my junior coworker won’t stop complaining about how hungry she is in meetings

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A reader writes:

I have a question about how to deal with a “hungry” coworker.

A little background: The coworker is junior to me (by a few years), but we’re the same as far as authority positions (i.e., neither of us is in management). She’s been working at the same company for about 2 years, but just recently joined my group a couple months ago. She’s nice and eager to learn and interacts well with the group. However, I’ve noticed a pattern emerging. We’ve been in several meetings that have gone a little (no more than an hour) over the scheduled time, and she has commented (both when asked and unsolicited) that she was very hungry. Like, someone will ask, “Does anyone have a commitment at 11 [meeting end time]?” She’ll say, “No, but definitely at 11:30. I’m SOOOO hungry.” Then later in same meeting, she’ll obviously “whisper,” “Seriously, SOO hungry.” When she’s not been asked, it’s more of the obvious whispering. She has even left a couple of meetings because she was so hungry.

She also packs up her stuff, puts it in her lap and moves away from the table, when the meeting is clearly not over. This is usually accompanied by the whispers.

I want to let her know that this is coming off as very unprofessional. This is her first job out of college, and I’m not sure she realizes how this is being perceived (by me anyway…maybe no one else cares). I’m not sure 1) if it’s my place to say something and 2) what I should say if it is.

I understand there may be some health issues that I’m not aware of, but I (being hypoglycemic) will step out to have a snack, if my blood sugar is running low. Any advice?

This is one of those behavioral norms that seem totally obvious to people who have been in the work world for a while, but aren’t always to people who are new to it. (It reminds me of someone’s comment last week about needing to tell interns that they shouldn’t hug and exclaim wildly when they run into people they like in the office hallway.)

I do think it would be kind to give her a heads-up, especially (a) if you can frame it as coming from a place of having had to figure out workplace expectations yourself just a few years ago, and (b) if you have the type of dynamic where you can do it in a way that won’t feel condescending.

I’d say something like this: “Hey, can I give you some advice? I know from my own experience that it can take some time to figure out workplace norms when you’re in your first job out of school, and I think you might not realize that people don’t usually talk so frequently about being hungry during meetings. I think it might be coming across a little less polished than people usually expect here — generally they’re going to assume you’ll manage your meals so that hunger doesn’t get in the way of you being able to fully focus on a meeting, even if it runs a little over.”

Depending on where the conversation goes from there — and whether she seems receptive — you could ask her what she thinks is going on. Is she not eating breakfast? Can she keep snacks in her desk and down a granola bar before 11 a.m. meetings? Or, if there is a medical issue that can’t be easily managed, it might help her to know how to better frame it for people.

Hopefully that’ll take care of this. If it doesn’t, then at that point you should let it go, since it’s really her deal (and her manager’s) to manage. But giving her a friendly heads-up is a nice thing to do.

{ 248 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Celeste

    Cluing her in would be a very nice thing to do, because it’s something she can fix. Her habit not only makes her look unfocused, it calls attention to her for the wrong reasons.

    Clif bars and nuts are an easy snack to keep at the desk, and string cheese is a very portable and satisfying source of protein to bring in a lunch box. Any of these should help keep her going through the morning. As with other needs, discreetly leaving to handle the problem quickly is better than making an announcement.

    Reply
    1. Bryan

      Great suggestions about the snacks. I use quest bars since they’re so high in fiber, it keeps me full for a long tine.

      Reply
    2. the_scientist

      Have you looked at the calorie count in a clif bar? And the fat content? I’m not saying everyone wants or needs to be counting calories, but Clif bars are emergency rations, not regular snacks, for me at least!

      Also: here’s the thing. I’m hungry ALL THE TIME. I just am. It’s not because I don’t eat enough, it’s just how I’m built, I guess. If the intern is the same way, we’ve been this way our entire lives. We know all about snacking regularly, keeping food on hand, etc etc. because when the hanger (angry-hunger) arrives you need to stop it in its tracks. But it’s very very difficult to plan around something that happens during your regular lunch time, and routinely runs substantially over time. I’d hazard a guess that everyone’s stomach is growling by the end of these meetings, it’s just that other people won’t say anything.

      Also, why is it unprofessional to pretend that you don’t have needs? (this isn’t an attack, I’m just wondering why the corporate cultural norm is to pretend that you never get hungry, tired, need a break to stand up and stretch, or need to use the bathroom).

      Reply
      1. fposte

        It’s not about pretending you don’t have needs, it’s about fulfilling those needs without being disruptive. If you have to go to the bathroom, you step out and come back; if you have to stand up, you quietly stand up in the back of the room. And whispering “I’m sooo hungry” in a meeting doesn’t get her fed, it’s just annoying.

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        1. the_scientist

          I’m certainly not disputing that it’s annoying, but in my workplace the four-hour meeting is a not-infrequent phenomenon. My boss is evidently one of those people that lives off of air, and she seems to forget that other people need sustenance to live, so I’ve been asked to go from meeting to meeting to meeting without any breaks in between. My position is complicated by the fact that I’m the designated minute-taker for most of these meetings, so I can’t simply leave to use the facilities or grab a snack. A coworker and I have solved this by instituting mandatory ten-minute breaks at the three-hour mark in long meetings- maybe this is something the OP’s workplace needs to look into.

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          1. fposte

            Then it sounds like you’re talking about something different from the OP. However, I also think you can let the boss know that you sometimes will hand minute-taking over to Jane when you need to step out of the meeting for a minute. She may even be expecting that.

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          2. A Teacher

            Maybe its just the research I’ve been exposed to through teaching, but most people don’t have an attention span that truly allows them to focus for more than 45 minute blocks of time. I wouldn’t survive 3 hour meetings without a break. As an adjunct that has a class that meets for 2.5 hours, we take at least one 5-10 minute break after the first hour as well. Glazed expressions = no engagement.

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          3. Kelly L.

            Not a work situation, but my ex had apparently a ten-gallon bladder. And we’d go on road trips together. Trying to convince him we should stop…argh!

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            1. the_scientist

              I also have a peanut-sized bladder, and I’ve definitely been doing the in-the-chair dance by the end of these meetings. They’re just not set up that I can leave and pass off minutes to someone else without it being a major disruption, which is why calling for a break has been a good solution. At any rate, the LW responded below and it sounds more like the new employee is just kind of…..quirky? off? passive aggressive? So my rambling is moot.

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            2. Heather

              My bladder used to be able to hold so much. I would use the bathroom maybe 3 times a day and could easily go on a 6 hour drive without stopping. Then I had a bladder infection about a year ago and it hasn’t been the same since. Now I can only go a few hours between using the bathroom. I now understand the struggle :)

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              1. Life O'Reilly

                I’m a diabetic, and I go to the bathroom almost once an hour per day. And I’m always thirsty and almost always hungry. I’m lucky that my workplace doesn’t require meetings.

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            3. Ivy

              Men actually have much larger bladders than women, so at least there’s a good reason for it (: Ours is smaller because of the space taken up by our uterus.

              Reply
          4. LBK

            It sounds like you have come up with a solution to the problem, though. Whispering weirdly throughout a meeting isn’t a productive solution to this coworker’s problem – it just makes her look bad.

            Not to say the coworker has to institute something like the breaks you’re talking about, but there are more professional ways she could handle it. If the meeting has truly run into and beyond the standard lunch time – it started at 11AM and now it’s 1PM – it’s totally fair to say “Hey guys, can we reconvene at another time? Honestly, I’m losing steam and I need to eat lunch if we’re going to keep being productive.” If she just needs to grab a snack, she can step out like she’s going to the bathroom – I don’t think anyone is going to follow her and criticize her if it turns out she’s actually snarfing down a granola bar at her desk for 30 seconds.

            It’s not that she has to pretend she isn’t a human with biological needs, but it needs to be addressed in a way that’s appropriate for the office.

            Reply
          5. Blue

            Really? You’re going to extremes to justify this new worker’s perfectly unreasonable and unprofessional behavior. The OP gave as an example an 11:00 end time for a meeting sending her over the hunger edge. With an 11:00 end time the worker has not been sitting through four hours of a meeting already.

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            1. Vicki

              No….. The OP gave an example of 11:00 as a time that the meeting will continue through. That’s not an end time; that’s a “we’re going to keep going” time.

              The idea of working in a group where meetings apparently regularly go over time and “no more than an hour” is considered to be “a little” is disturbing.

              “A little” over time is 10 minutes. An hour over time is seriously poor time management.

              The “hungry” whispers are unprofessional, but so are the meetings going over time by more than a truly little (i.e. few minutes) bit.

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          6. Observer

            What you are describing sounds very different. And you have also handled it much differently – and much more professionally.

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        2. A Bug!

          Yeah, I think that’s the big thing for me. It’s not that it’s unprofessional to be hungry; it’s that the coworker is choosing an unprofessional way to address her hunger. It’s unprofessional because it’s not only distracting to the rest of the attendees, but it fails to resolve the actual hunger. It’s whining, basically.

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      2. Bea W

        This is exactly why I eat Clif bars and other nutrition bars. I purposely look for dense nutrition in a small packages. My stomach is small, and my internal calorie furnace runs super hot. The 300-some odd calories in a Clif bar is nothing for me. I see these 200 calorie frozen lunches in the supermarket and wonder how anyone can get through the day on that!

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        1. Rana

          Yup, me too. I look at the calorie content of foods to make sure I’m getting enough! (Naturally high metabolism aggravated by breastfeeding, what can I say…)

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        2. Erica

          Yes, this! I try to buy healthier frozen things and it is frustrating how often “healthy” is associated with low calorie. It’s hard to find prepackaged meals that actually make a filling lunch. Not wanting to eat junk food doesn’t automatically equal being on a weight loss diet.

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      3. Celeste

        I think Clif bars have about 220 calories? Obviously we each need to decide what we should eat; this was just a suggestion for something that would keep well at a desk for those odd times when a person needs to eat something quickly. But I see downstream that the coworker talks about being hungry all throughout the day, so it’s probably more of a behavioral tic than anything else.

        I’m also wondering if she is just kind of bored by the work itself. The constant refrain makes me think she isn’t feeling challenged or inspired.

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        1. MaggietheCat

          +1 I find that I feel hungrier when the office is slower and I have less to do. More downtime to think about how much I want a snack!

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      4. sally

        Freaking out over the calorie count of a Clif bar and feeling hungry all the time may, indeed, have something to do with each other.

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      5. Koko

        Constant hunger is often a sign that the diet is too low-fat. Your body burns carbs and proteins quickly but “chews” on fat for a very long time. Get some full-fat dairy, olive oil, real butter, or some other real source of fat into your meals and you won’t crash.

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        1. Ellie H.

          I agree, and I like the Larabars better than Clif bars. They have slightly less protein but they don’t have any of the processed stuff in them, at all. Clif bars are mostly sweetener and Larabars don’t have any added sweetener, it’s all non-processed food ingredients (except for the occasional chocolate chip). They have a lot of healthy fat calories.

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    3. Bea W

      I have to eat small meals or snacks frequently throughout the day, and this is how I handle it. If I see I will be in a meeting that bumps up close to lunch I either make sure I either have something before hand or bring a non-offensive quiet snack (energy bars are great for this) in case of hunger during the meeting. If you can’t get away with a snack during a meeting, makes sure to eat something just before the meeting starts. I find something with protein is best for staving off hunger and keeping my body and blood sugar level on an even keel during the meeting, but fruit can work too.

      For meetings that are long and you can’t get away with eating, but you can get away with bringing a beverage, she can bring a bottled smoothie or something like Boost.

      Reply
  2. Annika

    Your meetings run over by “no more than an hour”? Assuming these aren’t client meetings, she’s not the only unprofessional one in the office.

    Reply
    1. Cat

      Yeah, she shouldn’t be saying this stuff, but possibly if your meetings might run over by an hour, don’t schedule them to start at 11am.

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      1. Natalie

        Ugh, seriously.

        The worst day of my job ever was when our internal auditors were visiting and called a meeting to go over our results. It started at 11 and there wasn’t any food, which would be perfectly fine if the meeting hadn’t ended up being 3 1/2 hours.

        When I finally did get to leave and eat I went to the pub in our building and had an enormous hamburger and a beer. Normally I don’t drink at lunch but I flippin’ earned that one.

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        1. Esra

          Oh man, that would be the hangriest meeting ever. When I schedule meetings that have to go over lunch, I try to supply some food, a veg or fruit plate at least.

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      2. Bea W

        Oh dear. I would totally have to pack “emergency rations” for this situation. An hour overage is a long time! It also means the meetings are not being run efficiently or not enough time is being scheduled, probably both of those things.

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    2. LV

      That jumped out at me too. How long are the meetings scheduled for in the first place, if a whole hour is not a significant chunk of time to run over schedule?

      Reply
      1. Sascha

        I would be saying I was hungry, too! My old director would schedule 2 hour meetings, and then ALWAYS went over by at least an hour, and often we’d be stuck for around 3.5-4 hours. So yeah…super hungry.

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    3. The IT Manager

      Yes. I noticed this in the letter too. “A little over” is described as no more than an hour. In my world a little over would have to be less than 10 or 15 minutes. An hour extra in a meeting is a huge overrun.

      That said this “I’m hungry” and whispering thing is unprofessional, but it is clearly a cry for whoever is in charge of the meeting to stop and give people a break in order to eat their normally scheduled lunch.

      She has a valid issue, but she’s whispering passively-aggressively instead of dealing with it directly. That’s what needs to be corrected in my opinion.

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      1. the_scientist

        Seriously, it’s passive aggressive and rude, but why do these meeting HAVE to take place over the lunch hour, and why are they running up to an hour over?? I’m hungry all the time and I’d be chewing on my own arm at that point.

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          1. Kelly L.

            I think they’re scheduled to end at 11, her lunch is supposed to be at 11:30, and they’re ending at 12.

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            1. fposte

              Okay, cool. I always hated story problems.

              However, I still don’t think lunch hour is over at noon.

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              1. the_scientist

                Yeah, noon is a pretty reasonable meeting end time, I think, but it really depends on the workplace- if there’s another meeting or commitment starting at 12:15 or 12:30, then lunch hour might actually end at noon.

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      2. Tinker

        Yeah, in most circumstances an hour is about as long as I can stand in a meeting — one that ran over by an hour, I’d be visualizing the spontaneous combustion of the presenter, disassembling my pen, and trying to keep death lasers from shooting out my eyeballs.

        I can definitely see how this came about, especially given that it can be difficult to speak up regarding an issue of personal comfort (and this goes even more so for junior people). However, whiny is not a good look on anyone, and it would definitely be a favor if the OP would clue this person in that they need to find a different approach to the problem.

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      3. KM

        That’s what I got, too. Repeatedly saying, “Wow, I’m sure getting hungry” and “I definitely need to leave in half an hour, though, because it’s lunch time” and packing up your stuff and angling away from the table is a person’s indirect way of saying, “This meeting needs to end.” And, if the meetings are routinely running an hour over their scheduled time, they probably do need to end.

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        1. Elizabeth the Ginger

          If it’s the coworker’s first job out of college, though, it’s not her place to decide that the meeting needs to end. If she doesn’t have the authority to end the meeting officially (because she’s not leading it), then she doesn’t have the authority to end it by being passive-aggressive. She needs to find other professional ways to deal with the problem: eat a snack before meetings, bring an unobtrusive snack to the meeting, and *perhaps* have a conversation with her boss *outside* of a late-running meeting to say, “Hey, I have trouble staying productive and focused when meetings run an hour too long. Maybe we could incorporate breaks into the agenda?” And she can silently resolve to manage meeting time better when she’s the boss one day.

          Reply
          1. Kelly L.

            Though it sounds like she was asked if she had a commitment during the time the meeting was running over into. She replied yes, and I don’t know if that’s “just” her lunch or if there was a specific other thing she was scheduled to do (maybe between the two it would kill her lunchtime? I don’t know), but she was asked.

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            1. Anonsie

              That’s the thing– It’s easy to say “just eat after the meeting, you can wait” but if you have commitments all afternoon and the long-running meeting destroys your lunch, that’s an issue.

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        2. Jennifer O

          Repeatedly saying, “Wow, I’m sure getting hungry” and “I definitely need to leave in half an hour, though, because it’s lunch time” and packing up your stuff and angling away from the table is a person’s indirect way of saying, “This meeting needs to end.”

          That’s exactly what I thought: she’s new to the workplace and doesn’t know how to say, “You guys need to run your meetings more effectively.”

          It bothers me when I have to attend improperly-run meetings. I like meetings to have an agenda, a time limit for the meeting, outcomes and action items identified. And make sure to have (only) the people who need to be at the meeting.

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      4. EJ

        +1. The new grad just needs to learn how to raise this issue in a more professional way. But it’s still an issue if ‘a little over’ is an hour.

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    4. Judy

      That does seem very odd, that a meeting that runs no more than an hour over is called “ran over a little”. Meetings that run over a little are 15 minutes over, tops. And here, it’s odd that there’s not a meeting right after, although many times at 11am there is not a meeting scheduled.

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    5. Blue Anne

      I was thinking that too. If meetings regularly ran over by that long, I’d be a little bit miffed.

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    6. Steve

      I don’t know – I’ve actually been in quite a few meeting where the stars have aligned perfectly, everyone is having great ideas, and collaborating so well together at that exact moment that it’s been quite worthwhile to extend the meetings and keep going. It sounds like the meeting coordinator is asking if everyone can stay beyond the scheduled meeting end time instead of just prattling on completely unaware. Maybe someone should say “I’m okay with staying later, but can we take a 5 minute break?”

      Reply
      1. Elysian

        I like your phrasing here – “I’m okay with staying later, but can we take a 5 minute break?” It’s a good moment to speak up, since they’re being asked to do so anyway, and it could solve the hunger problem. Maybe if one person started this, the hungry coworker would catch on and ask herself, if its needed.

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        1. Judy

          In my department at work, we even use the term “bio break” that implies restrooms, food, coffee, etc.

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          1. Anon333

            Please, let’s not make this a “thing”! Men use “bio breaks” in my industry (never women, interestingly), and I just can’t with the mental imagery (since it’s always the restroom they’re breaking for).

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            1. Saturn9

              “Mental imagery”? Seriously?

              “Bio break” is probably the most euphemistic euphemism I’ve ever heard. Especially from males referring to bathroom functions–given, I grew up around a lot of guys but I would have been ecstatic if they’d used such delicate phrasing as “bio break.”

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              1. martini

                I hate “bio break” too, I see it mostly in multiplayer computer games, I just tell people I need a 2 min break, but a lot of people say “bio”. I wouldn’t tell them to stop saying it, but it’s gross.

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                1. Tris Prior

                  Glad to hear it’s not just me who hates that term! My boss uses it all the time. I don’t know what it is that bothers me, but every time I hear it I inwardly cringe.

          2. Anon333

            Ugh, I just can’t with this term. . . the men in my industry use it for bathroom breaks and it’s just too much imagery for me. Let’s not make it a thing!

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      2. Letter Writer Today

        Yes, this. The break suggestion would be great for the longer meetings. Maybe with an additional, “it would be a great time to grab a snack.”

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    7. ella

      Same. I think she’s unprofessional for saying what she’s saying, but I think the subtext of “SOOOOOOO HUNGRY” is along the lines of, “This meeting was supposed to end half an hour ago, and now I don’t know when it ends, and I would really appreciate either a break or a timeline so I know when I’m going to be able to escape from here.” I start to get super antsy when meetings go more than fifteen or twenty minutes over, even if I have nothing planned immediately after, and it mostly has to do with my own internal dislike for surprises and irregularity. The co-worker here might have similar feelings of entrapment–she doesn’t cope well when the plan suddenly changes, even if it doesn’t directly impact the rest of her schedule for the day. It just violates her internal need for consistency and predictable expectations.

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      1. fposte

        Yeah, I’m with you there, and I really struggle when people are messing with my eating times. I do think it’s unrealistic to expect laser focus and a long meeting attendance at the same time.

        However, as we both note: co-worker still needs to shut it.

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        1. Hlyssande

          I have a recurring meeting blocked out on my calendar from 12:30 – 1:30 just so people don’t try to schedule during my lunch. It works the vast majority of the time.

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          1. the gold digger

            I did that in my old job and would get cranky if the admin scheduled over it. Actually, I did 11:30 – 1:30, not because I take a two-hour lunch, but because nobody can end meetings on time where I am and I wanted to get across the street to the Y for the noon spin class.

            I found out that the admin was deliberately scheduling over my lunch just because she thought I shouldn’t take a two-hour lunch. Which I was not. But even if I were, it was not her business, which is what my boss told her when the admin complained to my boss.

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            1. Mallory

              I found out that the admin was deliberately scheduling over my lunch just because she thought I shouldn’t take a two-hour lunch.

              Infuriating! We had a front desk receptionist who got like that over the communications director’s schedule. She developed some inappropriate vigilance about monitoring when the director (and others) came in late, took a long lunch, left early, or worked from home. None of her business whatsoever, but it became a thing with her. She thought if she documented everyone’s comings and goings enough, she could make the dean see that he needed to make them toe the same line she, as the receptionist, had to toe. The difference between her situation as a receptionist and others’ situations in other positions did not compute with her.

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          2. Colette

            I do that, and it works most of the time – not so much this week, but usually. I also decline meeting request during this time if I can (i.e. if it’s someone on my team I will push back, if it’s a major meeting with tons of people, I’d cancel my gym plans.

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      2. Canadamber

        Ugh, man, I’ve never really been in a meeting situation like this, but I totally know what you mean with the whole predictability thing. If I have an expectation of something in my head that is going to happen, I get very, very upset if it doesn’t happen, or if something changes. Maybe it’s silly that I get so distressed, but that’s just the way that it is.

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        1. Case of the Mondays

          Not trying to give you an arm chair diagnosis but check out OCPD. I know someone that has it and your description is one of his big issues.

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          1. Koko

            It’s actually common to the whole family of anxiety-related disorders, which also tend to cluster together and commonly have comorbidity. I have generalized anxiety, agoraphobia, and trichotillomania, and one of my biggest anxiety triggers is situations where I’m dealing with uncertainty, like not knowing when I’ll be able to leave a meeting. It makes me feel trapped, out of control, and panicky. If I’m held in a meeting even 5 minutes after it was supposed to end, it’ll start to increase my heart rate and set me to hair-pulling unless the meeting leader acknowledges that we’re out of time and specifies how much we’re going to go over by. But the instant someone says, “Nobody else needs this room, so let’s stay til 11:30 to wrap this discussion up,” I immediately calm down because I know what’s going on and what’s going to happen.

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    8. Lauren

      Yes this is what jumped out at me too. Where I work, a meeting that has “gone a little over the scheduled time” means 5, maybe 10, minutes over; often, even in those cases where it’s only going 5 minutes over, attendees start leaving right at the originally scheduled end time. A meeting that is 60 minutes (!!) over is really just a second meeting – also, it demonstrates poor planning, or a lack of respect for other people’s time (or both).

      Not sure if the OP has any control over whether or not these meetings run over the appointed time. If so, definitely take a look at the agenda and see if it is realistic for the time allotted. Really think through the likely discussion and/or questions that may come up, and if it seems short, add some more time to the appointment. I tend to err on the side of scheduling an extra 30 minutes if I’m really not sure how much discussion the topics will generate. If the meeting runs short, folks are usually quite happy to get some time back in their day.

      That said, if the OP has no control over this, and this is simply the culture of the company, the kindest thing to do is to offer her some advice, since regardless of whether the meeting ends on-time or not, her behavior is unprofessional and passive-aggressive (and she probably doesn’t realize she’s being perceived as such). Perhaps the OP can alert their colleague to the “norm” of meetings going over (a la “I know, it’s crazy – it took me a few months to realize that this is just how things are here”), and suggest that if a meeting is scheduled to end by 11am, this coworker should assume the meeting won’t really end until ~11:30/12:00 and she should consider bringing a small “just-in-case” snack to help her get through those final 30-60 minutes. Alternately, if your company’s culture is accepting of this, and depending on just how junior an employee she is, when someone says “are folks free for the next hour?” (particularly in cases where that next hour cuts into the noon time period), perhaps she (or the OP) could suggest “Actually, would you mind if we break for 20 minutes so we can all grab lunch, bring it back to the meeting, and wrap up the conversation while we’re eating?” I’m guessing she’s not the only one who is/will be hungry if the meeting is going over by 30-60 minutes…

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    9. Ruthan

      Came here to say this. Seriously! If an hour is “a little over”, I shudder to think what meetings that run a lot over are like.

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    10. Lily in NYC

      Good point. This is something is considered a sign of poor management in my office. We are all too busy for meetings that go over the alloted time. But here, people will just get up and leave because they already have something else scheduled that they can’t miss.

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    11. Koko

      Seriously, I came here to say that! A meeting should end on time except in rare cases where perhaps another 10-15 minutes is needed. A meeting should only run more than 15 minutes over time during truly unusual/rare circumstances. Very disrespectful of people’s time to hold them beyond the time you said you’d release them. Even if they don’t have other meetings, presumably they have actual work they need to get done between the meetings and believed they’d have that time available to do it.

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    12. Observer

      Sure. But the minute you start acting like a child (and that what it sounds like) you lose much of the ability to get anyone to do anything about this.

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    13. KH

      What are the other people in the meeting doing? In my department meetings sometimes go on forever, with no scheduled or adhoc breaks ever. Eventually I figured out that if you need to leave to use the bathroom or down an energy bar, you just get up unannounced and take care of whatever business you have.

      Reply
  3. Kcliff

    Yeah an hour over seems excessive, if that happens a lot you may need to evaluate your scheduling and start blocking off more time. People do set expectations around meetings especially if they cut into lunchtime. If I have a meeting until 11:30 and another at 1, I’d be annoyed if the first ran long until 12:30, because I might not be able to get something to eat.

    That being said I think telling her would be nice, it’s so easy to fix! Her behavior seems a little odd but maybe it’s her way of passive aggressively trying to say the meeting needs to wrap up.

    Reply
    1. Sadsack

      The coworker’s actions remind me of the way some of the students in my college classes would act when the class time was coming to the end, but the professor wasn’t quite done lecturing. I thought that closing up and disengaging was rude, even if the prof was taking them right up until the last second of class. Sounds like this is what the coworker is doing.

      Reply
      1. Sadsack

        I should add that I don’t blame the coworker for feeling that way, but acting that way is a different story.

        Reply
      2. Traveler

        I was also going to say she probably picked this “I’m so hungry” thing up in college. I remember a lot of kids whispering this loudly for the professor to hear because they wanted class to be over or wanted their 5 minute break to snack.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth the Ginger

          Ugh, even college is far too old for this kind of behavior. I wouldn’t put up with it from even my fourth graders. If it’s not the scheduled end of class, stay put and eat a handful of trail mix. If class is over and the professor is just continuing to ramble on and on, either quietly pack up and go if it’s a big lecture hall, or in a small group say, “I’m sorry, I can’t stay any later” and head out. Don’t act like a toddler pulling on Mommy or Daddy’s sleeve.

          Reply
          1. Traveler

            Oh, agreed. Depending on the class and professor though, it sometimes felt like glorified young adult daycare with kids stumbling in with their PJs on and their juice boxes.

            Reply
      3. Cassie

        One thing I hated about college is that there were no bells signaling the end of class because it meant professors could keep talking as long as they wanted (until the next group of students showed up) and it meant you either had to quietly pack up and sneak out or stick it out. The classes always ended either at the 20 minute mark or the 50 minute mark, so theoretically you would have 10 minutes to get to your other class but if you have to walk from one end of the campus to another, it really stinks if the prof doesn’t finish on time.

        Reply
  4. fposte

    Yeah, the spontaneous whispering would make me crazy.

    However–“meetings that have gone a little (no more than an hour) over the scheduled time”? How often do these meetings go an hour over the scheduled time? That wouldn’t be “a little” to me. I suspect she might be feeling the same, and that’s why she’s acting like she’s been delayed after school when she’s supposed to be on her own time now.

    I’m not saying that her behavior is appropriate, though–just thinking that maybe it’s worth suggesting to her that she *plan* for the meeting to go longer and then be happy if she gets out earlier, so that she eats before the meeting if necessary and doesn’t start checking out before it’s completed.

    Reply
    1. HappyLurker

      yes – this!
      The coworker has been there long enough to understand that meetings are quite possibly going to run very late. The coworker needs to to prepare for these meeitngs.
      LW friendly advice to keep granola bars in coworkers desk and in pockets is the best I have seen.

      Reply
  5. LV

    I have a related pet peeve, which is people who eat and eat and eat during meetings. I’m not talking about a quick snack or “Lunch & Learn” sessions where it’s expected that participants will have their lunch during the meeting, but entire meals.

    I was in a meeting a few weeks ago where an attendee ate:

    – a thermos of soup
    – a container of rice and stir-fry
    – a bag of crackers with dip
    – string cheese

    Basically the entire time, she was chewing on something. The meeting was from 1 to 2 PM. I understand she might have had other commitments on her time that prevented her from eating lunch beforehand, but it was excessive.

    Reply
    1. CanadianWriter

      That’s a weird combination of foods, but if that’s the only time she can eat, what’s she supposed to do?

      Reply
      1. Ellie H.

        I think the idea is that, assuming that you do not have a lunch meeting literally every single day, on days when you know you have a meeting over lunch, you would bring something to eat that has fewer component parts e.g. a sandwich or a one-course meal. It sort of calls attention more attention to the food if it’s complicated, and the ethos behind eating during a meeting is that the meeting is more important than the food.

        Reply
    2. anon all the way

      Crackers (and related potato chips) are distracting but if someone really takes lunch during that time and cannot wait, I don’t see it as a problem unless they were being disruptive and obnoxious or gross with their eating habits. If there’s no other time to eat, then I think it’s okay to eat during a meeting.

      One time I had a job interview though many years ago when I first came out of college. I’ll never forget the woman that ate her entire lunch and interviewed me with a mouthful of food. I never got the job there but that was incredibly rude to me.

      Reply
      1. Jamie

        Crackers and chips have no business in any meeting, unless it’s a lunch meeting and chips and sandwiches are ordered for everyone. Even then – eat them when others are eating and don’t crunch when you’re the only one nursing a bag.

        Reply
        1. Tina

          A coworker once ate an apple right behind me while we were watching a webinar. I put an end to that real quick.

          Reply
        2. Lora

          I would like to civilly disagree with this, Ms Jamie. ANY meeting over lunch that does not involve a company-provided meal, is liable to put up with not only cracker and chip crunching, but popcorn, tuna salad, apple slices and carrot sticks, possibly even lip-smacking over cheesecake. And coffee slurping, while we’re at it.

          Reply
          1. Jamie

            I would actually agree to this, as I would never schedule a meeting over lunch without company provided food so it would never affect me. :)

            With the exception of the smacking and slurping. I will concede people need to feed themselves, but there is no reason they have to be gross about it.

            Reply
            1. LauraUK

              I once lost my cool during a scheduled 10am to 2pm meeting which was called by my CEO for his SMT. It was a really tricky strategy meeting with no break at all. At 1.30 I snapped and said, “I’m sorry I’ve got to eat something and X is 6 months pregnant and she’s climbing the walls.” She and I had been glancing at one another wide eyed for about half an hour. He was really irritated and said “this meeting was always scheduled from 10 til 2!” I did bark back “yes, I got that but it never crossed my mind that you’d not asked for lunch to be ordered.” He was one of those who lived off air but had also presumably had a snack just before kick-off. Not my finest hour but, seriously? There wasn’t even a biscuit in the room. I was feeling positively violent!

              Reply
    3. Juli G.

      I do this right now because I’m pregnant and in my first trimester. If I go more than a half hour without eating, I’m puking. Not sure how I’m going to deal with my 3 hour director meeting tomorrow.

      Reply
      1. GigglyPuff

        Not sure if this will help you, but I discovered in high school when I ended up with the last lunch session, and I’m not a big breakfast eater, instead of getting a typical hungry, I go straight to nauseated, and I find that gum really helps cut down on that. Especially cinnamon flavored, because it seems to last longer.

        Reply
      2. Sascha

        I think it would be okay if you had some crackers with you, put into a ziploc baggie and not the original crinkly packaging. Do your coworkers know you’re pregnant? Most people are totally okay with pregnant women snacking during long meetings, it’s a special situation.

        Reply
        1. Juli G.

          My boss knows but no one else. It’s a little intimidating because it’s a meeting of literally 30 high ranking men that I have to help compell to hire more women (male dominated industry). Pregnancy “weakness” doesn’t help (although most of these dudes are reasonable – more the unconcious bias type if anything).

          I will probably try to bring in a discreet snack – nuts or maybe some cubed cheese.

          Reply
          1. Laura2

            Can you request that food be available during the meeting- not necessarily lunch food, but a platter of cheese/fruit/dip/veggie sticks? That way it’s not so obvious that you are eating and no one else is, there’s just a plate of food on the table.

            Reply
      3. Rana

        Are you okay with milk? Or energy shakes? Those can be discreet to drink, and keep you hydrated as well as full. (Congratulations, and sympathies!)

        Reply
    4. IndieGir

      My pet peeve is people who schedule meetings anytime between 12-2 without checking to see if they are blocking you out of lunch entirely.

      It sounds like the poor lady was in that situation, and had to eat her lunch. Although it may not have been to your taste, I don’t see anything excessive about what she was eating. For all you know, she may have had a 2:00 scheduled as well.

      I’ve had to bring my lunch to a meeting in the past (although I did give the scheduler a head’s up) and don’t see anything wrong with it. I’ve seen others do the same. In a busy work environment, it is sometimes unavoidable.

      Reply
      1. Jamie

        I totally agree with this. I avoid calling lunch meetings whenever possible, but if it can’t be avoided I make sure we order lunch and then people can still take their lunch break then the meeting is over.

        That mid day break means nothing to me, but I get that’s it’s important to others so it’s like a sacred thing I respect.

        Reply
        1. IndieGir

          I’m with you on that — I’ll never schedule a meeting during lunch unless I plan on feeding everyone.

          And as a manager, I agree the mid-day break is sacred. Most people can’t function without a bit of down-time to recharge. I always want my staff to know it’s available and encouraged to take a lunch break.

          Reply
        2. StarHopper

          As a teacher and nursing mother, I have been locking myself away in my classroom every lunch period this year in order to pump, complete with a sign that informs students that I am NOT available so please don’t knock. It has been glorious. I put on my fave Pandora station, check my blogs, and have a break from talking to or about teenagers. I think even when I’m not pumping next year, I will still put up my sign and take my little mental break.

          Reply
      2. Mike C.

        SERIOUSLY!!

        Holy crap, why do people do this like it’s no big deal? DO you really want to be locked in a room fully of people distracted and annoyed by the fact they need to eat something?

        Reply
        1. Rana

          I think the people who do this are either never hungry (or hangry) or think that giving in to one’s bodily needs is a sign of weakness. So they don’t think about the problem and are usually annoyed and surprised to learn that other people’s bodies work differently, in my experience.

          Reply
      3. Annie O

        This has become such a problem at my work that some people put permanent blocks on their calendar for a lunch. It usually happens because someone schedules an 11:30-12:30 meeting, and someone else schedules a 12:30-1:30 meeting, and neither meeting planner is checking to ensure that all participants get a lunch at all. And it doesn’t help that my boss never, ever takes a real lunch. Although I hate eating in non-lunch meetings, I know that I’ll be worthless by about 2 or 3 pm if I don’t eat something.

        Reply
        1. Traveler

          Yep. This. So Much. I’ve had plenty of days at jobs where my entire day was blocked in meetings because everything needed to be done then. It was inappropriate for various reasons to eat in those meetings, and so I would have to go without food. Not okay.

          Reply
      4. anon all the way

        I completely agree with this and also will add, I had a training session once last and entire afternoon from 12-3pm. I felt really faint and regardless of how rude it may have seemed, I needed to eat something so I just excused myself and got my lunch and carried on during the training session.

        Reply
        1. Jamie

          Just out of curiosity why couldn’t you eat before the meeting? 11:30-12:00 is within the normal lunchtime.

          If the training were 10:00 – 1:00 I’d find that more reasonable.

          Reply
          1. anon all the way

            Back when I worked first shift, it was impossible to get a break. I wasn’t the only one that ate too during the training session. My former manager never listened to us anyway, so I really didn’t see it as a huge deal. He scheduled the entire training session right in the same work area too where everyone wound up interrupting everyone for work. There was an entire conference/training room set up, so it was hard to even take the session seriously if our manager didn’t seem to care either. The other time would have been much better.

            Now that I work second shift, this eating concern is less of a problem for me.

            Reply
          2. TL

            I don’t eat breakfast until 9:30 or 10:00, usually – and I eat a small breakfast – so lunch is usually much closer to 1:00 or 2:00 for me.

            I also don’t get into my office until 9:30ish, so there’s that.

            Reply
            1. Jen RO

              Same for me. A meeting that went on from 12 til 3 would kill me! I need to eat frequently or I get dizzy and cranky (low blood sugar, maybe?).

              Reply
      5. Laura

        And see, I eat lunch at 11, but I would consider 1-2 fine for a meeting because – at my office! – lunch is generally anywhere 11-1 depending on the person. A two hour meeting at 10 am is kind of my personal nightmare. (If it’s a one hour meeting at 11, I’ll just grab lunch right before, or have a good snack and then have lunch late.)

        I really don’t see a problem with eating in a meeting in general either. (It doesn’t work for me because they’re usually either conference calls where I have to be talking – and not with my mouth full – or else they’re in a computer lab where I shouldn’t take food. Alas.)

        Reply
    5. Ann Furthermore

      I’ve had to do this in meetings where I’ve been scheduled back to back all day long and I’ve had no chance to sit down and eat anything. When this happens, I’ll bring my lunch to a meeting that was not intended to be a brown-bag session, and right at the start I’ll say, “I really hope no one minds if I eat my lunch while we’re talking, I’ve been running all day long.” People are usually pretty understanding, because they’ve had the same thing happen to them.

      Reply
    6. Monodon monoceros

      If I don’t get a break and have to eat during a meeting, I usually avoid crunchy or slurpy foods, and I also try to make a comment at the start like “sorry guys, busy day, I hope you don’t mind if I eat my lunch”

      Reply
    7. Noelle

      When I was in grad school there were several students who ate during the entire two hour class. One guy would bring huge bags of fruit and just sit there and eat five or six peaches, loudly sucking and slurping and dripping juice everywhere. I don’t mind if you need a snack, but seriously, there is a better way.

      Reply
      1. Traveler

        I always think its interesting when people bring strange foods. I’ve seen kids bring food/drinks into labs where we are dealing with human remains though. Really though? Really??

        Reply
        1. Eden

          At my last job, the choice was between eating while something gross is going on, or not eating. I chose to eat–I can’t focus if I’m starving.

          Once a cat we were doing a nasal flush on sneezed out a bunch of necrotic cancerous tissue on my pizza slice. It’s a testament to how inured we were to gross that I actually considered still taking a bite (I did not, FTR). I should mention also that I was a bystander, not actually performing the nasal flush or restraining the cat.

          Reply
          1. Cath in Canada

            *barf*!

            I’ve always worked in labs with an extreeeeeemely strict no food or drink rule. As in, if you were spotted with so much as gum or a water bottle, you’d be loudly berated in front of everyone. And we weren’t handling anything more than level 1 biosafety. So I guess I’ve just had that knocked into me during my entire training!

            Reply
    8. AcademicAnon

      I routinely bring food to meetings scheduled the time I normally eat lunch because it’s a time when I’m sitting down and it’s in a room I can bring food in and eat it. This isn’t uncommon where I work at either, since I’m in research and you can’t (and shouldn’t) eat in the labs, and a lot of people also routinely eat standing in the hallway (there are also shelves and fridges in the hallways to just for this reason.)

      Reply
    9. Bea W

      Excess is relative. This would not be excessive for me to eat as lunch spread out from 1-2 PM, which is my normal lunch time.

      I agree with other commenter about the crackers though. I avoid anything noisy or super crumbly in meetings that would be distracting.

      Reply
    10. Traveler

      I guess I am in the camp that I don’t care if or what people eat as long as they aren’t being purposefully disruptive about it. Even if it involves crackling a package or something, as long as they’re not drawing it out, eh… I don’t really care. Especially if its a meeting with my regular coworkers – if its something more formal with clients – okay, thats probably not the best options, but still we’re all human I think its understandable if someone isn’t trying to be obnoxious.

      Reply
      1. Us, Too

        Agreed. Eat when you need to eat. Drink when you need to drink. Excuse yourself to puke/pee/whatever if you need to. Just do so discreetly.

        Reply
  6. Steve

    Am I the only one that’s picturing Brick from “The Middle” saying “I’m so hungry! ( hungry )” ?

    Reply
    1. BadPlanning

      Then add in the “whoop” from recent seasons!

      Now I’m picturing giving the OPs coworker a juice box when she starts whispering. I just watch the episode where they try to prevent Brick from whispering the truth after a lie by giving him a juice box to sip. “We don’t know how that broke” (drinks juice).

      Reply
    2. Mallory

      Ah, Brick! I loved the episode when he had the clover and he said, “This clover is evil. (Ee-veel)”.

      Reply
  7. louise

    After last week’s discussion of graze boxes (a discussion that made me hungry!), maybe a nice email saying “hey, I’ve noticed when you mention getting hungry during meetings, *I* start getting hungry too when I really need to still focus! I always try to gobble down a snack before meetings that are close to lunch time; have you tried that? I think it would help! But, it can also be a pain to remember to pack snacks, so here’s a link to this awesome place that will mail tasty snacks right to the office for you!”

    Reply
    1. Fabulously Anonymous

      And as others have pointed out, if running up to an hour late is considered normal, you might want to let her know that as well. “When I first started working here, I realized the meetings tended to run up to an hour past the end time, so I started having snack before each one.”

      Reply
    2. Anonsie

      I doubt it has never occurred to this coworker to eat when she’s hungry, though. That will just sound condescending. Show her the graze boxes, sure, but I wouldn’t ask if she’s tried snacking before.

      Reply
  8. nep

    Indeed — an hour is way more than ‘a little’ over. What would be a lot? If she does this only in those meetings that run so much longer past planned time, yes, it seems she’s sort of lashing out against that, but in a way that might well hurt her professionally; great of you to advise her.

    Reply
  9. OriginalYup

    Yeah, I can definitely see this being a result of someone being new to the full-time work world. I had to tell a coworker that it just wasn’t appropriate for him to eat a bowl of cereal during 11 am project team meetings. I give wide berth on meetings held at or around mealtimes, but slurping cereal mid morning in a formal meeting is really pushing it.

    It might be helpful to address the “SOOOOOO hungry” thing in a way that’s less about the food/eating itself and more about how people present themselves at work. Like as adults, we don’t really announce to others “omg I have to pee soooooooo bad right now” or (this actually happened once, to my horror) telling people that your underwear is too tight. She probably means the comments as just casual banter and bonding, but it would be kind to give her the heads up.

    Reply
    1. Katie the Fed

      I have a member of my team that I’m working with on this. She really is having trouble grasping professionalism. I’ve brought her in to talk about some things and she’s started by saying “I’m sorry, I’m just having such a bad week. PMS.” and I’ve had to say “yeah, that’s not something you need to share with your manager.”

      Keep in mind too there may be a bit of a generational issue here – younger people grew up in an era of oversharing and announcing to the world the most mundane details of your life. “(look what I’m having for dinner!” “time for the gym!”) so it may take some getting used to the fact that people don’t need or want to know these things.

      Reply
      1. Arbynka

        That’s a good point. Interestingly enough, my experience is that it is my own generation – peers – that drives me crazy with “look at the cookies I just baked”, “new hairstyle” etc. One of my friends just had a third baby and was posting half an hour updates throughout her labor. The younger generation does not seem to do that. Well at least the ones I am friends with on Facebook :)

        Reply
      2. OriginalYup

        Something that had a big early impact on me was learning that my boss at that time suffered from really terrible rheumatoid arthritis. I never would have known what that meant for her on a daily basis if someone else hadn’t mentioned it in passing. I’d never heard her talk about feeling tired or being in pain as a result of this very major thing going on in her life, and she had a monster schedule and a ton of responsibility. It reframed my own thinking about my own little complaints and comments — what seemed like just casual conversation to me suddenly took this weird shift, like “wow, I’m kind of doofus for babbling about my every minor discomfort when this person with much more serious stuff is making it look effortless — maybe I need to do better.” She set the bar kind of high (seriously, this woman was like a Spartan warrior) but it just sort of clicked in my brain that day about not putting all your stuff out there like that.

        Reply
    2. Jamie

      I don’t know, this isn’t her first month on the job. She’s been at this company for 2 years, I’d expect in that time she’d have noticed no one else is making a big to do verbally about being hungry.

      Two years is more than long enough to pick up on social mores of the office, imo. I’m all for couching it that way if it will go down easier, but for me the intent would be for her to knock it off as I wouldn’t view this as an adjustment issue.

      Reply
    3. Claire MKE

      But it wouldn’t be appropriate to whine about how hungry you are in class either, so (as a fairly recent grad) I don’t know if it can really be excused by being new. Some people are just obnoxious/have no concept of oversharing, no matter how experienced they are.

      Reply
      1. OriginalYup

        I totally agree that it’s not appropriate in either, but I can see where someone on the newer end of work experience wouldn’t get how this is working against them in terms of competency perception. A professor might roll their eyes at her, but I don’t know that it would necessarily affect a grade (maybe a reference?) in the same way that a boss is going to side-eye her for having no filter. As as a result of people thinking she lacks tact at work, maybe she doesn’t get assigned Important Project ABC because it involves major client interaction and Boss doesn’t think she’s ready for it because of meeting stuff.

        Reply
    4. Jess

      Your example cracked me up because I worked with a young woman (late 20s) a few years ago who actually would announce to the group, usually coming or going from meetings, that she had to pee. Not, “excuse me, I’m going to run to the restroom before the meeting starts,” but, “I have to pee soooo bad,” usually accompanied by a little dance. (This was in a fairly conservative federal office, in which the majority of people were pretty high level and pretty far out of their 20s.) She was eventually fired due to attitude and lack of professionalism.

      Reply
  10. Clinical Social Worker

    At my current workplace my coworkers constantly complain about their hunger and talk about their diet plans. Even a woman who has previously been a manager, will talk about her hunger and how it’s affecting her work. I’ve actually grown kind of used to it. It is a weird work culture I’m in at the moment.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth West

      Here, it’s your exercise plan (and food also, though not as much). The company is really big on health and fitness. A lot of people leave the building and go walk around campus/to the nearby park and back. I see them when I’m using the stairs twice a day for a workout area, LOL.

      Reply
  11. MR

    I have to side with the young coworker on this one.

    A ‘little over’ is five or 10 minutes, not nearly an hour. If a one hour meeting goes for nearly another hour, then it’s up to whoever is running the meeting to schedule two hours for said meeting (on top of that, do these meetings really need to last two hours (or more?) At that point, I’m getting hungry and want something to eat or do other than be in that long of a meeting).

    So the meeting organizer needs to be more respectful of everyone’s time. Either keep the meetings to their regularly scheduled time or make the meetings longer. I’m sure there are many meeting attendees who wish this was going on, not just the hungry coworker. She could probably improve her approach to signaling that the meeting is out of control, but she is on the money that things are not operating as they should.

    Reply
  12. EM

    Well, I’m gonna be honest here — I don’t consider a meeting running over by an hour “a little over” — and I’d probably be pretty irritated if meetings were regularly running an hour over the scheduled end time. And I’ve been in the workforce for about 10 years.

    Reply
  13. Katie the Fed

    Or instead of addressing the pattern, you could say something like “hey, the meeting is at all and you know they usually run over so you might want to eat something first or bring a snack so you’re not complaining about it during the meeting.”

    She hopefully would get the hint. Not sure. Her manager should probably address the packing stuff up and moving toward the door while the meeting is still going on.

    That being said, y’all need to manage meetings better. Over by an hour? That makes me twitchy to think about.

    Reply
    1. Jamie

      I cosign all of this. That’s exactly how I’d handle it with the co-worker but for crying out loud you people need to work on meeting management.

      All you need is an agenda and someone capable of keeping everyone on topic. And are you running over because people wander in late and time is taken to catch them up? Because that’s a tremendous time suck.

      My meetings start on time, end on time or early…if principals are late we reschedule and others are expected to look sorry under my withering gaze and find out what they missed after the meeting.

      I follow my agendas so they’ll know what was covered before they got there.

      Reply
    2. Sunflower

      All of this.

      And I’d be way bothered by packing up her stuff before it’s over. I think that is a huge issue. It reminds me of class when our teachers would threaten to go over time if they saw anyone packing up their stuff when it got close to the end of class

      Reply
  14. Katie the Fed

    Also, it’s too bad she doesn’t work at the same place with the food-pushing coworker from a couple weeks ago. That could be a match made in heaven.

    Reply
  15. Letter Writer Today

    Hi all,

    Thanks for the feedback! Just wanted to provide some context. The “little over” is usually just 5 minutes, but in the case mentioned in my letter, it was just under an hour over because of some late-breaking changes to how a VIP meeting would be handled. Also, these have been in all types of meetings, not just one meeting organizer in particular.

    Also, the SO HUNGRY mentions have been at all times of the day (just arriving, just after lunch, mid-morning), so maybe it is a passive-aggressive way to signal that the meeting should be over. I’ll let you know how it goes after “the talk.”

    PS: I will now always think of Brick when this happens. :)

    Reply
    1. Katie the Fed

      yeah, this might be part of that generational thing I mentioned above where she doesn’t realize that she doesn’t need to share such things with everyone. You could also go with something like “ok….?” when she says it. But I’m probably a little less director.

      Reply
      1. Katie the Fed

        err, “direct,” not director. Alison, can you instal an “edit” function in your next upgrade? :)

        Reply
        1. MR

          I second the edit feature. My phone likes to auto correct to things that are clearly not correct and it drives me nuts ;)

          Reply
        2. Arbynka

          I love it, Katie. Sometimes typos are just awesome. I remember once, long time ago, I told our other boss (from N.Y.C – I was in CZ back then) that I was Hungary (I ment hungry)

          Reply
          1. MR

            That would be great. I notice my typos five seconds after hitting submit, and it makes me frown that I can’t correct those errors…

            Reply
      2. Lauren

        It could be generational, but I’m not so sure… Last year I worked with 40+ year old woman who did the same thing. I just assumed it was a thing she had about being hungry (as in, when she was ready to eat she was ready to eat and couldn’t help announcing it).

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I think most people can help announcing it, though. They just haven’t processed that not only does nobody care, people actively want you to keep it to yourself.

          Reply
    2. Letter Writer Today

      Just realized, this has happened when the meeting isn’t going late (as it did on Monday)…maybe it is generational….

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Or just a clue-blind spot. I think cluing her in gently would be really kind. To everybody, since nobody else wants to hear that either.

        Reply
      2. Tinker

        This seems like one of those cases where the line between “generational” and “lacking social grace” gets a bit blurred. Maybe the person is awkward, and it doesn’t have to be about everyone else who is the same age as her?

        I also think that, compared to when I was younger, it seems to be much easier to have visibility into the details of what young people are doing, and this leads to a perception that they are doing things that are more distinctly “different” in terms of their attitude than they actually are.

        There was a PSA going around a few years back on Hulu and such — it was basically a person standing up at a school assembly and making a speech to the effect of “Karen has four eyes, because she has glasses. She is fat and she smells.” The tag line was “You wouldn’t say it in person, so don’t say it online” — this was during a time when there was a lot of attention given to cyberbullying. Except — when I was in elementary school folks said that and worse (like, sometimes a LOT worse) to my face on a fairly routine basis.

        Part of the difference, now, is that instead of existing in the form of what the child reports to have happened (which can be easily dismissed, as I’m aware forsomereason) the behavior can be directly witnessed by the parent or other authority figure, which gives it more weight and makes it seem more definitive — but it’s basically the same behavior, underneath.

        Reply
        1. Kelly L.

          I agree–people definitely said things just as bad to me when i was a kid, and played nasty pranks too, it’s just it wasn’t in print so adults didn’t always believe me.

          Reply
    3. Adam

      Does your coworker actually eat? Obviously you have no control over her eating habits but I’m getting impressions of being in college, rolling out of bed at the last minute, and then eating whatever as the day rolls on.

      Reply
    4. Jeff A.

      LW, I think you’d be doing your coworker a huge kindness by trying to help correct this behavior now.

      At my last job, one of my coworkers (who is about 20 years my senior) would constantly be griping about how hungry she was. All. Day. Long. I don’t think she quite grasped how quickly that behavior became something everyone associated with her (and definitely was picked up on and noticed by our manager).

      There are good reasons for you to stand out to management, and there are bad reasons for you to stand out to management. My coworker could have benefited from someone telling her at an earlier point in her career just how this was making her look to everyone else in the office.

      Reply
    5. LCL

      Talk to her but be gentle. Get someone with with more tact than me to script it. The only people I have ever known that are this pushy about mealtimes have been diabetic, or had pain meds needed on a schedule. I have read that young people with medical issues can have a hard time figuring out how to manage things with people that aren’t family.

      Reply
  16. LouG

    “She also packs up her stuff, puts it in her lap and moves away from the table, when the meeting is clearly not over.”

    This should probably be addressed too. That would bother me more than the hungry comments.

    Reply
    1. Katie the Fed

      it’s very college student-y.

      My students always did that when I was a teaching assistant. Like, 5-10 minutes out. Calm your asses down and just wait!

      Reply
      1. Shell

        Eh, I think it’s much more understandable from students. Usually the classes only have 5-10 minutes in between and you might have to bolt for the next building. To be fair, if you’re going all the way to the other side of the campus you should know better than to take that particular second class, but if the class is reasonably close I’d get ready to leave as the time inched closer too.

        (I used to have plenty of profs/TAs that’d drone on for “just another minute…”)

        Reply
        1. Katie the Fed

          OK, but at most it’ll take 30 seconds to pack up. You’re not gift wrapping your backpack!

          Reply
          1. Jubilance

            No way does it take 30 seconds to pack up, especially if its winter and you go to school in a cold weather state. It takes a while to get all your cold weather gear off & stowed, laptop out and booted up, notebook/pen, etc. And then to pack it all up at the end in reverse. If I was just grabbing my laptop and walking out, sure it takes 30 seconds, but if I need to shut down the laptop, stow it in a bag, get my coat/scarf/hat/gloves on, that’s gonna be a 5 min endeavor.

            Reply
            1. Shell

              Not to mention the lineup in getting out. I used to have lectures in huge lecture halls (I can’t remember the capacity anymore, but it probably seated at least 200), and even if I could get my stuff packed and ready to go in a minute, just the parade of people squeezing through the super-narrow aisle and waiting your turn to finally get to the door was at least three minutes.

              And that’s not counting all the winter gear, textbooks, laptop, and etc. Jubilance mentioned.

              Reply
              1. Cassie

                Same problem with my dance classes in college – everyone’s bags are usually on one side of the room so you have to fight your way through to get to your bag. Once you retrieve your bag, you have to find a spot away from traffic to throw on some street clothes and change your shoes. Heaven forbid you’re wearing pointe shoes – it’s awkward trying to untie the ribbons while standing – so then you’d have to sit down to change your shoes.

                Reply
        2. Adam

          One quarter in college I had a one class directly after another that was as far away as you could get while still being on the same campus. It always took the full break to walk there even if I was moving as fast as I could without actually running. Pretty sure I never left early unless the prof was done, but the way I sat in my seat and bolted the moment I was able you’d think I was training for the track team.

          Reply
        3. Betsy

          I have done this when I have to dart from one meeting to another, too. Sometimes, my 10-11 runs until 11:01, and I have an 11-12 in a different location. When that happens, I want to be ready so I can bolt to the door (not literally, but close to it), and get out before other people start blocking the exit with non-urgent slowness.

          If I were ruler of the business world, I would make meetings run 55 minutes instead of an hour, to acknowledge the fact that we have not yet invented faster-than-light human transport.

          Reply
          1. Tasha

            Meetings here start exactly six minutes past the hour and end on the hour. I’m not sure why we’ve decided to adopt a schedule that’s completely opposite to every other university’s, but at least it’s consistent.

            And yet there’s always that one person who manages to arrive five minutes late.

            Reply
            1. Windchime

              We have someone at work who consistently arrives for meetings between 10 and 20 minutes late. No apologies, no nothing. Just saunters in at 2:17 PM as if he doesn’t have a care in the world and doesn’t notice that a roomful of people have been waiting for him. (When he’s invited, it’s because we need him so it’s not the kind of thing we can just start without).

              It’s really annoying. He does it every time.

              Reply
      2. Annie O

        I’ve never understood why some professors allow students to get away with that crap. Cover expectations on the first day of class, and call out anyone who forgets. By week two, it stops.

        I think the same can be true for meeting organizers.

        Reply
        1. Anonsie

          Because it’s a big waste of everyone else’s time to have to sit there and listen to the professor chastise people.

          Reply
          1. Annie O

            Eh, I’d rather nip it in the bud at the start. And I wouldn’t say “chastise;” it’s not really all that severe to say, “Anonsie, class ends in five minutes. Let’s all stay focused until then.”

            I found that setting the expectation and doing 1-2 of these types of reminders stopped the problem for the rest of the semester.

            Reply
      3. Jillian

        It’s expected at my company that people will leave at or slightly before the scheduled end time. If you have a meeting from 10-11 and another at 11, you’ll be late to the second one if you don’t leave. It’s just our culture (took some getting used to, but it’s great) that meetings start on time, end on time, and have an agenda. If you need more time you just have to re-schedule.

        Reply
    2. AMG

      I really think that the disrupting behavior is more the issue versus addressing the apparently constant hubger. Moving to the back of the room, whispering, commenting, collecting her things are all one big manifestation of the same problem. Sit still and hush kiddo, just like in kindergarten.

      Reply
    3. De Minimis

      That really sounds like a holdover from school to me…although I remember even there it often would irritate professors when students would start getting their things together in anticipation of the end of class.

      Reply
    4. Jamie

      I may be a bitch but when people have done that to me I’ve stopped and asked them if they need to leave early.

      No, fine…then I continue. Because my meetings don’t run over I expect people to have blocked off that time unless there is an emergency that came up mid-meeting.

      Reply
      1. Julie

        I love this! I do the same thing when I’m teaching a class. If people are talking, I ask if there’s a question (and usually there actually is a question). If not, they stop talking. I also noticed that when it’s about time to end a class (either online or in person), instructors tend to talk faster (to cram everything in before people get up and leave, I guess), but I’ve noticed that when you start talking faster, people tune out. So I slow down and speak a tiny bit louder when I’m wrapping up because otherwise, no one listens. It also helps that, unless there’s some sort of emergency, I always start and end on time, and I give breaks, and everyone knows and expects this.

        Reply
    1. KarenT

      It’s funny–that’s the view I take when people are complaining about how full they are. I resist the urge to say, “Aren’t you lucky?”

      Reply
    2. Mints

      Haha! I am a less annoying (I hope) version of that, I admit. I’m hungry all the time, but I actually avoid using the word “starving” for that reason

      Reply
  17. Seal

    The combination of “SOOOO hungry” comments and packing up stuff before the meeting is over strike me as passive/aggressive attempts to signal that SHE thinks the meeting should be over – that’s the issue that needs to be addressed. Better she hear it from you than from her boss. Seriously, if one of my junior staff members tried to pull that BS on me when I was running a meeting (and I work hard to make sure our meetings are short, productive, and end on time or early), it would end with a one-on-one closed door meeting in my office.

    Reply
  18. some1

    I wish I’d had this discussion with a Jr coworker at a former company. She was our receptionist and in her early 20’s. The last two receptionists had moved up in the company when openings became available, but it was pretty much known that she would not because of stuff like this, and she really wanted a promotion.

    Reply
  19. Jamie

    I’m curious as to the junior designation the OP gave the coworker. If she’s at your level of authority how is she junior to you? Do some industries use this designation for people with less seniority? Mine doesn’t, so I’m curious. In my experience a junior engineer, for example, has less authority and move external oversight before work goes into production that more senior engineers.

    Reply
    1. Letter Writer Today

      Junior, as in, just hasn’t been in my group as long, doesn’t have the same level of responsibility, and is getting paid less.

      Reply
    2. KarenT

      I assumed the OP meant junior in her career, in the sense that she hasn’t been working as long. I have editors reporting to me and the couple of newer ones are mentored by the ones who have been here longer though they are all in the same role. I could see how the ones with more experience would view the newer ones as junior even without role distinction.

      Reply
    3. EM

      I wondered that too! I took it to mean the co-worker is YOUNGER than the OP, but that doesn’t really mean the same thing as “junior.”

      I would only use the term junior to describe a co-worker if I indeed has more authority than they did.

      Reply
  20. Mouse

    Oh my, this is just the sort of unprofessional mistake I would have made when I was first starting out 15 years ago. You will be doing her a huge favor by nicely conveying how this comes across. I cringe just thinking about how I may have acted…especially at the end of LONG meetings, yikes!

    I do remember one time our boss scheduled an evening meeting – we all had to come back into the office just for this meeting at dinner time. I had put a frozen lasagna in the oven at home, and after an hour and a half, I announced I had to leave the meeting because my lasagna was going to be done. I can’t believe I did that!

    Reply
    1. BadPlanning

      Ha! What an amusing metric. You’re meeting is too long if cooking frozen lasagna is done first.

      Reply
  21. Red Librarian

    I’m hoping this is just an awkward transition out of the college lifestyle and into a professional work environment. I mean, when I was in college we’d say stuff like the “sooo hungry” all the time and pack up our stuff early because we had limited time to get between classes. It’s also possible she’s still adjusting to not being in a situation where one is perhaps freely eating and snacking all the time, like in college.

    Reply
  22. This is me

    You could also giver her a Snickers bar, because people just aren’t themselves when they’re hungry.

    Reply
    1. Elysian

      That’s understandable, but as adult professionals we have to take responsibility for our own shortcomings. If you know that you don’t operate well without food, it’s up to you to make sure you bring snacks. It’s not up to the coworker to feed you.

      Reply
    2. Alex

      Haha – then we’ll see another letter on AAM next week about how a pesky coworker is always eating during meetings!

      Reply
    3. Jennifer

      “Just low blood sugar. Ate a Snickers. Thanks for coming.” –from the Wonderfalls pilot.

      Reply
  23. Alex

    It’s been covered here already, but I have to add my dos pesos – I understand that it is only 5 – 10 minutes of running over, but it sounds like this is happening frequently. In my opinion, this is the bigger problem. 5 – 10 minutes is not a lot of time, but it can disrupt a lot more than might be apparent, and is one of my bigger “pet peeves”. Meetings need to be managed and end when they are scheduled to, and overages should not be the norm.

    That being said, I don’t know if I agree that someone stating they’re hungry is unprofessional per say, but if you get the feeling that your peers are annoyed by this person’s statements of hunger, then it would be kind of you to tell her that it may be damaging her reputation. She will probably think it’s kind of silly that a statement about being hungry when meetings are always running late is reflecting poorly on her rather than the meeting leaders.. my opinion would be to frame that conversation in a way where you address that it sucks meetings always run late and that you know it’s a trivial thing, but that her statements are nevertheless having an impact.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      Why do you think she’d think it’s silly, though? She’s disrupting the meeting without seeking a solution to her problem. That’s pretty unprofessional.

      Reply
      1. Alex

        My thought is that if this person is making these statements as a passive agressive way of expressing irritation at meetings running late, then she may not be receptive to being told that she is the one being unprofessional by talking about her hunger. It can be assumed that she doesn’t think talking about being hungry is unprofessional, and when combined with being irritated about meetings running late, it’s possible her first reaction to being called out for this may make her feel like it’s sort of a silly thing to be getting called out for. I think it’s important for OP to address it in a way that will make the coworker feel somehow validated for her irritation about meetings, but still motivate her to be more professional. As opposed to ignoring the coworker’s frustration. I just wonder if this approach would produce a better outcome from the coworker.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          The OP sounds pretty nice, so she might take that kind of trouble.

          I probably wouldn’t–I’d let her know nicely, but if she rejected the information, I’d figure the chips can fall where they may, since she’s the chips.

          Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      In addition to what fposte said, the reality is that she’s very junior (and the OP is pretty junior too). They’re likely not in a position to do anything about the meeting culture there — but the coworker still needs to behave professionally.

      Reply
      1. Alex

        I agree that she needs to behave professionally, absolutely. I’m just ranting about my own issues with meetings going long. :)

        Reply
  24. SaraV

    Meetings going over more than five minutes is almost foreign to me. At my previous job, meeting rooms were at a premium, so there almost always were people waiting outside to use the room once your meeting was over.

    Reply
    1. Katie the Fed

      Same where I work. And people don’t just wait outside – they’ll walk right in and boot you out.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer

        And at my work, they will congregate right in front of the door and talk as loudly as they possibly can for the 5-10 minutes beforehand just to make sure you REALLY get the hint. Which was really fun for trying to hear the end of the presentation, lemme tell ya.

        Reply
      2. Windchime

        We also boot people out at my office. Depending on who is in there; if it’s a bunch of doctors or bigwigs, then we usually nominate someone to do the door-peek-quick-apology thing. Most of the time that gets them going. If it’s just another group of co-workers, we’ll open the door and say, “Sorry to kick you out, we have the room.” Fortunately, each conference room has an Outlook Calendar and the day’s schedule is also posted outside the door, so it’s easy to see if there is a meeting after mine.

        Reply
    2. Judy

      At our place, it’s people opening the door 2-3 minutes before the meeting is supposed to be over to move in for the next meeting.

      Reply
    3. Jen RO

      Yup! A meeting running 5 minutes late would involve either finding a new room or facing angry co-workers outside.

      Reply
  25. Lora

    Wish there was a way to make a flow chart for this sort of thing.

    1. Would you like to have a meeting?
    If yes – why on earth would you want to do that????
    If no – Good.
    2. Why on earth would you want to do that?
    a. Because I want to talk to people about a specific subject.
    b. Because I’m bored and want to look busy
    c. Because I read in a management book that meetings are important
    d. Because my boss told me to have a meeting
    e. Because I’m not all that good at my actual job and prefer to delegate it to other people in the name of Teamwork
    A. For how long?
    i. For a whole day!
    ii. For 3 hours
    iii. For 15 minutes or so
    B – E. Go play on the internet, ding-dong.
    i – ii. People are busy, too bad
    iii. Can you discuss it in the hallway with folks instead? Maybe over coffee? As you find people, rather than dragging everyone into a conference room?
    1. NOOOOOO how will anyone know I did anything if I didn’t book a conference room and a GoToMeeting number and have metrics and deliverables to track????
    2. Maybe
    *Just talk to people in the hallway then, and send out a group email when you’ve compiled all their answers.
    3. But how else will we find an excuse to expense a pricey lunch?
    *OK, have a meeting at the nicest restaurant in town, one drink per person so make it good.

    Reply
  26. JB

    I do this kind of thing at my job, but it’s a totally different situation, and I’m adding it here just to add on that culture matters. My boss schedules my four-person work group (her + 3 others) for weekly “work” lunches, of which about 5 minutes is devoted to actually talking about work. Sometimes she stretches that longer by repeatedly going back over what we’ve already talked about and adding nothing new. These lunches are always a minimum of 2 hours and sometimes 3 or more. None of us, except for her, have so little to do that we can spare that kind of time. This is her way of making sure she has someone to eat lunch with.

    She will happily keep us out for as long as possible. Even saying “we should be getting back” doesn’t do anything. If we don’t put on our coats, put our purses in our laps, scoot back our chairs, etc., then we aren’t going anywhere. On occasion we’ve had to actually stand up and start slowly backing away from the table.

    And because she gets there so late every day, she would be happy to eat lunch at 2 every day, but we all get there by 7:30, so we like to eat earlier. So if, on the rare occasion she’s at work before lunch time, we don’t start saying “I’m hungry,” “Ok, I’m really hungry,” she’ll just keep delaying our departure until she’s ready to go. So yeah, it’s not professional of us exactly, it’s the only thing that works for us. Talking to her about it will get her to agree that we need to go to lunch on time and not stay out too long, but she will passively aggressively delay so she can get what she wants.

    This is obviously very different from the LW’s situation.

    Reply
  27. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

    I have to laugh at this whole topic because someone announcing, “I’m hungry!” is a legitimate reason to close a meeting in my world.

    I guess we’re a little more informal/intimate that the next group. Also, we value food.

    (The packing up thing would make me nuts, though.)

    Reply
  28. NavyLT

    I’m mildly sympathetic, if only because OP is talking about meetings that go over the scheduled time by about an hour. That said, if these meetings regularly go over, or is they’re scheduled to take place around lunch time, coworker needs to plan a little better. Something protein-heavy will probably help her to feel full.

    Off topic, someone I know linked to AAM, and I’ve been reading it pretty extensively over the last week or so. It’s interesting to see the similarities and differences between the “office world” and my world. Personnel issues seem pretty universal.

    Reply
    1. Biff

      I get the impression that the Letter Writer is missing a key fact, despite the fact she keeps bringing this up when she returns to make clarifications– these meetings appear to be scheduled on top of ALL opportunities to eat and they run over all of the time. It sounds likes it impossible to determine WHEN to eat or take breaks at this company. I’d probably try the passive, nudge-y actions that it sounds like her coworker is making. Because we’re taught to drop it softly in people’s laps. But it sounds like the manager is a total bonehead.

      I honestly find this unspeakably rude. Just beyond disgustingly rude, to keep people hungry. I used to have a boss that didn’t eat very much but if he was hungry and he knew a meeting would run long, he’d bring food. For himself. You’d walk in and the thought would be “oh crap” because not only did you know you were in for a two-hour nightmare, but you’d be smelling his sandwich while you were hungry.

      Reply
  29. soitgoes

    While it’s definitely important to give her a heads up (really, most recent grads need a lesson in not saying every stupid thought that pops into their heads, and it’s not a big deal), I think the meeting lengths need to be dealt with if they always run an hour longer than they’re supposed to, especially when they push back breaks that people already have scheduled. It might be one of those office things where all of the established employees know that the meetings run late but the new ones haven’t been told outright yet. You might be surprised how quickly this young woman shapes up if you say, “You know, these meetings always run overtime; we all expect it, but it sounds like you’re trying to stick to the original schedule.”

    Reply
  30. Letter Writer Today

    Just wanted to say thanks for all of the feedback yesterday; it is very helpful!

    Reply
  31. Dawn88

    Nobody mentioned the legally required meal and rest breaks. In California, after 2 hrs of work you get a 10 minute “rest break” by LAW. A 30 minute “meal break” for someone working 6 hrs or more is also required. Regardless, every 2 hrs requires a 10 minute break, or is a violation of labor laws.

    Instead of whining about hunger, someone should be watching the clock, and at the 2 hr mark, “OK, this is a good time to take our break for 10 minutes.” One phone call to the Labor Board would solve those “long meetings” without breaks real quick…and the boss (who eats nothing) can get in a snit all they want, or face a very large fine and severe reprimand by a government agency.

    Those laws are on the books for a reason. This isn’t some sweatshop situation, this is America….and employees have significant rights! Unless everyone in these meetings was exempt (salaried management), maybe…If they are “Non Exempt” (hourly employees) they get those breaks, period.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      The break laws only apply to non-exempt employees. If the people in the meeting are exempt, this wouldn’t apply.

      Also, it’s not every 2 hours in California. It’s every 4 hours, and the break “must, insofar as practicable, be taken in the middle of each work period,” which is probably why you’re thinking of 2 hours.

      Reply

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