IT Employment

Don't roll your eyes at me, mister!

At a town counsel meeting in Illinois, an attendee was asked to leave due to her sighing and eye-rolling. This opens up a whole new world for me.

You want to know what makes a blogger who writes about career issues happy? It's when someone tells her about a story like this:

Darlene Heslop, a 47-year-old registered nurse, was attending a meeting of the Elmhurst, Illinois Finance, Council Affairs and Administrative Service Committee, when she was asked to leave due to "excessive yawning, sighing out loud, and ‘rolling her eyes.'" Apparently she had issues with one of the topics up for discussion.

Alderman Stephen Hipskind, chairman of the committee and the guy who asked her to leave was then faced with criticisms of violating the First Amendment from other members of the committee, who voted to overturn the chairman's actions. After the vote, two committee members then left, and the meeting was adjourned for a lack of quorum.

Children! Don't make me separate you!

Okay, look, no one likes a smart aleck who sits in a room and makes faces during a meeting. Particularly if those same people will not voice their opinions out loud if you ask them. But in this case, I believe Ms. Heslop would have been more than happy to talk about why she was reacting negatively to the proceedings. She just happened to be very immature in her behavior.

But it just cracks me up that the best way Hipskind could think to deal with this was to have her removed. Did anyone perhaps think of taking the issue offline? Maybe Hipskind and Heslop could have gone to lunch to discuss their differences and talk about what might be more appropriate behavior in a formal setting.

I wasn't aware one could take punitive action against aggravating and immature behavior. This information has set me free! It has inspired me to transform my own meetings by adding warning clauses. And here they are:

  • No bobble-head-like compulsive nodding (or any brown-nosing activity for that matter) when the manager is talking.
  • Beverage containers cannot be larger than the smallest meeting attendee.
  • Any input from attendees must be succinct and directly related to the subject at hand. Those who digress will be stoned and then forcibly removed.
  • Business clichés are banned. Anyone using a sports metaphor for a server-related topic will be publicly shunned and then thrown through a window, not necessarily in that order.

And don't even get me started on eye-rolling.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

46 comments
NexS
NexS

I'd have done the same thing. And as for those who left the meeting - they are are immature as the 47-year-old registered nurse. Insubordination should not have to be tolerated. There is probably alot more to the story though. Perhaps this nurse had been well-known for making similar problems, or perhaps the manager holding the meeting was well-known for being a hot-head. Either way, I would have done the same thing, and I don't believe there is ground to invalidate that decision.

RF7000
RF7000

sounds like she got what she deserved: act immaturely and unprofessionally and you should be thrown out. no different than wearing a scoop-necked t-shirt and then not understanding why people show you disrespect or don't take you professionally ... and by scoop-necked t-shirt I mean inappropriate clothing that is obviously inappropriate and you know will cause distraction... refer to "Workplace sexism: Glass ceilings are supported by glass walls" I found this funny as I began to read the desciption in the email, chairman [male] throws [female] attendee out, I said to myself this has to be another Toni Bowers article.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Actually, what's reported as ?excessive yawning, sighing out loud, and ?rolling her eyes.?? also exactly describes someone with a chronic sleep deficit. You're talking about a 47-year-old registered nurse. It's therefore extremely reasonable to beleive she was attending the meeting during the day, after getting off a 12 hour shift. Topic of discussion therefore was irrelevant. Actions of the Chairman then become discourteous, rude, and unlawful. The criticisms of the other members of the committee lend credence to this viewpoint. Observance of audience behavior, and modification of your presentation is critical to good communication. Alderman Stephen Hipskind proved himself to be a rather piss-poor communicator in this instance. He should have ascertained whether Ms Heslop's behavior was due to a physical condition, or whether it was related to the topic. Then, if her behavior was topic-related, he could ask that she politely wait until after the presentation to make her comments or rebuttals. Since two other members left, the meeting didn't accomplish anything. If Ms Heslop's problem WAS sleep deprivation, the meeting could have been postponed until everyone was awake enough to pay attention. Hipskind blew it.

Snak
Snak

"Any input from attendees must be succinct and directly related to the subject at hand. Those who digress will be stoned and then forcibly removed" Cool. Of course, if they're stoned before being forcibly removed, they wont care - in fact if you make getting stoned mandatory, no-one will worry about eye-rolling, cos they'll all be doing it. Sorted.

dkwline
dkwline

Toni, Please keep writing! You really had me laughing with your new meeting rules. I really believe that Hips(not so)kind could have handled the matter more professionally as you have already indicated. Be as children in malice and as adults in your understanding. Okay children, let's play nicely!

net.minder
net.minder

My youngest daughter (with the long, curly red hair like Toni's) started rolling her eyes and sighing at my ex (her mom) whenever she wanted to give her attitude. She was 9 months old, and a late talker, but man, she had the non-verbal communication down! It was hilarious, but I had to keep my face straight ... and my ex would get all mad at her ... funnier and funnier! So I can't help thinking of a child when eye-rolling is described. As someone said, the chairman should have requested politely, "Ma'am, please listen quietly and politely until the question period, because non-verbal comments can be very distracting." That lays the groundwork for expulsion if the disruption continues. Sports metaphors - some are putrid, but "pinch-hitter" can be very descriptive of a temporary fall-back server that's ready to go live if the main one fails during its software upgrade. A sports metaphor can be more effective than a paragraph sometimes.

libertarian1
libertarian1

How exactly were her 1st Amendment rights violated? All the first amendment says is "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech". Private entities can restrict speech all they want. Get over it!

jfuller05
jfuller05

That and he has ego problems, no patience, well all in all he's immature! :) I'm with you, he should have just took her to lunch and discussed her problems. No big deal.

Jaqui
Jaqui

:D had to Toni. just had to. :D

SKDTech
SKDTech

I'm sorry to inform you that I will be unable to attend your meeting due to my coffee cup being of a size to contain a large child. As for Ms. Heslop, it is not mentioned whether she had been asked to refrain from her behavior before being asked to leave so I will assume that she was not. A proper warning would have been to ask her to contain herself and hold her displeasure until the floor was opened for public opinions. If she continued her antics afterward then the chairman would certainly be entitled to ask her to leave. If you are attending a council meeting then you should act with a modicum of proper decorum.

PurpleSkys
PurpleSkys

Awesome story, I really liked it. Some of it reminded me of my Organizational Behaviour classes in college this past year. There was a lot of focus on how to present yourself in/during a meeting even if one were bored to tears or didn't like the presenter/presentation. I know if two of my former instructors ever got wind of me acting like Ms. Heslop, they would hunt me down and peal a strip of me. As for Mr. Hipskind, I think it would have been more prudent for him to call a short break and then deal with Ms. Heslop privately.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

"to take it offline?" That's one of those frases that makes my ears bleed a little. Unless this meeting was being held over the network with conferencing software; it was already "offline" in the first place. Why is it that people now have to make "lets talk after the meeting" sound hip with a tech term that refers to something completely different. Great story though. I can see why they chose to ask her to leave for being unacceptably disruptive though there where better options available. I wonder if giving her the floor to voice her concerns would have lead to people in future thinking it's a way to get attention and the mic.

Ken.Mackenzie
Ken.Mackenzie

There are only three valid reasons for driving people out of meetings, as follows:- 1) A topic arises that the individual must not hear (only arises when company or national security is involved, or) 2) The individual wil not allow other people to participate (by shouting others down), or 3) The individual falls asleep, and thus stops participation of themselves.

mr_m_sween
mr_m_sween

Remember, not all meetings are considered equal. There's the planning meeting, this is the meeting or series of meetings where opinions and ideas are discussed and plans formulated. Since input is not only acceptable but encouraged then eyerolling and overt signs of displeasure are not. Then theres the announcement meeting, this is where a decision (usually from the planning meeting) is announced to the team. The announcement is not a subject for debate or discourse. If you have concerns or comments you take them "offline". Eyerolling and overt sighs are not acceptable here anymore than raising your hand and politely stating your case. Ironically, this kind of meeting is the most fraught with eyerolling since many times its the first time you are hearing the plan and, if you are like me, you're formulating immediately all the ways it can wrong. In either case, the behavior (unless medically driven and then misunderstood) is unacceptable in a professional environment.

toni.bowers
toni.bowers

You're still back on the shirt? Will you please send me a women's clothing catalog (perhaps "Victoria's Amish Secrets") so I will know the exact amount of skin that can be shown to keep your type from being distracted? And then how 'bout you let. it. go?

2rs
2rs

wow - thanks for an entirely different take on Ms. Heslop's behavior!

2rs
2rs

mandatory donuts & chips (as in potato chips for those eastbound across the pond)

NexS
NexS

What the fluck is a pinch-hitter? How can you expect a niche buzzword such as that to be of any value when it's not a globally understood concept? That's a fail.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I can't remember how yonge my little one was by the time she'd already perfected the "your the dumbest thing on earth" look. They really do get that stuff figured out early.

toni.bowers
toni.bowers

When I think of over-the-top eye-rolling I think of the scene in PeeWee's Big Adventure when he's at the Alamo listening to the tour guide. My hair is actually dark blond and not red. I know the picture looks that way. Either way, I think I'd like your daughter--eye-rolling at nine months? My kinda kid.

turbinepilot
turbinepilot

You are correct about private entities, but, in this case we're dealing with city government. Based on several Supreme Court cases city governments are "creature of the States" and the 1st Amendment applies to the States through the operation of the 14th Amendment. By ejecting her from the meeting for eye rolling and sighing the City was restricting her right to voice disapproval of the City Council's actions. Granted, she could have approached the whole thing in a better manner, but her rights are enforceable against the City.

The Weekly Geek
The Weekly Geek

So you weere at the meeting or saw a video of how Hipskind was immature, or are you labeling him because you thing being rude is approperiate? The woman apparently was continually rude, she should have been removed end of story. Politeness counts.

toni.bowers
toni.bowers

That's OK--I'm a chronic eye-roller, but i do it in the privacy of my office (usually while I'm reading my own blog). ; )

Marc Thibault
Marc Thibault

The phrase is decades old in the "let's not waste everybody's time on something that's really just between the two of you/us" context, not a neologism. "On line" is a manufacturing system when it's running smoothly, a radio with the transmitter on, a radar display displaying, etc. Did you think it was computer terminology? It's a polite way to get a meeting back on track (on line) when a couple of people have gone off-topic. It's saying that this is important and should be discussed, but not here, not now.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

While the phrase "take it offline" is cliche, I love to hear those words. It means that who ever is saying has enough sense to realize that most of the people in the meeting are not affected by this discussion and allows the meeting to stay on point.

NexS
NexS

the conductor of the meeting should be adept enough to judge the attitude according to the meeting. But, that being said, the conductor should still be treated with respect. After all, they are spending their time and effort as much as everyone else in the room.

Snak
Snak

.... munchies are a must, apparently.

Amnezia
Amnezia

they've had plenty of examples to react to? Parental example often stimulates children's behaviour, that's why my kids act weird. LOL (sorry, coudn't resist - note to self: must try harder.)

dduffy
dduffy

Although most believe that the First Amendment provides a person with the right to say, or communicate, what they want when they want, this is not the case. That would make it a license, not a Right. In the case of a Govt Meeting, you do not have the right to disrupt a meeting. Most of these meeting have rules they abide by and the chairperson has the ability to silence a person if they wish. They do not have to recognize a speaker. They can also impose time limits on speaker. Does anyone remember when the X-SNL writer did not give the Senator from Connecticut extra time to say what the Senator wanted. The reply whenthe Senator was told no was ?Really?. Last, but not least, if someone disrupts a meeting, the chair can have the ?SGT at Arms? remove the person making a disturbance.

jfuller05
jfuller05

That's what I commented on, and that's what my comment is based on.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I've chaired many meetings, and made many presentations. If you can't deal with someone who is yawning without making a big fuss, then you are immature. James

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Sorry I must have been so involved that I passed out from the excitement. I defiantly had not fallen asleep waiting for something interesting to start happening. Now where are the Eye Rolling and other totally involved Emotions when they are needed. Col

Jaqui
Jaqui

it's appropriate to use the eyes roll. like when teasing someone about rolling them :D or if you are using it to try to create the opportunity to correct some very outdated or bad information.

mcswan454
mcswan454

I'm not even going to touch this one, Toni... I think you have a real good idea of how much I am restraining myself from immature behavior. But I DID like some of your solutions. ;-)

Jaqui
Jaqui

spool choker no such thing here on TR. no spool choker we been haranguing them about that lack for years now. :D

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

decades old.. yes.. referring to the state of technology or it's connectivity. A server is more desirable when online though sometimes must be taken offline for maintenance. A manufacturing line may be taken offline but hopefully between product runs so as to keep promised shipping dates and quantities. My notebook is offline until I connect the wireless or plug a wire in. I may even choose to use dialup to get online. If it's about discussing something seporate from the current group of people rather than about sounding all power-tie hip with the latest misused technology references one would say "let's talk after" or "can we talk later?" But, maybe it's just me not getting in line with the program so we can all go down the same bunny hole together and circle the wagons while sally speaks to the topic (as if the topic will answer back). (but, it's not the worst abuse and miss-meaning of technology terms in pop culture)

Mac_444
Mac_444

Well, as a matter of fact - Yes. The term online and offline have been used to describe the operational state of a peripheral device since at least the S/360 days (my personal timeline doesn't go back any further than that). I don't know what kind of tinker toys you might have experience with, but REAL systems with REAL devices do have an online and offline state.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

For me, it's like "I'll ping you back after the meeting" which makes me want to send them a screenshot of Ping with "I've been pinging you for an hour now.. why are you not responding?" Is it really that hard to say "let's discuss this after" instead of "let's take this offline"? It's just one of those things that makes my ears bleed to hear.

2rs
2rs

recognized her daddy's paycheck sticking out of his shirt pocket! BIG clues from mommy. totally cracked me up.

aandruli
aandruli

Is rolling your eyes disrupting a meeting? I think not. By disruption it means actions so blatant and disconcerning as to stop the meeting from continuing -- there were other members of the board who felt that the eye rolling was not disruptive. Your Robert's Rules of Order discusses a quoram, and the fellow asking her to be ejected did not have a quoram, so it was he who was violating the rules of order.

Jaqui
Jaqui

I know you have open eyes that resemble your own tattooed on your eyelids. :D

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Do you mean something like your local power generation plant and those mega-kilowatt generators? My grandfather and I once discussed the origins of some of the terms in use in 70s IT. He first heard the expression 'on-line' in the late 20s at a Niagara Falls power generation plant: "Bring another generator on line." Ask any electrical engineer from the first half of the 20th century about tinkertoys.

Jaqui
Jaqui

I do. behind the garage in 15 minutes. if I'm not there, start without me. ;)

LLL3
LLL3

I prefer: You wanna take this outside?! ;-)