The Person Who Can’t Keep Appointments

We all know someone who can’t keep appointments.  Maybe a co-worker, a friend, or even a client.

You know who I am talking about.  The one who always cancels things at the last minute.  The person who shows up to the meeting that is already in progress.  The individual that can be counted on to have a total disregard for everyone else’s time.

In fact, they are so consistent, that everyone expects them to be late or a no-show.

How to Deal With The Late Ones

People who exhibit this behavior can be counted on for one thing: to waste other people’s time.

Ironically, at first, people may think these individuals are just really busy.  Maybe they are doing a lot of important stuff?

But, it doesn’t take long for the reality to become obvious.  People begin to understand that the person’s lateness is due to disorganization, lack of planning, and basically just drowning in their obligations.

Unless you want to have your time wasted by these individuals, you need to defend your time.  You need to have to have tactics to deal with these time-wasters, or they will waste your time.  Every time.

(Doctors figured this one out a long time ago, and hence the missed appointment fees that everyone dislikes.)

Tips for dealing with the person who is always late:

  1. Make them Come See You – Stop wasting your time tracking down the person who is late or no-shows.  And here is the secret: make them come see you on your time.  Set a time on your schedule for them to come back to you.  Stop chasing them, it isn’t worth your time.
  2. Start Without Them – This is especially true with meetings.  Stop waiting on these people.  It only lets them know that their behavior will be tolerated.  Instead, begin without them.  Don’t wait on their participation.  I recently started a 8 person meeting with only 2 attendees present.  People were surprised when they entered and several decisions had already been made.
  3. Schedule in Buffer Time – If the meeting with the client must start at 9AM, schedule the slowpokes at 830.  If people question the early arrival, be straight with them that it is due to their track of not being on time.
  4. Pick Unusual Times – Schedule time with the timewasters at out-of-the-way times.  Try the end of the day or very early in the morning.  I once had a boss that used to make a point by scheduling “make-up” meetings at the very end of the workday.  Or even before the start of the next day.  Most of the people that fell into this trap were usually the ones that would suffer the most from this type of reschedule.
  5. Stop Dealing With Them Entirely –  Of course, at some point, the most effective way to deal with the timewasters is to stop dealing with them altogether.  This is true whether it is a co-worker, friend, or even client.  I have a rule that if someone cancels/reschedules a meeting more than twice, then I cancel it off my calendar.  It obviously wasn’t that important in the first place.  They can come see me to discuss the issue.

How do you deal with people that are always late?  What other tactics do you use that I have not mentioned here?

Related Posts:

The 5 Best Ways to Defend Your Time

Why You Will be Late to the Meeting

10 Reasons Being Early Saves Time

21 thoughts on “The Person Who Can’t Keep Appointments

  1. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. I use the start without you and schedule in a buffer the most from your list.

    The other thing I do is if someone it late for a one-on-one meeting with me, I don't reschedule right away. I will wait a day or two to respond back to reschedule. I can't remember a time when someone was late the second go around.

    1. @Heather Usually, I send an email a day or two later saying “I missed you” but not offering any dates to reschedule. I won’t reschedule a missed appointment without at least another two weeks.

    2. @robbyslaughter @Heather Agree! If someone cancels on me more than once… it comes off my calendar. They pretty much need to catch up to me in person if they want back on the schedule. 🙂

  2. Single best thing you can do at a meeting is show up on time. That nearly always equals finishing early. Better still, show up early.

  3. First: five minutes before an offsite appointment is ready to begin, I try to always send the other person a text that says “I’m here in the back corner! See you soon.” That way they know you are on-time, and it gives them the chance to pre-emptively apologize if they are late.

    This leads me to my main point: <b>the best way to deal with people who are late to appointments is to have something else productive to do while you are waiting.</b> That way, when they show up they see you are busy and have the sense that they may have inadvertantly attempted to waste your time, but you refuse to allow your time to be wasted.

    An additional point is that the longer they make you wait, the more intense your tasks should be. For example, you can start out by catching up on reading or processing some email. But if they have made you wait for a full ten minutes, I suggest making phone calls. Then when they arrive, you can motion for them to sit down while you wrap up. There’s no need to rush at this point, since they’ve already made you wait. And you can finish the call with an indirect phrase: “Hey, I need to let you go, my 3:00 appointment is here.”

  4. One of the best ways to deal with time wasters is to pre-qualify them in the first place. I often receive emails or LinkedIn messages from individuals who would like to brainstorm, network or “pick-my-brain (@ginidietrich loves this phrase)”. If I find the meeting to be of value to both parties, I accept and reply with my availability. As my schedule tends to fill up looking forward into the next 2 weeks, I usually suggest a time and date 3-4 weeks out unless it is an urgent meeting. I also ask for a concise agenda for the meeting and what the individual would like to get out of the meeting. Amazingly enough, these two qualifiers eliminate most time-wasters. I am always shocked at the drop-off and lack of response (and courtesy) after I send this email reply. I guess the meeting wasn’t worth a 2 minute email reply after all.


    1. Don’t blame your personal issues with someone on a whole group of people.


  7. Hey, I’m not exactly a time management ninja/saint… and I get the fact that it’s a holiday week.. but check this out. Of the 7 appointments booked on my meeting calendar for this week, only 1 actually happened. (And it had been rescheduled–not once, but 3 times!). Are you as amazed as I am how casual we’ve all become about keeping our commitments?

  8. I used to have a friend like that. Pretty much every time you made an appointment about whatever business, small or big, he’d just go off doing something else. And he never let you know he wasn’t coming, he just went off without saying anything.

    In the end I chose option 5, and just stopped talking to him, because it came to the point where he became a bit of a liability and an annoyance. Somehow he never understood why I got fed up, but I didn’t expect him to, even though I expressed myself about it to him. Moreover, his last girlfriend kicked him out of their relationship, most likely just because of his rather unacceptable behavior.

  9. Here’s a funny story. I was raised to be on time, show up for appointments so your subject caught my eye since I deal with this in my office daily. I am a healthcare provider. I used to be a doctor but…..that’s a subject for another day.

    I was home for a visit and the folks said “we’re going out for breakfast at 9 AM tomorrow”. Oh goody, I love going out for breakfast. So I walk out to the kitchen at exactly 9 AM (coat on, ready to go) and the folks are standing there with their coats on WAITING for me. Oh NO, did I misunderstand the time??? And they looked at each other, then kinda laughed and said “oh, we decided to go a little earlier and forgot to tell you”. Their nest had been empty for a decade or so, so they were no longer used to letting others know their plans. We all had a good laugh and a lovely breakfast.

  10. So… I am that person the last four months. We have four kids in three different schools. I’m responsible for the after-school activities (I go to work early to work eight hours before getting off in time to race home to pick up the children). We have the little ones with three daycare providers (nobody does five days a week except really expensive ones, or those with a waitlist a mile long). I have two jobs so I do the second at night. I guess what I’m wondering is, how can I stop being late? I feel horrible and I used to be early to EVERYTHING. I don’t think my time is more important than others’ and I always start early. But the fact is that a 20 minute commute, for which I allot 30 minutes, turns into 40 minutes every so often. Oh, yeah, and I’m also on the PTA at two of the schools because the stay at home parents, apparently are just too busy. And finally, there are the normal life things–dinner, homework, etc.

    I missed an appointment tonight. I felt horrible. Is the fact that I had three appointments at work, plus two appointments in the afternoon plus two after school activities to manage an excuse, or does everyone do that?

    I really am trying to get into this routine (new for us, the little one used to be in the same place all day but this year she’s in after school activities like the rest).

    I guess I’d need advice in being able to be counted on. I have a calendar and everything’s on it, but because of all the reminders, the battery constantly dies. That is when I really miss appointments. I am thinking of getting a paper agenda as well, but then I’ll spend time I don’t have on planning.

    I know I disappoint people. I hate it. I just don’t know what to do.

    Incidentally, I’m not an alcoholic nor do I have narcissistic personality disorder or anything. I do care about others and the fact that I’m disappointing them is causing me a huge amount of stress. I feel bad for what I do, but if a calendar with reminders and everything isn’t enough, what is? Feeling worse about myself isn’t going to help. It’s not like I think I’m awesome. I know I suck. I am trying to take action to remedy it. I just don’t know what to do.

    And please don’t anyone suggest that the kids take more responsibility. Activities are 2 miles away, we’re not having a 13-year-old girl walk home in the dark, or the kindergartener walk home from school alone, having pre-teens cook dinner is more work than just cooking. I mean we have them take responsibility of course but that is not a relief for me in terms of business or time. You all remember your parents saying, “I could do it faster myself but I want you to do it!” Well, yeah. 🙂 So they can take more responsibility BUT that will not solve a single issue I’ve laid out here.

    1. Key:

      All your excuses are just that……..excuses. The post you wrote sounds very self absorbed, as if you think that you are the only one that is very busy.

      Everyone has a busy life, just like you. Even people without children…..because they have other activities to tend to.

      Really, the only valid reason for canceling an appointment at the last minute or more than once, is that you are in the hospital or a relative died. Any other reason is not a valid reason, it is just an egocentric excuse.

      Here are some time management suggestions:

      1 – Leave more time for traffic jams… hour between each appointment. If you get there early and have to weight in your car, that’s good, at least you will be on time. It is better you have to wait a bit, than you alienate bosses, coworkers or friends by being late or canceling all the time.

      2 – Set priorities. For example, If you are late all the time, obviously you need to drop some activities. Perhaps the PTA because your paid jobs and your children, obviously take priority.

      3 – Do not make appointments on days when your child’s school activities take place Only make appointments when you know you will not have any conflicts.

      Key: Time management is not that difficult. It simply requires forethought. Planning, by not overbooking yourself, or estimating too short commute times, is the key to keeping appointments.

      If you continue to cancel on people, you will soon be on everyone’s ignore list.

  11. I agree with and understand so much in this article. At the same time I felt a lot of hate and intolerance and bashing towards people who are causing these problems–which is entirely understandable. I sensed a lot of perfectionism, judgement, and lack of flexibility. And yet this is exactly what people in these situations can take advantage of. I am struggling with this issue ongoing and do have a mental health diagnosis and am a recovering addict (14 years). I guess I am learning that these terrible chronic symptoms which so cause so much trouble for everyone else, are from untreated ADD. I do know if we can get to the real root of a problem we have a much better chance of making a full recovery from it. So it sounds like I need to really address this ADD. I just wanted to put this awarenas out there as well, as it sounds like some of these people are those abusive selfish type with no empathy. In the other side are people like me who want help and acknowledge what this problem causes others. Are you open to considering that some of us have a genine medical condition and need medical intervention? I would never ask you to change your boundaries I think they’re great. Maybe just your approach? I mean when my Mother has low blood sugar episodes, believe me it seems selfish and rude that she could potentially ruin an entire dinner or outing and having with everyone scrambling for OJ or insulin. It is so unfair. I also know she has a medical condition. It’s tough stuff. I juse want to be better. Thank you for letting me share some thoughts!! Any respectful feedback or suggestions welcome♡

  12. I think this article has a complete disregard for someones personal situation. I’m not talking about myself but in general. If people are having a hard time showing up, maybe ask them how they are doing. Try to find out of there is something going on in personal life. We are not just responsible for ourselves, but also for each other. The human is a relative being and we need to work together where possible. This also means we should be on the lookout for each other. You don’t have to start parenting other people, but sometimes a simple inquiry will help. Try to learn and understand and build empathy and sympathy besides the logos and you will see that there is a whole world of detail going on you maybe never considered before.

    I read some reactions to this article of how people handle ‘other people’ cancelling appointments, and some of these replies are actually pretty harsh and show a total lack of understanding of the other.

    Well, good luck living an enjoyable life in that case. I hope you never end up being late because you yourself have run into some problems and being sacked because of that. Although, that might actually help with learning to understand the situation of others a bit.

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