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Is Bathroom Etiquette Different for HR Pros than Regular Employees?

Capitalist Note: I'm currently at the beach on vacation, where it's raining and some dime-size tar balls just washed up in the Rosemary Beach area of the 30-A corridor of the Gulf Coast. Suck it, BP. In short, I'm depressed and trying to a) keep the content flow going, and b) not take anything too seriously.  I read this post by Steve Boese over at Punk Rock HR (does Laurie write these days?), and thought I'd re-syndicate this post on bathroom etiquette for male HR pros to contribute to his important dialog. Enjoy, and just know I'll stop wading in this area of the Gulf when small critters start washing up.  That seems a reliable warning sign.

I don't pretend to know how much females chat in the Lou.  What I do know is that men aren't real chatty at the can, and as a male HR pro who wants to come off as accessible, that can cause some problems.  My general rule of thumb is a quick greeting and some stage banter if someone is at the sink.  That seems reasonable, and you can't ignore people in that situation and be accessible at other times.  Too inconsistent.

Once you get away from the sink, however, the whole deal goes gray and becomes problematic.  FromClose%20talker-795654 the London Times:

"Last Wednesday I got out of my pajamas for the first time since 2007 to spend an entire day in the office. Initially, it was fun.

But then, at 3:42pm, something terrible happened. The worst thing that can happen to anyone at work, in fact. I was standing at a urinal, having, in my dedication to having an authentic office experience, mirthlessly consumed three coffees at my desk in the space of a few hours, when a senior colleague occupied one next to me, turned and inquired: “How's it going?”

Now, male readers out there probably don't need an explanation as to why this scenario was such a crisis, more stressful than having a bad career appraisal, getting caught stealing stationery and getting a foot stuck in a photocopier combined. But, given that nothing divides the sexes more profoundly than our respective approaches to the lavatory (as Psychology Today once put it, “women are far more social animals than men, exemplified by the fact they go to restrooms in packs while men always go alone”), elaboration is probably necessary for the benefit of the fairer sex.

(1) In doing what he did, the colleague in question had transgressed article 2.1 of The International Code of Male Restroom Behaviour, which states that “on entering a bathroom a man must always use the urinal furthest away from any other man already there”. Admittedly, he had a challenge on this front in that there were only two urinals available in this particular bathroom, but even Amazonian Indians who have never seen a modern bathroom would instinctively know that, if this is the case, then one should use the cubicle instead. What was he thinking? Did he not understand that such behaviour is a major cause of paruresis, or “bashful bladder syndrome”, which, according to the US International Paruresis Association, based in Baltimore, results in about 7per cent of the American population being unable to pee in public toilets?

(2) In doing what he did, the colleague in question had transgressed article 3.6 of The International Code of Male Restroom Behaviour, which states that “while standing at a urinal one must never, even in the event of a natural disaster, fire, or medical emergency, attempt to start a conversation”. If you're very close mates, a brief “alright” is permissible, or perhaps, if you're very drunk, a passing remark about sport (”bloody West Brom”) or your own inebriation (”God, totally hammered”). But an open-ended question like “how's it going?” is lunacy."

He's right. The "if there are 2 urinals and one is occupied, go to the stall" should be in the employee handbook.  Here's another rule of thumb for male HR pros who want to appear accessible - if you come into the Lou and someone's already at a urinal, it's OK and accessible to give a shout out from at least 10 feet away ("what up, Bob?") as you move to the stall.  After that, it's Bob's call whether the conversation continues in that situation.  If Bob wants to engage in stage banter, engage.  You're accessible, and the privacy effect makes it OK. 

But if Bob doesn't want to engage, don't force it.  And never (never!) stand next to him and talk. It's got that "close-talker" vibe that is illustrated above.


Michael D. Haberman, SPHR

ROFLOL... btw... I believe it is "the loo" not "Lou". I think Lou would be upset if you are using him.

And Ladies, this is not Kris being humorous, this is true stuff! And a guy that violates this does so at personal risk.


the capitalist is all about educating -- this might be one of the most educational posts I've read ;-)


From a female perspective a couple things:
1. If you are a professional at all please do not say "I need to tinkle" when you have to use the bathroom (Yes, I had a manager who did this on a frequent basis)
2. If you are in the restroom please close and lock the stall door- double check if necessary. Yes, I entered the bathroom to see my managers stall was open because she "had to tinkle so bad i didn't have time to lock the door". You have no idea the mortification and disgust this causes in your subordinates - I am no longer with this company

Rob Levin

Great article and I agree with all of it but the following: "If Bob wants to engage in stage banter, engage. You're accessible, and the privacy effect makes it OK." To me, there is nothing worse than someone dropping a deuce, especially a noisy one, and trying to carry on a conversation.


Wait, do you write anymore or just steal my content?!

Miss you, buddy. Enjoy the tarballs.

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