18

In my organisation there is 4 ways of communicating with other employees:

  1. Email,
  2. Microsoft Lync (IM application)
  3. Going to their desk.
  4. Schedule a meeting in outlook and it will send them an invite via email. You can put in a description/agenda here.

I want to schedule a few 1 on 1 meetings with other people in the organisation to get information out of those people. The other people are not in the same team as me and some of them are line managers whereas I'm not.

What is good meeting scheduling etiquette? Do I just create the meeting and invite the other person or do I ask them if they would be able to spare 30 minutes to go over something first?

  • 7
    It varies from company to company. When you asked your boss how you should do this, what did she say? – DJClayworth Dec 7 '15 at 21:17
  • Life tip - if you want to get information, you have to start by giving information. – corsiKa Dec 8 '15 at 18:21
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    Modern life tip - Even tho people appear to want to handle everything by email, if you've never met someone, just go talk to them face to face to introduce yourself first. A little face time goes a long way. – JPhi1618 Dec 8 '15 at 18:57
  • I agree with JPhi1618. There is no true substitute for personal human interaction - not before, and not now. E-mails within the workplace definitely have their own purpose to fulfill, but they don't cover everything. – Panzercrisis Dec 8 '15 at 20:41
51

If some random person I did not know scheduled a one-on-one meeting with me, I would be very confused, and I would assume it was a mistake. I would probably ignore it at first, hoping the sender would correct their mistake. After a certain amount of time, if it didn't go away, I would decline the meeting without comment.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but this has only ever happened to me on very rare occasions. People always introduce themselves first, which avoids any confusion. That's really the best thing you can do. Send an email saying you would like to schedule a meeting, and make sure you say why. If you have the ability to view their schedule, suggest a time.

The best course is to avoid confusion and don't make any assumptions.

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    I'd sometimes receive meeting invites from strangers - but they'd virtually always have some explanatory text in the invite body like "Hi, I'm [explanation of role], I'd like to meet to discuss [X possible project]. I hope this is okay, feel free to call me if you can't make time this week or have any questions". Even then, it feels a little bit presumptuous. On very the few exceptions, there'd usually be someone I knew on the invitee list, who I'd ask about it (usually, they'd have forgotten to tell me they suggested person X meet us, and person X would have assumed I'd been briefed) – user56reinstatemonica8 Dec 9 '15 at 0:08
  • And on top of it, this person could actually direct you to someone with better knowledge for your specific problem. – dyesdyes Dec 9 '15 at 0:42
28

I'm often at the receiving end of these types of invites. From my perspective, what works best is an outlook invite that includes an introduction, goals, and agenda for the meeting (which all invites should have already anyway!),

Something like:

"Hi, I'm Bob and I'm the new intern in the xyz department. My manager thought it would be a good idea to meet with you to learn more about department abc. I'd appreciate it of you could take half an hour for a quick meet and greet and some introductions about your world. If this time doesn't work, I'll be happy to reschedule".

That makes it fastest and easiest for me: I understand quickly what this is about and if it's all good, I can just hit "accept" or otherwise do a quick reply for decline or adjustment. If possible I would avoid something that requires multiple communications. If you can get in done in message, get it done in one message.

  • +1 for "My manager..." If, as you say, there's a disparity between you and the people you wish/need to meet, giving it an official footing (rather than just some random employee wanting to chat) will probably help. I would, though probably make the introduction in an email rather than a meeting invite (but that may vary by how a company uses invites). – TripeHound Dec 8 '15 at 9:14
  • Re: "my manager" this was just an example. Any reason is a good one, if it's valid. However, context is important: make clear who you are, what you want and how I fit into this. Re: separating introduction and e-mail: In my opinion that's not a good idea. The introduction is not actionable. By the time I get the invite, there are probably 40 more e-mails in my Inbox and so I have to go back and find the introduction to decide on a response. Even if I accept I still want to context in the invite otherwise I would have to dig it up again once the actual meeting comes along. – Hilmar Dec 8 '15 at 14:47
  • I don't think we're in disagreement, although looking back, "in an email rather than a meeting invite" may be unclear. I meant -- depending on the culture -- make the initial introduction in an email rather than in an out-of-the-blue invite. If this approach is acceptable, then you wouldn't send an empty invite (hoping they remember you among the 40 emails), you'd still say something like "As discussed, a short meeting to XXX". – TripeHound Dec 8 '15 at 15:17
22

This will vary a lot based on culture.

For example, as an American, I don't mind just creating a meeting with someone I've never met. I don't really care if others do it to me (as long as I have context for why they are doing so). This is fairly common in direct cultures.

However, my boss is not from a Western country. He really feels uncomfortable when people randomly create meetings with him, because it is very impersonal and blunt/abrupt. He would feel much more comfortable with an introductory email first asking for setting up a meeting. Or if someone was introduced to them in person, first.

Generalizing, Western culture is direct and values business first, relationship second. People from this background likely won't care if you randomly schedule a meeting (as long as you don't waste their time). People from less direct and more relational cultures will care a lot more about how you do this. The relationship matters to them.

Basically, it's going to depend a lot on culture. Both of your company as well as some influence from the backgrounds of everyone involved.

Your best answer is going to be to ask your boss. They should have a good feel for your internal company culture, may know the people, and can provide a more context specific answer.


What I would (and do) approach this:

  • Send introduction email, saying "my boss suggested I reach out to you regarding X. Can I setup 30 minutes on our calendar to talk about this?"
  • After getting response, send meeting notice

If you want to send a meeting without the intro email make sure to include clear context that 1) your boss suggested it and 2) why you are meeting.

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    Interesting. I consider myself (and the local culture) to be very direct as well but I would not be ok with random invites from colleagues who aren't above me in the hierarchy or who are from other departments. It's not so much the relationship that needs to be established as that I'll judge for myself when I can make time for an unexpected meeting. – Lilienthal Dec 8 '15 at 9:16
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    I think it also depends a lot on how much you consider your calendar to be correct. People who put literally everything they do in their calendar tend (in my experience) to be more comfortable with others creating and scheduling meetings via the calendar with no previous negotiation. People whose calendars are mostly empty, because they didn't block out time for lunch, answering their daily load of email, leaving on time to pick up the kids, etc, are more likely to consider it an imposition if someone puts a meeting in the calendar without asking first. – Steve Jessop Dec 8 '15 at 10:18
  • ... and this is within one Western country. – Steve Jessop Dec 8 '15 at 10:21
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    Even the introductory email isn't relational-enough in many countries. In the Middle East or China for example, such an email would basically be ignored until the person is physically introduced by a trusted/known colleague. – thanby Dec 8 '15 at 18:27
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No matter what communication technology you employ, you want to convince the person that the meeting will be worthwhile. You should think about what value the meeting has. Does it help them do their job? Probably not. You want to show them that it will help the organization and that you have been respectful of their time. You should prepare your questions so the meeting will give you the answers you are seeking. It would be helpful to show that you have done that. If you do so, many people will be happy to help you.

A story that shows what I am talking about. I got a phone call from a very junior engineer. She was asking about how we had solved certain problems on my program so she could apply that to her program. She had studied the drawings carefully and had a list of specific questions prepared. I answered the ones I could and directed her to people who could answer the others. We spent 20 minutes on the phone. I was left feeling happy that I had helped her and our company deal with her problems. Her preparation had made the call very productive.

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I would try within Outlook and see if you can view their schedule so that in booking a meeting there isn't something already there.

If that doesn't work, then I'd likely suggest going to their desk so that they could look up their availability quickly assuming these meetings are to be had soon. If you're OK waiting a long time then I may go to e-mail which may be the lowest priority way to go. This can also convey the importance of the meeting as e-mail may get ignored in some places, at least from what I've seen in my years of working.

IM makes sense only if the people are known for using it and is a way to get a hold of someone. If a manager is in meeting 90% of the time, then it may be that an IM would be better than usual e-mail. Otherwise, it may not do much.

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