Late to Meetings? What do Americans Think?

Posted On: June 26, 2016

Being late to virtual meetings with U.S. clients or colleagues can mark the beginning of the end for many cross-border client building relationships.

But what does it mean to actually be late with Americans
Let’s say a meeting starts at 11am – what time is too late to start the meeting? 
In most business situations in the U.S. 15 minutes or more is too late to start the meeting. 
Some people may think 15 minutes actually is 12 or 13 minutes after the start time, where as in India, 15 minutes late may mean 20 or 25 minutes in actual time. 
While I do not suggest to be 10 or up to 15 minutes late, if you will be late, even 5 minutes late, follow some tips in this post to assure to maintain good business relations. 
It’s ideal to enter the meeting room (virtual or real) 5-15 minutes early. 


How time management differs across cultures

Where as in India a meeting scheduled from 10-11 may actually start at 10:15-10:25 and end by 11 or after 11, it’s the exact opposite in the U.S. The meeting in the U.S. would start exactly at 10 and end by 10:45-10:50. 

Why? The answer is already given earlier in this post, or read this post for more.

Americans and Indians obviously manage time very differently. This is a big culture difference.

Note: Some of these differences are based on my experience living in Kerala. There are variations to this behavior in different parts of India.


What do Americans think if you are late?

In the U.S. if you are late, the person waiting for you will not only think you can’t manage time, or look irritated or impatient, they may think any of the following about you:

If you are late, you are irresponsible.
If you are late, you did not do the work.
If you are late, you will not finish work on time.
If you are late, you are not interested in this meeting.
If you are late, you don’t care about this work or appointment.
If you are late, you don’t respect me or yourself or your time.

…and possibly…
If you are late, you don’t care about me! (Yes, some can and do take it personally!)


The Unwritten Policy
Many companies and colleges have an unwritten rule that if the meeting or class were to start 15 minutes late, it won’t happen. It’s canceled. When I went to college in the U.S., in my 4 years and 40 classes, I can count on one hand how many classes were canceled because the teacher never showed up. This would not be the case in India (I also studied in India, so I know!). 


Jennifer Kumar, provides training and consulting to India based software teams who provide consulting and IT services to US clients. Contact us for more information. 

Conflict management photo created by yanalya –


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