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Thread: When can you say a meeting is OVER?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    When can you say a meeting is OVER?

    I attract freaks, if anyone was wondering. If it's crazy- it's bound to happen to me.. or in this case at me.

    I accepted a meeting with one person, to go over our use permit process for assisted living facilities, when the meeting time arrived that is not what I got. Here's what I did get:

    The man I was supposed to meet with called 4 other people unrealted to his case into the meeting and never told me. They only wanted to talk about our new ordinance and the definition of family and why they they weren't allowed to have 7 people in one house together. I was berated and yelled at by one man in particular who told me I had "no idea what I was doing" (among other things, including cursing) and no questions about the use permit process. The man yelling at me was someone I had dealt with last Friday at the counter and already told him who he needed to speak to about his concerns. I told him he needed to leave since he couldn't control his temper and told the others the ONLY thing I was going to go over from this point forward was the permit process. They kept talking at me and I concentrated on putting notes on the permit application and then slid it across the table to the man and said if he had any question he could call me and attached a card to the app.

    The original guy the meeting was with said he was real sorry and he didn't want me to feel attacked. (yeah, if you were so sorry about it why did you invite people into this meeting and misrepresent what you wanted to talk about?)

    Being new I didn't want to walk out, not knowing what was going to happen when I got back to my desk, but I really wanted to end the meeting since it was not about the intended subject, beyond the other drama. So, in your office, when are you allowed to get up and end a meeting?
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    I can leave if someone cusses or otherwise insults me. This does not extend to the morons who won't talk to a woman (hey, I love the south, but this kind of thing happens).

    Last year I was meeting with a county commissioner, a planner on my team, and an insane potential applicant (known in zoning as "the crazy woman"). I had told her we would not support her plan amendment/rezone for an office in a residential area, and she said that was because she didn't have as much money as KMart (which is 1/2 mile away and in a commercial node). She said maybe she should pay me off like KMart did. Never mind that KMart moved in 10 years before I got here. The commissioner stood up, pronounced the meeting over, and ushered the nutcase out. I was proud of him for standing up for staff; the only one who does so, by the way...

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Doesn't it always seem that you get attacked in meeting when you are just starting out??

    That happened to me a couple of times early on in my career, and I basically just sat there and took it because I wasn't sure how I should act. But now....

    I guess they sense that you are a little "green" and go after you. Nowadays, I can control the meeting, and that stuff just doesn't happen anymore.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    I usually wont force and end to those, but repeatedly state, "I'm sorry, I can't help you. You should have scheduled this meeting to include [other persons]..." and just dead end it until they realize they arent going enywhere.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    good times.....

    TP
    I had it handed to me a few times also early on in my dealings with the public. At first you feel like you have failed. Not at all. You just learned a "lesson" in customer care. You'll never get better by having just pleasant customers will you? You'll get to a point where you may even enjoy playing with the more freakishly rude ones. It becomes a bit of office sport to see what the public has come up with since the last meeting.

    I liked to whip out a mini tape recorder with certain rude customers. They ask you why you want to tape the meeting and you tell them because you "want to ensure they get the level of customer service they deserve."

    Hang in there.

    PS I received a very public ambush by a rude citizen the first 1/2 hour I was a brand new department head at a job once. That bitter mean old wack-job taught me much.

  6. #6
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Yes EG, I too love the sport of the rude ones. You have to love the adrenaline rush from getting a good ass chewing.

  7. #7

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    I like the very polite and calm approach. When somebody is yelling in your face - or better yet standing at the podium in front of the Commission calling you a liar - and you just sit there calmly with a blank expression, it enfuriates them more. Then, I politely point out the errors and inconsistencies in their stories, still with the same calm, not quite smirking, expression. It drives them nuts and anybody else involved sees that they are the crazy ones and you are the calm and collected one.

    If I am in a meeting with somebody and they start cursing, I often ignore it. If they start cursing at me I end the meeting immediately. I explain that I would welcome the opportunity to have a calm and rational conversation with them, but that I will not be cursed at. It usually works.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I very rarely have had people get rude with me. More often the problem is the person who just wants to talk forever, in the hopes that you will adjust reality to fit to their conception. They can't seem to realize that 1) no, you don't have the correct zoning; 2) no, you must connect to city water and sewer; 3) no, the cost of water and sewer is not the city's responsibility, but yours; 4) no, despite what you heard or read somewhere, there are no government grant programs that will pay those costs for you; and 5) no, I am not opposed to your project, I just think you should consider putting it in a location with the proper zoning, where you can connect to existing utilities, or extend them for less than the $1.5 million it would cost at the site you want to buy because the land is cheap.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    People generally haven't been too rude to me. But it seems I get the people who want to whine for hours about someone else like the Engineer or Zoning Officer and I have to calm them down and make them understand why the city did something.

    Is it wrong to think that personal insults can be met with personal insults? I think that once they cross the line to insulting YOU they can be insulted right back.

    Its funny how whenever someone doesn't get their own way its because "every public employee is out taking bribes." Usually the thing they're complaining about is an allowed use anyway that they just don't like.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Hey Guapo, Laura still loves you. Are you financing your Volvo from the bribes she still alleges you accepted?

    When my favorite developer was cussing me out, I ended the meeting and left him standing in my office. But he followed me to the parking lot still yelling his head off. I try to use Bullwinkle's approach, but sometimes you just have to fight back.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    From the CIP Professional Practice Manual

    "Each of us has a job to do here. Each of us must approach our work with pride and principle. We should be ready and willing to listen and take advice, but we should not tolerate rudeness in teh delivery of "advice". We should challenge rudeness rather thatn ignore it. ignoring rudeness condones it."

    I was so glad to find this written in the CIP's manual. i have been told to "grow thicker skin" when dealing with a**holes. And now a Fellow of my professional association says I don't have to. Now to figure out a polite way to tell someone to take a flying leap.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    I just told him I was hesitant to make future meetings with him and from now on he can meet me at the counter, in front of all of my co-workers and everyone else in the lobby. I kept telling him, and everyone yelling, the purpose of the meeting was to go over the application and process, if they wanted to listen to that they could stay, otherwise they could schedule a meeting with the man I told them to have one with in the first place to voice these concerns (I told that to the man on Friday).


    Luckily, I've been told that I could've ended the meeting much earlier because they misrepresented what they wanted to discuss and because my meeting was only scheduled with the one man I could've asked the other people to leave.

    But.. I did beat the crap out of a kickboxing dummy last night.
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

  13. #13
          Downtown's avatar
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    We really don't have too many face to face meetings with people of the public - lots of phone time though. In my case, it definitely helps that our building dept administers the zoning code. On the phone though, cursing is grounds for disconnect - they'll get a warning on the first inappropriate word, hang up on the second.

    And I totally agree with Z.G. - when I was in SC, I got condescended to almost every day by customers, as a consequence of my gender and youth - but i rarely ever got cursed at. NY is the opposite - i don't catch so much crap for being a woman, but i remember being shocked when i moved back north by all the public obscenity.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Look here honey, I need your help, little lady, to get this done.

    vs.

    Look here you B#####, s#####,h$ aprove the f@@@@@@ thing or I'll f%%%%%% make sure your life is a living hell.

    I get the first, and I'm a male, except it is usually "look here son /dear" (depending on applicant's sex). The second is more common with younger people.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Originally posted by donk
    I get the first, and I'm a male, except it is usually "look here son /dear" (depending on applicant's sex). The second is more common with younger people.
    I'm the youngest person in city hall - Sometimes I think I should try harder to go bald, gain weight, and cough a lot so I'll get some respect from the public. City/Town halls seem to be disproportionately full of older people who like the benefits. It drives my young, single planner friends crazy.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    Originally posted by donk
    Look here honey, I need your help, little lady, to get this done.

    vs.

    Look here you B#####, s#####,h$ aprove the f@@@@@@ thing or I'll f%%%%%% make sure your life is a living hell.
    If I get the first, I usually say something sweet, and while I'm "getting lost and can't seem to find the file" I grumble something to the effect of the second.

    It's not that I mind being yelled at, it's that I was bum-rushed by angry people and the meeting was misrepresented. At least if I meet him up at the counter he'll have to make an @$$ of himself in front of everyone else.. and someone else can call the cops on the angry little man.
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    my.... stupidity is everywhere... I can't see how yelling and cursing a planner could make your development pass faster (or at all pass) in a planning board if you just yell and curse to the ones responsible for aprooving your development... :P

  18. #18
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    It shows you're a tough guy that should not be taken lightly.

    It is also kind of like the joke about speaking to foreigners. Just because you speak louder, does not mean they will understand you any better.

  19. #19
    I have only once had to ask people to leave. An angry mob of residents came in because they were not chosen for a neighborhood committee. They didn't like the fact that we had to draw names to select the committee (we had 22 people interested in 7-10 spots). I was told that a drawing was unfair because people that had only lived there for 6 months made the committee but some who lived there for 30 years didn't. Later in the conversation I was accused of excluding one lady because she was black and another because she was an outspoken critic of the City. I showed them the drawing results, which were observed and certified by a notary public, but that still didn't satisy them, so they were in my office yelling and screaming and they refused to leave saying that it was a public building.

    My former co-worker and I asked them to leave, and they replied with threats of going to the paper (I love that one) and the mayor. We told them to go ahead and finally got them to leave after we said we were going to get the police. Two of them forced their way onto the committee through the mayor and suprisingly, they turned out to be pretty decent. One even apologized for the incident.

    However, after that incident, if I don't know exactly what people want to meet about, they stay behind the counter.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  20. #20
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    The rule in our office is that if a person threatens to get the mayor, lawyer or other person involved the meeting is typically ended right then and there. Hell, I've even given people the phone numbers for the minister and provincial planning director. The theory is that once that threat comes out there is little point speaking to them.

  21. #21
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Originally posted by giff57
    Yes EG, I too love the sport of the rude ones. You have to love the adrenaline rush from getting a good ass chewing.
    Life is good.. 3 chewings in one day, all about their snow removal bills. Of course I had the Dan magic going again. Once again, the person came in piss as hell and left ready to pay for our gas. I'm still not sure how I do it, but I do it most of the time.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    jfortin - you actually get people fighting because they WANT to participate. Wow, that's a first

  23. #23
    Originally posted by SW MI Planner
    jfortin - you actually get people fighting because they WANT to participate. Wow, that's a first
    Funny thing is, anyone can come to the neighborhood planning meetings and participate, the only reason for limiting the number of members to 7 is so they can vote on controversial issues. We are working on our 6th neighborhood and only once have I had to take a vote...and the result was 6-1. Half of the ladies that showed up to yell at me never expressed any other interest in the committee after that, even though I invited them to attend and participate.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

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