Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about missing meetings:
Yesterday I slept straight through an early meeting. I’d taken a sleeping pill the night before and just slept right through my alarm. I rushed over to talk to my supervisor and apologized profusely swearing it would never happen again. Then, I don’t know what happened this morning, but I slept through another early morning meeting!I don’t know if I slept that heavily or just didn’t set my alarm right or what.
My supervisor asked me to come up with a plan for how to resolve the situation. What should I say? Other than taking full responsibility of course. I love this job, and also if I lose it I can no longer continue in graduate school. I feel like these incidents are not indicative of me as a person, but I realize that to her I must look lazy and irresponsible. I just don’t know what to say to make this better.
Signed, Embarrassed and Worried
Dear Embarrassed and Worried:
This is an example opportunity to apply a variation of the Golden Rule! In this case, “Say unto others what you would have others in a similar situation say unto you.”If you were responsible for the work of someone in this situation, what would/could that person say to make it better? The part that makes it problematic is that they meetings were one right after another. I can imagine how you felt! But, you can make it through this with a good response now and positive actions in the future.
Your manager is probably frustrated about the missed meetings, but also concerned that it is symptomatic of other issues and attitudes. So, part of your goal is to make sure she has no reason for concern about that. Think about the culture of your work, the style and personality of your boss, what she might be thinking about your reasons for being late, etc. and use that to consider what would be reasonable for a letter of apology and a plan of action for the future. Here are some things to think about:
1. What has your work history been like apart from these two events? Are you usually on time? Is your appearance that of someone who is caring and concerned about professionalism? Do you usually complete projects on time and with a smile? What is your overall reputation?Those are ways in which you have developed credibility. The savings account into which you have deposited effective–hopefully excellent–performance and behavior. If those things are negative it will be difficult for her to believe you when you say you’re sorry and won’t do it again. If you’re facing that kind of situation, you may have a tough time for awhile.
2. What was significant about the meetings you missed? Is there some aspect of those meetings that made your absences seem worse than usual? Is there any way in which you can show you have made a sincere and perhaps challenging effort to gain the information you would have gotten? One of the values of meetings is the face-to-face time and that can’t be replaced. However, perhaps expressing your awareness of the value of that time will help convince your manager of your sincerity.
3. What WILL you do in the future to keep this from happening? Be reasonable and make it something you can stick with. Having two clocks is a good idea. It’s also good to plan for important meetings and to make the night before those meetings a time of preparation.Keep in mind that your manager may have all kinds of thoughts about what caused you to miss the meetings, from late night partying to being someplace other than your own home to taking pills or simply not caring enough to be on time. So, you might want to give a brief assurance that the situation was simply one of not turning the alarm to “on” after setting it. (That’s my usual problem!)Those three elements to consider will be part of what you intend to write before you talk to your manager. Even if you talk to her first, have a letter to give to her as a way to document your commitment. Include some of the following thoughts in that conversation. I think the letter will work best if it sticks to a few paragraphs, to avoid a long document she has to wade through:(1) An opening paragraph to say that the letter is to ensure she knows you are very sorry for not being present for the meetings and that she can be certain you are committed to being present for all meetings in the future.(2) A paragraph in which you share your embarrassment and regret about the situation. Something like, “Missing two important meetings with you doesn’t reflect the kind of person I am and the way I do my work. It especially doesn’t reflect the way I feel about my responsibilities here. I respect you and I care about the work of our team.”If the meeting was only with her, let her know how much you value her time and effort in being willing to meet with you and that you realize how important the subject of the meeting was to both of you. You will use your own words of course and they may need to sound much different than those examples. The important thing is to let your manager know your frustration and embarrassment and to believe you when you say you care and are determined it won’t happen again. (3) Write what you will do to ensure you are on time and ready for all work in the future, including meetings. Just say it in plain talk and with a note of confidence to let your manager know he or she need never worry about early meetings again.If you really want to cement the idea, consider saying that you intend to be early to help set up the room or get things ready, as a way to make sure you are not only early but that you are visibly early so there will be no doubt how important you consider such meetings to be.(4) Close with a paragraph in which you reiterate that you can be depended upon and will show that dependability in the future. You could say something like, “I hope my past actions in other areas of work will show that I can be depended upon. I intend to demonstrate that dependability in everything I do in the future.”Some may think all of that effort is over-done or melodramatic for only two missed meetings. However, it is things like missed meetings that can make a difference between those who are valued and those who are not. I can tell it’s important to you and it sounds as though it is important to your manager.Once you’ve said or written about it, move forward and put it in the past. Make up for this situation (which is serious but probably not critical)by doing your usual good work or even better work than usual.If someone else at work mentions it, only discuss it briefly and express appreciation for how your manager coached you through it. (Even if you don’t always feel that positive about it, that’s the approach to take.) Without over-doing it, consider sending a brief email in a few months telling your manager how much you appreciate her approach to this situation. A brief message of that nature brings closure to it and also leaves her with a feeling that she was effective and so were you.
This will become one of those, “I’ll never forget the time….” stories that hopefully will give you empathy for those in similar situations. But, it also is a learning time that reminds us that a couple of things can be overlooked but after awhile those things become part of our permanent reputation. Best wishes in replacing such incidents with a reputation for excellence! If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.
Tina Lewis Rowe