You are in a conference call. 8 other people have logged in — different geographies, time-zones and not the least, cultures. One participant joins late and goes on and on about why she is late. Sounds familiar?

Some of us have work days that include this ceremony called conference calls — sometimes many of them in a day. We come from different cultures and cultures have different levels of sensitivity for time. Some are rigid and some are elastic. Likewise, cultures have different levels of tolerance for listening to a story/ means/ pursuit (context) as opposed to the content. There is no such thing as right or wrong — it is just the way it is.

But the last thing people want on a call is to listen to one person talk about why she was late to the call, why she slipped the date, why her phone did not remind her, how her computer crashed after working 2 hours on an unsaved document, who caused her being late (usually someone more senior than anyone in the call), what she was busy doing that made her unpunctual. Not because we are insensitive to that information, only because we don’t need them. Not that her being late was a bad thing, just that her stories are taking more minutes away from the purpose of the call. And let’s face it, nobody is going to go, “Oh that poor lady! She is usually punctual, that sad made her late”

So the next time you are late to a meeting or a call, just say — “Sorry I’m late” and go on with your business.