my boss told me to meet weekly with my coworker … but my coworker won’t do it

A reader writes:

I have a coworker, Jim, who is in the same department as me, and our work sometimes overlaps. We are both managers and havebeen at our company for the same amount of time.

I’ve had some trouble communicating with Jim and getting answers/information I need. He’s not great about responding to IM’s and due to the nature of his job, he’s often away from his desk so I can’t easily pop by to catch him. He’s better with email, and we do email back and forth quite a bit, but I don’t think it’s feasible to strictly communicate with him over email. Some things are better discussed in person because they involve one of us showing the other how something works, how to do something, where a problem is physically located, etc.

Our department head asked that I schedule a weekly standing meeting with Jim so we have a designated time every week to check in/catch up about outstanding items. The meeting would maybe take 10-15 minutes, and if neither of us has anything to discuss, we can always cancel. I explained this to Jim when I set up the meeting series, and he seemed to be fine with it at the time.

Since setting up these meetings, I have yet to actually meet with Jim because he keeps canceling on me, even if I have things I need to talk to him about. This past week he asked if I could email anything I needed to talk to him about, which I did, even though some things probably needed to be talked about face-to-face. He did get back to me with answers to my questions, and also indicated that moving forward, he would prefer to keep our communication to email.

I let our boss know about this, and he urged me to reach back out to Jim and explain that getting some regular face time with each other was important. He also suggested I ask if there was a better date/time to meet. I relayed both things to Jim and he responded by saying he understood and was fine with keeping our standing meeting.

Today he emailed me and said he would be unable to meet with me for the next two weeks; next week he has a vendor meeting at the same time, and the following week he will be going out of town on the next day and needs to prepare. He asked me to email him any items I need to talk to him about.

I’m starting to get the feeling that Jim just doesn’t want to meet with me at all. I’m frustrated that I have spent so much time and energy trying to better communicate with him and we have gotten nowhere. I’m trying not to take this personally, but it’s been difficult as I know he has regular meetings with other people and makes time for various coworkers in the organization. We work pretty closely together and have always gotten along, and I’m starting to wonder if he has a problem with me?

I do think it would be helpful to meet, mostly because I have sometimes had a difficult time communicating with him, and there has been some miscommunication between us in the past (when talking over IM or email). I don’t think we need to meet every week if neither of us has items to talk about, but I would appreciate the opportunity to speak to him when there are things that need to be discussed, especially considering the miscommunication that has happened in the past.

At this point I’m not sure what to do. Should I let him know that the request to meet weekly came from our boss, so we should honor that? Should I go back to my boss and let him know that Jim doesn’t seem to want to meet? I don’t want to “tattle” on him, but I’m at a loss and don’t know what to do!

Respond to his email saying he needs to cancel for the next two weeks and say this: “I do need to meet with you in person at least one of those weeks; it’s something (boss) has specifically asked us to do. If the scheduled time doesn’t work, can you suggest a day and time next week that does work for you?”

In other words, don’t just accept the cancellation; push back. Make it clear that you have a need to meet and you want to make it happen.

And then at whatever point you do get to meet with him, you could just ask the question point-blank: “I get the sense that you’d rather not have a standing meeting and would prefer to use email. I do feel strongly that we should try it, especially since (boss) asked us to, and I often have stuff for you that’s not well suited to email. While I understand it’s not your preference, are you willing to try it the next few weeks and see how it goes?”

On your side of it: do everything you can to keep these meetings really tight. Send a written agenda beforehand laying out clear outcomes you want to get from the meeting, don’t spend a lot of time on small talk, be reasonably concise, and be mindful of time (although not the point that you’re sacrificing the whole point of meeting in person). My guess is that he’s someone who often finds meeting in person less efficient, so the more you can demonstrate that these meetings will be efficient, the more open to them he might be.

On that note: any chance you’re … well, a talker? Nothing in your letter gives the impression that you ramble, but it’s also true that when I’ve really avoided meetings or phone calls with someone and aggressively steered them toward email instead, it’s because I felt like meeting would take up way more time than was actually needed. If he were avoiding meeting with everyone, I’d worry less about that — but if he’s only doing it with you, it’s worth considering whether something like that is going on.

If none of this works and Jim still resists meeting with you, then yeah, at that point you probably do need to go back to your boss and say you tried to make it work but Jim just isn’t up for it. That’s not about tattling; it’s about closing the loop with your boss on a clear and specific thing he asked you to do.

{ 273 comments… read them below }

  1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    I think you absolutely need to clarify that these meetings are coming at the request of your boss. This isn’t a social call or your own personal need to meet face to face, this is a requirement of his(?) manager and he needs to make time for them.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      No kidding. OP’s manager is being strangely hands-off here.

      The department head should have told both OP and Jim to get the meeting set up. DH outsourcing this to OP makes it seem to me like DH is trying to not ruffle Jim’s feathers but rather leave that uncomfortable conversation to OP.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yes, the manager should have just told Jim to join the meetings. The manager is willing to give clear directions to OP, but not to Jim. Jim is probably difficult to with with and this has become a “missing stair”. The manager doesn’t want to communicate with Jim for the same reasons LW doesn’t like to. And it’s easier for the manager to tell LW to keep trying than to manage Jim.

        This is really bad management. Telling Jim to attend meetings is one of the clearest types of feedback to give. If the manager struggles to do that, I have doubts and concerns about the rest of their management skills.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          Nothing here suggests Jim is a missing stair rather than someone who just really dislikes meetings. Tell him they’re something the boss needs him to do, and keep them short and focused on only those questions that really do need to be addressed in person, without any “since we’re here anyway” additions.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I wouldn’t say he’s necessarily a missing stair, but it does seem odd that the department head is putting so much pressure on LW to convince Jim to meet with them, instead of telling Jim it’s a requirement. I don’t know if that’s because the DH doesn’t talk to Jim, if Jim doesn’t listen to them, or what.

            It definitely has the whiff of “It’s easier to apply extra pressure to [reasonable person] to accommodate [unreasonable person] than it would be to hold [unreasonable person] to a normal standard.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              Yes. This should be the manager handling the Jim Problem, not making it the LW’s Problem. As it is, the LW is trying to do part of the manager’s job, but without the authority to enforce it, and not being able to do her own, while Jim just…does Jim.

              1. I.T. Phone Home*

                The letter only mentions talking to the dept head once about Jim cancelling meetings. I think it’s fine for a boss to tell senior employees to set something up, and if it has a bumpy start but both employees have always been reasonable and professional in the past, to ask them to take a second swing at working it out on their own. Calling this “pressure” or a “missing stair” or “making it LW’s problem” feels like fanfic based on the letter I read.

          2. Mollee*

            Have Jim schedule the meetings. You’ve scheduled the meetings for the past few months, now it’s Jim’s turn. You are not Jim’s admin.

            1. K*

              This seems like a bad strategy if the goal is to actually have the meeting. Jim seems like he’d rather not have the meetings. If he’s responsible for scheduling them he might just not do it.

        2. Working Class Lady*

          Exactly. I’m wondering why the DH would tell this to one party but not the other, especially if the other party is refusing to listen.

        3. K*

          We have no way of knowing what the manager has or hasn’t said to Jim. For all we know he’s gotten the same directions as the letter writer.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        Agreed – the OP’s manager should have instructed BOTH the OP & Jim to meet regularly.

        If Jim doesn’t comply after the OP follows Allison’s advice, I think the OP should start cc’ing their manager on her responses to Jim’s rejections of the meetings.

      3. HR Friend*

        I don’t think Manager is doing anything wrong here. Setting up a meeting with a colleague is pretty low stakes, and LW & Jim are also managers so presumably somewhat senior level contributors. Asking their own manager to step in to help coordinate scheduling would look funny to me – something an inexperienced or low-skilled person would need help with. And Manager surely doesn’t want to micromanage, so would let LW/Jim figure this out themselves.

        1. WellRed*

          But Jim might be chafing at the idea that his coworker is trying to set up meetings whereas if he knew his boss suggested this it might help (though I’d guess Jim is meeting resistant in general). That’s not micromanaging, that’s giving Jim information he should have if he doesn’t.

        2. Reebee*

          Respectfully hard disagree. It’s not about scheduling meetings or micro-managing or looking “funny” or weird.

          Senior manager is requiring these meetings, and making a lower-level manager handle a peer who keeps finding excuses to not engage. Accordingly, this is most definitely back in the senior manager’s court as the originator of the directive, which means the underlying problem here is a senior manager who refuses to manages.

        3. Debby*

          I think maybe you are missing the point here: The Manager is insisting that the meetings must take place, yet the LW can’t get her co-worker to comply. It is not in her scope of responsibility to make her co-worker attend the meetings. I don’t think any of us have a problem with a Manager making the request, it becomes a problem when the co-worker refused to attend, and on more than one occasion. This is when the Manager needs to step in and speak to the co-worker and tell him that the meeting WILL happen. Or, tell the LW to forget the meetings and just continue with the emails. But whichever option it is up to the Manager to make it happen.

          1. HR Friend*

            The way I’m reading it, the manager doesn’t care that much. They’re definitely not insisting upon anything. The manager asked LW to set up a recurring meeting, LW tried and went to manager for help when Jim canceled. Manager said “try again”. LW set up the meetings again, and they conflicted with other meetings for Jim.

            LW needs to communicate with Jim. There’s a ton going on in LW’s head that’s in this letter, and it’s not manager’s job to .. well.. manage that (:

            1. Cicely*

              “I let our boss know about this [Jim preferring emails to meetings], and he urged me to reach back out to Jim and explain that getting some regular face time with each other was important.”

              Yeah, I’d say “urge” and “important” conveys that the manager does care “that much.”

            2. amoeba*

              Is it really normal in other workplaces to just cancel meetings if there’s a scheduling conflict? Especially one-on-ones? Where I work, there’d definitely be the expectation to reschedule (that’s what the “propose new time” function in Outlook is for!)
              Just cancelling without providing alternatives would be so, so rude here. And the idea of never even having 15 mins to talk to a coworker you work closely with would be ridiculous.

        4. umami*

          I tend to agree – if I tell one of my staff that a resolution to an issue they are having with a colleague is to schedule weekly meetings with someone, then I expect them to be able to get that to happen. If they tell me it isn’t happening, I would coach them on ways to get it to happen like this manager did. Sounds like the DH is trying to help LW resolve an issue. I don’t get the impression that DH is requiring the meetings, so coaching LW on how to get what they want from Jim seems like the right move.

          1. Nocturna*

            The issue that I and others are seeing here is that the Department Head seems to be the manager of *both* LW and Jim. So why is the Department Head putting the entire onus on LW to finesse the meetings into happening rather than directly telling Jim that the meetings need to happen? The Department Head’s approach would make sense if they weren’t also Jim’s manager, but since they are, this really comes across as an abdication of managerial duties on the part of the Department Head.

            1. umami*

              Because only one party sees a value in the f2f meetings. If LW wants them, then she has been given recommendations on how to make it happen. If the work is getting done just fine with the email communication, then I do not want to insert myself into how my managers choose to communicate with each other. If LW can demonstrate that the department at large benefits, and not just her, then I would consider that. But IMO, these meetings do not NEED to happen, so if I were their manager, I wouldn’t require them. Having preferences on how to communicate isn’t something I need to manage for senior staff.

              1. Purpleshark*

                Respectfully you may need to reread the letter from OP. They state that the request is from Jim and LW’s manager, not the LW. The LW is only tasked with making the meetings happen. When the meetings don’t then they are directed to continue trying to make them happen.

                1. umami*

                  In the letter I read, specifically the LW wants a meeting with Jim. I didn’t see anything about Jim requesting a meeting – in fact, he prefers to communicate via email. It doesn’t read to me like LW’s manager is requiring meetings, he just supports LW’s desire for them and have advised her on how to get Jim to go along with it.

                2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

                  @umami, the directive to meet in person came from the department head:

                  “Our department head asked that I schedule a weekly standing meeting with Jim so we have a designated time every week to check in/catch up about outstanding items.”

                3. umami*

                  That was in response to her asking what to do about the situation she presented, not as a directive IMO. But YMMV *shrug*

                4. Myrin*

                  @umami, it wasn’t – the part Analytical is quoting is the very first mention of the department head and OP doesn’t say anything about approaching him beforehand (third paragraph).
                  As far as I can see, you are talking about the second conversation OP had with the department head, which she did initiate (fifth paragraph).

            2. Employee of the Bearimy*

              I agree with you. If I ask one of my direct reports to connect with another, I often mention it to the other direct report in passing to help the process along. And if I hear the 2nd report was pushing back, I will absolutely follow up myself. In extreme cases, this has made it into an employee’s annual review under the “works well with colleagues” section.

            3. Festively Dressed Earl*

              For that matter, why is Department Head giving the task of setting up the meetings to LW? If Jim can’t/won’t work with the times LW sets up, have Jim take over the scheduling.

              FWIW I do wonder if LW is female, as everyone else is assuming. Unfortunately that would go a long way towards explaining why LW was given the task and why Jim feels free to ignore them.

            4. Kara*

              LW doesn’t mention what the workplace norms are on communication styles. I am a little curious whether this workplace (or the Department Head themselves) default to email and LW is the outlier.

              If that’s the case, it doesn’t really change the advice much, except perhaps for making it more critical. Meeting agendas and keeping it to just the stuff that absolutely can’t be handled by email might go a long way in increasing buy-in. Though, is a virtual meeting an option? Have the meeting by [platform of choice] but on your phone or tablet instead of on your pc. That way you can turn the camera to show what you’re talking about, still have that face time, but in theory it’s now slightly less disruptive to the workday.

          2. I Have RBF*


            I can attempt to schedule meetings until the cows come home, but if the other party refuses to attend that is NOT a problem with me. If my boss is so weak that he just tells me to “try again” and puts the other person’s refusal to attend as a failure on my part, then the biggest problem here is not the unwilling coworker. The true problem is the conflict avoidant boss refusing to manage and trying to make me the enforcer without a billy club! I learned a long time ago that I can set up meetings and trainings, etc, all I want, but only the boss can compel people to attend.

            1. Pennyworth*

              LW should document all the times Jim has avoided a scheduled meeting, and the reasons. Jim making an appointment to see a vendor at the same time he should have had a meeting on his calendar seems particularly egregious.

              LW is enabling Jim’s behavior by always agreeing to email instead of insisting on the meeting. She could push back – ”Boss has told me to arrange in-person meetings with you. I can’t conduct an in-person catch up by email.”

        5. Tio*

          There is a point, though, where if one party is being obstinate, there’s now a point where intervention is needed. I think if LW can show that they made the attempts and Jim is specifically dodging them and none of LW’s tactics are working, it is time for their manager to step in and ask Jim “Hey, what is going on here” or tell LW that the meetings aren’t a requirement but a wish.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        And the manager is strangely focused on the soft social part. Which can be important to an ongoing relationship, but if the reason to meet this week is “personal touch” then it can in fact be skipped and we’ll hit it next week.

        Whereas if the reason to meet is to hash out all the questions on the Meyer Report, with a lot of “If we do A, then we can’t do Q. If we go the A route, we’ll have to decide between doing X, or doing Y and Z. If X, then we must make decisions on C, D, and F.” “Actually for Y and Z, W and T is another option there. But it would lock down G.” When you have a lot of small niggly interlocking details to go back and forth on, email is not efficient.

      5. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Alternately, if the LW is a woman, getting things organized could be getting dumped on her. Especially if Jim is white and the LW is a woman of colour. Might not be the whole story, but it could be an important part.

        1. Zweisatz*

          It might also be part of why he is so resistant to meeting. I’ve definitely had co-workers in the past who didn’t cooperate on work products because “they wouldn’t be told by a woman/someone in my role what to do”.

          (And then letters in the past where women were discriminated against because it would not be “proper” to meet with a woman alone, but I see no indication here that’s the case.)

        2. kitto*

          this was also my thought. i’ve had multiple situations in the past where a (white older male) colleague was reluctant to work with me and it ended up being due to my race and/or gender. it may be something else that’s causing this issue but it’s worth the manager considering potential discrimination in case something like this is happening to OP and others

      6. Amber T*

        It took my longer than I care to admit that I was confused as to why you were bringing up OP’s “Dear Husband…” I need to remember what site I’m on!

    2. Nesprin*

      I would suggest: cc boss every time you try to reschedule after he inevitably cancels. Make sure there’s a paper trail visible to boss that Jim is hard to wrangle.

      After a couple of these, ask boss to schedule the meeting.

      1. Buffy will save us*

        I think I would wait to see if Jim states in an email that he doesn’t want to meet and would prefer to email before I would cc in the boss. I would respond to that with a restate- Boss really wants us to meet face-to-face and I’m hearing you say you won’t do that- and I would loop in the boss. This way they can see I’ve done my due diligence in trying to make this work on my own.

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      This whole thread, yes. DH wants the two to meet. Why didn’t he give the direction to both?
      And OP told DH Jim wants to email, DH doubles down that OP has to make it happen? How about DH manages?

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Hopefully not “Dear Hubby/Husband” or they’ve opened up an entire can of worms at this workplace.

    4. LCH*

      agree that if OP hasn’t done so already, make sure Jim knows that these meetings are at the direction of their boss. before going back to boss and saying you couldn’t make it happen because Jim kept cancelling.

    5. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      My read of the letter was that the OP communicated this when she first reached out to Jim to set up the meeting.

  2. WellRed*

    If you both have the same boss, why does Jim not know this is a requirement? I’m surprised no one was upfront with him on that point. And yes, stop accepting all the cancellations. If you need to meet face to face, speak up! I hate meetings but would never dream of acting like Jim.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I was confused by this too, especially after LW raised it with their boss and the boss said to reach out to Jim again and ask if there’s a better time/date that works. It’s not wrong for the boss to assume two managers should be able to work out a meeting schedule, but LW was going to the boss about their colleague’s refusal to meet, not an inability use Outlook in a mutually beneficial way. It’s weird that the boss hasn’t mentioned it to Jim, but then again maybe Jim is also dodging meetings with the boss!

    2. Person from the Resume*

      That’s my question. If LW’s boss is also Jim’s boss, then boss just needs to tell Jim to have the attend the meeting or attend the rescheduled meeting.

      Why is the boss making it the LW’s responsibility to make Jim attend a meeting. Make Jim do it. Boss needs to lay out consequences for Jim missing meetings boss wants Jim to attend.

      Also .. Vendor meeting at same time? OK. I’m leaving the next day and need to prep all day? That’s total BS and Jim needs to be called on his stupid excuse.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Eh, I’ve often needed time to prep for a work trip. That’s not total BS. But it’s also not the sort of thing that should warrant canceling a 15-minute meeting that you could just move a day earlier.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          The thing that tips it for me is that Jim is saying he needs to cancel, rather than rescheduling.

          1. amoeba*

            Yup, exactly. “Can we do Tuesday instead, Wednesday is going to be pretty busy” – sure. “I have nothing this week, do you have something to discuss, otherwise we could skip this week?” – fine as well. “Sorry, I’m cancelling, please send me an e-mail instead” – maaaaybe fine once, but certainly not regularly.

      2. Orora*

        This is my thought. These reasons seem like a reach. It’s a standing meeting so it should already be in your calendar; 90% of the time you can schedule around meetings you know you already have. Needing to prep all day for a trip that’s two weeks away? You have time during that two weeks to figure out where you can find 30 minutes for a short standing meeting the day before.

    3. bamcheeks*

      LW and Jim are also both managers themselves. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect people at a certain level to have a few goes at working out this kind of interpersonal issue with peers before the manager steps in.

      To me, it seems like LW is sending some mixed messages to Jim. I think in her trying to make sure this is fairly casual and light-touch, she’s sending the message that it’s easy to cancel and not to be prioritised. Jim may be being actively difficult and refusing to meet, or he may just be taking her at her word about, “cancel if you’ve nothing to discuss, no problem” and expecting her to push back if there IS a problem– which she hasn’t really been doing.

      I think the first thing to do is to say straight out that this meeting needs to be more of a priority and that she has things she needs to discuss. If Jim really doesn’t have time or really doesn’t want to do that, then that’s the starting point of a negotiation. But at the moment, LW’s coming across as pretty conflict-avoidant, even to the extent that she won’t clearly express what she needs from Jim and as soon as she gets any pushback she’s going back to her boss.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        This was my thought.

        “If neither of us have things to discuss, we can cancel. But if one of us needs to discuss something, the meeting will stay on.” Basically, one person cannot cancel a meeting unilaterally.

        OP needs to not accept the cancellation. If Jim says he has nothing to discuss and wants to cancel (plus whatever scheduling thing he’s probably put in the way to justify the cancellation), OP needs to come back with, “Well, I still need to meet next week. If you can’t do Tuesday, when are you free on Monday.”

        1. AngryOctopus*

          And really, I’d say “I really need to discuss contract G with you in person, as there are some pretty tricky bits to go over to make sure the client gets what they need. If Tuesday doesn’t work for you, is Time X OK or would you prefer Time Y?”

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Eh, if Jim is being difficult about times I wouldn’t want LW to sink more time into scheduling. I’d ask him to reschedule sometime before [deadline].

            1. Butterfly Counter*

              Yes exactly. It’s a thing that makes me mad. If a person can’t make a particular time, it’s on them to make the next suggestion or basic time frame when they are available. I think that putting it on the OP to keep coming up with the scheduling is another way Jim is passive aggressively stating he doesn’t want to meet.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          Plus why is Jim scheduling other meetings over this supposed to be standing meeting? Jim needs to accept that he’s booked at the designated time unless they both agree to cancel. So Jim shouldn’t be having vendor meetings at this time. Maybe the first few weeks, sure, stuff might’ve been already scheduled, but it shouldn’t be an ongoing thing of Jim being double-booked.

      2. Reebee*

        I’m not sure why the senior manager is getting a pass. Talk about conflict-avoidant. As a manager myself, I would never, ever expect my direct reports to manage one another. That’s not how it works.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I’m just not sure it is a management issue. Based on LW’s account, I’m a long way from clear on whether Jim is actively avoiding meeting LW or just not prioritising it. If he’s avoiding LW, that’s a problem for me to manage. If he isn’t prioritising it because LW has not told him that this meeting is important and useful to her and he thinks email is working just fine, I’d be coaching LW on how to be more direct about what she needs. That’s absolutely a skill a manager needs to have.

          1. umami*

            Yes! I was wondering why so many people were seeing it as boss was requiring them to meet! I didn’t get that read at all.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              I couldn’t tell if the boss was really requiring them to meet in person, or trying to help (somewhat ineffectually) LW because LW says there are things that are easier to discuss in person. I think LW should start with specifically naming the things that they need to discuss in person while asking Jim what times are better (specific times, from looking at his calendar). If that gets pushback, perhaps boss does have to step in and tell Jim that he can’t unilaterally say ‘no’ to the meetings even if he personally thinks it’s not needed.

            2. Myrin*

              Possibly I’m putting too much weight onto semi-randomly chosen words by OP but in general “Our department head asked that I schedule a weekly standing meeting with Jim” and “he urged me to reach back out to Jim and explain that getting some regular face time with each other was important” sound like directives to me (and in fact, I read the first one as the boss approaching OP about this, not vice versa, because he saw problems arise from their misaligned communication – that’s speculation on my part, of course, but it strongly read that way to me).

              1. bamcheeks*

                I could read it as either, “boss wants us to have a meeting” or “LW went to boss with problem, boss suggested a meeting as a way of solving LW’s problem and is coaching her on how to achieve that”.

                1. Saturday*

                  Yeah, a lot of people are reading it like the boss said they must meet, but I read it the second way.

                2. Bee*

                  For me, if a boss has “asked that I” do something, I definitely read that as a (gentle) directive rather than a suggestion.

                3. Myrin*

                  See, I would definitely not describe the second situation by saying “boss asked me to” and “urged me” but rather as “boss suggested” or “thought a solution might be” or something similar. As it is written, these sound like clear instructions to me. But like I said, maybe OP didn’t really put much thought into the exact words she used and I’m just overanalysing.

          2. Cicely*

            Why should the LW have to tell Jim? She’s not his boss. The manager instructing LW to set up these meetings is Jim’s boss. Why isn’t the boss handling this?

            “Our department head asked that I schedule a weekly standing meeting with Jim so we have a designated time every week to check in/catch up about outstanding items…
            He urged me to reach back out to Jim and explain that getting some regular face time with each other was important.”

            LW isn’t doing this because they feel like it. It’s a boss’s directive.

      3. umami*

        Exactly. Jim is happy with the email communication and doesn’t seem to see the need for f2f meetings with LW. I see that many commenters say the department head is requiring these meetings, but I don’t think he is! He suggested it as a solution for LW, who was saying she prefers to have f2f communications, but there is no evidence that the email communications aren’t effective enough.

        1. AMH*

          There is evidence that the email communications aren’t effective enough to the LW at least: ” mostly because I have sometimes had a difficult time communicating with him, and there has been some miscommunication between us in the past (when talking over IM or email).” That doesn’t mean that the F2F meetings are the best or only solution, of course, but what they’re doing now doesn’t work for at least one of them.

          1. umami*

            In having dealt with people who are like Jim and like LW, it usually boils down to personal preference. LW finds it easier to talk f2f, and clearly Jim prefers email. That’s the kind of thing I would leave to them to negotiate (and I would expect Jim to negotiate in good faith – so far LW keeps accommodating the cancellations, but at some point if she truly needs a f2f, then she needs to make that clear to Jim).

          2. bamcheeks*

            I think that paragraph is such a good clear setting out of why the meetings are necessary, and if LW’s said all that to Jim and he’s still de-prioritising the meetings, that’s on him. I just think it’s quite possible she’s got that clear in her head, AND discussed it with her boss — but never actually said it to Jim!

          3. New Jack Karyn*

            I think that a lot of the time, having a 10-minute face to face meeting is faster and more productive than swapping emails. Jim needs to pull his socks up.

    4. Lacey*

      Yes! Why didn’t the boss make this request of BOTH of them? Why is the LW having to try and manage her coworker instead of their boss doing it?

    5. Not Totally Subclinical*

      This was my immediate question too — why is Boss making LW be the intermediary? Why isn’t Boss saying to Jim “hey, you two need to meet in person, and you, Jim, need to make this a priority”?

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, it’s a very weird triangular way of communicating (at a workplace where, surprise surprise, OP has trouble communicating with a coworker).

        I disagree somewhat with the first two comments in the sense that it seems like Jim does know that this is a requirement coming directly from boss – OP says she relayed that to him – but, like, ignoring Jim’s behaviour being quite blasé and flighty for a moment, I’d be pretty surprised to have my coworker go “boss said to do this” (about something like this, at least, I can imagine situations where it would be more natural that way) and wonder why on earth both didn’t come to me directly.

    6. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Why can’t Jim suggest a different time that works in his schedule? Methinks that either he has issues with LW or with their boss. Like, maybe the issue is, as AAM suggested, that LW is a talker, but it could equally be that Jim disagrees with the way boss runs things and LW is merely a bit player in this feud.

      I also like AAM’s suggestion of providing Jim a clear agenda ahead of time. Or not even a specific agenda but just a list of discussion points or even a quick “hey, I have a couple of questions about the TPS reports; I’ll save them for our weekly discussion” email. I find that I go into meetings with a lot of trepidation if I don’t know what they will be about. It doesn’t happen too often, but I also hate “can we have a quick call at 2?” messages really stressful. I usually reply with, “Sure, what about?” so I can worry less. Maybe Jim would find your meetings less cancel-able if he knew what exactly they were about.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        I’d much rather just answer “a few quick questions” now over email. “I do need to meet in person this week so you can show me where the llama brushes are” – the sort of “physical object” issue the LW mentions – might be more effective.

  3. LawDog*

    Go to the boss now. Make the problem your boss’s problem…it’s not your fault that you aren’t meeting as he directed. Grow a pair, boss. That’s why they pay you the big bucks.

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

      Yeah, I’m wondering if Jim doesn’t realize that this was a directive from boss and is not something the OP just wants.
      If Jim DOES know that this is a meeting set up by boss then the boss needs to step up and talk with him.

      Does Jim have too much on his plate that a 15 minute standing meeting is not going to work? Can they do it via zoom because he is not in the office?

    2. bamcheeks*

      If I were LW’s boss, my first question would be, “What have you tried?”

      As far as I can see, LW has not yet expressed to Jim that his constant cancellations are a problem. She’s said, “we’ll have a regular catch-up, nothing serious, we can cancel if we’re busy or have nothing to discuss”. Jim said sure. Jim has cancelled because he’s busy. Jim has expressed a preference for communication by email. Does LW express her own preference for meeting in person? No, she goes back to her boss! Her words are “I relayed both things to Jim”– to me, that really sounds like, “boss thinks we should meet” rather than, “No, I really think we need to meet in person. Email and DM isn’t giving me the information I need.”

      I just can’t see anywhere where LW has actually expressed to Jim that she wants and needs the meetings, and that she wants him to prioritise them. If I were Jim and I actively preferred written communication, I’d be strongly getting the sense that Boss thinks it’s a good idea if we meet, but I don’t think it’s necessary and I’m not getting much sense from LW that she thinks it’s necessary either, she’s just following directions.

      If I were the boss and she came back to me a second time with this story, I’d be telling her that I need her to be clearer and more assertive in her communication with others, and actively pushing back on what her team needs rather than coming to me and asking me to sort it out for her. If Jim was actively refusing to meet when she’d clearly expressed that it was a priority for her, I’d step in. But at this point, I’d be seeing it as a coaching issue for LW.

      1. Chick-n-Boots*

        This is a really keen observation. Initially I was puzzled by the boss seeming to put this on the LW to “make” a peer comply when they also supervise that person, but the way you’ve laid it out here makes a pretty compelling argument that it really is something the LW may have just failed to communicate well to Jim.

        I wholly agree with your suggestions – the first thing the LW needs to do is push back and make sure Jim understands that THEY need these meetings and why, and then do as Alison suggested and make sure the meetings are efficient and productive.

      2. M*

        Yup, precisely this. In fact, *particularly* this if Jim is, in fact, easy to work with and goal-oriented – if my experience as Jim’s manager is that he’s busy but responsive to email, and LW keeps telling me they need face-to-face time with Jim but can’t make that happen, then I’m not assuming I have a Jim problem at that point.

        In LW’s shoes, when Jim says “I’m cancelling the call, just send it by email”, I’d send what actually makes sense to send by email, and then list the things that need in-person discussion and why, and ask that *he* identify time in both your calendars to deal with them within a reasonable timeframe. So, for example:

        “Sure, Jim, I need:
        – your completed ABC form for XYZ
        – an update on the status of project DEF
        – to run you through what’s happening with colleague GHI – [details]

        – that leak in the server room is back, and I think I’ve identified the source
        – I need to show you how to use new tool JKL
        If you can’t do our regular time, put something in our calendars for today or tomorrow, and I’ll show you both.”

        If the problem is actually that Jim just hates meeting in person – or does so much of it for his job that he’s burned out, or is overworked and desperately trying to claw back what time he can – that cuts it off as far as LW is concerned, because now LW is insisting on immediately rescheduling when necessary. Right now, when Jim cancels a meeting, LW is just letting it happen and working around it.

        1. bamcheeks*

          if Jim is, in fact, easy to work with and goal-oriented

          Yeah, to me, Jim looks very goal-oriented and clear about what kind of communication works for him.

          I think it’s kind of fascinating that a lot of the comments are, “Does Jim know / have you told him this comes from the boss?”, as if that’s the most compelling argument for doing something. Generally speaking, I’d think I was in a pretty bad environment if “boss says we should…” was considered a compelling reason for doing something. Usually it’s way below “this will make a peer’s job easier” or “this will help both of us get the job done”!

          1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

            imo “boss says we should” is a work instruction like all the others I followed, unless it’s something unsafe, unethical etc.
            If it’s something I really don’t want to do, then I’d discuss it with the boss, not just ignore their instruction.

            We are paid to do things we wouldn’t otherwise do for free.

            1. bamcheeks*

              It’s a reason. But it’s not necessarily something I’m going to prioritise over other stuff that has a more obvious and tangible benefit to the work I’m paid to do.
              If I had a situation where the only reason I was having a regular meeting with someone was because the boss said we should and neither of us felt that we were discussing anything particularly useful at this meeting and it didn’t have a tangible benefit on either of our work, I’d think that was pretty poor management.

            2. Dogwoodblossom*

              Well sure, but I bet you do a better, more thorough and enthusiastic job on things that make sense to you and you understand their importance. For most people it’s quite frustrating to do work that feels pointless even if you’re being paid to do it as a work task.

            3. umami*

              To me, it would feel very micromanage-y, both as an employee and as a manager. I just don’t think it should be something for me to resolve if I have two managers with different communication styles. They need to work it out! Jim doesn’t have an issue, LW does, so my coaching would be for LW on how to get what she feels she needs without having to go to the boss to MAKE it happen.

              1. Guacamole Bob*

                Yes, this! If I had to step in with people cc’ing me on scheduling emails within the team and having to talk to Jim about not cancelling meetings and to OP about communicating why she needs the meeting to happen I’d be pretty impatient. I expect to have to do that kind of coaching and mediation with junior staff occasionally, or when the issue is with someone from another team or department where there may be politics at play, but not from managers or other senior staff on my own team!

                1. Cicely*

                  None of that would need to happen if you as boss instructed both employees abide by your directive. That’s the point here.

              2. Part time lab tech*

                What! Jim is definately a problem. His desire to never have F2F meetings, or or video meetings or a phone call with LW because he prefers email is not more important than the boss’s desire for them to communicate better. His communication preferences are equally important as LW, not more.
                I read faster than I hear but speak faster than I type. Voice conversations have better back and forth for clarifying issues and are less abrupt tonally.

                1. bamcheeks*

                  Right, but does Jim know LW’s communication preferences, and that she actively wants and needs these meetings? That’s my main question. There’s absolutely nothing indicating that LW has said that to Jim.

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          Yes to this kind of specificity! If OP isn’t A Talker but the meetings feel unfocused or inefficient in other ways, I can see that causing Jim to push back.

          I regularly meet with a colleague who deals with a very different time scale, type of project, and overall workload than I do, and I’ve had to find strategies to manage sideways that at times might look a bit like Jim. If I’ve got 15 urgent or time-sensitive things to do this week and he wants to talk about potential ideas for a webinar that’s not for three months or update me on a project that won’t need action from my team until the fall or brainstorm ideas for summer intern projects or show me detail about his project’s progress that isn’t really applicable to me, I’m going to push back and try to put more of the work on him to pull out action items and relevant talking points for an agenda before we meet. Half the time I can take that agenda and delegate an item to someone on my team, answer it quickly in writing, suggest we schedule a dedicated meeting and include X other person, etc.

          Jim sounds like a busy guy, so the more OP can distill what she needs from him and communicate that clearly in advance, the better.

        3. Overthinking it*

          It could also be that OP “stands too close” but that wouldn’t account for avoiding phone meetings (or avoiding IMs which is suspicious. ( I thought perhaps Jim’s spouse is suspicious of OP and has demanded he avoid any contact at all when possible.

      3. Sparkles McFadden*

        I agree with this. I don’t want to speculate, but I think it’s likely that LW’s manager suggested the weekly check-in meeting because the LW has had to tell her manager “I need another day for that because I am still trying to track down that information from Jim” on more than one occasion. So, the manager suggested the standing meeting so the LW will know she can corner Jim at least once a week.

        That all means the LW has to say “Look Jim, I regularly need information from you and cannot track you down, so these meetings *must* happen.” Telling Jim “Boss says we need to meet once a week isn’t the same as “I need to meet with you because [reasons].” If a peer told me the boss suggested weekly check-ins without adding “because I need this in-person time with you” I might cancel all of the time too.

        1. Cicely*

          Why would that need to be added? Can’t Jim just, ya know, say “Yep, this is what boss wants. Gotta prioritize these, because boss said to,” as the apparently more mature LW has?

          I’m stunned at the number of comments that lose sight of the fact that LW *is* following boss’s instructions while also being held responsible by that boss for making sure Jim abides. By what the boss said to do. Why isn’t boss handling things?

          1. bamcheeks*

            I’m stunned that people think at manager level your boss should be micro-managing who you meet with on a weekly basis! In every job I’ve had, “meet weekly with X” would be a suggestion to see how it goes and whether it’s useful, and me and X would have the autonomy to decide whether it’s necessary, helpful or pointless. “You must meet weekly with X, whether you and X find it the best way to work or not” would be massively micromanaging. This isn’t the army!

      4. Hills to Die on*

        I have been honestly scratching my head all of these comments saying ‘go back to the boss’ or even ‘Jim is insubordinate’. THIS is the kind of response I expect. Go handle it, and here’s how you get that done.

        1. umami*

          Yes, being a manager isn’t just about doing work tasks, it is very much managing relationships! I can offer advice and recommendations to someone who is struggling with this, but in no way is it for me to interfere unless there is a true issue at hand. I would really question whether this person has what it takes to be a manager if they are struggling this mightily with a fairly minor issue that doesn’t seem to have any impact on operations.

          1. Cicely*

            How does one manager hold a same-level/peer manager accountable for what the boss of both wants done?

            I’m curious what that looks like.

            1. bamcheeks*

              If either of them is being held to account on something like “have regular meetings with peers”, that’s probably a sign that thing has gone wrong. KPIs and objectives should be about the core business of the team and outcomes, not the stuff you have to do to get the core business done. As a manager, if you’re tracking that, it probably means something’s dysfunctional or someone’s on a PIP.

              In terms of the broader question of, “how do you get someone to do something without having direct power iver them”, that’s what influencing is. It’s extremely normal and it’s a critical part of a manager’s role and most professional IC roles! If you try everything you know how to do and you still can’t get an answer or cooperation from a peer, then yes, you need to go back to your manager. But by LW’s account here, she’s barely tried anything— we don’t even know if she’s actually told Jim that these meetings are important for her and how ofte she’d actually like to have them.

  4. sofar*

    LW, document and screen shot all communications where you try to get Jim to commit and he cancels on you or pushes back. When you go back to your boss, this should hopefully avoid another round of, “Well just try harder.”

    Honestly, if I were LW’s and Jim’s boss, I’d already be in there with, “Jim, this request that you both meet is coming from me. If you have to cancel, please proactively schedule another time within the next couple days.”

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      I’d document for CYA reasons, but I wouldn’t recommend leading with it when meeting with the boss. I just can’t see running to the big boss with a pile of timestamps something a high-performing leader does.

      1. sofar*

        Right, I wouldn’t lead with it. But if I’m asked to “try again,” or that “Jim must be misunderstanding the urgency,” I’m sending an image to my boss of that Slack conversation with Jim (or forwarding the email). I’ve found that having a source of truth saves everyone a lot of time.

    2. Antilles*

      Frankly, after a couple cancellations, I’d be going ahead and copying Boss on these emails so he can see Jim’s ridiculous excuses. He’s pre-emptively going to be so busy preparing for his trip that he can’t spare 15 minutes at any point in the next two weeks? He can’t just go “Thursday is bad but I’m free Monday afternoon or Wednesday morning”?

      1. Hannah Lee*

        ^ this

        Unless OP is known for the the stuff Alison mentions at the end RE long talking or aimless meetings … something is absolutely up on Jim’s end, either entirely in his own world or RE interactions with OP.

        Thinking of that old Eisenhower URGENT/IMPORTANT Matrix thing
        Possibilities are –

        – Jim is so overwhelmed with his own stuff he’s operating 100% in URGENT TODAY/IMPORTANT mode and unable/unwilling to even do a 3 minute talk through of a bullet list to agree what stuff might need to be delegated elsewhere, scheduled later, or dropped entirely. Hence him saying “send me what you need right now” so he only has to deal with the the UT/I quadrant stuff and can ignore anything else on OP’s agenda and hope they just go elsewhere for it.

        – Jim categorizes OP and anything OP needs to coordinate with him as NOT URGENT / NOT IMPORTANT (to Jim) So much so that not only is he not going to meet about any of it if he can help it, he isn’t even bothering to say he’s never going to meet about any of it and that LW should stop asking him to. (Maybe it’s genuinely low priority and he shouldn’t be dealing with, maybe he’s got an over-inflated sense of his own importance, or is looking to turf off anything that isn’t high-profile or things he views as beneath him, or DH hasn’t clearly and consistently aligned/communicated the priorities/expectations to either OP or Jim)

        Whatever the reason, if OP’s gone more than 3-4 rounds of trying unsuccessfully to meet it’s absolutely time to make DH (OP and Jim’s boss) aware of the pattern. Whether there’s a disconnect in workloads, priorities, expectations or attitudes, this isn’t just a different communication preferences thing that OP is going to be able to fix single-handedly. Not in a ‘ratting him out’ way, but in a “boss, here’s a roadblock to doing what need’s doing … I need your help getting it cleared, or guidance on how to work around it.

    3. umami*

      Yeah … I’m gonna say as a boss, I would not want this type of petty documentation. Just because one person doesn’t think it’s feasible to do all communication via email doesn’t elevate this to a documentable offense. Frankly, I would find this very entry-level behavior, not something I should be getting from a manager dealing with a colleague.

      1. Cicely*

        But this situation is that the boss is dictating that these meetings occur. Are you saying that the boss shouldn’t be bothered with knowing whether one or more managers aren’t adhering to those instructions?


        1. Saturday*

          But these are manager-level employees. The manager’s manager shouldn’t need to follow up on minor things like meetings. Managers should be able to work it out themselves.

  5. M*

    I do think that the letter writer was a bit verbose with their letter. Not obnoxiously so or anything, but I can see how maybe Jim is concerned these meetings will take too much time, so Alison’s suggestions about keeping meetings tight and on topic may help.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Ha! I noticed that, too.

      I intentionally demurred this morning when a colleague asked for a “quick call” because I knew I could send them a screen shot in Teams that would take care of the issue — and their idea of a “quick call” usually translates to an hour long call where they complain about anything and everything.

    2. CTT*

      And if she hadn’t been verbose then there would be people would be complaining about how there isn’t enough detail to go on.

      1. Expelliarmus*

        THIS. Either they’d complain that there isn’t enough detail, or they’d invent fanfiction to fill in the blanks. The less info provided, the more outlandish possibilities for fanfiction.

        Not saying I’m not guilty of it; I just try not to comment on those thoughts to the OP because, well, fanfiction.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I don’t think there’s any length letter that isn’t open to fanfiction. If a detail isn’t mentioned, someone will invent it, or it’s suspiciously omitted. If a detail is mentioned, it is endlessly analyzed or suspiciously included. I mean, there was one letter by a guy claiming one of his coworkers bras was so noticeable he could tell the brand, and there were 50+ comments speculating on which brand it could be.

          We’re a bunch of weirdos here with occasional good advice.

    3. JustaTech*

      If the LW is concerned that Jim thinks that they’re too verbose they can pre-empt that with “Here is the agenda of three things I need to discuss with you and I have a hard stop at [meeting end time].” That way Jim will know that it is the LW who has to end the meeting.

      Now, are there verbose people who will talk through the start of their next meeting? Sure. But by putting that hard stop out in advance (even if it is fictitious) the LW is saying “I do not plan to talk all afternoon”.

    4. Reebee*

      Providing necessary background and details in a letter to a blogger and commenters who aren’t involved in the day-to-day experience of the LW’s particular situation is an unfair measure of verbosity, and introduces equally unfair speculation. A letter explaining this situation should be verbose.

      As such, the speculation misses two points: a senior manager, for some odd reason, refuses to set the terms of engagement on meetings they are requiring; and someone who is supposed to be attending those meetings seems bent on not doing so, yet the senior manager expects one of two co-worker peers to run interference. wth?

      @LW: I was in a similar situation a few years ago, where I and a colleague were instructed by our grand-boss to meet once a month on a certain ongoing project. I took it upon myself to schedule meetings, and didn’t get a reply; the couple of times I did, it was to cancel at the last minute. Fine – because I would continue scheduling the meetings regardless, since I could show I was trying to do my part. CYA, as they say. I was more than prepared to get screamed at and blamed for the meetings to not occur, since my colleague was one of two of grand-boss’s pets, but grand-boss wouldn’t be able to, since I wasn’t the one not responding or canceling last-minute. I was not going to go down with colleague’s ship of cackling toxicity.

      Are you able to arrange meetings to show you’re following instructions, and then let the cards fall where they may if there are consequences to Jim not following through? If so, great; as someone mentioned above, this really is (yours and Jim’s) manager’s problem to handle.

    5. lost academic*

      I don’t think so at all. I always keep in mind that a LW here needs advice on a situation with which Alison (and the commentariat) has NO familiarity and has to to try provide enough backstory and/or detail to get useful advice. And sometimes letters are edited and the writer ends up having to sift through a lot of advice or discussion that isn’t relevant based on particular details not being shared or being assumed to be different. I went back over and looked for what might seem to be extraneous detail or overly florid language and didn’t find any – just useful information (except maybe one of the last paragraphs).

  6. Edward Williams*

    The boss needs to evolve to the advanced life form called “vertebrate.” A “vertebrate” animal has a backbone. This backbone can be appropriately used for rigidity while firing Jim. I remember a situation like this one from work years ago. My boss at the time was a vertebrate and fired the employee who wouldn’t meet with me on a joint-departments project.

    1. NorthBayTeky*

      I see the boss as the bottleneck here. Why didn’t the boss tell them both, at the same time, in the same email or meeting, that these meetings are required? In the LW’s followup, the boss should have taken the reigns and reiterated with Jim that these meetings are only optional if both parties opt out.

      1. AmuseBouchee*

        Your DH/ manager is putting it in on you, as far as I can tell because at your level you should have clearer communication skills than you do with your work peers, especially Jim.

        “if neither of us has anything to discuss, we can always cancel. I explained this to Jim when I set up the meeting series, and he seemed to be fine with it at the time.”

        You said he could cancel if he doesn’t have anything to talk to you about, and he doesn’t. You’re the one with questions.

        When he canceled, you went back to your boss to complain. Your lack of clear communication is why he is canceling. The sad thing is, you’re taking it personally or making it into him neglecting work or something because to him it is optional, that’s what you said it was. You emailed him YOUR questions when he cancele, which he answered and then he mentioned he’d like to do this via email instead of F2F. Did you ever tell Jim YOU prefer face to face? Did you ever tell him directly that you wanted the F2F meetings or did you play it as the boss is requesting you two have an optional weekly chat meeting? Doesn’t sound like it via your email.

        You say you’ve worked with him the same amount of time in the same position, so what’s the issue? If I was your manager I would think you are being passive aggressive with Jim. You’re saying everything is fine and it’s not, you’re complaining about him canceling while okaying it.

        1. Polly Hedron*

          if neither of us has anything to discuss, we can always cancel

          means they can cancel if they both agree. This is NOT equivalent to

          You said he could cancel if he doesn’t have anything to talk to you about

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      Mostly true, but we don’t know what information the boss already has. Plus, it’s not the boss writing in. The advice is aimed at what the LW can do, not the boss. Letter writers can’t just hand their boss some DNA and say “here, go grow this anatomical structure.”

    3. Jimmy Allston*

      Are you really advocating for firing Jim based on this letter alone? If I were Jim I would hire your namesake, attorney Edward Bennett Williams, to bring suit if that happened

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I agree that firing is over the top, but in most of the US, Jim would not have basis for a lawsuit.

    4. Saturday*

      That really seems like an overreaction! Work is still getting done. Not attending a meeting is annoying, but firing someone over it sounds wild.

  7. Trout 'Waver*

    I had this happen to me once. Turns out the person ducking me was a complete jerk who was upset I was given a leadership role of the team she coveted. Turns out she was trash-talking me to everyone who would listen and didn’t want to meet with me in person because of her sheer hatred of me. I wish I had a happy resolution, but she was untouchable and I left (in part) because of how the company allowed her to behave.

    To OP, make sure you’re documenting the other person’s behavior, if for no other reason than CYA. Part of doing business in leadership roles is meeting face-to-face occasionally. If Jim doesn’t understand that, something’s off.

    1. Lea*

      Ah, see I was wondering if he was being weird about gender or something though when I saw ‘are you a talker’ I said yes that could also be it.

      There is SOMETHING regardless and they need to figure it out, but yeah stop letting him skip

      1. JustaTech*

        I used to have a coworker who was a talker. Like, a firehose of words. Not unkind, just relentless talk talk talk.
        To the point that the people in his site would sneak into other cubes to call whoever he had cornered to rescue them from the talk talk talk.
        I once clocked a “quick question” from him to my coworker at an hour and a half on the phone (to the point she was literally banging her head on her desk, because not only did he talk talk talk, he was impossible to re-direct and in this case he was factually wrong but she couldn’t get a word in edgewise to correct him).

        But the fact that it is just Jim dodging the LW’s meetings and not everyone makes me think that the LW is not an endless stream of words.

        1. amoeba*

          And the fact that LW is estimating the meetings to be 10-15 mins. I mean, they might be wildly off base there, of course, but we’re supposed to take them at their word – and even with the most talkative/annoying coworkers, a 10 min meeting wouldn’t be that much of a burden?

    2. Sloanicota*

      Totally plausible that Jim has his back up in part because he feels he’s being peer-managed or that OP is doing this to “demonstrate leadership” in the department over him. Since she’s not, and is in fact just carrying out a request of the boss, hopefully that will be easy to defuse. He shouldn’t be a jerk about it but we’ve probably all been burned by that coworker who thinks they can get ahead by Being the Boss Of You (and sadly I have also seen it work before!).

  8. Sloanicota*

    I’d say one possibly misstep was scheduling a series of meetings and stating upfront, “we can cancel if we have nothing to talk about.” That’s just not a great framework to suggest a meeting is an important priority. As you’ve seen, he has felt free to schedule over them / not hold the time. Instead of pushing for a weekly series of meetings that may be low-need, I’d focus on scheduling a meeting when you have at least one item you want to discuss, which may look more like monthly or every other week. Is it less efficient to schedule them one at a time? Yes. I also understand it’s not exactly what your boss suggested. But at this point it seems more effective to me. (And I wouldn’t be thrilled if someone who is not my boss put a weekly “just in case we need to chat” check in on my calendar).

    1. A Girl Named Fred*

      Your last parenthesis is why I think OP should actually mention that this came from the boss. “Coworker randomly adding a weekly meeting to my calendar” is going to come off a lot differently to me than “Coworker adding a weekly meeting to my calendar at the request of their and my boss“. I may or may not still be a touch annoyed at the latter, but the annoyance would be with boss instead of OP.

      1. Myrin*

        OP did that, though:
        “Our department head asked that I schedule a weekly standing meeting with Jim […]. I explained this to Jim when I set up the meeting series”
        “I let our boss know about this, and he urged me [blah]. He also suggested [blah]. I relayed both things to Jim and he responded by saying he understood”.

    2. Malarkey01*

      I would do the opposite actually. If there’s enough need to set these up and they are really that short I’d never cancel and if you show up and keep it to 5 minutes great. I have a very similar situation and the need for these types of meetings. I find that a lot of us want to cancel because we are busy, something isn’t an emergency right now, etc but once we get on the same line there usually is a few things we need to cover (I’m assuming that applies here if boss is asking for it). As higher level employees communicating on your work and doing the “planning” “coordination” is just as important and setting up this habit is valuable (and boss is asking them to).

      1. amoeba*

        Yup, that’s what we do. If nobody has anything, great, the meeting is over in 2 mins. Or we go for a coffee instead, no problem!

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      I think the fact that OP is a manager adds some context. This kind of recurring low-key meeting is important even if there’s no actionable business. Having open lines of communication already in place is a benefit even if there is no actionable business at the moment, and can improve response time if there is an urgent issue.

      I’ve seen this kind of thing where someone higher up the chain has noticed the lack of communication between two managers and is trying to take actions to improve that. A forced standing meeting is one of the tools senior leaders use to that end. OP is complying and Jim is resisting.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah, I think the caveat of “we can cancel” has been hugely confusing and Jim thinks if he has anything at all going on, he can cancel. I would go back and say “I know Boss will ask me when it will happen instead as they asked us to meet as a priority; is it possible to have it on another day that week?” That way you’re letting Jim know that you’re communicating with boss, which isn’t “tattling”. If Jim knows his cancellation reason is more of a priority, he can let you and boss know, or defend it himself. If he’s just not aware Boss considers it a priority, now he knows and can reconsider if possible.

      1. Sarah*

        I would slightly tweak the wording of “is it possible to have it on another day that week?” and ask What other day that week suits, then it’s not giving him an option. Otherwise I think it’s a great idea

  9. MsM*

    I’m not sure Jim’s reluctance to meet has anything to do with OP so much as that he just has too many meetings/trips already, and he doesn’t want to have to eliminate one of the few remaining 10-15 minute blocks he has to get non-meeting stuff done just in case there’s something important. I’d second the suggestion of a weekly written to-do list, and flagging the stuff OP really thinks can’t be accomplished via email so he can either have that time back ASAP or understand why meeting up is genuinely a necessity.

    1. Olive*

      LW’s time is valuable too though. They shouldn’t have to act as Jim’s secretary in order to talk to him for 15 minutes.

    2. Hills to Die on*

      I wondered if it’s the travel thing. It’s hard to try and do that and manage a meeting schedule on top of it.
      OP – offer to send him notes after the call about what you have discussed. I bet this will take some of the reluctance out of it.

    3. Lea*

      Eh I’d start calling jim when there was a chance of miscommunication, because only email is not going to work

  10. bamcheeks*

    I agree with Alison about pushing back on both these meetings getting cancelled. At the moment, you’re making it much too easy to cancel them and you’re sending the message that they shouldn’t be prioritised. Your starting point needs to be that they don’t take precedence over everything, but they do need a little more priority than Jim is currently giving them.

    If you had the sense that Jim was trying to prioritise them but just struggling amongst other demands, I’d drop them down to fortnightly. Sometimes a fortnightly standing meeting means you meet more often because knowing that cancelling one means you won’t talk to each other for a month raises the bar a little, whereas it’s easy to cancel a short weekly meeting because you think you can always catch up the following week.

    But since you have the sense that Jim is actively not prioritising these, I’d start with a proper conversation about why not.

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

    Does Jim realize that meeting weekly is a directive from the boss and not something that you just want?

    1. Awkwardness*

      I think it is not helpful to frame it like this. Jim might even think he is doing OP a favour if he is the one who cancelled the meeting, so OP can save face in front of the boss.
      I think it is important to stress that OP has things to talk about and that those meetings are important for OP, not just a matter of courtesy.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I don’t understand this take. OP clearly wants the meetings, and has explained why. I don’t see how Jim canceling is doing her any favors.

        1. Elsajeni*

          I don’t know — OP explained to us why they want the meetings, but the sentence about “I explained this to Jim when I set up the meeting series” seems to be mainly about telling him that 1) the boss suggested this and 2) it’s fine to cancel if they have nothing to talk about. And some other commenters have suggested that, in an attempt to be accommodating, the OP might have gone a little too hard on the “it’s okay to cancel” message. I think it’s an interesting take that Jim might have understood that conversation as meaning “hey, boss said we should set up these weekly meetings, so I’m setting it up, but I don’t really see this as important so please feel free to cancel.”

  12. Ashley*

    There could be a breakdown in communication where he’s expecting you to respond as stated here (ie flat out telling him you need to reschedule rather than just cancel, etc) and when you don’t, he assumes the meeting wasn’t necessary and you’re fine emailing that week since that’s the expectation you set around canceling. Be super clear about what you need.

    1. PotsPansTeapots*

      I agree. Some of the comments here seem…a little hostile? Maybe Jim *is* a jerk and the boss *is* spineless, but I think that’s jumping the gun and LW should first try being more direct about needing regular in-person meetings.

  13. IL JimP*

    Wow so many of the comments on this so far are incredibly harsh on the OP’s boss in this situation. We don’t know what the actual communication has been between OP and her boss and her boss with Jim. We don’t know the underlying assumptions being made by all the parties so jumping to firing anyone is especially premature.

    I agree with Alison’s advice, don’t accept the cancelation and if Jim won’t keep a meeting then make it sound like it’s a real problem with your boss needs to fix not just something OP needs advice on solving.

    1. Snow Globe*

      I agree. In any case, the LW shouldn’t pull in the boss until they’ve tried everything, including rescheduling meetings that have been canceled and telling Jim explicitly that they still need to meet.

    1. Snow Globe*

      The LW doesn’t have authority over a peer, but if they haven’t tried pushing back on cancellations, that’s the next step. If I was the boss, the first question I would ask is if the LW tried rescheduling.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      Yes, they can. Managing isn’t the same as bossing someone around.

      Managing sideways is definitely a thing, and is exactly what Alison is suggesting. Jim is also managing sideways; he’s just better at it than LW.

      1. Ettalynn*

        Agreed. We don’t know LW’s history of running to their boss. It sounds on the face of it like LW is not super assertive, and the boss could reasonably be trying to coach them to improve in this area.
        If I were talking to one of my employees and asked them to reach out to one of my coworkers, and they came back to me saying that they other person didn’t want to, and they didn’t know what to do, I’d be questioning their judgement, not jumping in to solve the problem for them.

  14. Sloanicota*

    I love the suggestion to ask yourself if you might be A Talker. I suspect most people who are Talkers are unaware they do it … or they know they tend that way but don’t realize how often/how bad it is. I have worked really hard to stop “thinking out loud” in my professional life and it still gets away from me sometimes. What helped was watching other coworkers do it and realize it came across terribly.

    1. Lea*

      I can occasionally talk but watching a coworker drive everyone crazy really drive home that there is a time to be concise!

    2. pamela voorhees*

      As someone who has been a Jim, I cannot emphasize this suggestion enough. The benefit of email vs. a meeting is that it forces the person to make their thoughts concise before they speak to me. Of course, if you’re A Talker, that’s the very nature of the problem — you process by speaking out loud and bouncing the thoughts off of someone else. But to be the receiving end of that is really rough. It doesn’t feel like brainstorming together, even though that’s often how Talkers think of it. It feels like you’re talking AT me, and using my working time as your planning time.

      I do want to emphasize that if this is the case, Jim doesn’t hate you! It’s not personal at all! I didn’t hate or dislike any of my coworkers who did this! I just groaned a little internally every time they insisted we HAD to have a meeting and it HAD to be face to face, because I knew… it didn’t, really. It was just they didn’t want to organize their thoughts before-hand. Agendas and staying VERY on task will really help!

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        For Talkers who need to process out loud, may I suggest borrowing a technique from programming known as rubber duck debugging? You explain the problem to a rubber duck, and in the process often figure out the solution. You don’t actually need to have a person on the other side of your thinking out loud to benefit from it.

    3. Quinalla*

      I’d also take a hard look at are you wanting to talk about things that should be emails. Anytime I’m in a meeting that could have been an email, I get upset myself.

      OP does need to start pushing back on the cancelations and make it clear that both of you need to agree to a cancelation. Ask your peer to find a time to reschedule instead of just letting the cancellation go.

      And once you do finally get to talk to your peer, find out if scheduling an impromptu 15 min meeting would work better for him vs. a standing meeting. If he is traveling a lot and meeting clients, standing meetings might legit be hard for him. Work with him to come up with the best way to handle when you need to talk to him in person and what other communication besides email would potentially work as well – phone call for some things? Maybe texting since he’s not really replying to IMs? Cause I am with you OP that some things don’t work well over email and folks that try to use it for everything waste a lot of their own and everyone else’s time, but also email is amazing for a lot of things and should be used for those.

    4. Snow Globe*

      This is kind of my suspicion. That the LW thinks they need to meet biweekly with a peer to talk through things that just can’t be discussed in an email does sound like someone who just needs to verbalize their thoughts vs. writing things down.

      1. pamela voorhees*

        Just to expand even more on this, you mention two of the examples that you list as places where you would rather talk in person are “how something works” or “how to do something”. I’m assuming that you’re thinking “it’s so much quicker for me to just show Jim how to use the Whatever program” (especially if you are so familiar you do it by muscle memory) but if I was Jim, I would personally really, really prefer a written record that I could refer back to. Plus, writing it out means that you have to make clear all the things that you automatically do without thinking that you might skip in an in-person presentation because you’re just Doing the Process.

        1. Jessica*

          I understand your preference for written instructions, but is it the LW’s responsibility to create documentation and training materials? Because that’s a different and more time consuming task than “take 10m to show colleague something.”
          Or is it Jim’s responsibility to pay attention and take notes during this instruction so he can have a written reference for later?

          1. pamela voorhees*

            Well, the problem is that Jim doesn’t seem to need anything from these meetings at all. The starting point isn’t LW has knowledge that Jim needs (because then Jim would attend) it’s that Jim (presumably) has information the LW needs, and it’s quicker / easier / makes sense to him to do it over email, potentially for the reasons that I outlined above (especially if LW is someone who processes verbally, which Jim doesn’t need to be there for). LW is at “I guess Jim hates me”, and I’m trying to give her alternate reasons why Jim seems to be defaulting to email.

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        Not necessarily. Some things are much quicker to discuss in person rather than in writing. Often, 5-10 minutes of talking/showing is way more efficient than swapping emails for ten cycles.

    5. JelloStapler*

      Yes there are people I know will talk my ear off and use it as a vehicle to complain (and have been guilty of it too so I try to not be that way myself) and I just am not here for it.

    6. Not my coffee*

      But navigating a Talker can be difficult. In my dealings with a Talker I have sometimes decided I just didn’t want to talk because my Talker took very personal that I wanted more limited conversation. Any attempt to shorten the conversation was treated as disrespect. So I just didn’t engage anymore. I am sure it was received as rude behavior.

      I guess my suggestion to LW is prepare yourself that a conversation with Jim may look like this. Please note I said may.

    7. mcm*

      agree, it’s definitely worth reflecting on! I currently have a coworker who I appreciate, think he does a good job, enjoy being on the same team as him, and perform some seriously acrobatic contortions not to ever “jump on a call” or turn an email into a meeting. He is slightly junior to me so it’s often asking for help, and not kidding, one such conversation began with “so I turned on my computer and then opened my email this morning…” (and it was not computer troubleshooting. He had a question about a line in an email we were both copied on).
      I think Alison is spot on with recommending OP reflect on how much of a talker they are, and also going out of their way to demonstrate that they ARE going to be really concise meetings.

    8. amoeba*

      Eh, I have coworkers like that, but those meetings would very, very rarely be only 10-15 mins long! The fact that we’re talking about that (taking the LW at their work) makes this option seem unlikely to me. And even if they were rambling, well, if it’s only for 10 mins a week, that’s pretty easy to live with for most people…

  15. LinesInTheSand*

    I don’t know you, I don’t know Jim. But I’ve been the Jim in this situation, which is to say I’ve been the person whose calendar is overscheduled and who is at the mercy of a lot of outside forces and who is desperate to just get some unbroken time to do my actual job. I don’t know if that’s what’s going on here. But if I’m Jim and I’m cancelling meetings because I’ve got nothing on the agenda, I expect you to push back if that doesn’t work. I expect you to say “Actually, I’d like to talk through x,y,z in person. I can throw something else on your calendar later in the week.” That’s not being pushy, that’s you giving me information that I don’t have about why this specific meeting is important.

    You’re both in a tough spot here, but since you’re the one who needs the meeting, you’re going to have to be the one to push for it on a week by week basis when you encounter friction.

    Alternatively, having been in your spot a time or two as well, I’ve had success cancelling the standing meeting but finding something specific once every week to talk to Jim about on an ad hoc basis. E.g. “Hey, I’m working through this Excel process and I think I need more context. Can we meet for 15 minutes today to walk through it?”

    I say all of this as someone who has worked for multiple companies overwhelmed by useless meetings. It gets to everyone in different ways. If that’s not what’s going on here, ignore me.

    1. Gretta*

      Yes this – make sure people know that Jim is difficult to work with and causing you extra time. He’s a time waster.

  16. Tio*

    If you’re left by your boss to push back harder, try pushing back as if there isn’t an option not to do the meeting. That might look like:
    “I don’t have time, please email me” “This needs to be discussed in person, so we’ll have to pick a time to meet. What day and time works for you?”
    (If you can pull his calendar) “I see a block on Monday from 10-12 on your calendar, how does that work?”
    A final option might be to find out when he is not blocked off, physically go to his desk, and wait there. If he’s not busy, he’ll have a hard time blowing you off, but this will probably be the most aggressive and awkward option for you, so deploy with care. I would go to your boss first before doing this in many cases, but you’ve got a better idea of if this would work.

    Also, you should let your boss know again very specifically what’s happening – Jim has cancelled all of your meetings, is dodging reschedule requests, and you have yet to see him in person at all. The boss should really have a sit down with him and clarify that this is their expectation as well and they are expecting Jim to comply. I don’t think you’re going to get a lot of traction with Jim as long as he is able to continue doing this dance successfully. Another option is that you schedule the meeting with Jim and your boss, and inform him that boss will be attending; it’s usually much harder to blow off a meeting with your boss than with your peer. And if you have a good boss, the last meeting agenda item can potentially be “Why are we not having these meetings as scheduled?”

    That said, if your boss refuses to intervene and either puts it all on you or just doesn’t push on it at all, you might just have to give up on the in person meetings and email, or continue to use the “physically go to his desk” option. You can’t manage more than your boss does

    1. Mollee*

      This needs to be discussed in person, so we’ll have to pick a time to meet. What day and time works for you?

      Try rephrasing this to. “ This needs to be discussed in person, please send me a meeting request “. Don’t try to manage Jim’s calendar-that is on Jim.

  17. Educator*

    If Jim is away from his desk a lot, could these be video calls instead of in-person meetings? Then you can get him from wherever he is rather than making him find time to be physically present, but still have the interaction you need.

    1. Salty Caramel*

      I was wondering this as well. Video calls allows LW and Jim to show each other how to do things if needed. Not everything has to be in person, lockdown showed us that.

    2. Awkwardness*

      That’s a good point. Maybe a telephone call and screenshare, if available?
      Does it really need to be “in person”?

    3. Ihmmy*

      seconding considering this, especially for ones Jim cancels. “Oh I still need to touch base about [project], let’s meet for 10 minutes over Teams/Zoom/whatever and we can discuss [details] quickly”

    4. amoeba*

      Yeah, I’d make those “hybrid” – most/all of our standing meetings are like that, with both a Teams link and a physical location, so if both of us are in the office, we meet in person, if not, it’s a (video) call.

  18. Heart&Vine*

    As an admin I also often struggle with getting higher-ups to attend standing meetings with me. I understand that for a lot of these people a meeting about logistics, scheduling, catering, etc. seems like small potatoes compared to the looming presentation they need to give or a call with a VP, and always being cancelled on or shuffled around seems to come with the territory. It sounds like Jim considers OP’s tasks as “bottom rung” and therefore doesn’t have an issue prioritizing everything else. But that doesn’t mean that pushback isn’t necessary. At some point, even the boring things need to get done whether Jim likes it or not, so I think pressing him to not only attend these meetings but do so on a regular basis is important. Let him know you understand where he’s coming from but that a weekly, in-person meeting is the quickest most efficient way to get these things done, and “ripping off the band aid” for 15 minutes every Tuesday morning is better than leaving these tasks to fester until them become a real headache.

    1. MyStars*

      This does smell to me like “don’t bother me with your stupid stuff because I am that important.” But LW indicated that are equal in status. I wonder if there’s some gender disdain happening also?

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Yeah, I found myself wondering why boss, a man, tasked the LW, a woman, with setting meetings with her peer manager, also a man. If boss wants this to happen, boss should tell them both to make it happen rather than tell the woman to chase down the man.

        1. Foxy Hedgehog*

          Although I also default to the idea that LW is a woman, I don’t see that stated anywhere (I admit I may have missed it though).

          But otherwise a good question.

  19. Miss Muffett*

    I had the sense that the LW and Jim are peers, but the LW is accepting these cancellations as if Jim is their boss. I would say to Jim, we need to mutually decide there’s nothing to talk about, not just cancel. And when he pushes back and says, can this be email, you have to say, No, actually, we do need to keep this meeting today because we need to actually talk through xyz. With a peer, I think you can be more assertive than you might with a boss. And if he’s like, I really can’t today because I have this urgent thing then you say, please counter with a time that does work, or look at his cal and reschedule it right then.

    1. HonorBox*

      This is a great point. While there may not always be need to have the standing meeting, which OP acknowledges, there appear to be times when having a face to face makes sense. And falling back on boss’s directive should help in being assertive, too.

  20. jim*

    A lot of comments very harsh on Jim – Jim is suggesting cancelling and then the LW is …accepting the cancellation every time! LW, start suggesting new times for the meeting or asking Jim to suggest a time or saying “I really would like to have a meeting on X, could you please find some time”

  21. Choggy*

    I’m curious about the physical proximity OP is to Jim? Where are you scheduling these meetings to be held, in your office, a conference room? Have you ever met with Jim in person? If so, how did that meeting go?

    Why did your department head request you schedule a standing meeting with Jim? Was it based on your feedback that you and he have communication issues over email/chat?

    Is there anything else going on between you and Jim personally that may have him feeling uncomfortable about meeting with you in person? (Sorry, had to ask!)

  22. Decima Dewey*

    Okay, I’m cynical. I suspect that Jim knows damn well that it’s a directive from the boss that these meetings take place. Maybe Jim’s happy having OP handle things where their responsibilities overlap. Or he that this is just one of Manager’s ideas he can ignore until hell freezes over. As long as Jim can avoid an actual meeting with OP, he can stymie any changes that would result.

    1. AmuseBouchee*

      I would be so annoyed if I had to get twice the amount of email because my subordinate doesn’t no how to say, “sorry Jim, that doesn’t work for me.” Don’t cc your boss on everything unless you want to lose respect.

  23. Garblesnark*

    I sometimes improve my success rate with things like this by reaching out about the meetings on a regular basis in addition to having them. I know this adds more work to my plate; it also helps. For this case that might look like:

    Monday: email Jim to ask if he has anything he wants to discuss at the meeting
    Wednesday: email Jim an agenda draft for the meeting
    early Thursday: IM Jim asking if he has any notes for the agenda
    Thursday afternoon: email Jim the updated meeting agenda
    Friday afternoon: meet with Jim and confirm the meeting time for next Friday

    Annoying: that’s about 80 minutes of work for a 15 minute meeting
    Helpful: this makes people feel bad about skipping the 15 minute meeting AND it tends to help make sure the meeting really only lasts 15 minutes (because it demands prep for meeting items)

      1. Garblesnark*

        That’s fair. I never implement all of this at once. I add bananas one at a time, as they are earned. Bananas can also be removed through good attendance or request. Every banana on my pants was earned by a coworker who worked hard to make me this precise brand of insufferable.

        Also, no one gets to say they didn’t know about critical meetings I scheduled. They are simply not believed.

    1. Gretta*

      Wow, so much extra work for the letter writer. Who is this Jim, the president of the universe that he demands so much prep for? I would badmouth Jim all around town and unfriendly and hard to work with.

  24. Lucia Pacciola*

    Honestly I think the right move here is to take a step back and question the premise. 10-15 minutes, once a week, that can be unilaterally blown off without oversight doesn’t seem like it’s going to solve much of anything. If you and Jim aren’t communicating well by IM and email, this meeting probably isn’t going to fix that.

    I suspect the real issue is that Jim isn’t being held properly accountable for the consequences of these miscommunications, and he knows it. Whatever this is about, it’s not the most important thing on Jim’s mind, or on the minds of his actual stakeholders, or on the mind of your boss. If it were, your boss and Jim would have already worked out an effective process for ensuring accountability and results. I bet the reason Jim feels comfortable blowing off these meetings is because he’s busy doing work that actually has such processes in place.

    Getting a little bit conspiracy-theoretical, I wonder if your boss came up with this idea more to placate you, than to get Jim to take your communications seriously when he knows he doesn’t have to.

    1. Audrey*

      “ Getting a little bit conspiracy-theoretical, I wonder if your boss came up with this idea more to placate you, than to get Jim to take your communications seriously when he knows he doesn’t have to.”

      This was my first thought.

  25. JelloStapler*

    Is it possible he prefers email so he has a paper trail? If so, maybe (in addition to an agenda) – follow up with a summary inviting him to provide edits and adjustments if he feels something was not summarized accurately.

  26. Deirdre*

    I am interested in the gender dynamic here. Why isn’t Jim being asked to schedule the meetings?

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        They both need the meetings. Jim refusing to acknowledge that doesn’t change the facts.

        1. Lucia Pacciola*

          I don’t think Jim actually needs the meetings. From a business perspective, the only reason to have a meeting is if it enables some business result that the employer actually cares about. I’m sure Jim has plenty of work that he needs to do, in the sense that there’s processes and oversight in place to ensure the work gets done. These meetings are clearly not a part of any such process or oversight. That’s why Jim is able to blow them off without consequences. He doesn’t need them.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            But just because it doesn’t enable a business result Jim needs, doesn’t mean it doesn’t’ enable a business result someone else needs. I constantly get blow offs from a few people who think what I do isn’t as important as what they do from a business perspective. But I have to be able to get answers for my part in the process so they can do what they do to make the company direct money.

            That being said, when they turn me down more than twice without suggesting a better time to meet I say to them “we have to meet, tell me what works for you and I’ll make it work on my end” and it almost always results in a reschedule within a couple days. I think OP should do that, it generally works for me. Before she goes to boss, because Jim might need more than a “hey boss said so”, he might need a “this is why it’s important” and then his attitude might changes.

            1. Lucia Pacciola*

              If there’s a business result someone else needs, that isn’t getting delivered because of Jim, someone would be fixing that problem, not letting Jim blow off the 15 minute meeting once a week that would enable that process.

    1. Pet*

      It’s because the letter writer needs information from Jim. Jim may have no actual need to coordinate with the LW.

      1. Myrin*

        He may not have since this whole “fixed meeting” thing started – since evidently he was able to cancel them and there don’t appear to have been any consequences for his work – but he does in general: “Some things […] involve one of us showing the other how something works, how to do something, where a problem is physically located, etc.”.

    2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Yeah, what I see is Jim is failing to communicate/miscommunicating with OP. OP says something about this to boss. Boss, instead of solving this problem himself by directing Jim to give info to OP, tell Jim to prioritize OP, or tell Jim to set these meetings, tells OP to chase down Jim with a weekly meeting. Which Jim is now ignoring, continuing to be an information bottleneck.

      This is classic “men are the problem, but women are supposed to solve that problem.”

      1. AmuseBouchee*

        No, she isn’t communicating with him. She is telling him the meetings are optional and that she’s fine when he cancels but she is actually not fine, wants/needs her questions answered in person and instead of directly stating that she says it’s fine.

        And then complains to the boss.

        Not cool, not mature, not a lady thing.

    3. Festively Dressed Earl*

      Me too. LW never specifies their gender; I reread the letter twice to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. Is the commentariat assuming LW is a woman because this sort of administrative task is pushed off on women as a default?

    1. Gretta*

      Yes, this. So much extra time for the letter writer. Tattle/badmouth Jim to your boss immediately, he’s wasting your time.

    2. Lucia Pacciola*

      Maybe the meetings aren’t necessary to any of the work that Jim is being held accountable for. Maybe Jim is able to blow off these meetings without consequences, because the business results he’s responsible for delivering are clearly spelled out, and better communication with LW isn’t any part of them.

    3. Sunny*

      I don’t think there’s anything nefarious necessarily going on with who schedules the meeting – or at least, it probably didn’t start out that way. OP raised their issues to boss, who suggested a solution, and, assuming both parties are being professionals, it shouldn’t matter who sets up the meeting. It’s only because Jim is being a PITA that the ‘who’ is becoming a problem.

    4. anon_sighing*

      > He’s better with email, and we do email back and forth quite a bit, but I don’t think it’s feasible to strictly communicate with him over email.

      Because LW is the one that wants these meetings and initiated them. It’s completely reasonable LW be the one managing them. One of my pet peeve is when colleagues call meetings and then ask me “what’s the agenda?” — I don’t know, you asked for this meeting, you tell me…

    5. Pescadero*

      Because the LW wants and needs the meetings, and Jim appears not to.

      The meetings are for the LW’s benefit – not Jim’s (and we don’t even know if it’s in the companies benefit).

    6. Saturday*

      Because LW wants the meetings, and Jim is satisfied doing things the way they have been up to this point.

    7. Blue me Blue and blue John John*

      But if Jim and LW need to meet per their boss, why is boss not talking to Jim about this? Why is the LW only responsible for this and not Jim, who is also being told they need to meet?

  27. Overthinking it*

    Do you smell bad? is he in love with you? These are the only two reasons I can see for his avaiding you like this! Your letter makes it clear that the meetings are not major time sucks, and since he doesn’t avoid in person contact with other people, nd it’s not time conflicts or he would reschedule instead of canceling. He’s clearly uncomfortable being with you for some reason. And you don’t. mention phone contact as an alternative so, we know it’s not smell – or your looks, but it IS personal. So, I think in addition to pushing back, I think you need to just put him on the spot by asking: “You seem to avoid meeting with me (like our boss expexts us to). But I see you are fine meeting with other people. Why?”

    1. pamela voorhees*

      Well, the letter makes it clear that they’re not major time sucks to the LW — they still could easily be major time sucks to Jim. That could either be that Jim has a bad calibration of what a time sink is, or it could be that LW is a Talker/processes by talking out loud/is one of those folks whose definition of a “productive meeting” needs ten to fifteen minutes of small talk because otherwise you don’t feel like you really connected with your coworker (none of these are bad things in and of themselves, but if it IS you, clearly it’s not also working for Jim). It COULD be that you smell, but hey, it could also be that Jim is secretly an alien and you scheduled the meetings at the one time of week he contacts the mothership. :) We (as humans) so often take things personally when the other person doesn’t mean them that way at all — it could just be some really boring reason that you just can’t see like “Jim hates all meetings in person, with the exceptions of Phyllis (because they talk about their fantasy football league) and Stanley (because he brings donuts)”.

      1. amoeba*

        The meetings are, by LW’s word, 10-15 mins. So probably not 15 mins of small talk, and I find it really hard to see how that could be a “major time suck” for anybody.

  28. Jimmy Allston*

    It sounds like nobody really wants these meetings, or at least they don’t care too much either way.

    Sure the boss suggested it, but was it a casual “You should meet with Jim to make sure you’re in sync on xyz” or “You and Jim need to be meeting weekly and document the action items etc etc”

    OP themselves doesn’t really seem convinced of the need for a weekly meeting either.

    I’d opt to either let the boss run with it if it’s important, or just connect with Jim via email or maybe Zoom instead of in person if that’s easier

  29. Student*

    The other big reason to aggressively steer people to email communications is because there’s a history of disagreement about what was said verbally, and your co-worker now wants or needs a paper trail to deal with that. Which would potentially match up with your history of mutual miscommunications.

    This might not be meant to be hostile, necessarily – it can be because people don’t speak the same language, meaning in this case that maybe jargon or technical terms or acronyms are getting in the way rather than literal language proficiency. I tend to steer people toward written communication when I can because I am hard-of-hearing, and certain things are really hard for me to capture verbally – low-usage acronyms, numbers, dates (deadlines), proper nouns (names of people or places) are especially painful to handle with my bad hearing.

  30. blu*

    I can imagine myself as this leader. If someone on my team comes to me and says they aren’t getting a response from a peer, I would suggest getting a call in. If they keep coming back to me unable to figure out that they should try suggesting alternate times or sending an agenda ahead of time then I’m going to suggest those. It doesn’t mean I’m insisting and frankly I would be rather annoyed that my team member couldn’t figure out to try those before coming back to me. I don’t understand why when some cancels/declines a meeting you wouldn’t immediately reply and say hey I actually do need to meet with you on X,Y,Z please provide an alternate time. I find it odd that OP seems to need to consult her boss a every exchange on this.

    1. umami*

      I see it this way too, because I have actually dealt with these situations quite a bit. I file this under, how do I help mentor this person who has this problem so they can overcome it? Miscommunication happens just as much in f2f meetings as in electronic communications, so that is not the standard for why LW should get their way over their colleague’s. And you probably still have to document what was discussed in the meeting! And I say this as someone who does have various weekly standing meetings with direct reports and peers, which often get cancelled if there isn’t anything pressing to discuss. If someone says they can’t make our usual 9 am meeting, I will email back any pressing questions and move on. LW is sounding a bit rigid in thinking the only resolution is a f2f meeting. I’m not going to make the other party do it if what they are doing is working fine across the board. If others had a similar concern with Jim, it would be different, but LW says that’s not the case.

  31. Generic Name*

    I’m fascinated by all of the differing responses/interpretations to this letter. It’s almost like a Rorschach test, ha ha. I agree with the commenters who suggest that the LW not just accept Jim’s cancellation and say that they have items to discuss so they still need to meet. Maybe this is my own personal experience shading my perception, but I am going to guess that simply being more assertive isn’t the magical solution to a difficult coworker. Sorry to all of the people who sing the refrain of “this meeting could have been an email”, I just don’t think asking for (at the request of your mutual boss even!) a 15 minute one-on-one meeting when 2 people are both in the office is an unreasonable ask. I was on a project recently where I requested to set up a weekly 1 to 1 with a colleague so I could ask him questions (I think he actually was the one to suggest this). Sometimes I had a schedule conflict and we cancelled, or he had a schedule conflict and we cancelled. Sometimes I cancelled because I had nothing to discuss. It wasn’t a big deal to schedule and was immensely helpful.

    LW, maybe you do talk too much or you are being not assertive enough, but if you do get along well with everyone else and this guy is the only problem spot, the problem likely isn’t that you aren’t asking in the magic way or whatever to get this guy to cooperate. Over the course of my career, I spent far too much mental energy taking responsibility for coworkers being difficult to get along with. It’s the inverse of the saying of “If everyone you meet every day is an asshole, you’re probably the asshole”. If you get along with 99 out of 100 people, the 1 person you don’t get along with probably isn’t because you are hard to get along with.

    1. I Have RBF*

      I have a regular meeting, every week, with my counterpart in another group, specifically to discuss areas where we overlap. Half the time the meeting is 15 minutes. The other half the time it can be 45 minutes, because we have stuff to hash out so we are on the same page when dealing with other groups who would cheerfully throw both of us under the bus.

      Yes, sometimes it could be an email, but the “oh, by the way” stuff ends up being important. Even though it’s a zoom meeting, it has actually improved our working relationship, so that instead of me having to beg his boss to have him do X, I can just ask him if he can fit X on his plate, or can I pull it onto mine with some clues on past stuff. Essentially, 15 minutes of a zoom meeting saves us both hours of back and forth email.

  32. Gretta*

    Wow, so much extra work for this letter writer. Agendas, following up, rescheduling, always having to write things up in emails. I’m someone who finds it *much* easier to have a two minute call then spend 15 minutes writing up an email. People like Jim are huge time wasters in my opinion, and love to shift the work to other people.

    1. LinesInTheSand*

      And as one of the Jims of the world, those two minute conversations waste 2 hours of my time if they come when I’m in the middle of something. Just because it makes sense to you, doesn’t mean it works for me.

      1. amoeba*

        And that’s why LW isn’t calling out of the blue whenever they have a question but scheduled a weekly meeting. Honestly, if somebody hates talking to their coworkers that much, maybe they shouldn’t be in a job that requires communication and collaboration?

    2. pamela voorhees*

      I know that on your side, the two-minute call/fifteen-minute email for “here’s how you run this report” is a no-brainer, but if Jim only needs to run the report once a month, I guarantee he’ll have forgotten that two-minute call by the next month. The fifteen-minute email took you longer in the moment, yes, but it’s a reference that Jim can go back to. I’m never, ever trying to shift the work back to you when I ask for an email — I’m trying to make sure I don’t have to bother you a month from now.

    3. Saturday*

      Are the calls really two minutes though? In my experience, people who want to get on a “quick” call end up taking a lot more time than that, and it disrupts my day a lot more than an email would.

    4. Tiger Snake*

      Sure; but now you need to find 2 minutes in Jim’s calendar. And Jim’s calendar is booked solid for the next 2 weeks, the entire work day, without even a lunch break.
      So now you’re 2 minutes is 2+ weeks for now, but you’re pinned between a big-contract client meeting and a meeting with the CIO, so you’d better hope that big-contract client doesn’t go overtime – again – or else you’re just going to have to reschedule to whenever he’s free, which could be another week or two after that.

      But: Jim can multi-task and answer emails while discussing the new vendor contract, and can respond to your question same time. So you can either wait 2+ weeks for a 2 minute chat, or you can spend 15 minutes for an email that he can answer same day.

      1. amoeba*

        That’s complete fanfic, there is zero indication in the letter that Jim is that busy. (And that doesn’t sound like a sustainable model anyhow, Jim shouldn’t be writing those e-mails while in a client meeting?)

  33. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

    One possibility is there’s friction somewhere above OP and Jim–maybe with the manager who required the meeting? When someone is this resistant to such an innocuous ask, there’s a real issue somewhere. It may be that Jim has a problem with OP, but if OP genuinely doesn’t know what that problem is, it could well be problem with something surrounding this whole situation, not the meeting or OP or the actual substance of the work.

    1. Leave Hummus Alone*

      I agree! I also wonder if gender norms are coming into play here and the boss is requiring the OP (possibly a woman) to take on setting up the meetings as that can be a gendered task.

  34. orsen*

    LW, you have a tangible problem at work. How could it possibly be “tattling” to go back to your boss about this?

  35. Justin D*

    I have been in this situation and it’s 100% a management problem. This guy doesn’t see it as worth his time and your boss doesn’t think that they can make him do it. It’s not on you to make him do it.

  36. anon_sighing*

    You need to get everything you need actual face time into one agenda. Jim is an email person – even if you meet in person, he will be put out and annoyed by these meetings. Be concise, to the point, and don’t give him reason to think “this could have been an email.” I will be honest, I’ve had these 10-15 minute standing meetings before and they’ve always been for the benefit of the other person since 1) 10-15 minutes to show someone something isn’t worth it — I’d rather spend 30 minutes creating a lasting reference if this is going to come up again and again, 2) it gets in the way of other work, and 3) 9/10 times it can be an email if it can be explained in 10-15 minutes…this isn’t some long project planning session with a lot of nuance.

    You need to clarify with your manager if this is a “nice to have on the books for communication” thing or a real (mandatory) dictate — I’m skeptical of the latter because your boss hasn’t stepped in to enforce. And then once you get that, I’d stop bothering your manager about it, honestly. You’re a manager yourself — you should be able to sort out a solution to this that works for both of you. Not having these meetings isn’t hampering Jim’s work, but if it’s going to hamper yours, you need to put your foot down with Jim and you don’t need your manager to do that, considering Jim is amendable. If he cancels when you need to talk, find a different 10-15 time slot that day or the next. Share calendars – scare him into attending if he doesn’t want you to have that much access to his life and knows you will reschedule til you meet.

    I do think you should be able to communicate with Jim in a way that’s helpful for you (face-to-face time), but Jim clearly has a different set of time restrictions and communication style. That needs to be respected, too.

  37. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

    I know you mentioned you talked to Jim about the meetings being short when you were discussing with him initially, but what does the actual calendar invite look like? Is it literally a 15-minute “quick touch-base?” Or do you have it scheduled for 30-60 minutes with a “OP/Jim check-in” as the meeting name or something? If there’s room to make the calendar invite look less time-consuming, more low-stakes, that could help.

    Also – what about just showing up at his office/desk at the time you planned to meet with him? If these are truly only 10 minute meetings, well…lots of spontaneous “stop by your desk” type of things take ~10 minutes.

  38. Indolent Libertine*

    My guess: Jim is like this with everyone at work, including their mutual boss. Boss isn’t willing to enforce any expectations on Jim and is hoping that somehow LW will magically be able to make him behave as desired.

  39. Audrey*

    I feel bad but I’m really relating with Jim here. If I cancel a meeting and my coworker (at my request) emails me a list of questions that I can answer over email… I’m going to be so relieved I didn’t meet with them if I can answer most of them by email!! Then I can handle the in person stuff separately. Nothing annoys me more than setting aside time in my schedule to have a meeting for something that could have been an email.
    I’ll bet there’s a middle ground for OP where they get better about emailing way more with Jim, and just having a meeting every once in a while for things that truly cant be handled by email.

    1. HonorBox*

      A meeting for the sake of meeting is horrible. But it sounds like there are things that are better handled in person, and when holding those meetings is directed by the boss, sometimes it is better to just do it for 15 minutes and get on with the day.

  40. Leave Hummus Alone*

    But if I’m Jim and I’m cancelling meetings because I’ve got nothing on the agenda, I expect you to push back if that doesn’t work. I expect you to say “Actually, I’d like to talk through x,y,z in person. I can throw something else on your calendar later in the week.” That’s not being pushy, that’s you giving me information that I don’t have about why this specific meeting is important.

    I’m going to push back a bit on this thinking because it’s equally your responsibility to make sure you’re bringing things to the meeting and respect that even if you don’t have things on the agenda, the other person does. OP said that they’re sending out agenda items prior to the meetings and Jim is still canceling.

    This also puts all the onus on the OP to reschedule the meeting that was canceled, rather than saying that this time doesn’t work for you anymore and to schedule a different time.

    1. blu*

      Where are you seeing that OP is providing an agenda? From my reading colleague has cancelled the meeting and asked for an email instead and then responding to the email giving the colleague what they needed. It sounds like 1) OP can get what they need by email they just have a preference and find a call easier 2) are only telling colleague the specifics of what they want to discuss when prompted.

      1. HonorBox*

        Agreed that OP isn’t sending an agenda, but to your first point, it sounds like there have been challenges getting what they need via email on some topics, so these meetings were at the suggestion of the boss. There are ways that this can be more fine tuned, but if Jim is just dodging the meetings, that’s not following a direction specifically from the boss.

        1. Tiger Snake*

          Actually, I note that LW explicitly says “He’s better with email, and we do email back and forth quite a bit, but I don’t think it’s feasible to strictly communicate with him over email. ”
          So, it’s not that Jim isn’t responding to emails or that LW isn’t getting what she needs; it’s that she finds it easier to do in person because discussing things verbally is the LW’s preference.

          And that’s fair enough. But it doesn’t sound like Jim is “just dodging the meetings” either. The reasons that he needs to cancel are all very valid and very fair, and they are all good reasons that internal administrative meetings should be shuffled around to accommodate. It really sounds to me that its simply the nature of Jim’s job that he’s in a lot more meetings and has a lot more work travel than LW; his face time is in a lot more demands that LW, and that means that his calendar is a lot less stable.

          That is how it is with some jobs and some roles. But when you’re used to being able to set your entire week out in stone the Friday before, the idea that someone’s calendar is still being shuffled around until the morning of – it gets really hard to remember that that’s neither personal, nor an indication of poor planning.

  41. HonorBox*

    “Jim, these meetings are being scheduled at the direction of Boss. I know sometimes it is easier to communicate via email, and I’m happy to do that when it is feasible. But we both know that sometimes being able to talk face to face can help us navigate better than email. If you’re unavailable for our standing meeting the next two, we do need to meet. Boss is expecting it. We’ll keep this to 15 minutes.”

  42. Joe*

    never heard of the CC function in email ?
    When you communicate about the need to meet, you CC boss in email,, oh and never say we have to do X because boss says so.. thats weak and shows poor leadership..
    We need to meet, if X time doesnt work I am available Y and Z which is better for you ? and CC boss on that… Then if he cancels not your problem..

  43. Tiger Snake*

    I feel for Jim as well actually. I’ve been in his shoes a lot: everyone wants your time, and there just isn’t enough hours in the day. You’re having to juggle and reschedule things based on what’s the priority for the work you’ve been assigned, and that means some meetings need to be changed.

    I would also suspect that the fact it’s a regular meeting with a coworker is a part of why he thinks this is one that can be cancelled: you catch-up regularly, and its reasonable for him to presume that there isn’t anything time-sensitive or you’d reach out separately to discuss it.

    Given all this, there are several things I’d ask:

    1 – You don’t have an agenda, this is just to discuss whatever you need, so does he even KNOW there’s anything to discuss or is he assuming that since you’re not saying anything you’re both good for it to be cancelled that particular week? I’d say it’s reasonable to assume that if he hadn’t been told there was something we needed to talk about, then you were both good that week and the meeting for that week was unneeded

    2 – from Jim’s perspective, are these really meetings he needs, or are these really only needed from your side? As in, is he and his work getting anything out of this? He’s naturally going to need to prioritise the work his manager has assigned to him over what your manager wants you to do, so if his side isn’t benefitting then something that can just be done later on is naturally something to be de-prioritised

    3 – do they have to be weekly? And do they have to be at the time you set? Could you instead have them at one of the much less popular times that is unlikely to be stolen (like 9am on a Friday)?

    1. Pseudo Anon*

      The whole problem is that Jim doesn’t catch up with OP in real-time regularly. He doesn’t do phone calls and rarely does IM. Some meetings could just be emails but some email chains could be resolved in a few minutes with a quick chat instead of a back and forth dragged out over several days. add in the miscommunications OP claims and yeah.

  44. AmuseBouchee*

    Jim is clearly stating his preferences:

    “This past week he asked if I could email anything I needed to talk to him about, which I did, even though some things probably needed to be talked about face-to-face. He did get back to me with answers to my questions, and also indicated that moving forward, he would prefer to keep our communication to email.”

    And you are not. You are telling him it is fine to cancel with you week after week, and then complaining to your boss about it. You’re making yourself look incompetent because you are not clearly communicating to Jim, your longtime coworker what you actually want/need from him. You’re saying okay, but it’s not okay. Stop doing that.

  45. Crittertots*

    There’s some debate in these comments about whether the boss is actually requesting that these meetings happen.

    Honestly, I’m getting a strong impression that the DH is using this as a low stakes opportunity to coach OP on management-level communication, and DH doesn’t care all that much whether the meetings happen or not. I would expect a management-level staffer to be able to have a direct conversation about this with her peer before involving me, if I was her manager.

    1. Saturday*

      That was my impression too. LW is saying there are problems with communicating with Jim, so the boss suggests a standing meeting. I don’t think the people recommending copying the boss on all communication about these meetings are on the right track. I don’t think the boss wants to hear all that – I think they’re concerned with the bigger picture, not whether and how often these two meet.

      1. AmuseBouchee*

        Honestly, I find people that need to CC their boss inept at their jobs. If you can’t work with others and communicate clearly, you should not be managing other people.

  46. K*

    If it’s actually important to talk about this stuff in person I would just get to work early and stand somewhere where I can physically see Jim’s desk and then approach him when he arrives.

  47. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    Send an email with a question that you know can be sorted out more quickly and efficiently in person. Explain just enough so that Jim can see what he needs to show you, and ask when you can pop by for him to show you. If you see that he’s answering emails right then, you know he’s at his desk and thinking of your problem.

    I think Alison’s question about whether you might be too talkative could be explored further. NB this is not to say that you are too talkative, you are just too talkative FOR JIM. Or too bubbly, or too enthusiastic, or whatever other trait that might rub him up the wrong way. (I’m just remembering a school friend who told me that Carolyn hated me, and I had no idea why, because I’d never spoken to her. Turned out she was jealous of how I interacted with the teachers, asking cheeky questions but not getting reprimanded because I also got top marks for all my essays)

    What about the other people who he does meet with? Are they more senior to you, so he sucks it up? Or are they less talkative/bubbly/whatever? Or have they learned that he thinks he’s the bee’s knees and they need to arrive at his desk with donuts if not champagne? Maybe talk to these people to see whether they have a strategy and if so what?

  48. Ami abroad*

    Would it be the time to add the boss as an open CC: to any pushback by email? To give Jim a heads up the boss knows all?

    1. Anonymous Today*

      Yes! I wondered about that too, as in why isn’t the OP CC: ing their boss?

      After a couple of cancellations, that’s what I would do and too bad if Jim doesn’t like it.

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