How do you deal with late arrivals?

We don’t mean to turn up late but with so many meetings in the day one inevitably runs over and clashes in to the next one. When you are running your own meeting, you know other people are trying their best to get loads of stuff done but isn’t it still annoying when it’s your meeting they are turning up to? So how do you deal with it?

There is no easy answer and a lot depends on the culture and hierarchy in your organisation. However, we have to deal with this a lot, so here are a few tips.

Perhaps the most practical and effective method is to declare a start time that is before you actually plan to start the meeting. Now, of course, if you make this common knowledge then it will fail as everyone will rumble you and turn up late to compensate and then you are back where you started. It is worth colluding with a couple of other regular attendees, the senior ones if possible (as long as they are not your biggest problem!). Get them onside and others won’t want to be later than them. This isn’t a very efficient way of spending your day though – or a good way of using everyone else’s time. Use with caution!

Another method is just to start the meeting. In our meetings, we always have the formalities and governance bit of the meeting first and this can take 30 minutes or more. It has to be done so you might as well get it completed while people are drifting in. This section includes the review of previous actions, so if someone isn’t there then you will have to go back to it when they turn up and ask them how their action is getting on – this in itself is a gentle nudge that they should have been there earlier.


We have also heard of the monetary fine; a coin goes in the pot for every late arrival, or the last one in buys the coffees. I’ve not seen this work in the long term but you can try it.

It may sound extreme but we have also seen the meeting room door locked at the allocated start time. If you’re not there on time the meeting goes ahead without you. This would need a culture shift to get it adopted but it would certainly make late-comers turn up on time in future.

You may not recognise this in your organisation, in which case you are very lucky. Some cultures around the world are very good on punctuality. I am sitting writing this in the UK, and therefore it won’t come as much of a surprise for the reader to wonder why this is a hot topic here. We are considerably worse at this than our Northern European neighbours. If you have a neat trick to deal with it though please get in touch and we will add your technique to the list.