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I have joined my first job 6 months ago as a software developer at a big firm. I am the youngest person in my team of 6. I like my team very much as all of the members are cool and very helpful.

We have a 1 hour meeting on every Tuesday at 11AM. A couple of members of other teams also join our meeting. In most of the meetings we also give presentations on various technologies. However, most of the time, 1/3 of the members (4 people including my manager) come late (11:15am or 11:20am) for the meeting. usually we need to wait for them, and therefore the meeting runs until around 12:30pm.

Personally and technically these people are very good and I like them. But I am getting a tad frustration with their attitude, and a couple of others (from my team and as well as other team) expressed similar feelings.

What is the best way to approach my manager about this?

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    Get generic agreement to either arrive on time or move the meeting to a more appropriate time. Once that's done start on time, always. Doesn't matter who's late, if you're late it's up to you to catch-up. – Ben Mar 28 '15 at 6:03
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    Really have to ask if you've considered an 11:20am meeting time. – user1084 Apr 1 '15 at 18:07
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    @djechlin Then the manager would arrive at 11:40. Unless OP didn't tell him/her it had been rescheduled. ;) – A E Apr 2 '15 at 18:30
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    Can you just walk by their desk/office on your way to the meeting and politely say 'Hey (insert name), the meeting is starting. Let's go to the meeting." – Bowen Jun 2 '15 at 0:12
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Managers and senior employees in many organisations use consistent lateness for meetings with their juniors as a status symbol.

The message is "You have to wait for me (but I never have to wait for you) because my time is more important than your time; I'm more important than you". If there's a group of people being forced to wait then the message is even stronger: "my time is more important than the time of all of you put together".

This kind of thing is particularly endemic in industries which are traditionally very hierarchical - in the medical profession for example, it would be quite common for a consultant (senior doctor) to be late for a meeting with a nurse, but much more unusual for a nurse to be late for a meeting with a consultant.

This is influenced by cultural factors of course - when I'm saying "late", what I really mean is "later than the other meeting participants consider the normal time for arrival". (In some cultures everyone arrives 15 minutes late for everything).

Notice I'm saying consistent lateness here - one-off lateness doesn't have the same implications: the train can be late once or twice and that's normal, but if the train is late every week and I don't aim for the earlier train, then I'm sending a message about how I perceive our relative importance.

Many men in business measure their masculinity in terms of how late they can be for a meeting. For them, arriving on time would show you were extremely junior or that you had so much free time that you could afford to sit around waiting for other people to show up. Being late to a meeting shows everyone in it how little time you've got and how lucky they are to have someone so in demand at their meeting.

Office Politics: How Work Really Works, Guy Browning 2006

See also:

So - what to do?

The most important thing is to bear in mind that you're the new guy and therefore the lowest-status person present. If this is a workplace where status is important to managers, then the last thing you want to do is to be seen to undermine their status - they won't like you for it.

So don't say to them:

"Hey guys, you're behaving quite self-importantly here. I know you're probably not doing it on purpose - it's probably unconscious - but please knock it off".

Instead, best to deal with the idea that they want to pay you to do nothing for 20 minutes once a week, simply in order to flatter their egos. It's not mature behaviour and it's not effective management, but you're not in a position to be able to point this out without doing yourself a disservice with the people in charge of you. And nobody likes a smartarse.

So here's some options:

  • Simply do nothing for the 20 minutes. If that kind of ego-massaging is the work they want from you - and it's pretty easy work, after all, and not really all that demeaning - then give it to them.

  • Bring some work with you to the meeting. Take your laptop and do some work until everyone arrives. That way you're using the time productively. (This is better than intentionally arriving late for the meeting yourself, because it's less risky for you as the newbie).

  • Use the fact that you're waiting there in the room with your junior colleagues every week to improve your personal relationships: chat about sports, families, holidays, technology, whatever it is that they're interested in.

  • Use the time to discuss work-related topics in advance of the meeting: this is your best option. Don't get out the agenda and start conspicuously talking through it point-by-point in advance of the manager's arrival - that could look bad - but instead just chat about what you know is going to come up in the meeting. This prepares you for the actual meeting itself by already knowing what some of the people present are going to say and what angle you should take. It can be incredibly useful. If you want to do it subtly, you can mix it in with the personal chat ("did you see sports team's event last night? Oh, and what do you think about project thing?"). Pre-meeting meetings are a super-valuable tool, and can become the place where the decisions are really made - if you and your peers get good at this then you can start sewing up the major decisions before the managers even arrive. ;)

By the way, I'd consider this kind of asserting of status by managers and senior team members fairly unusual - and somewhat dysfunctional - in a software engineering setting. For me it would be a red flag for an organisation that's maybe more bureaucratic and status-conscious and less delivery-focussed and meritocratic than it should be. That does vary by culture (around the world) though, and anyway it's essentially the CEO's problem rather than yours.

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My solution, when I can get away with it, has always been to start the meeting on time anyway, or as soon as I have a few people to meet with. After missing the start of the meeting a few times most folks will at least try to be less late. Only works if you're the meeting leader/presenter of course.

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The obvious thing would be to move the meeting to 11:15, but then maybe they will arrive at 11:30 or 11:35?

If this happens regularly, and it's the same people, there may be a reason behind it other than not being bothered to get out of their chair. The most obvious reasons would be: There is some other meeting earlier that often takes too long, or these same four or five people get up together and then start talking about things for 15 minutes.

If either is the case, and cannot be changed, then your meeting time should be adjusted.

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Managers and senior people are absorbed in their own problems. They do not recognize that you spent a lot of time idling, because they were likely busy. So you need to tell them. After such meeting, take your boss aside and ask him:

I noticed we spent a combined 4 man-hours waiting for late-comers. If we optimize this, we could spent this time on our projects. What can we do to make the participants not wait for such a long time? Would it help to move the meeting to a more suitable time?

In addition, do not just "move" the meeting slot if people are late. If your meeting is supposed to end at 12:00, let it end at 12:00 sharp. Because if you end it late, you are the cause for the next meeting to start late with the very same problems you just described. Use time boxing for your meetings. If you are lucky, people will notice the positive effect and apply it in their meetings as well.

If you make the consequences of being late visible (man hours wasted, purpose of meeting not accomplished in time) people will stop being late.

  • He is a junior, he most certainly isnt the one who schedules the meeting. Asking the seniors whether he could move the meeting wont work because one of those seniors schedules it. – Masked Man Mar 28 '15 at 9:55
  • Well, I don't think it would be too hard to change the grammar of the sentence to "Maybe you can move the meeting to a more suitable time?" – nvoigt Mar 28 '15 at 10:01
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    Yeah, but that doesnt change just the grammar. Asking a senior to move a meeting because he was late can be easily perceived as being passive aggressive. It is different when the meeting chair asks the participants if the meeting can be moved to a more convenient time. – Masked Man Mar 28 '15 at 10:27
  • That said, I dont disagree with this answer, just wanted to point out that changing the wording of the statement to ask the senior to move the meeting also requires the junior to take care of the "semantic change" that results. – Masked Man Mar 28 '15 at 10:29
  • I changed the wording. English is not my native language, so translate it to your language as non-passive-aggressive as you can. The point is that telling people they are late is not going to solve the problem. Instead focus on how to improve and what to change. Especially if people are senior, it helps if they realize that the best solution would be being on time. Telling them the same facts will only make them defensive. – nvoigt Mar 28 '15 at 11:04
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I am not sure of the exact dynamics but we had a pretty similar weekly tech wrap up meeting on 3PM Mondays. Same deal with managers and senior members. It was a pain because since they were late most of us went home later. After the 5-6th time we decided that if not everyone could make it within 10 minutes of the meeting time (it was required that these people be there because they had to bring up their weekly issues for their groups) that we would reschedule.

So two weeks in a row a 3:10 we all left agreeing to reschedule on Tuesday. After that no issues. So yes the managers were on time on Tuesday and not the next Monday. This rather annoyed the managers because they had to walk across campus to find no one in the room. Also if you make the decision as a group then what will the managers say?

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The best solution I've found is to start the meeting as soon as a guorum of the folks who Absolutely Must Be Involved are present. If others, including managers, don't care enough to be on time, that's their problem and their choice.

If management asks you to delay ghe meeting start, that's a different kettle of worms.

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