You’re Late. What Do you Say?

It’s 7:58 AM and beads of sweat are forming on your forehead. Your pulse rate is increasing as you grip your steering wheel tightly. And to make matters worse… you forgot your mobile phone at home.

In 2 minutes you will officially be late for an extremely important meeting with your new boss and a group of customers. Oh, and these customers are visiting to discuss the poor customer service they claim your company has provided them.

The reason you’re late is not your fault. There was a major traffic accident which created a parking lot for more than one hour. The most frustrating thing is you left home extra early due to the importance of this meeting.

You finally walk into the meeting at 8:27 AM. You’re close to 30 minutes late and your new boss does not look pleased… nor do your customers.

What would you say?

Comments

  1. While I was on the phone yesterday night (my brother was just telling me that our parents died in an accident), I didn’t see that the dog was eating the alarm clock, then I didn’t wake up this morning, please apologize my delay…

    Am I right???

    PS: Congratulations for the job you’re doing with useful this blog.

  2. The truth….what else is there to say?

  3. Normally I would say to tell the truth as well. But part of me wonders if making excuses (even if they are truthful) will only make matter worse. So, it may be best to simply sincerely apologize for being late and move on. After the customers left I may then explain why I was late to my boss. It’s an interesting question and one I am just not sure how to best handle.

  4. Penny Riordan says:

    If it were me and I realized I was going to be late, I would have pulled off the road, found a pay phone (they do still exist) and called the office BEFORE I was technically late. (Once in a stand-still traffic jam I loaned my phone to the guy in the car stranded next to me!) The boss, while maybe not happy I was late, would at least be able to communicate to the customer the reason for my delay. Pulling off the road and calling shows my boss I am concerned and understand the importance of the meeting.

  5. Seems like there is something missing here as if it was an important meeting with an unhappy customer the individual and the boss would of already reviewed the issue, the reasons, what is the recovery plan, and a presentation if any. With lean the realization that mistakes can happen but you are ready to respond. Jidoka and also since we are customer focused and do not want to waste the customer time the “New” boss would of apologized for the missing individual and started without him. This is also when the “New” boss needs to establish their credibility. When the individual did arrive say I am sure you got caught by that traffic jam and continue on with it.

  6. Don’t know what you would say but be sure to bring breakfast tacos from Whataburger. They will excuse you because you are the guy that brought breakfast. (where have I seen or heard this before :o))

  7. Tom Palmitesta says:

    I agree with Penny. I did just that about more than 15 years ago when a cell phone was a “brick”. An old lady bumped on my car (and 2 more) on a highway bridge, and I was on my way to a very important meeting. Luckily the car behind me had a “brick” and I was able to call the office and safe the day. Today everybody has a cell phone (maybe 2), so I see no problem in asking for help.

  8. Tom Palmitesta says:

    Probably the point here is that you can’t avoid a traffic jam, but you could establish a poka-yoke so that you will not forget your cell phone!!! Of course Scott is also right.

  9. Ideally my boss or coworker recognizing my absence should be able to handle the meeting for the first half hour of my absence. I hopefully will be able to assess the lay of the land in the first few minutes of entering the meeting late and be able to pick up in the middle (refer to Scott’s post).

    If the boss is visually flustered then the customers can for sure pickup on that and it is doing nobody any favors. When a lineman and/or a running back miss a block it is up to the QB to make the play work because they bear the ultimate responsibility. If that means passing the ball to the secondary or tertiary receiver or running the ball himself then he does that and makes it look like that was the way the play was designed to go.

    As to the question a hand I would tell the truth and give the reasons why I was late,(that may or may not be in the meeting) and have to be prepared to accept the consequences. Reasons in my opinion are not equal to excuses, excuses are reasons with an additional demand for forgiveness and absolution from any responsibility.

    Knowing results (good or bad) without the reasons precludes replication of good results and irradiation of bad results. Hopefully my boss is a good one that will be able to assess that for them self.

  10. Isn’t this scenario what cell phones are for? If the meeting with the customers was a phone conference, then I could talke to my boss beforehand and get patched in. I could then pull off when I could and take the meeting from my car.

    If the meeting was face-to-face, then I would have my boss setup a speaker in the room, and I could conduct the meeting from my cell phone until I was able to make it in.

  11. Hope they were stuck in the same traffic jam and you STILL beat them to the office and pretend like nothing happened? he he he :)

  12. Penny Riordan says:

    Marty, remember, you forgot your phone!

    Remember you are dealing with a customer who already thinks your customer service sticks. Pull over. Call the office.

  13. On my teams we have a communication agreement that goes like this.

    We always do our absolute best to keep any committment we make AND if circumstances beyond our control are going to make that impossible, communicate the challenge and your revised committment ASAP.

    In this case, a maximum effort would have involved a couple of steps …
    Realize the broken committment early
    When you first get the inkling you are going to be very late and you forgot your phone … improvise.

    Borrow a cell phone from someone else in the “Parking Lot” – this may sound a little wierd to those of us who spend hours a day in traffic and I assure you it is totally possible with the right attitude.
    Park and find a pay phone

    Not having a phone is an excuse here. If you allow the situation in the post to unfold as described ….
    First, your boss left you hung out to dry … are they really completely useless without you? (This is an after action review discussion point)
    And what can you do … apologize like crazy, be sincere, explain the situation and NEVER assume the victim role that it is “not your fault” when it is very much your responsibility.

    My two cents,

  14. Why make excuses? The fact is you are late, Apologise then assume a role in the conversation.

  15. I have corrected your grammar….

    # Posted by Scott 25th February, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Seems like there is something missing here as if it was an important meeting with an unhappy customer the individual and the boss would OF already reviewed the issue, the reasons, what is the recovery plan, and a presentation if any. With lean the realization that mistakes can happen but you are ready to respond. Jidoka and also since we are customer focused and do not want to waste the customer time the “New” boss would OF apologized for the missing individual and started without him. This is also when the “New” boss needs to establish their credibility. When the individual did arrive say I am sure you got caught by that traffic jam and continue on with it.

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