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Etiquette at Work

Don’t get tripped up by time zones

One of the fun parts of my job is doing interviews for national and local media around the United States and the world. Usually these interviews take place without a hitch. The hardest aspect of organizing the interviews is being sure of the time zone — mine and my interviewer’s.

My first time-zone fiasco happened several years ago when I scheduled a conference call with a person in Singapore. The problem in that case was compounded by the international date line, which can be confusing. For instance it’s Tuesday on the east side of the line, but it’s Wednesday west of the line.

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The call was set for 8 a.m. Monday, Singapore time. So, I assumed that was 8 p.m. my time in Vermont. When I got to work Monday morning I was surprised to receive an e-mail from my Singapore contact asking why I had missed our meeting. The international date line had tripped me. We managed to connect a day or two later, but I was embarrassed not to know that I should have been ready for the call on Sunday at 8 p.m.

Earlier this week, I experienced another time-zone hiccup. A person scheduled me for an interview at noon with a radio station in Las Vegas. I then received an update indicating the interview was moved to 9 a.m. Eastern time. I checked back with the scheduler to confirm it was for 9 Eastern.

At 9 a.m. I tried several times to reach the station. Then I called the producer three times, each time getting no answer, but I left my number on a message. About five minutes later the producer called. She said the interview was, in fact, scheduled for noon Eastern time, which is 9 a.m. in Las Vegas. I apologized and told her I’d call back at the correct time.

As I hung up, I realized why my calls hadn’t been answered: It was 6 a.m. in Las Vegas. Oops. My belated apologies to her for waking her up.

Take care when scheduling calls or appointments. Define not just the clock time but the time zone for each person. You’ll save a lot of hassles and embarrassment.

E-mail questions about business etiquette to etiquetteatwork@emilypost.com.
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