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My employer has one meeting room, there is a system that allows you to book it. It was booked today for a two hour meeting for 7-8 developers to discuss a project. Just before that meeting was due to take place, one person, the manager of another dev team, went into the meeting room and started a call, they hadn't booked the room, they didn't check if it was booked and they didn't leave when they were informed it was booked.

According to others this isn't the first time he has done this and it happens regularly.

How can I deal with this behaviour and make sure it doesn't happen anymore? Would publicly calling him out in front of the team about wasting so many people's time be a good idea?

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    I suggest asking this to your own manager. If it was a peer, I would just knock and tell them the room is booked. Not sure if this is a smart move with a other manager. Unless the manager is your peer offcourse. – Jeroen Nov 13 '17 at 14:54
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    Just walk into the room and start the meeting. – camden_kid Nov 13 '17 at 15:34
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    Do managers have offices? – Mister Positive Nov 13 '17 at 15:36
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    What is your company policy on this. It would seem that would be the answer to this question – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 13 '17 at 15:56
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    The question is not completely clear: Were you bothered he did this at all and that you had to ask him to leave? Or did he refuse to leave and actually prevent the scheduled meeting from starting on time? – Relaxed Nov 13 '17 at 19:24
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Start off with declaring that you've already booked this room.

I'm sorry, I thought we booked this room, maybe there's something wrong with the booking system, was it working for you?

This clearly communicates (in a mildly passive-aggressive way) that there's a process to be followed here and allows him to tell you that he didn't bother booking, or that he's sorry and the meeting is important, or that he used a different process for reserving the room. You can sort things out from there either by waiting or rescheduling/relocating.

There's not much you can do if someone is already there and won't leave for a while. Booting someone out (especially if they're a manager) might not be the tactful response. Don't forget that you're not only kicking the guy out of the room, you're also kicking all of his meeting participants out of the meeting (and you have no idea who those people are or how important they are).

But what we do is put up small posters in the rooms indicating what the reservation instructions are, and a reminder for people to keep the meeting room clean and tidy.

If this behaviour continues, then take it up with the management.

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    Either his meeting can be disrupted or mine, and I remembered to book a room, and I have eight people waiting right here and now who can do nothing without the room. However despite that, no I'm not going to insist that the room is mine, but I am going to start the process of negotiating who gets the room by not making a statement that downplays the importance of my meeting. He could (seemingly) make the call from a smaller room. He can say "this is a really important call and I need the room" . There is also a culture issue here. Most places I've worked this would be an acceptable approach. – DJClayworth Nov 13 '17 at 15:09
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    To be clear, this answer is advocating for interrupting this person's call to ask them this. I agree that this is necessary. If there's no consequences, the person won't use the system. Getting interrupted by the people who reserved the room is an appropriate consequence for stepping on the toes of people who followed procedure. – jpmc26 Nov 14 '17 at 1:04
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    None of that “I thought” BS, call them out on it. Even if their meeting is more important, they are inconveniencing others. – Eric McCormick Nov 14 '17 at 1:26
  • Agree with all the other comments, and only want to clarify that the conference call would only end if he was the host on the conf call. (OP saying started a call could just mean he dialed into a call, not necessarily initiated it). A small distinction but the tone of this answer is to be passive aggressive, so it's important to know this detail imho. – MDMoore313 Nov 14 '17 at 19:54
  • Don't waste time asking questions. It's your room, you can use it. He can either take the call while you're setting up or get out immediately. I don't see how people have problems with this. Imagine if you stopped a train because someone without a ticket got on. No, you kick them off at the next stop. – insidesin Nov 17 '17 at 1:03
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This depends a bit on the company culture and how "accepted" the room booking system is.

In my company, everybody uses the system and expects the room to be available when you book it. In this case the correct answer is "sorry, but we have the room now" and the expected behavior is for the squatter to vacate the premises immediately, even if it's the CEO. If it's a dire emergency, the squatter can reply "sorry guys, we are in the middle of something really important, would be you mind finding a different spot" and you work it from there. The system is there for a reason and not adhering to the rules wastes massive amounts of time for everyone. Senior management knows this and will therefore not only abide by the rules but also role-model good behavior. I kick people out about twice a day, mainly because they run over. It's perfectly normal and no one minds.

If the booking system is only used sporadically, than this is hit or miss and a more diplomatic approach is better. Work around the immediate problem and then discuss with your manager

"Hey boss, The room booking system saves us a lot of time, but I also see that not everyone is using it or honoring the bookings. What can we do about this?"

  • "mainly because they run over" Meetings always run over. This is why you should plan for that eventuality and reserve the room a little longer than it's scheduled. ;) – jpmc26 Nov 14 '17 at 1:08
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    Meetings always run over, not matter how long they are scheduled ! Enforcing room booking times has the side benefit that it focuses the team on outcome: everyone knows you are going to lose the room in 10 minutes, so you better get on with it ! – Hilmar Nov 14 '17 at 1:49
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    Meetings do not always run over. The scrum-master at my last job was really good at keeping meetings to the target time or less. – Martin Bonner Nov 14 '17 at 13:05
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    Meetings don't always run over. If blocks of time are being reserved for "buffer", all you do is making meetings longer without solving the problem. 2 hours meetings with a 3 hour reservation become 3 hour meetings that run over. Just reserve the meeting for the time you need and expect to be kicked out if you intrude into some else's time. – iheanyi Nov 14 '17 at 16:59
  • @Hilmar Exactly. Which is why you should reserve the room for longer than the meeting. (Make them separate entries on the calendar.) This is also why you should have gaps between meetings. – jpmc26 Nov 15 '17 at 5:43
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If you've made it clear that you have the room booked, and the other person makes it clear they're not leaving, then the right thing to do at that time is to leave: you can't help anything by having a conflict right then and there.

Publicly calling people out is rarely a good idea. I would let the first one go (unless you have direct information that this isn't nearly the first, and not just gossip, but actual details), but document it, and if it happens again I'd go to your manager with that information. You don't specify if you're a manager on a similar level or a developer below, but either way it's probably right to go up one level (and your manager might bump it up one more level if you're a developer and not a manager).

This is the sort of thing that either needs to come from a peer or come from a higher ranking manager. Clearly the other manager does not value your time and is willing to entirely ignore you, so the only thing that's going to fix this is for his manager, or at least a peer, to tell him that he cannot do this.

  • I guess who you report to depends on who administers the room-booking system. In a large company like mine, it's the facilities department. Complaining to managers may not be the right reporting line here. – Snow Nov 13 '17 at 16:08
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    @Snow Since the OP's employer only has one meeting room, I would imagine the company is small enough that talking to a manager would do the job. – David K Nov 13 '17 at 16:14
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    @Snow: I don't think it matters who administers the booking system. This is not a technical problem with the system itself (such as bookings getting lost), but someone who deliberately ignores the system. That's a people problem, and people problem's are management's job. – sleske Nov 13 '17 at 19:50
  • @Snow I don't think it has anything to do with the booking folks. The point isn't that there is an issue with booking, right? The point is it's an issue with an employee not respecting others. That has zero to do with facilities, and is exactly why I would go through their manager (or, at least, through your manager). – Joe Nov 13 '17 at 20:06
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This is a management problem.

If I believe that my impromptu meeting is worth $1,000,000,000 to the company and your scheduled meeting is worth $1,000 to the company then I will absolutely do the same thing.

If management believes the same, then your meeting will be cancelled.

I am fully aware that in the OP's case that this is probably not the case. The other guy is just an ass and his/her project is not more valuable than OP's project. This example just shows that the meeting room remains the company's property (to do with as the company wishes) whether or not it is reserved.

It is a management problem. If you can't get things done b/c of a lack of resources then you should escalate that to management.

Say "Boss, we are hitting a roadblock on our project. The other team is hogging our resources and it is slowing down our progress. Are you OK with us delivering the project a quarter later than originally planned?"

If the boss says s/he is OK with the project slipping a quarter then you should not have a problem with the guy stealing your meeting room.

Once, as Johnson prepared to leave an airport after a speech, an army staff sergeant noticed that the President was heading for the wrong helicopter. He came up to LBJ, pointing: "Mr. President, that is your helicopter over there." Johnson threw one of his huge arms over the sergeant's shoulders and smiled: "Son, they are all my helicopters."

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    @Phil our company does have 2 meeting rooms and I even booked the other meeting room, but some jackass with a $1TRILLION meeting rudely stole it and now I am doing the same to you. There is only one thief in the Marines. Everyone else is just trying to recover their stuff. – emory Nov 16 '17 at 2:21
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    @emory having an excuse doesn't stop you from being a thief. All the marines are thieves (they are taking things that don't belong to them), even if they try to justify it. Don't lose yourself in needless metaphors. – ANeves Nov 16 '17 at 17:28
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    @ANeves you really, really didn't understand what he was saying, and you topped it off with bizarre moralising, ironically being the only person to lose yourself in said metaphor. – Robert Grant Nov 17 '17 at 8:35
  • @RobertGrant maybe I misunderstood; is it an idiomatic expression? Instead of heckling, could you explain? You can also flag these comments as chatty, and we'll avoid discussing in comments - that's a good outcome too. – ANeves Nov 17 '17 at 14:04
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    “If I believe that my impromptu meeting is worth $1,000,000,000 to the company and your scheduled meeting is worth $1,000 to the company then I will absolutely do the same thing.” If you were on the call and knew what was happening how about doing something crazy like writing on a notepad, “Very Sorry! Can Explain. Hang Tight Until Over.” Being the boss does not mean being a bully. And if the deal is worth a lot to the company, might be best to not alienate the people who helped you get to that point. – JakeGould Nov 19 '17 at 5:03
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This is not only a waste of your time and all the meeting invitees, but is also a waste of the money invested in the booking system. Just about everywhere I have ever worked, this is a problem to some degree, but it does tend to work in both directions with people also booking rooms but not using and not cancelling the booking with enough lead time for others to use the room.

I'd assume the person who is doing this to you is aware of the time wasted but and has seen it from both directions. I prefer to take a "let's fix the culture together" approach and discuss it later in the day with that person and come to agreement that the booking system is there for a reason, that senior management doesn't need to be involved in solving matters like this, and making commitments in both directions -- that both of you will never use a room when booked by another, and also never book a room and not cancel it at least a day in advance.

The next time it happens, call them out and cite the past discussion and agreement on this matter. That is fair game and reasonable.

If nothing you do improves the situation, then escalate to your manager and explain the efforts you have made to team together and change culture on conference room booking discipline.

I would not escalate beyond your own manager on this.

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You must let them know clearly how the time of other people is being wasted. You also must do this without further escalating the situation since presumably the person outranks you and direct conflict will not be helpful to you. My advice would be to have your meeting outside the room nearby. When people ask why, be honest. Tell them you booked the room, but whatshisname has a call that you are waiting to end before you can use the room so you don't interrupt him. However, this meeting must happen and you are so you are very sorry for the noise for the rest of the office. Remember, by hogging the room, they are harming the rest of the office and the company, not just you. If they complain about it, it will be clear that you are not the bad guy here.

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    Nice passive-aggressive approach! – WGroleau Nov 14 '17 at 2:06
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    Alternatively, if the manager has an office, go in there. After all, he isn't using it! – timbstoke Nov 14 '17 at 16:30
  • So what if the person outranks them? Does that justify there behavior? Surely you'd expect better adherence to policy with more senior members of staff? Even if it was my direct line manager, I would call them out for it, in a polite and non-aggressive manner, but at the same time being direct, clear and making sure you get your point across. – user3574492 Nov 16 '17 at 20:08
  • Here in New England we have open town meetings as a form of government. They're conducted by Robert's Rules of Order. So, when one person says to another, "Point of general privilege: Eight people are waiting here" we generally understand each other. According to Robert, the "general privilege" motion is always in order and must be considered immediately. (It's the formal mechanism by which somebody says, "there's a fire and we should exit this building now," among other things.) – O. Jones Nov 17 '17 at 12:23
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Perhaps there is a space issue? If you have two sites for meetings, this may solve the issue? If that is the only space, and there are occasions for a manager to need the room for private conversations than this problem will not easily be resolved until you find an alternate place for meetings, impromptu or planned.

I would suggest having a meeting, lol, to discuss this and to allocate an alternative spot for meetings. This doesn't eliminate the reservation procedure, just allows for things out of your control as an alternative.

Then perhaps the alternative space would be for the unplanned events... and the formal meeting room would therefore not need to be interrupted with these unplanned events?

protected by Chris E Nov 15 '17 at 17:22

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