Steve Boese and Workplace Bathroom Etiquette


Steve Boese is the HR Technology blogger and hosts the HR Happy Hour on Thursdays at 8PM ET. You can reach him via email, LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.


Workplace Bathroom Etiquette

While Laurie is away attending another four day drinkfest important industry conference, I gladly offered to step in and maintain the important dialogue and focus on the most important issues in management, leadership, and career planning. I quickly realized that I had nothing insightful to offer on most of those topics and decided to focus on a pressing, compelling, and relevant issue — workplace bathroom etiquette.

Here are a few rules of the road to make sure your career, or at least that next promotion, does not get derailed in stall number two.

The Urinal Spacing Rule

In the men’s room, always choose the urinal that maximizes the distance between yourself, and anyone else in the bathroom or anyone that may enter following you.  In a standard three-urinal configuration, always choose the end unit farthest away from the sink area. Nothing says uncomfortable more than walking in to the men’s room and seeing a sole user proudly occupying the middle urinal.

The Non-communication Doctrine

Under no circumstances should you attempt to communicate with anyone in the bathroom when you enter, or anyone that may follow you in. Small talk is always awkward.  Small talk inside a corporate bathroom is creepy.  Even non-verbal communication can get you into a heap of trouble. Go in, take care of your business, and get the hell out as fast as possible.

The Bathroom and the Boss

Do not follow your boss into the bathroom under any circumstances. If you do, and the boss engages you in bathroom conversation, you will forever be creeped out by the memory of important managerial interaction with your leader when someone’s pants were down. Wait for a more inviting situation like a long elevator ride, or never.

Reading Material

It is acceptable to bring reading material into the shared corporate bathroom.  It is not acceptable to be seen bringing reading material into the bathroom. Slip the USA Today sports section inside one of those yellow inter-office envelopes before you head to stall number 2. Send out a message of ‘I am carrying essential information in here’, instead of the real message of ‘I am about to spend the next 32 minutes reviewing my fantasy football stats.’

Managing your career is hard. Screwing up your future by failing to follow the basics of workplace bathroom etiquette is tragic.

Oh — and wash your damn hands when you are done, and not just when someone else is in there with you.

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