Zoom Meetings a Train Wreck & Yikes, Breastfeeding?

Question:

Our department’s weekly Zoom meetings are a train wreck. One coworker’s kids pop their heads in front of the screen and wave “hello.” Another guy’s kids are on the other side of the table from where he sits, and they interrupt him when he’s talking to argue with him.  

Yesterday, one woman started breastfeeding her baby. When her baby’s snuffling got too much, I privately messaged her to turn off her audio. I did the same thing the week before when another guy dry munched cereal.

She blew up and sent a chat to everyone. She said she had the right to breastfeed and had to feed the baby or the baby would have cried. Right away another coworker chimed in that if gentle noises bothered me so much, I could have shut off my audio. That woman reported me human resources after the meeting.

I’m obligated to attend these meetings. Any advice would be appreciated.  

Answer:

Every train needs a conductor; yours appears to be asleep at the wheel. Zoom meetings go off the rails when those who attend forget that while they’re at home, they’re also at work. If your manager asks every attendee to observe eight guidelines, it might get your meetings back on track.

  1. Professionalism: Please demonstrate professionalism as well as comfort in your attire.
  2. Use your video feature to show your presence and remain engaged during the meeting. Put your cell phone away so it doesn’t tempt you.   
  3. Distracting sounds: Please mute your mic when you’re not talking and please don’t chew or munch when your mike is open. If you have pets or children in the environment, please ask them to minimize their interruptions to the degree possible.
  4. Visual distractions. Please minimize visual distractions and adjust your camera to be at or near eye level. This guideline doesn’t restrict a nursing mother from breastfeeding if she has a hungry baby and feels the meeting is too important to leave. Not only does federal law require that employees be allowed to express their breastmilk as needed, but breastfeeding in public is legal and protected in all fifty states.1 A nursing mom can protect herself and her child by draping herself and adjusting her camera so only her face shows and by muting her mic unless she wants to comment. In an incident that made national news, a coworker secretly snapped photos of a breastfeeding coworker.2
  5. Code of conduct: Remember to comply with our company’s code of conduct, including avoiding comments about protected categories. Your comment about a breastfeeding coworker veered into this territory. Please be aware of what’s behind you, such as photos that create a hostile environment for members of protected categories. Zoom has a Virtual Background feature for those who need it.
  6. Don’t Zoom and drive, as the distraction might cause an accident.
  7. Don’t use the Zoom chat feature to share private messages to a team member who’s also attending the meeting, as the Zoom chat feature might allow others to view your messages.
  8. Log on early enough to fix connectivity issues. If you plan to share a document or image, practice a share screen trial run. If you’ll need to share your screen, clean up your desktop and close other browser tabs, if you’re working on documents that have personal or confidential information.
  9. Finally, “Meetings Are Us” provides more detail on conducting effective team meetings, https://workplacecoachblog.com/2020/10/meetings-are-us/.

1 https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/allthemoms/2018/07/25/public-breastfeeding-now-legal-all-50-states/835372002/

2 https://cafemom.com/parenting/225977-colleague-takes-photos-of-mom-breastfeeding-on-zoom/350677-according_to_columnist_danny_m_lavery_the_lws_coworker_made_it_their_business

Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR, is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016, https://amzn.to/30V5JO6) and “Solutions”, https://amzn.to/2GYlnAN (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at https://workplacecoachblog.com/ask-a-coach/ or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.  www.workplacecoachblog.com.

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3 thoughts on “Zoom Meetings a Train Wreck & Yikes, Breastfeeding?

  1. As someone who has not gone to any Zoom meetings but just hears about them occasionally, I found this entertaining–but I am sorry for the people who have had to endure this. At the same time, it’s a trend that’s out there. I would posit that at least some [if not all] of the people who have kids, pets, and breastfeeding going on their zoom videos are the same ones who constantly are on their phones when in the office, updating their status on Facebook and sending Instagrams of pictures of people they work with. THIS IS NOT WORK! But these people will never know and never be convinced of this. The tips and precautions you gave really should be followed and shared.

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