how long should you wait on a conference call when no one else has joined?

A reader writes:

As I sit here on hold for a conference call that was scheduled to begin 10 minutes ago, I wonder if there is a generally accepted practice around how long to wait in these situations. 10 minutes? 15? Does it depend on the people involved? The scheduled length of the meeting?

I think I tend to wait around 15 minutes, having sent a “Hey, are we meeting?” email or text after 5 minutes or so. Sound right?

I’d say it depends on the people involved.

If it’s people who you manage, I’d wait five minutes at most (and if I were really busy or couldn’t do other work while I was on hold, it might be less) and then hang up. Depending on the circumstances, I’d then either call them directly or email then and tell them to reschedule. If it happened more than once, I’d have a talk with them about keeping commitments and make it clear that it couldn’t happen again, and I’d be on the lookout for other signs of disorganization.

If it’s a vendor, I’d wait five minutes and then hang up and email them asking them to contact me to reschedule. If it happened more than once, I’d tell them that my schedule is tight and I need to start scheduled calls at the agreed-upon time. If it continued after that, I’d complain more directly.

If it’s peers or a client, I’d wait 10 minutes (or five if I couldn’t do other work while I was waiting) and then hang up and send a follow-up email letting them know to tell me when they want to reschedule.

If it’s your manager and the call can’t proceed without her, I’d wait 10 minutes and then hang up and send her an email telling her to call you when she’s free. (An exception to this, of course, would be if your boss has told you she might be late and asked you to wait, or if you know she’d be annoyed if you didn’t sit there waiting. A reasonable manager, by the way, would not have a problem with you handling it this way, unless she’d requested otherwise.)

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