How To...Say You're Running Late

University of North Carolina business professor Alison Fragale has made a study of delivering bad news. We asked her to critique three different "I'm running late" messages for important conversations with...

THE BOSS
Message: I'm running late for today's meeting, hopefully by only five minutes. So sorry, my apologies.

"When we're deferential to a boss, we're communicating, 'I know you outrank me and I'm okay with that.' This response seems appropriate, but it depends—if you have a habit of being late, you may need to say more."

The Subordinate
Message: Got dragged into a meeting. Be done in five. Will grab you when I'm done.

"You may want to be deferential to your underling, too. Bossiness isn't trendy right now; 'because I said so' is out of managerial fashion. And remember: Employees have a lot of power over their bosses. When they put forth extra effort, they make their bosses look good. A little deference now might pay off later. "

A Potential Investor
Message: Our preparations got out of hand this morning and we seem to be running late. It looks like we'll be at your office about five minutes later than scheduled. Apologies.

"I'm not sure that sounds legitimate. If you're asking for money, you should be able to manage your time better. Consider: The mechanism that we find in our research is that when you lie to me, I don't like the fact that you lied, but I appreciate the reason that you lied. And the reason that you lied is that you probably care about what I think about you. You would better preserve your relationship if you had just said traffic was really bad."

"How To..."

Reporting By E.B. Boyd, Charles Curtis, Jason Feifer, Jillian Goodman, Anya Kamenetz, Lindsey Kratochwill, Tara Moore, J.J. Mccorvey, And Margaret Rhodes

[Clock Image: Qvist via Shutterstock]

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