So your boss always cancels last minute meetings
As a manager, you’ve probably had events that crop up at the last minute and disrupt your schedule: customer emergencies, unexpected calls with your own manager, last-minute trips. But when your own boss cancels you frequently, it’s not only frustrating, but it can also feel like an affront to you or make you worry about your position. According to the author, an executive coach, if you are the victim of too many cancellations, it is essential to speak directly to your boss. Because this can be a tricky conversation, the author presents a set of strategies you can use to productively resolve the issue.
Senior leaders are incredibly busy. As a manager yourself, you know your boss is sometimes at the mercy of things that come up that he can’t control: a customer emergency, a sudden trip now that we’re traveling again, or a conference call that their the boss initiates. It is impossible for them to keep all their commitments all the time. But when your boss cancels as a rule, and not as an exception, it’s incredibly frustrating.
As an executive coach who has coached and trained thousands of people at large public companies and startups, I have seen this behavior often. If you are the victim of too many cancellations, it is essential to speak directly to your boss. Because this can be a tricky conversation, here’s a set of strategies you can use to productively resolve the issue.
Don’t take it personally
A cancellation might seem like an insult to you, but chances are that if your manager misses your meetings, he’s probably also canceling other meetings at the last minute. Take note of your boss’s schedule and listen to what others are saying. If necessary, you can discreetly ask a trusted colleague if he has experienced the same thing. Having a clear idea of the pattern of behavior will allow you to step back from your anger and see the larger pattern of your boss’s habits, not just his behavior towards you.
Get your tone just right
The last thing you want to do is come off as an aggressive passive by stabbing at your boss or making them feel defensive. Having a neutral, non-accusatory tone will ensure you start off on the right foot. Think of all the reasons you can relate to that could be causing your manager to not show up. They might be harassed or overwhelmed. Sometimes people really don’t know that they regularly cancel meetings, especially if they have an assistant managing their schedule.
Start the discussion
If you have a close relationship with your boss where you can be direct, you can say something like, “There are times when I need your advice or I’m looking for your advice. When you cancel at the last minute, it sets me back since I often count on this time together. It also makes it difficult for me to plan the rest of my day, since I spend part of it preparing for our meeting. Can I ask you to attend our one-to-one meetings on a more regular basis or let me know earlier if you need to cancel? »
If you’re not comfortable with a direct approach, another option is to have a collaborative conversation about the meeting itself, which can identify the reason for cancellations and potentially avoid future ones. For example, meetings may not fit your boss’s schedule, so you may suggest shortening them or moving them to another day. You can also review the topics covered in your meetings to make sure they are most relevant to your boss. You can ask, “What value do you want to get out of the meeting?” Is there a format that would work better for you? » By openly discussing the mechanics of the meeting, you show that you are flexible and solution-oriented and that meetings are important to you and will make you more productive.
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In many cases, these tips will solve your manager’s cancellation problem if it’s just a bad habit. But if the behavior persists — or you learn you’re the only person they’re canceling for — it’s important to go back to your boss for a second conversation and be upfront. You might say, “I have a sensitive issue to raise with you, and I think it’s important to both of us. I see that you are still regularly canceling our meetings and it seems that I am the only one experiencing this. If there are any issues I should know about my performance, I would like you to tell me.
It can be an uncomfortable conversation, but it’s far better to put the truth on the table if there’s a problem so you can identify perceived performance shortcomings and work to fix them. And in some cases, there is a positive explanation. A client of mine discovered that his boss believed his field was doing so well under his leadership that they felt their meetings with my client were optional. My client was flattered, but asked for more consistency.
Some bosses – despite promises to the contrary – never fully fix this problem. In this case, you can plan the cancellation in advance and set up a backup for other things to do, just in case they cancel the meeting. But the vast majority of the time, following these strategies can help you change the dynamic and create a more positive and consistent relationship with your boss.