Sunday, December 17, 2017

Should I call a colleague on her tardiness?

How patient should you be when the person who asked for a meeting with you is late?

L.L. works as a professional in a field that requires her to have specific degrees, continuing education, and other credentials to ensure that her license is up to date. Her employer periodically requires a review of her credentials and work product to make sure everything is up to date.

"I got an email a few weeks ago from the credentialing person asking me if I could set aside time for a meeting when we could go over her review of my files," L.L. writes. They agreed upon a time and L.L. made note of it on her calendar.

The credentialing person had access to all of L.L.'s files, so the plan was for her to review those files and come to the meeting with any questions she might have about them. At the meeting, she would either sign off on L.L.'s files being up to date, or she'd leave her with a list of tasks needed to ensure they were complete.

The meeting was to take place mid-morning in L.L.'s office, so she knew that as long as she did not schedule anything else for that time period, she would be on time for the meeting. She set aside one hour, knowing that she would have to move on to meet with clients and other colleagues once that meeting was complete.

Ten minutes after the meeting was to begin, there was no word from or sign of the credentialing person in L.L.'s office. Finally, after 20 minutes had passed, L.L. emailed her and asked if they had indeed been scheduled for when she thought they were scheduled.

A response came five minutes later. They had indeed been scheduled, but, the credentialing person wrote, she had become "very busy" and would be right over to meet with L.L., whose office was one floor up.

When the credentialing person arrived -- now, 30 minutes late -- she sat down and began to discuss L.L.'s files.

"No apology, no nothing to indicate that she had kept me waiting for so long," writes L.L. "Shouldn't she at least have apologized? Should I have said something about how unprofessional it was for her to not let me know she'd be late?" L.L. needed the person to sign off on her files and wasn't inclined to anger her by calling her on her tardiness. Now, she wonders if she should have if, for nothing else, than to try to raise her awareness so she might not do it again, or at least to let her know next time if she was going to be late.

The right thing would have been for the credentialing person to let L.L. know she was running late. She had no obligation to apologize, but it would have been courteous to do so. L.L. was not wrong to refrain from making more of an issue of her tardiness. But she would have been fine to say something. The person's obligation was to show up and do her job. L.L. held up her end of the bargain. The credentialing person should have done her best to hold up hers, or to let L.L. know beforehand if she wouldn't be able to. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of, a blog focused on ethical issues. 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 


1 comment:

William Jacobson said...


The credentialing person is providing YOU a service - one which you need completed in order to meet your requirements. You set aside an hour for the task and it sounds as though the task was completed within the allotted time. You ask if they should have apologized for being late. Perhaps they should have but it would definitely have been quite rude for you to call them own it while you still needed their service. Let me ask, did you thank them for certifying your credentials? Perhaps you should remove the log from your own eye before you complain about the splinter in your brother's.

William Jacobson
Anaheim, CA