Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bathroom Etiquette

My SVP recently shared with me a bathroom experience at work today that he said, "You should blog about this." Okay, so, here I am.....blogging away!

Apparently, he was walking into the bathroom just as a gentleman (we'll call him Rick for the purpose of this story) was walking out. The door to the bathroom swung in just as Rick was about to grab the handle. Well, Rick is apparently one of those freaks that can't stand to touch the door handle of a bathroom. So, instead, he uses a paper towel to grab the door handle.

Anyway, I guess Rick got so freaked out that he raised his hands out of the way with a slight shriek and practically slinked past my SVP ensure he was nowhere close to touching the door. Odd, huh? Well, think again. I walk into the bathroom several times to find a used paper towel left on the handle of the door because someone used it to escape the "germ infested bathroom".

I mean, are you kidding me? Those bathrooms are probably 50 times cleaner than our own bathrooms. They are cleaned and disinfected everyday. Our company even provides an automatic dispenser of anti-bacteria hand goo that you can use as you are exiting the door.

Rick is probably the same guy that uses the paper towel for the bathroom handle, but then uses the handrail to go down the stairs to the cafeteria......touched by hundreds of people a day. Make sense? NOT!

People, our bodies are designed to deal with these kind of germs. For some reason, we are being led to believe that everything is infested with harmful germs and we need to take every precaution to protect our bodies of these germs. pee-shaw! Not that I'm going to advocate the you go licking on bathroom floors and all.....but as long as you wash your hands, and, if you must, use hand sanitizer....everyone should be just fine.

Which brings open an even wider issue: bathroom etiquette at work

Rule the First: No Business in the Bathroom
That's right, you heard it here. Do not, under any circumstances, be you man or woman, conduct any business in the bathroom. At best, participants will be distracted. More likely, they will be so busy trying to ignore you and focus on the task at hand that it's an awkward waste of time. At worst, you are going to offend some client and blow that multi-million dollar deal. So leave the business to the boardroom and/or golf course.

Rule the Second: Wash Your Hands
You know what's worse than seeing some stranger in a public bathroom leave without washing their hands? Seeing somebody you work with do the same. Because now you get to spend the whole day wondering what they are touching with their filthy, disgusting, germ-ridden hands, and hoping it's not on your desk. I really don't know why we have to keep talking about this rule, but given the number of socially inept non-washers I see at work on a day-to-day basis people still aren't getting the message.

Rule the Third: Don't Lie in Wait
Okay, so you need to do a #2. In some cases, you might stand around a full bathroom waiting for a stall to open up, but at work you shouldn't. Nobody likes to feel pressured, so give your coworkers some space, go back to your desk, and try again later (or try another bathroom). Even if the person currently doing their business isn't aware of your presence, they are still going to feel awkward when they come out of the stall and realize you've been timing just how long they've been in there. So save them the embarrassment.

Rule the Fourth: Everyone is Equal in the Eyes of the Bathroom
So you're the boss. Maybe you're even the boss' boss. Doesn't matter a whit in the bathroom, you've still got to follow the rules. Don't start up any business, don't expect to cut to the head of any lines, and for goodness sakes yes you do have to wash your hands or flush. Being numero uno doesn't give you any special privileges whatsoever.

Rule the Fifth: Keep Down the Stink
Your bathroom at home probably has a fan, and I bet you put it to good use. Your bathroom at work probably doesn't though, which means that everybody else in there with you and after you can smell what's going on. If you think it might be an especially stinky trip, consider a courtesy flush. People will thank you.

Special Tip: Dealing with those who Outrank you
Maybe your boss was clever, came here, read these rules and is acting like he should in the bathroom. Then again, maybe he's not. Maybe he keeps trying to strike up a conversation with you at the urinal, while all your instincts tell you to stare straight ahead and ignore them. I feel the need to warn you that following proper bathroom etiquette rules in the context of such an ignorant boss may jeopardize your job, or at least your standing. Yeah, it sucks but the boss might not care if you are ignoring him because you are in the middle of taking a pee, all he knows is you are ignoring him. So try to strike a healthy balance, don't tell him to "piss off!" (clever pun!), but don't linger and chat either.

Now that you know the rules, you should be all set. Good luck in there!