Well, now what do we do? Wait…: A group process analysis of meeting lateness

Nale Lehmann-Willenbrock, University of Hamburg
Joseph A. Allen, University of Nebraska Omaha

The published version can be found here: https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488417696725.


Workplace meetings start late all the time for a number of reasons. When participants are kept waiting, this can be experienced as a drain of personal resources. In this article, we integrate perspectives from conservation of resources theory, individual goal setting, group problem solving, and temporal dynamics to derive predictions regarding individual attendees’ meeting experiences and behavioral group communication patterns under conditions of meeting lateness. We conducted an experiment using 32 student groups in which 16 groups started their meeting on time, while 16 started their meeting 10 minutes late. We found that late meetings were less satisfying than on time meetings. Using videotaped meeting interactions, we analyzed the group dynamics at the micro-level of conversational utterances. Controlling for meeting duration, groups in the lateness condition showed substantially less solution-focused communication overall, less idea elaboration, less in-depth problem descriptions, and fewer socioemotional support statements than groups who started on time. Furthermore, lag sequential analysis revealed distinctly different temporal communication patterns. We discuss research implications for understanding meeting experiences through a conservation of resources lens as well as practical implications for managing group communication processes in workplace meetings.