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Meeting mayhem

Q. A colleague at work routinely calls me from the road to blow off a meeting with me. “Sorry,” he says. “The meeting with the client went longer than planned so I’ll be missing our meeting.” This happens all the time. Should I feel angry or just take it without saying anything?

Anonymous

A. Once in a while circumstances will dictate that a meeting with a client overshadows an internal meeting. The fact it happens repeatedly is the real issue that needs to be addressed.

Ripping into your colleague the next time he calls and says he’s going to miss a your meeting is counter-productive. It’s more likely that he’ll respond to your anger . Then the conversation becomes about you and your anger and not about him missing meetings.

The next time he is in the office, ask to meet with him. If you don’t have an office of your own, meet with him in a private space. Before the meeting, marshal your facts: the dates and times he has canceled meetings with you because client meetings have interfered. These facts should support your contention that he really does consistently miss your meetings. Present your documentation and explain the problems caused by the missed meetings: delay in work product, poor communications. Have a solution in mind. Clearly, scheduling meetings near his client meetings isn’t working. Perhaps there’s a time first thing in the morning or on a certain day of the week that doesn’t come just after a client meeting. Then ask him for his buy-in to make that time a priority. “Jack, it looks like a meeting at 8:00AM will work for you and won’t interfere with your client meetings. Is that okay with you if we schedule our meetings then?”

Back-to-back meetings are problematic Inevitably one meeting goes too long and suddenly you’re sitting in the first meeting squirming in your seat because you know the second meeting has already started without you. If your entire day is a series of meetings, being held up causes a ripple effect which negatively impacts every subsequent appointment. You can avoid this situation by doing one of the following:

  • Give yourself breathing room around each meeting. In addition to travel time, build in a fifteen-minute buffer between any meetings you schedule.
  • At the start of a meeting, ask the meeting organizer to reiterate the time allotted for the meeting. If meetings routinely run over, offer to give a “ten minute warning” to wrap it up.
  • Communicate ahead of time. Let the organizer know that you have another meeting scheduled close to his meeting and that you may have to leave.
  • If your first meeting is more important (perhaps it is with your CEO), alert the organizer of the second meeting about your predicament and that you may be unavoidably late.
The worst thing to do is to do nothing and then find yourself in the uncomfortable position of having to be in two places at once.

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