Change of plans? Unexpected circumstances? Here’s what to do.

There are always so many things going on – exams, part-time jobs, club meetings, athletic practices, group projects, internship searching – all on top of spending time with friends and family while also trying to squeeze in personal time and self care.  With so many commitments, deadlines, responsibilities, and other expectations within personal, professional, and academic contexts, sometimes things just happen that affect the ability to follow through with every one of these many demands, especially those last-minute inconveniences that throw everything off track.

However, no matter how crazy things are, respect and courtesy is still the approach to take.

When unexpected circumstances arise that do not allow for you to keep your commitment or meet a deadline, take a moment to notify the host of the commitment/deadline as soon as possible.

Everyone understands the reality that sometimes things just happen at horribly inconvenient times – flat tires, family emergencies, getting in a car accident, illness, last-minute mandatory meetings put out by managers, etc. – however it is still the responsibility of the person who made a commitment to make every effort to take one minute or less to call or email the hosting party to notify them of the anticipated absence or inability to meet a deadline.

Workplace expectations are that employees of all levels are accountable and proactive.  When attendance is anticipated at an appointment, meeting, event, program, work shift, class, presentation, interview, tour, dinner reservation, or any other scheduled arrangement, the host is strategically investing time and energy into preparations for each person’s attendance.  Likewise, when a deadline arrives and a project or task is not completed and the host is not sure why, this has a ripple effect of negative consequences for all directly and indirectly involved.

No showing is an unacceptable choice in both personal and professional contexts.

Sometimes these approaches are tempting to take, however they are ones to avoid:

– Not contacting the host until after the commitment/deadline has passed to acknowledge the absence/missed deadline

– Waiting for the host to contact the party who did not keep the commitment before acknowledging the absence/missed deadline

– Not responding and “ghosting” the host when they reach out asking for insight on the absence/missed deadline

In the event of an oversight and missing a commitment/deadline due to simply making this mistake, contact the host as soon as you have realized your mistake, acknowledge the mistake and what you have learned from the situation, apologize for any inconvenience, and offer to address the mistake.  It’s okay to make mistakes, but hiding from the mistake or otherwise avoiding responsibility of the mistake is not.

All of our communications, or lack thereof, greatly affect the circumstances of others directly and indirectly, even when it isn’t obvious how, all of which affect our own brand and impression that others have of us.  It’s never a mistake to take a moment to notify those affected by our schedules of any circumstances that arise that may alter original plans.

By Lauren Watson
Lauren Watson Change of Campus Program Coordinator/Career Coach Lauren Watson