Unapologetic Absences: If you miss a meeting, follow up immediately

by epi on May 29, 2012

Q: One of my younger employees recently missed a staff meeting.  Her only response was to say “I was late.”  No explanation or apology was offered, either to me as her supervisor or to the president of our company, who also commented on her absence.  Our company policy is that these meetings are mandatory.  Is it too much to expect an apology, or should I just assume that younger people don’t know what correct behavior is?

A: I’m appalled.  Young or not, longtime or new, if any employee misses a meeting, he needs to seek out his boss immediately, apologize, and explain why the situation happened.  If the meeting leader is someone other than the employee’s boss, he should apologize to the meeting leader as well.  The point about getting to the boss before the boss gets to the employee is important.  If someone was late to work and missed a meeting at my office and didn’t immediately come see me to explain why, I’d go looking for him.  And believe me, if that happened, he’d discover he much preferred being the one seeking me out.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Miss Juice May 29, 2012 at 4:20 pm

I am sure that I am both wrong and crazy, but on the infrequent occasions when I run late for a meeting or miss a deadline, I usually don’t offer an explanation. I apologize as profusely as seems necessary, but to me, offering up an explanation almost seems like I am trying to justify my unacceptable behavior. I might say something if I actually have a good reason, but if I underestimated how long it would take to eat lunch out or something stupid like that, I was irresponsible, you think I’m irresponsible, we are in agreement and it seems unnecessary to go into details. Good excuses, on the other hand, are often personal. If I was in the bathroom crying because I just found out my mother was just diagnosed with cancer or something, that’s none of your business.

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Elizabeth May 29, 2012 at 5:02 pm

I don’t think you’re wrong or crazy!

The difference between you and the original question is that you apologized – you acknowledged that you were wrong to be late and that you may have disrespected and/or inconvenienced others by being late, and that you’re sorry for doing it. Like you, I don’t know that it’s necessary to make excuses. It’s much more important to express an sincere apology and to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

My response to this advice is this: I think this is where a good closed-door meeting and stern talking-to should come in. A lot of people when they first start out in the working world are not accustomed to office culture. I had worked a lot of food service jobs, but when I got my first “real job” I was clueless about a lot of things. I was lucky to have a patient boss who did explain “the way things work” – and sternly once or twice! I was mortified that I had broken a rule that I wasn’t quite aware of, and grateful for the lesson.

IF I were this boss, I would sit my employee down and say something to the effect of: “Julie, you might not think that your lateness to the meeting this morning was a big deal, but it was not only noticed by me but also the president of the company. I can’t stress how important it is to be on time – this is the foundation of professionalism. And if you are late, its important to come forward and apologize. To be late is to disrespect all the others who were on time for the meeting, and it also directly inconvenienced the other attendees because we had to skip an agenda item and come back to it when you arrived. This should never happen again, but if it does, you need to appear genuinely apologetic.”

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UNCLE RINA May 29, 2012 at 9:41 pm

“Kids these days…” I’m 45-/o and I attended college with students 10-years younger than me. Or maybe it was that I completed the formative experience of education (after getting a brain injury) 10-years later than I was supposed to. Whatever. The disrespect and utter lack of awareness to propriety of people only 10-years younger than me was appalling. And it is appalling. “Kids these days”? America cannot handle success. We’re spoiled. And it’s always someone else’s problem. I’m beginning to be thankful that I never had kids and am not faced with the eternal frustration of seeing this social trend and not being able to do anything about it.

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Just Laura May 29, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Good evening, Uncle,
I work at a University, and the students with whom you are frustrated are typically the loud, obnoxious ones. The nicer students are hardworking and polite, and as a result, tend to be quieter than their raucous counterparts. Rest assured, there are many well-raised students out there; they are simply less intrusive than some of their peers.

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Elizabeth May 29, 2012 at 10:55 pm

I’m a little confused by your post – are you in college now? Or did you go to collage at age 30? Because I would hardly call people in their mid-thirties ‘kids’, and if you went to college 15 years ago, your data is hardly recent!

I work with a lot of college students as well, and I can also confirm that they run the gamut. Some of them are genuinely clueless and entitled, and most of them are perfectly polite and respectful. I’m sure I was a bit clueless back then myself. But it’s important to keep in mind that undergraduates are barely adults and many of them, because of the economy, have never held jobs. I think that part of my job as a teacher is to enculturate students – to teach them how to go about things if they don’t know. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes students are really receptive. It’s good to give people the benefit of the doubt!

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Jerry May 30, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Please look up the concepts of “confirmation bias” and “self-fulfilling prophecy.” I vehemently disagree with your conclusion and ask you to consider that kids today are not any more disrespectful than kids in the 1970s when (if you really are 45) you were coming of age.

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