Forget punctuality… is a bit of honesty too much to ask? Chilean “Business Meeting Etiquette” has a long way to go!
I’ll admit it right up front. This post comes from anger. I’m not going to say that this is a “Chilean thing” and I’m not even saying that this is common here, but I will say that the only times I have ever seen this happen have been right here in Santiago. Just bad practice and an incredible lack of respect for others.
I’m talking about business meetings… how hard is it to schedule an appointment and stick with it? We’re professionals. We’re all busy, but c’mon, how about a little respect please? I’m not talking about people showing up a half hour late without acknowledgement (or apology) for the hour. You get used to that here. I’m not even talking about meetings that get canceled at the last minute or even those that get forgotten (I admit my own guilt there). Something happened today that has me shaking my head and wondering how some people look themselves in the mirror…
Here’s the story. My boss (Chilean) and I went to a meeting last week and were told upon arriving that it had been cancelled. A pain, a long drive wasted, but it happens. The exchange of emails that ensued determined that the receptionist had been confused, that it was the meeting BEFORE ours that had been canceled, so sorry. Ok. It happens. We rescheduled.
A couple days ago we confirmed and reconfirmed the meeting for today. This time the receptionist informed us that the person was in a meeting and would we wait? Half hour. Ok. We had come a long way and didn’t want to waste the opportunity (again), so ok. It happens. We settled in to wait. Read the paper—half hour—discussed other projects—another half hour—so we ask again. “Sorry, should be any time.” So we wait some more and I’m really regretting not having my laptop along to be able to do some real work. Another half hour and now we’re playing poker on the blackberry.
Why would we wait so long? Because it was an important meeting to present an important project and we really think this place is the right fit, so we waited, I’m embarrassed to say, more than 2 hours before we finally gave up.
In the meantime our own secretary was calling their office to see what she could find out. It turns out that an hour and a half into our wait the managers had all gone to lunch and wouldn’t be back til 3:00… All this time with us (and a dozen other people) waiting in reception. Total lack of respect.
Back at the office, more email swapping… this time with the lame excuse that “I sent you a mail this morning to call off the meeting.” Does this person think we’re idiots? Apparently.
But we’ll go back again next week, smiley faces in place. These are difficult times. Everyone wants to do business and there’s just so much to go around… but what does it take to keep a little bit of common courtesy in place? How hard would it be to say to the secretary… “please cancel my appointments for this morning”? Why is it so hard to put oneself in the other person’s shoes? C’mon!