profound disrespect of other people’s time to always be late. I guess I’m lucky to have been born in a culture that sees timeliness as a virtue. I do realize that some people have neurological disorders that make it excruciatingly difficult to be on time. Call me ableist if you like, I still think that being late is disrespectful and I won’t deal with people who are constantly more than a few minutes late any more than I absolutely have to (and I won’t pretend to like it when I do have to), at least not in my own culture. But oddly enough I really enjoyed my internship in Spain, the only thing I didn’t enjoy about it was when the big bosses would be late intentionally as a power play.

            I’ve broken off friendships with people who were constantly late because the frustration I felt when they were late spoiled all the fun of the friendship for me, no matter how great the person was otherwise. I’ve only made one exception, one of my friends is always late to everything, but it’s not a problem for me because I never schedule anything 1:1 with her, only group activities where it doesn’t really matter if she’s late. Most of our mutual friends show up on time, and we don’t wait for her to show up to enjoy ourselves, and she’s welcome to join the fun as soon as she shows up. It’s one of my dealbreakers, but I do know that I can’t be that firm about it at work, at least not if I want to continue working… Things happen and we have to roll with them.

            When our manager started with us 18 months ago, she was almost always late to all our team meetings, and then she’d apologize profusely for it. Apologies are useless and I find them annoying if the person who inconveniences others doesn’t seem to have any intention of changing their ways. But she’s not as often late now as she used to be, and when she is late she apologizes once, in a matter of fact way, and then we move on. It’s a lot easier to deal with her lateness when she doesn’t make a fuss about being late and doesn’t expect me to do any emotional labor and tell her it’s okay.

            When people are late and apologize, I acknowledge their apology with a nod if we’re in person or on camera, and then we start the meeting. I *never* say “no problem” because for me someone being late is always a problem (but I do acknowledge that it’s *my* problem), it doesn’t really matter if I had something more urgent to do at work or if I was just reading AAM.

            1. Giant Kitty*

              “ I do realize that some people have neurological disorders that make it excruciatingly difficult to be on time. Call me ableist if you like, I still think that being late is disrespectful”

              YIKES ON BIKES

        5. Klara*

          OMG, be so serious. What is the latecomer supposed to do, say, “Your time is not more valuable than mine, person with power to fire me, so peace, I have another meeting with someone who is going to be Mayor of Snippytown if I’m late”?

      2. Not Really*

        Meetings should not be scheduled back to back because they do run over. There should always be a buffer.

        1. Ness*

          That’s reasonable if most of the people involved have only a few meetings, but in a previous role, I had about 20 meetings a week. I scheduled some, but many were scheduled by other team members or external partners. It really wouldn’t have been feasible to leave a buffer between them.

        2. Allonge*

          And how do you do that when ~60% of your working time spent in meetings is a meetin-light day? Not everyone has max 2 meetings / month.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            And that those who have upwards of 10 meetings a week are probably not getting much work done in between!

        3. Ace in the Hole*

          In an ideal world, absolutely!

          In my job, most of the meetings I have to go to are scheduled by other people without my input and I just have to make it work as best I can. Or I do get input on scheduling, but there’s only one time slot that everyone else can make.

        4. Mr. Shark*

          Yeah, I don’t see how that’s possible. There are a lot of different people and different groups scheduling meetings for different things. There are only so many time slots available that work for a specific group of people. You can’t take into account everyone’s schedule and look at whether they have back-to-back meetings.

          If you are scheduling for your boss as an admin, you can certainly try to avoid back-to-back for them, but can’t avoid it for everyone else on the invite.

      3. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Ok sure, but this is where an email, chat, or text of “meeting running over, be there asap” is needed.

        1. Smithy*

          Most of the time – sure. But I think to make this blanket statement is still rather limited in scope and focus depending on the type of job.

          My job is one where I frequently have meetings with external partners who have more power than our organization does (i.e. clients, funders, investors, blah blah blah). It’s not that I intentionally aim to run over and certainly do try to send updates when I am late – but if I was ten minutes late and said I’m really sorry but a meeting with a donor went long – if my colleague remained offended, that’s more a sign of them choosing to not understand the basics of my job.

          Again, if this is a regular issue that’s something else to trouble shoot differently – but this is simply not a situation where these sweeping generalizations around time, lateness and updates make a ton of sense to me.

    3. NeedRain47*

      I don’t think you can assume that the other meeting was something they could up and leave. If they’re having a meeting with the boss or upper management or an important client, they can’t really run out when they’re not done. It’s true that they didn’t prioritize LW’s meeting; it may literally not have been their priority.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        This. What if it was their annual review meeting with their boss? “Hey I know you’re telling me that I have a habit of running out early on our meetings, but we’re running over and I’ve got this other meeting. See ya!”

        1. KHB*

          If your boss has a habit of running over on his meetings with you, then I’d say you need to make a habit of not scheduling meetings with anyone else immediately afterwards.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            We don’t know that the boss has a habit of running over meetings. My comment was a joke.

          2. Kel*

            we also don’t know if this was the only time the LW had to meet with them and they were restricted to that time. i think you’re making a lot of assumptions about people’s abilities to schedule meetings.

          3. biobotb*

            You know that meetings usually have to take into account more than one person’s schedule, right? Sometimes there’s only one slot that everyone’s free for and sometimes it even occurs right after another meeting.

      2. That'sNotMyName*

        I had a boss that you never wanted to interrupt because it *always* reminded her of something else that she’d meant to talk about and suddenly the meeting would go even further over time. She was the head of the organization and would have been in any other meeting with someone important enough to leave her meeting for.

    4. Water Hyacinth*

      That’s really a corporate culture thing. Some places nobody raises and eyebrow, some places that would be considered a serious performance issue.

    5. KHB*

      And if they were running the meeting that they were in, that means they (at least should have) had some control over the meeting agenda and pacing, so they could have made an effort to get the whole thing wrapped up before they had to meet with OP.

      Unless, of course, they’re really bad at running meetings – which admittedly a lot of people are.

    6. JB (not in Houston)*

      We really don’t have enough information to say that the person was not respecting the OP’s time. In your case, you can leave meetings with no issues, but that isn’t true for everyone in every job. For example, in most of the meetings I have to attend at work (which, thankfully, usually aren’t more often than once or twice a week), part of my job is to be available in those meetings to provide information to higher-ups as needed. It would not go over well if I just started bailing on those meetings when they ran long.

      It could well be the case that the person in the OP’s letter could have left that previous meeting with no professional repercussions, but we just don’t know that.

      1. Allonge*


        Also, OP is not upset about the principle of the thing – they, quite reasonably, are saying on this particular week there was no way to genuinely say ‘no problem’ when they got an apology for the delay. Not everything needs to be a major social injustice.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Good point! I think the commenters here (including me!) got a bit derailed onto a topic that’s not really what the OP asked about, and so the comments in this thread probably aren’t going to be all that helpful to the OP.

          1. Old OP #1*

            That’s ok – I’m the OP and I asked this question (and it was answered) about 5 years and 4 jobs ago :D From what I remember the comments similarly slightly derailed that time too

    7. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      Early in my career, I had a grandboss who was just plain fed up with some chronic stragglers wasting hours of work time (if six people have to wait 10 minutes, that’s one person hour lost).
      So she announced “From next Monday, all my meetings will start on time. No exceptions. ” – and locked the door exactly at the start time. A few coworkers were left standing in front of the meeting room with their coffee mugs and a surprised expression. Knocking on the door was pointedly ignored; they had to wait for the minutes to see what decisions had been made without their input. Punctuality was greatly improved after a few repeat performances.

      1. DataSci*

        Did they all also end five minutes early to allow everyone time to get to their next meeting? Otherwise she’s a hypocrite.

    8. Glitsy Gus*

      This has generally been my experience as well, but it can vary. That said, as Allison indicated, if it was a one off, let it go. Everyone is generally doing their best and sometimes a conversation runs longer than intended. It is fine to let them know that you need to get right into it due to your schedule, but no need to make a big deal.

      If this is a regular thing, or a standing meeting that is always running over, bring it up! I always start with, “hey, is there a better time to have this meeting? It’s looking like your Tea Pot Exchange Program meetings tend to run a bit long, would it make more sense to move ours to 30 minutes later/Tuesday/etc.?” It opens the door to making everyone’s life easier, and if it can’t be rescheduled lets Coworker know it’s a problem.

    9. Nodramalama*

      That seems a bit unfair. You literally just said you’ve JUST come to this realisation that it’s ok for you to jump off.

      Also, frankly, the person might be coming from a more important meeting. If a meeting with my grandboss runs over and I’m scheduled with a meeting with a colleague next, even if it’s inconvenient for my colleague, I’m probably going to prioritise my grandboss’s time more.

  2. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

    The spouse in the last question cracks me up. My husband often gets invited to events like that, and my response is always ‘Do I have to go, too, or is it just you?’ And I’m always genuinely relieved when it’s just him.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I thought that on a “I’m polyam, how many of my partners can I take to $_work_event” question. Surely the job of being polyam is being able to say, “absolutely Not, you and Sam go and I will spend some quality time with netflix”.

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

      Right?! Especially since the letter writer is there to “fill a table”. I bet 90% of the time, the table sponsors just have one random chair to fill and don’t really care who warms it. I get invited to stuff like this and while it might benefit ME to network, to them, I’m just a seat filler so they look…IDK…popular.

      1. That'sNotMyName*

        Honestly, that’s it. I’ve worked on these types of events and it can be an ego thing to have a full table. Tables will be set per the number of RSVPs associated with whomever bought it, but a lot of times they’ll RSVP the max and then fill the spots. If they had registered for 9 people instead of 12, it would probably go unnoticed because the table would be set for 9.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          I think it depends on the event. I’ve been happy to go to a couple because my boss’s wife’s company bought a table. They didn’t like the spots going unfilled. They’re charities, so it’s not like money is ever “going to waste,” but it’s usually a nice dinner and entertainment – which has been a treat for me!

          1. Goldie*

            Unfilled seats are a waste because they paid for a meal that no one ate. So it’s good to fill a table.

    3. J!*

      Every time I have an event like that my spouse is like “uh… do you need me to go?” and he’s always so relieved when it’s no. XD Half the time I don’t even want to go! I can’t imagine being upset that that I’m not invited to a spouse’s boring work event.

    4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Exactly, OP was asked as a seat filler; 100% business meeting, not social.
      Spouse must really love catered chicken breast, mashed potatoes and chocolate mousse to want to attend that type of thing.

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

        And usually served only slightly warm, while listening to a bunch of long-winded speeches about how awesome they are. It’s seriously about as much fun as attending a time share sales pitch. Maybe the spouse just really wants a reason to dress up.

      2. Jennifer Strange*

        We have decided that we can’t do chicken for these things anymore because they just get too dried out. We only offer a beef option, a fish option, and a veg option for folks now.

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      I feel like that one is actually a relationship question and the LW didn’t realize it. Do they have nice date nights with their spouse? Does spouse have an unglamorous job and see this as a more prestigious invite than it is, because the best they ever get is donuts in the break room? Spouse is probably feeling down about either the relationship or their own career and complaining about the obligatory gala is their indirect (perhaps even unintentional) way of trying to address it.

      1. the cat's pajamas*

        Well, it could be taking away time from the nights/weekends, too, which could be annoying. I read this as the spouse maybe wanting to not miss time with them.

  3. John*

    Have a hard end time. They show up 10 minutes late? Well, the meeting will still end as planned and if they gripe that you weren’t able to get through everything, “Sorry, I’m in a crunch these days. I allocated as much time as I could get away from my work, but unfortunately, this meeting started late for reasons beyond my control.”

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Yeah I was confused about that. Like ok, you’re on a time crunch. You still get to end at the allotted time. And how much work would you have gotten done in those 10 minutes you were waiting?

      1. Alice*

        It’s vanishly rare that I can’t make good use of 10 minutes of unexpected free time to… triage email
        skim a paper or report that I’ve been saving
        do some stretches and deep breathing
        send someone a thank you note

        1. KHB*

          I do this too, but the problem (at least sometimes) is that you don’t know it’s going to be 10 minutes until it’s already been 10 minutes – so you don’t always know which of those tasks to start, because you don’t know which ones you’re going to have time for.

          1. Robin*

            This!!! And I am not somebody who has an easy time stopping in the middle. If I start one of these things and the late person shows up in the midst of me doing X, then I either drop X and lose my place or make them wait while I finish X, wasting more meeting time!

            Triaging emails I can do though; in the sense that assigning deadlines/importance to a single email takes 30 seconds. Untriaged emails are easy for me to spot, so I do not need to get through them *all* in one go.

          2. Phryne*

            I tend to half finish mails throughout the day and then spend the in-between times and the last half hour of my working day finishing and sending them all. But at least that way I do not forget about them.

        2. Heffalump*

          Some years ago I went to a workshop on time management. The workshop leader called that “snapping the time.”

        3. Phryne*

          I can always use a bonus 10 minutes to clean out my mailbox, especially if it is a very busy time! Because sanitising the mailbox will have been on the backburner and at least a third of the mails have already been dealt with, become obsolete, have a follow up. And cleaning just a little of that gives me space in my head :)
          That being said, I can usually switch between tasks without too much trouble and that is something that depends a lot on the person and the job… I’d like to claim I’m good at multitasking, but in reality I just have a short attention span but adequate coping systems for that.

    2. Ann Ominous*

      I would feel a little passive aggressive saying that it started late “for reasons beyond my control”. I’d prefer saying (and hearing) something like “I only had an hour today, so starting late put us behind unfortunately; I can review the rest of the item by the end of tomorrow/do you want to schedule a follow up for Friday” something like that”

    3. I am Emily's failing memory*

      Yep, stick to the original ending time. It’d also be reasonable in many cases to wait 5-10 minutes and then start without them, or if they really need to be there, wait 10-15 minutes and then cancel and reschedule the meeting for another time.

      I’ve learned from senior managers in my company how to do this in a professional way – the key is really treating it as a simple matter of pragmatism: you need a certain amount of time to cover this content, so you either need to start by X time or you’re just going to end up scheduling a second meeting anyway to cover what you didn’t get to in the first one because you started later.

      It’s very much not something you should use as a passive-aggressive tactic to punish someone for being late, and your tone needs to make it clear that’s not what’s motivating you. In the moment, to those who did show up on time: “I see we’re still missing $_key_person, and there’s a lot of content to cover, so rather than try to rush through it, why don’t we go ahead and reschedule for another time? You can have the rest of this half hour back and I’ll look for a time that works for everyone later this week.” Then, in the updated meeting invitation: “Since not everyone was able to join us on time and we didn’t want to rush through the material after starting later, we agreed to move this meeting to another day that will hopefully work out better for everyone. Thanks to all for your flexibility.”

      Other things you might consider –
      * Something you can do: Schedule meetings with buffer time if possible. Nobody ever complains about blocking off an hour for a meeting and being let out after 45 minutes! In my workplace it’s common for people to even note they’re doing this with something in the meeting invitation like, “We probably won’t need the full hour, but reserving it just in case we run long.” (Of course, use your own judgment about whether you think saying that would tacitly give people permission to show up later knowing there’s buffer – among my coworkers it doesn’t, but YMMY.)

      * Something you can encourage your organization to do: Leadership can encourage people to schedule meetings for 25 or 50 minutes by default instead of 30 or 60. My employer changed a setting in Outlook a couple years ago where those now come up as easy picks in the drop-down for the end time. So if you say the meeting starts at 1:00, the drop-down selector used to just have 1:30, 2:00, 2:30, etc. Now it has 1:25, 1:30, 1:50, 2:00, 2:20, 2:30, 2:50, 3:00, and so often, starting with a 25 minute increment and then hitting every :20, :30, :50:, and :00 minute mark after that. When everything goes smoothly it’s really nice to actually have 5-10 minutes between “back to back” meetings where you can use the facilities, refresh your coffee cup, answer a couple of emails, or just review the materials to get in the right headspace for the upcoming meeting. And when things don’t go smoothly, every meeting has a built-in 5-10 minute overflow buffer that won’t make any late to their next meeting if they stay on.

      1. Sparkle Llama*

        To your first suggestion, it is key to know your audience. My immediate coworkers that works great but there are other people who manage to take up the full time regardless. I learned that I needed to schedule meetings for half an hour instead of an hour when certain people are involved because meetings that should be 15-30 minutes of discussion were taking an hour.

  4. Clisby*

    #4 – This must be one almighty fabulous fundraising event if a spouse is complaining she wasn’t invited as a +1. I’d be like, “Whew! Taking myself out to dinner!”

    1. That'sNotMyName*

      I’m guessing he’s never attended one. Granted, I’m not big on large social events of any kind, I would not feel left out in not getting an invite.

  5. quotient*

    My usual replacement for “No problem” when it actually was a problem but I want to be pleasant about it is “I understand.”

    1. Granny Weatherwax*

      Another option is “thank you for your apology” or something similar. It’s about acknowledging an apology without accepting it

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        I’ve used this one recently. An epic eff-up outside of the realm of my control has cause me to spend upwards of three complete business days trying to correct said eff-up. And it involves health insurance in the US. So you know how much fun I’ve been having.

        Its like “my dude, I’m not accepting this apology when its cost me HOURS of MY time to correct because your corporate won’t permit you to uneff someone’s eff up”

      2. Phryne*

        Oooh, if someone except maybe the executive board used that on me I’d be pissed. It might work in exceptional cases, I can understand Scruffy’s example here, but from a co-worker about a 10 minute delay I’d consider that inexcusably condescending.

        1. Phryne*

          I see that there are a lot of people that use this or really like this as an answer. I’m going to chalk that up to cultural difference.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      “Thanks; so I wanted your input on how to incorporate giant sea turtles into the slider database…”

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I’m trying to get better at responding to apologies with “thank you” instead of “it’s okay/no problem.” Sometimes it’s not okay, and it is a problem, and I’m giving myself permission not to lie about that to make the apologizer feel better.

      So in the OP’s shoes, I’d try for something like this:

      Coworker: Sorry I’m late, my last meeting ran over.
      Me: Thanks. Let’s go ahead and start with an update on X…

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      I usually go with “It happens.” It’s an acknowledgement and sounds vaguely sympathetic

    5. Blue wall*

      I was in class today and one student came in 15 minutes late and said “I’m sorry I’m late.”
      The professor said “welcome”

      I thought this was a great way of acknowledging them but not excusing their lateness.

  6. Knope Knope Knope*

    I use the 7 minute rule. If you’re seven minutes late I take my time back. Also, if OP was on a deadline I would prioritize their own work over a favor when the person you’re helping is late.

    1. NeedRain47*

      Is this magic? Because although you can stop waiting and leave, I’m not sure how you get your time back.

      1. Water Hyacinth*

        lol, “Take your time back” or “Give your time back” is not meant literally. It’s a turn of phrase that means leave/end the meeting.

    2. 3DogNight*

      I do the same thing! Depending on how long the meeting is scheduled, if it’s 30 minutes, then 7 minutes. If it’s an hour, I’ll wait 15.

  7. Jennifer Strange*

    #1 – I agree in a case like this (where they were late for reasons beyond their control) I’d let it go if it’s a one-off, but I’ve also struggled with how to respond to apologies when I do actually feel put out. For things that are a bit more egregious (i.e. turning in something WAY after a deadline or, as was a recent case, an employee visibly not paying attention while I was trying to teach them something) I’ve found a sincere, “Thank you, I appreciate that” works.

    #4 – I work in non-profit fundraising! For us we generally allow every invitation to be for two, but it really does depend and I completely understand why an organization might only be able to extend an invitation to you. The puzzle that is creating a seating arrangement is tricky, and if this is a complimentary ticket (and a work event for you, not a social one) it would be gracious to accept the single ticket. Of course, we still get folks who tell (not ask!) us that they’ll be bringing x number of extra folks, but they’re usually also the VIPs who we’re not going to say no to (and I don’t mean VIPs in that they give us money, but that we want to keep a good relationship with them).

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      “Thank you, I appreciate the apology and understand. Let’s get started.”

      OP #4 what do others attending do? You cant be the only person in this situation. Do others bring a plus 1? Maybe there is a way to discreetly ask. Like if you get the invitation or whatever “would I be able to bring a plus 1?”
      I’m guessing that the husband is feeling a little left out and thinks these are some grand social gatherings, but they (probably) are pretty dull, especially for someone who is not working or involved in the area. Maybe if he attends a few he get bored.

    2. Robin Ellacott*

      I use a smile and “I appreciate that, thanks” as well – assuming it was annoying enough that I really don’t want to say no problem.

      I wouldn’t use it for a minor inconvenience happening for the first time with that person, so it depends on the situation.

      For something really egregious I’d say “I appreciate the apology” with a less light tone.

    3. Old OP #1*

      I’m OP from letter 1! Here several years later (I’m a daily AAM reader) to say I’ve landed on exactly that phrase: “Thank you, I appreciate it.” :D

  8. Smithy*

    Re: Galas/Fundraising events – if these are events within your industry, these types of letters I both find baffling but understanding. These invitations are wildly different from an invitation to a wedding where not including a spouse would be a more clear cut breach of decorum, and for many many people just seen as professional events.

    That being said, every time the Met Gala rolls around I see how that’s covered….it’s very clear that there can be a view of a ‘gala event’ in a ‘ballroom’ that feels far more formal and social. Even though it’s ultimately in the business of fundraising for a nonprofit.

    Now, within this context – there are people who think that spouses should be invited to employer holiday parties and/or people who simply don’t enjoy going to work events (i.e. dinners, parties) solo. Where inviting spouses or families is more common by some employers and to some events, it is by no means standard. Which goes back to Galas – which for the most part are work events and while some may have a plus one standard, it is not across the board.

    1. Clisby*

      A fundraising event is a work event – it’s not the same as an office party, which at least in my experience, is a social event. I would never have minded missing an office party, but I can’t even IMAGINE being upset that I wasn’t invited to a work event, unless it was something incredibly fabulous. Even then, I wouldn’t be upset – possibly disappointed – that I didn’t get to go on the trip to Paris where we dined al fresco by the Eiffel Tower.

  9. Neon*

    “No problem, the ten minutes is coming out of your meeting.”

    If somebody schedules 30 minutes for me to help them with a problem it’s kind of all the same to me whether that’s 30 minutes of me helping, or 20 minutes of help following 10 minutes of waiting.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      I mean, I wouldn’t phrase it like that, but I think a “Unfortunately I only budgeted 30 minutes for us to meet, so I’ve got stop at 2:00. Let’s see if we can get through all of this by then” would be fine.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yeah, I was thinking “No problem – I do have a hard stop at 2:00 though, so let’s jump in.” Still collegial and closes the loop the way other responses don’t, but gives them enough of a hint that you’re busy.

        1. Ann Ominous*

          Yep. Also saying ‘thanks’ instead of ‘no problem’ in response to an apology (and then something like ‘I only have till 2pm, so let’s jump right in’) sounds to me a little more clear that it was an imposition. And that you’re not being passive aggressive at them (I try to treat people like I hope they’d treat me when I am the one who screws up next time).

          1. High Score!*

            Some people say “thanks for waiting!” as some sort of deranged office power move. So at least the late person apologized. As long as it’s not habitual then it’s forgivable.

            1. Robin*

              This is fascinating because I have seen people advise others to say something like “thanks for waiting” or “thank you for your patience” instead of “sorry I’m late”. The context is sometimes to help chronic over-apologizers stop apologizing, but I have also seen it presented as a way of focusing on the positive.

              The idea for the latter is that thanking a person for a positive quality makes them feel good and makes the interaction about something pleasant while apologizing reminds/reinforces the fact that something unpleasant happened and centers the apologizer being “bad” in some way.

              Obviously, tone and context matter a lot, but it is certainly interesting to see how the same interaction could be a sincere attempt to keep things pleasant and interpreted entirely differently.

              1. Be Gneiss*

                Yes, I read that and thought “ouch!” I’m a die-hard midwestern over-apologizer, and have “ope! Sorry”-ed my way through every grocery store, and have been trying to remember to try the “thank you” approach….but now I’ll be worried that it’s taken as passive-aggressive.

                1. Allonge*

                  The context is also that this is in longer term relationships than random people meeting in a grocery store. If you are always late from a meeting with a friend, the ‘sorry’ can feel weird because it’s the 325th time and always apology and no change.

                  So in this context, thanking someone for waiting can be a better move as it’s at least focusing on the positive.

                  If you bump into someone in a grocery store, say sorry!

            2. Lenora Rose*

              I don’t think this is a “power move”, deranged or not; it’s common advice to do gratitude instead of apology, especially for chronic over-apologizers. Assuming anyone who does it is trying to pull a power move is going to make more interactions negative than assuming that, even if it grates on you a bit, they’re someone who is trying to apologize less and present positively more often, or someone who read an advice column you disagree with.

            3. I would prefer not to*

              How on earth do you conclude that “thanks for waiting” is a “deranged power move”!?!

              It is a very, very normal thing to say, and very polite.

    2. I would prefer not to*

      “No problem, the 10 minutes is coming out of your meeting” is shockingly unprofessional. Aggressive, unaccommodating, emotional, hostile.

      Much worse than being 10 minutes late to a meeting, once.

  10. I'm just here for the cats!*

    Letter 3. I think we need some more context about this as it seems really odd. How did the LW act when they interrupted the conversation? It sounds like it was a phone call. Were you rude? Did you take the phone and hang up? Do you have a habit of doing things like this? Did you crack down and say that he can’t take any calls ever and he is robbing the company?

    Also, when were the conversations? If the employee was on lunch, that is their time, and you can’t dictate if they have personal calls or not. Also, does this seem to be a one-off. Like maybe they were trying to get ahold of their doctor’s office, or maybe their child’s school called and the Sally is ill.

    1. 3DogNight*

      These are the same things I was wondering. We don’t have enough context to know if this is an issue. Was he on the phone with his daughter who was on her way to the emergency room? (Probably not, since he stayed at work, but…) Was she snippy about the personal conversation? As in: Well, I’m your boss, so you do what I say, when I say it!

    2. Ann Ominous*

      Yeah, this reads to me as if there was a ton of context the letter writer is leaving out.

      The lack of description/details on the interaction very much reminds me of a former coworker who would tell you things that sounded absolutely outrageous …. till you got the rest of the story (rarely from her, though). Then you’d realize all her attempts at manipulation.

      1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

        IDK, there may be extenuating circumstances, but unless the manager is doing something like grabbing the phone away from his employee I have a hard time believing that going to HR on this is a move that radiates professionalism.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          This. Were it any of these hypothetical circumstances, I feel like the employee would have mentioned them along with their threat to take it to HR, not just the generic being disrespectful.

          I have a highly functional HR department, though, and I am pretty sure I know how my HR head would handle this one (and, that if there were extenuating circumstances or issues with my approach, that I would be given that feedback as well).

        2. RB Purchase*

          The letter made me think of being in college working at a hotel and all of us genuinely thought you could just “go to HR” when your manager made you mad. My guess on this one was that neither the LW nor employee knows much about what HR is really for.

      2. Office Lobster DJ*

        Having worked with similar types, I had the same reaction to the missing details and seemingly outrageous story. Something more is up here.

    3. Glitsy Gus*

      I was wondering this as well. Yeah, if they are on the clock you can interrupt for work topics. But you can still be reasonable and polite about it. Do you walk in and just start talking at this person? Ignore the fact they were talking to someone else completely? Or are you doing the normal, “Hey, sorry to interrupt. Bob, can we chat about the widget numbers?”

    4. Good Wilhelmina Hunting*

      Also, does this employee have a track record of being oversensitive, or is the LW one of those bosses who is so poor at reading the room it borders on creepy? I had a boss once who was a hoverer. It didn’t matter if you were on the phone, clearly in the middle of something urgent, or just taking your lunch al desko, he would hover just the other side of your desk until he caught your eye so he could launch straight into explaining a task without preamble. One day, my bank phoned up – I’d been urgently waiting for a call back from them to sort out something on my account, so I had to take the call. It was only a tiny office with nowhere private to go to take the call, and before cellphones were as universal as today. While I was in the middle of very personal details with the bank, Boss stands literally inches away the other side of my phone waiting to explain work to me, tone deaf enough to not only fail to read the room, but to ignore my shaking head and waving hand gesturing one minute. If I’d had this sort of thing twice in one day, I’d be pretty annoyed too.

    5. Office Lobster DJ*

      Thank you for pointing out it may have been a phone call. I had been picturing idle chitchat between co-workers, but interrupting phone calls multiple times feels different. (For me, if I’m on the phone at work, it’s because something has Gone Awry, possibly Seriously Awry, and this is the only time I can handle it.)

      I don’t know what to make of: “If it had been a work-related conversation, I probably would have responded differently.” Does LW mean they wouldn’t have interrupted a work-related conversation at all? Or was there something about how they approached the interruption that would have been different? That sentence could be hiding quite a bit about this interaction and why the employee felt it was disrespectful.

      1. Ann Ominous*

        That’s a good catch about the nuance. What exactly would LW have done differently in the way they interrupted if they were talking about work versus not work? And why?

        When my folks are talking, regardless whether it’s about sports or about work, I come up, apologize for interrupting, and tell them what I need.

        I guess if they were in the middle of a work call with a work person, I would say something like ‘I have something super urgent, can you call them back” or “come see me when you’re done, just got a new task that I want to run by you”. I was wondering if I would expect them to immediately get off a personal call … I don’t think I would, because they know what the requirement is and I trust they’ll get it to me, and if they need to wrap up with their kid’s school or the bank or whatever, that’s fine. And if they’re just chit chatting, then they will say “ok well I’ll talk at ya later” and get to work.

        If they’re talking about non-work I will apologize and then ask for what I need, or if it’s really informal I might act like I’m joining the conversation but steer it to something else jokingly “speaking of amazing football plays, we just got a new inquiry and need to answer it by close of business, it’s in your email”
        “What does that have to to do with football?”
        “No idea, I don’t watch football” and smile and go away. But my team has a silly sense of humor like that.

        If they’re talking about work I will tell them whether what I just said is more important or less important so they can prioritize, but I do that anyway for the things I know they’re working on. But I don’t base the way I interrupt on the content of their conversation.

        I have WAY overthought this.

  11. KHB*

    Q1: For something like this, I would respond with “Well, you’re here now, so let’s get started” with just enough annoyance in my voice that it shows, but not enough to make it A Big Thing.

    Then, I’d be extra vigilant if these people ever wanted to make a claim on my time again. The next time they wanted to schedule a meeting with me, I’d say “I can give you from X:00 to Y:00, but no more, so let’s please try to start right on time at X:00.”

    Alison says to only do this if it’s “a pattern,” but every pattern starts with a single incident – and some of the letters from earlier this week show the kinds of dysfunction that can happen when patterns don’t get nipped in the bud soon enough. Better to make it clear early, and often, that my time is not just free for the taking.

    Meetings are made of people – they don’t just “run a bit over” all by themselves. The colleagues could have said “I have a meeting with OP at X:00, so if we’re not done with this by then, I’ll need to make an exit.” They chose not to do that, and that says at least a little bit about the value they place on your time.

    1. NeedRain47*

      This is the best advice. My workplace had a CEO who was big on starting and ending meetings on time and as a person who is always on time unless it’s truly beyond my control, I loved that. Now they are gone and people are less conscious about it.

    2. High Score!*

      True, but if they were in a meeting with someone higher up that they couldn’t cut off then it’s understandable.

    3. yala*

      That sounds needlessly passive aggressive. Maybe patterns start with a single incident, but if it is the first such incident, there’s no harm in showing grace. It’s unlikely that the “Well you’re here now *mild irritation*” response would discourage someone from being late in the future.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Nod. My boss is always late to meetings with me. Drives me nuts even though I know that twenty people are interrupting her every second.

      2. biobotb*

        Exactly. Particularly if the late-comer didn’t have control over being late, being unnecessarily passive aggressive won’t change anything. It will just make the person waiting seem a bit petty.

  12. hayling*

    When someone is really late and they apologize, I also don’t want I just don’t say “it’s OK” because it’s not! I just continue the conversation and say something like “Good morning, nice to see you. Well I’m excited to chat, let’s get into it…” or whatever.

  13. alienor*

    That first letter reminds me of the person who wrote in to complain that they didn’t want to say “Fine, thanks” in response to “How are you” because it was disingenuous if they weren’t feeling fine right at that moment. This is one of those situations where you say “No problem” even if you’re annoyed, because saying anything designed to (either openly or subtly) convey that it is a problem will come across as hostile and make it hard to work with that person in the future.

    Mind you, I work in an environment where everyone has back to back meetings all day, so we’re all used to just starting without the latecomers if it’s a group meeting, or responding to email while we wait if it’s one on one. But even if OP doesn’t, it still doesn’t seem worth souring a relationship just for the brief satisfaction of being snippy.

    1. sarah*

      Agreed, some of the suggestions in the comments feel a bit hostile given the circumstances. It would be one thing if it were half an hour late, or happening repeatedly, but ten minutes late one time? Minor inconveniences that are out of anyone’s control are just part of most jobs.

    2. allathian*

      I still wouldn’t say “no problem” when their lateness certainly was a problem. I don’t think there’s anything hostile in saying something like, “I appreciate that, thanks, and let’s go to agenda item 1.” When people are on time, I’ll happily spend a few minutes at the start of the meeting on small talk. But if they’re more than a few minutes late, then it’s clear they don’t care about maintaining a pleasant working relationship with me, so might as well get down to business. But then, I’m in a culture with low hierarchies in general and in my organization in particular, and where timeliness is valued as a virtue and constant lateness is seen as a moral failing. Using the next meeting as a reason to end the current one as scheduled, pretty much regardless of the hierarchical relationship of the participants of a meeting, is totally acceptable in my organization. Especially for virtual meetings, I do acknowledge that it’s more difficult to leave a meeting room in the middle of a meeting.

      1. allathian*

        But we also have Teams on our phones, so if people are running late to their next meeting, they’ll often message on Teams that they will be late. Even that goes a long way towards reducing the resentment.

      2. I would prefer not to*

        …”then it’s clear they don’t care about maintaining a pleasant working relationship with me…”

        No it isn’t. That isn’t clear at all. That’s a subjective interpretation. Taking it personally like this makes no sense.

        Your suggested responses are good and I agree with a lot of your comment but no, you cannot make this assumption at all. SO many reasons are behind lateness.

  14. ecnaseener*

    Sometimes, like with #3 here, I wonder whether when Alison says “I’d take this as a flag that something’s going on there that needs your attention” she really means “I suspect you know perfectly well that something is very wrong and you’re fixating on the wrong thing.”
    Not always! But when the only question is “Can he go to HR to complain about me” that sounds like a really adversarial relationship, and potentially like LW sees everything through a punitive lens…

  15. ABCYaBYE*

    Letter 4 – Your husband needs to be a little more understanding, I think. You’re being asked because of your business involvement. Sometimes there aren’t even numbers of seats, especially as you phrased it “filling a table.” If sometimes it works for you to bring him, great! But he has to understand that this is work for you, and an opportunity for you to do some networking that you might not otherwise have, as you said you wouldn’t attend without being invited.

    Also, in my opinion a lot of these work type events aren’t exactly the social scene he might think they are. If I were in his shoes, as much as I’d like to hang out with my spouse, I’d be happy to trade a suit and rubber chicken dinner for my slippers, pizza, a cold beer and whatever I want to watch on TV.

  16. Ari*

    Two of my worst pet peeves: 1) people scheduling back-to-back meetings for a large chunk of the day and 2) people who cannot end meetings on time. Runner-up: people who insist on taking the full amount of time allotted to the meeting even when the scheduled topic is concluded (e.g., introducing a new topic “since I have you on the phone”).

    Many people don’t realize they can leave meetings early. Many people CAN’T leave meetings early. Many people need a few minutes for a restroom break or snack before jumping on their next meeting. And many people don’t understand the impact that any of that has on others around them.

    If people are consistently late, I would reschedule personally, as long as it’s not time sensitive. You may also consider whether any of the work can be done via email instead of in a meeting.

    1. High Score!*

      I’m in an engineering role and sometimes we cut meetings short but occasionally run over because we’re brain storming or being otherwise productive. Our meetings are usually far apart and we drop casually.
      Management and sales personnel have to meet with many people every day so they have no choice to book back to back. Sometimes clients are important and need longer than planned and it’s tougher for them to drop. A lower level manager might not be able to drop an important meeting with a higher level manager.
      Someone in an assistant position might not feel like they are empowered to have a hard cut off.
      It just depends on your role and the circumstance. No one wants back to back meetings or to not be able to drop.

    2. Mockingjay*

      I work in a technical support role across teams, so it’s not unusual for me to have back to back meetings arranged by different people. I need to be at both, so if the first runs over, sometimes I’m stuck. It’s just…business. I’ll pop on the chat if I’m late and ask a colleague to fill me in (after the meeting) on anything I missed during the first 10 minutes.

  17. Ann Ominous*

    I find that saying “thanks” (instead of ‘no problem’ in response to an apology can be really helpful. It acknowledges that they did actually do something worthy of apology, without getting into a long discussion about how they are bad.

    Saying ‘thanks’ and ‘so here is how we now must adjust things’ (like change the content of our meeting or end on time anyway) sends the message that actions have consequences (not punishments but natural outcomes).

    Other options would be to do what Alison said, like tell them proactively next time they want to meet with you that you have a hard stop and need to start on time.

  18. LizB*

    I had a weird one this week where a coworker did seriously inconvenience me, and apologized… for the wrong aspect of their behavior. Let’s say I’m supposed to write all our Llama Reports; they decided to write one on their own, left it until the last minute, then got sick and couldn’t actually finish, and it was due that day with legal consequences if it was late, so I suddenly had a whole surprise Llama Report to write and submit ASAP. They apologized for being sick and therefore not being able to do the report themselves. That’s not what I’m concerned about, though – I’m concerned about their decision to not let me do my actual job! I’m still weighing whether I should find a polite way to say, “You definitely don’t have to apologize for being sick, but in the future, please give these assignments to me from the start. We wouldn’t be in this position if you’d delegated like you’re supposed to.”

    1. High Score!*

      I’m voting for option #2, for the sake of your future sanity, spell it out to them. If they are above you maybe soften it bit – not much.

    2. Ann Ominous*

      “I wonder if you were saving this one for yourself instead of delegating it to me as a favor to me to lighten my workload, or maybe you had some concerns with my work? In the future my preference would be for you to delegate all these to me right away since it’s my job and I enjoy it, and if you have any concerns about my quality I’d love to know so I can address them”.

  19. Eldritch Office Worker*

    I usually do an “okay, let’s get started” or say we’re tight on time but we’ll try to get through as much of the agenda as possible. I don’t act like I’m not inconvenienced, but I don’t spend a lot of time on it either. Because, well, there’s not the time to spend.

    This approach of course depends a little on your seniority and your capital but I’ve found it the most effective.

  20. I should really pick a name*

    “Thank you for the apology”

    What action does your spouse expect to be taken? Do they want you to stop going to these events if they’re not invited? Do they understand that you have no control over the guest list?

  21. Esmeralda*

    Late arrivers:

    “I understand. Unfortunately, I only have until [original time you planned to be done] to give you a hand here as I have another obligation then.” They don’t have to know that your other obligation is to work on your project — meetings aren’t the only reason for “I have a hard stop at X time”

    You don’t have to start a cascade of lateness in your own schedule, even if the other person had a legitimate reason to be late. (Unless of course it’s someone you really have to give the full time to, even if it makes you late to the next thing)

    And this is why I tell my newbies — schedule time to get to your next meeting. Leave a break between meetings because they often do run over and also you may need to make notes, do a follow up task, prep for your next meeting. Don’t back to back it.

    1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      So true!
      Outlook now has am option to plan meetings to end early, I.e. a meetin at 10 is suggested to end at 10:25 or 10:50 rather than the traditional 10:30 or 11.
      I had to set up a recurring half-hour “lunch break (movable)” appointment in my calendar to prevent too many back-to-back meetings. I’ll happily move it to suit but if I don’t get some break between 11 and 2 I might get hangry.

      1. Esmeralda*

        I work in higher ed, so at the end of each semester, I block out for the next semester. Then meetings have to fit around the blocks. Or I can move the blocks if need be. But yeah, I make sure I can get my breaks

      2. Stoppin' by to chat*

        My company has adopted this as well. It’s even now a config in our enterprise Outlook to include :05 as an option when scheduling a meeting (i.e. the drop-down menu for start and end times include 1, 1:05, 1:30, 1:35)

        I start all of my meetings at 5 mins after the hour or half-hour.

  22. Baron*

    Kind of like people asking “How are you?” and not really wanting to know how you are, there’s a difference between sincerely apologizing for something and just casually saying, “Oh, sorry.” The person isn’t necessarily actually sorry. (Nor need they be; it’s not necessarily their fault they were delayed.)

    This isn’t exactly analogous, but this week, I’ve had a recruiter keep scheduling calls with me and then ghosting on me because other things come up. After the fourth time, she said she was sorry in a kind of casual way, and I said, “I was certainly beginning to feel disrespected, so thank you. Your apology is appreciated and accepted.” That was sort of an escalation – sort of me saying, “Yes, you SHOULD be actually apologizing, not just flippantly tossing off a ‘sorry'” – and I wouldn’t approach it that way with people I had to work with regularly, but with a recruiter in whose job I’m less interested with every ghosting? It was a little gratifying.

  23. Veryanon*

    That’s so frustrating. I’ve gotten much more assertive in saying “I’m sorry but I have a hard stop at XXX time” or if a meeting is going long, saying, “I’m sorry, but I have another meeting and I have to jump off now.” Usually that will prompt people to wrap up quickly.

    Some of the people I regularly meet with are notoriously long-winded, so I’ll be up front right at the start of the meeting that I have a hard stop and can’t go over. If they keep talking anyway, I figure I warned them and can leave the meeting without guilt or hard feelings.

  24. Not a Dr*

    I say something like, “It happens to us all sometimes. I have a hard stop at 2pm, so lets jump in!”

    1. Kyrielle*

      This! “It happens” is my favorite way to acknowledge that hey, this is life, life is imperfect, but I’m not mad, just inconvenienced. Like, it happens, let’s not spend more time on it. You don’t want to use it too often with one person – if you’re having to say it a lot, that’s a bad sign – but it’s a graceful way to acknowledge a rare event and move on.

  25. Jasmine Clark*

    Well you yourself are behind deadline on a project, so you should understand that people are late for things sometimes, right? Have an attitude of forgiveness just like you want your boss or client to have for you with your own late project. Just say “it’s okay” and let it go. It’s just 10 minutes… not worth getting upset over.

    1. allathian*

      Depends on how often it happens. Once every 6 months? Let it go. But it also depends on the length of the meeting. 10 minutes for a 2 hour meeting isn’t a disaster and can come out of the small talk at the start, but 10 minutes out of a 30-minute meeting is a third of the scheduled time, and that’s too much. They should at least text me to let me know that they’re running late.

  26. Wow, really?*

    Flashbacks to a boss who loved to schedule meetings. I’m pretty sure it was just an “enforced listening” kind of thing on his part. We had two “everybody in, brainstorming” group meetings with him, the sales boss, and the sales team each week, and they’d run longer than an hour every time. The sales boss in said meetings would take a phone call from our other office during that meeting, and we’d have to sit there and listen to his half of the phone call until he was done.

    Then our meeting would resume. The sales people would drop out because they had meetings with clients. The bosses would start talking business that was strictly boss stuff. So we’d be stuck in these meetings 2-4 hours a week when we could actually be working, and then get complaints from them about our work not being done. It was nuts.

    We’d beg to make them shorter or end when not everyone could be present, to no avail. And the meetings only came to an end when corporate started requiring all bosses to do ridiculous amounts of extra paperwork per week. Incorporation isn’t always a good thing, but I appreciated it for that.

    1. TrixM*

      In situations like that, I have actually piped up and said, “Is there anything else you need input from [team] about, or that we need to know? Otherwise we might drop off, because there are a few urgent things on.”

      That would either get them to the point or get us out of the meeting. Obviously it depends on context – this has generally been medium-sized meetings involving teams and bosses in a pretty unhierarchical area, not the executive GM announcing strategy. And I have reasonable social capital as a senior tech in an important specialist area.

      It’s obviously more difficult in person, but I have managed to request occasionally that multi-hour meetings involving teams X, Y, bosses and vendors cover the technical part of the agenda first, then we can exit before the boss confab (sometimes with a sacrifice left behind to discuss tech matters if required, and with the understanding that others may be summoned back if necessary).

  27. Michelle Smith*

    LW1 I don’t know if your meeting was in-person or virtual. All my meetings are virtual because my boss and other teammates work in other parts of the country. While it is helpful for people to communicate that they are running late, it doesn’t give me any time back if I’m sitting there twiddling my thumbs. If I have something else to take care of, I just continue working on it until people show up. I don’t know how easy it is for you to bring projects with you to meetings, but if you can bring your laptop, do it. You’ll be far less annoyed about lateness, which often cannot be avoided, if you are able to use that time productively.

  28. Quinalla*

    It’s an option to just say No problem anyway, but for some saying that when it isn’t true your tone will convey your feelings which can be worse that saying something neutral like It happens or I get it which acknowledges the apology without absolving them.

    I also think it is fine to wait a certain amount of time and then just cancel/reschedule the meeting. Especially if you won’t be able to get what you need done in the reduced time.

  29. GythaOgden*

    Turn it round. How would you want to be answered when you’re sorry for being late? Would you want your sincere apology to be met with stony silence or a polite but unforgiving phrase? We all make mistakes and none of us should be forgetting what we would want if we ended up being the one who needed to apologise.

    Always be polite. I’m often early for things — because of not driving and having to plan public transport, and also because of the first flight I took completely on my own and almost not getting it because I didn’t realise how early you had to go through security. (I was about 5 hours early for the return flight!) But I don’t hold lateness against people that much. My time is cheap, and I’m not ever in much of a hurry unless I can’t find a bus to get me where I should be, but it’s always give and take.

    There are two main reasons people are late:

    1. They’re slow and lazy (or pretty laid back and relaxed)

    2. They’re like my mum and trying to do too much all at once.

    1 isn’t great (hubby and I learned to live on ‘Dave time’ when dealing with his BFF) but 2 is probably the main reason in business why someone might be late, particularly by only 10 minutes. My mum is a full 2 on this but I know the reason I’m waiting at the park and ride bus stop for a lift back to hers for ten minutes after I get there is because she was trying to get a washing load on while planning the church fete, attending a governor’s meeting on zoom about employing a new headteacher and telling my oldest nephew to let his little bro have a turn on the ‘Game Boy’. At least Jimothy can use a Switch in the car.

    The other thing about acting with grace, as I said, is that next time it will be you who’s late and need forgiveness for it. If you want people to be forgiving when you get stuck in traffic after a flash flood hit the roundabout that’s under roadworks for 90 weeks (and no, that’s not a typo, that’s our local roundabout and the only way in and out of the township in which I live) then…you need to be forebearing.

    We all make mistakes and learn from them. It’s easy to say this from my perspective as someone whose time is cheap, but since I am usually the early bird, I have long since learned that it happens and I can’t control other people.

  30. Forgot my name again*

    Thinking about back-to-back meetings and the fact that they don’t build in breaks for staff, I’m reminded of when I was at university, and the science lectures were run 9-10, 10-11, 11-12 etc. This was done on the basis that lecturers understood that they had 50 minutes, with 5 minutes get-in and 5 minutes get-out for the students. That way there was an agreed amount of time lecturers would wait for their class to rock up, and sufficient time for comfort breaks and individual questions before going to the next lecture. I guess this requires buy-in across the board, but it worked really well here.

  31. Marna Nightingale*

    Here’s the thing. You are required to “excuse” the minor lateness of your colleagues, because they are your colleagues.

    There is no way to respond to an apology for being ten minutes late with any variant on “yes, well, you SHOULD be sorry” where you come out of this looking good. Or feeling good, honestly.

    I think some of what’s going on here is that there are two questions: how do you respond to “I’m sorry”, and “How do you respond to people being late for a work thing you agreed to do for them”?

    The answer to the first one is that yes, you say “that’s okay, it happens.”

    The answer to the second one is that you rush the meeting, rebook the meeting, or cancel the meeting depending on facts not currently in evidence.

  32. I would prefer not to*

    Some people here seem to imagine they are perfect! OK, maybe you are never, every late. Well done. But you will make other mistakes and want your colleagues to be understanding.

    For example, leaping to the worst-possible-faith conclusions when a colleague is ten minutes late. That’s a mistake.

    Taking it personally and getting upset because “they didn’t prioritise your time.” (Yes, maybe other people are literally more important than you, because they’re an important client or influential stakeholder or the boss.)

    Making completely irrational assumptions about why people are late.

    Ironically, all these things are disrespectful to your colleagues and show you don’t prioritise having a good working relationship with them.

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