I’m disgusted. I’m writing this column minutes after leaving the scene of one of the most insulting and unprofessional spectacles I’ve ever witnessed in a business environment. Whether you’re a trainer in a formal setting or just making an in-house presentation to share some information, here’s one rule for instructing or presenting that you should always remember: Don’t eat in class.

Make time for lunch, Bozo
Here’s what happened. I left work to attend what was supposed to be a one-hour seminar starting at 2:00 P.M. When I arrived, there was a line outside the classroom door because the previous session was running late. Strike one.

When my group got to go in the classroom, I saw on a desk one of those fold-over, clear plastic lunch boxes that contained a half-eaten salad, French dressing, and about half a sandwich. I thought to myself, “Wow, that’s tacky. You’d think the instructor would throw away his trash.” Strike two.

But it wasn’t trash. After we were seated, the instructor picks up the box and says, “You’ll have to forgive me. I haven’t finished my lunch yet.” And, instead of teaching, he takes a big bite of salad and starts chomping on it. Strike three.

I wanted to shout out, “Sorry, dude, we don’t forgive you!” I realize that a person must eat, but I thought this guy was way out of line. I didn’t pay to get into this little seminar, and maybe that’s why the instructor felt he could afford to be so rude, crude, and professionally unacceptable.

He should have made time to eat his lunch outside of the official seminar schedule. He should not have subjected us to the disgusting sights and sounds of his chewing.

Put food in its place
Here’s my rule: No food allowed in my classroom. Period. I don’t want to hear any crinkling, scraping, chewing, swallowing, or pouring. If it’s hot or the students request it, I occasionally allow soft drinks, but I warn the class that if even one drop gets spilled on one of my computers, soft drinks will be banned, too.

I tell my students that if they want to eat, they can do it during break—and they can do it outside of the classroom. Ideally, of course, you can send your class to the vending area or to the cafeteria, if available, and tell them you’ll see them after the snack break.
Would it even occur to any of you to finish your lunch in front of your students? Am I the only one who thinks that’s an unprofessional behavior? To comment on this article, please post a comment below or send us a note.