What is the best way to deal with a sr manager head of a department who is always late to my meetings? Should I start the meeting without him?

  • 2
    Don't worry about it too much, happens all the time. If he is always late, just go ahead and if his approval is needed for something, make an educated guess about whether he would automatically give it or if it needs discussion with someone at his level, and proceed accordingly. If tentatively assuming his approval, make sure to run it by him when he shows up.
    – Pete W
    Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 4:32
  • How important is it that he be present for the entire meeting? Can you reschedule the meeting to a time that works better for him? If there are items on the agenda that don’t involve him directly, maybe you could lead with those. Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 7:19
  • 1
    From my experience, this behavior can also be tied to regional/cultural expectations. For example, a German team I work with considers you late if you are just "on-time" and would find it intolerable for a meeting to extend beyond what has been agreed to. On the other hand, I have also worked with a team from South America for whom it would be unthinkable to end a productive meeting just because time was running out. One team finds it rude/disruptive to "arrive late" the other, to "leave early". Knowing the cultural expectations of your company and executive might be important here.
    – JonSG
    Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 22:40

4 Answers 4


Yes, start the meeting without him. This will set expectations and will condition people to come on time (if they don't want to miss anything). Starting the meeting late affects you and the other people in the meeting.

  • Just start on time. That also shows respect for those who showed up. Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 18:50

It depends on the number of other people who attend. If there are a significant number of people, start the meeting on time because that is typically the best use of the totality of everyone's time. When the head arrives, catch him/her up, then proceed. You can clear up some meeting overhead / residual chit-chat.

Secondarily, it helps to try to understand why the head is late. If he/she has another meeting abutting yours, consider starting yours ten minutes later.


As others have said, just start the meeting on time. If your boss is not there, it's his problem, not yours. But I would also advice caution if you know your boss is hard to deal with. One time should probably still be fine, but if he expresses that he doesn't like that, don't do it again. I've personally had a boss that was quite tough to deal with and I knew if I started a meeting without him, he would probably be pissed. But considering you're asking this question, I doubt you're in that situation.

Also, if you're discussing a topic where it's important your boss knows about it, obviously you should wait with discussing that topic until he is there (if there are other topics, just start with those).


TLDR: It depends, but mostly, yes start.

Having said that, most answer already have part of the right absolutely right, but

  1. If your boss is a key person on whose answers a large part of the meeting depends then focus on why he is late. Back to back meetings? Reschedule so that there is at least 10 min overlap and send a reminder 2 minutes after it has started. (e.g. a ping in Lync, or invite to meeting if in ms teams etc. I have several people at work for whom repeated reminded are needed and most of them adjust after a few sessions.)

Assuming that this is not the case:

  1. For meetings with three people in it I a usually willing to wait 5 minutes. After that I start. This overlaps with point #1 in that most people tend to be important in call with a few people. Despite that I will start within 5 minutes.

  2. For meetings with a dozen or more people in it start on time. For me that means at the meeting time, or at most within a minute of the appointed start time.
    If you do not then ytou are both disrespecting the other who where on time and wasting all of their time.

  3. Lastly, if you are not the organiser then just open the call, wait 5 minutes and then leave. If needed the organised can reschedule, but these days it is busy enough that wasting time idling in meetings is an unaffordable waste.

Key poiunt I want to stress (again):

  • Key people
  • How many participants

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