Start Meetings on Time: The Psychological Reason

Two key complaints I hear about meetings: (1) not starting on time and
(2) unproductive (i.e. a waste of time).

 It appears that the two complaints may be interconnected!


There are various practical reasons to start on time, including using the allocated time productively, preventing late finishing and avoiding wasting money (add up the amount of people waiting and then consider their hourly wage… then multiply that through all the late meetings across the organisation). However, as well as practical reasons, there are psychological reasons to start on time too.

Aside from the irritation many folks feel when meetings start late (when they have made the effort to be there on time), it also appears that people’s perception of a meeting’s effectiveness is also affected by the start time. Research by a team at the University of Nebraska suggests that a meeting which starts up to 10 minutes late is likely to have a negative impact on participant’s satisfaction about the meeting. It seems that the level of dissatisfaction plateaus at 10 minutes or more.

Of course, this research was carried out in the U.S. and is not reflective of all cultures across the world. Some cultures like to start at the published time, whilst other cultures might arrive there-or-thereabouts! However, in a predominantly British or American environment (even if very multicultural), consider the impact of a late starting meeting.

So, if you want people to engage in your meetings and find them more productive… start on time, even if some of the participants are not yet present. If necessary, shift the agenda round a little to allow time for any key decision makers to turn up!


(Source: Allen, J. et al, Journal of Organizational Behavior,