The scourge of meeting latecomers

(c) Giampaolo Squarcina


Found this precis of a study about meeting late-comers from the British Psychological Association interesting in large part because it teases out various perspectives on whether someone is actually late for a meeting.  Are you late if the participants are still chit chatting when you arrive? If you are a few minutes late does that really count? Etc.  One unexplored issue is whether perceptions of lateness actually vary withe the level of the person – I’d suspect that there is more flex given to people higher up the ladder who legitimately have less control over their schedules much of the time.

A few snippets from the study report – full citation found below.

They found that certain types of employees tend to be late:

Less satisfied employees, the less conscientious, younger employees, and those with a dislike for meetings, all tended to report being late more often. Job level was not related to (self-confessed) tardiness.

The effects of lateness?

Does it matter if a person arrives late? The researchers said it has a negative impact on both the late comer, who is often judged to be rude, and the rest of the team. Most participants reported experiencing negative feelings when someone shows up late, including frustration, feeling disrespected and upset. This is bad news, the researchers said, because “negative mood states can negatively impact performance.” 

Varying definitions of lateness

Just over a fifth of the sample defined lateness as arriving after the scheduled start time (which was the objective definition used in the survey into the base rate of lateness). Another fifth defined lateness as a certain fixed time after the scheduled start – in other words, they were allowing for a “grace” period, varying from a few minutes to more than ten minutes. Thirty-two per cent defined lateness as arrival after the meeting had actually got underway.  Some (6 per cent) defined lateness simply as “keeping others waiting”, or “interrupting the flow” (5 per cent). Finally, a minority (3 per cent) saw lateness in terms of whether a person was “ready to go” once the meeting had started.

Limitations of this research

The study has some obvious weaknesses, including a reliance on memory and self-report, and the emphasis on Western attitudes to time.

Rogelberg, S., Scott, C., Agypt, B., Williams, J., Kello, J., McCausland, T., and Olien, J. (2013). Lateness to meetings: Examination of an unexplored temporal phenomenon European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 1-19 DOI:


One thought on “The scourge of meeting latecomers

  1. Rell – have you considered using social pressure to demonstrate the effect of lateness on the rest of group? For instance some teams I know will do pushups whenever a team member arrives late 🙂

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