Female Co-Worker Leaves A Mess In The Bathroom

Question:

I have a co worker who leaves a mess in the restroom. There are sanitary toilet seat covers. Yet she does not use them and squats at the toilet leaving the seat and the floor soaked with urine. I have posted notes on cleaning up after yourself. This restroom is used by both males and females and we all know it is the one females. How do I approach her and tactfully tell her she is leaving a mess and we are tired of cleaning up after her?

Signed,

Trying To Be Tactful


Answer:

Dear Trying To Be Tactful:

This is a matter for a supervisor, not just a co-worker. The situation you describe is unsanitary, a health hazard and inappropriate, and a boss needs to deal with it. However, I don’t think there’s anything the matter with you saying something first, if you are a female. Here are some things to consider: 1. To put this bluntly: Every time she squatsover the seat and wets on the seat and floor, she knows what she has done. This isn’t a big surprise to her. So, being tactful doesn’t have to be your concern in this case. You’ve put notes up and she has ignored them. So likely she not only does it knowingly, she does it purposely. Do you think she could squat without urinating on the seat and floor? Of course she could do that! But she doesn’t! I say all of that to clear up any concerns you might have that she is a shy and delicate person who will be appalled to think she has offended someone. 2. Before you say or write anything to her, talk to your supervisor. Don’t say anything to the employee without permission, or you may find yourself in trouble, rather than her. If you have an HR section or even just an HR person, talk to that person too, if you think that would help.

Take them into the bathroom and show them the situation. Tell them how you know it is this one woman. Tell them what you have in mind and make sure you will get support if the woman complains about you embarrassing her. Ask if they will witness your meeting with her, if you are going to meet. I’ll bet your supervisor won’t want to! But if he or she does, that would be the best thing possible. If you are going to write this, tell them you will send them a copy prior to sending it to her, so they can approve it.

Those might seem like time-consuming steps, but I have seen these things backfire far too many times to not warn you about it! 3. Either talk to her in person, or write a letter, or send an email. I like something in writing because that way no one can say you were out of line. But, whatever works for you best is what you should do.

Now, the question is, what to say the first time you talk to her. I’m a proponent of quick, to the point and get it over with, rather than trying to soft-sell it and taking much longer. Maybe like this: “Hey Jan, before you go in the bathroom there is no urine on the floor or seat. After you go in the bathroom there is. Could you please make sure the seat and floor are dry when you leave?”

She may bluster and say it wasn’t her. You say, more firmly, “Yes, Jan, it IS you. I don’t want to have this a big deal where everyone has to write a letter and all of that. So, just make sure it doesn’t happen again, OK?”

5. You will have to decide how bad the situation is, how much others will support you and what you want to do about all of it. You don’t want to become obssessive about it, but keep in mind there are only two alternatives: Either she cleans up her own urine (I’m still being blunt here!)or someone else has to clean it up for her. Why should anyone else do that?

In a similar sitution, an employee I know took digital photos of the mess, in case there was a question about it. In another situation, an employee followed a co-worker into the bathroom, then called a supervisor when she saw the mess on the floor.

What you do will be governed by your workplace and your supervisor, as well as the relationship you have with the employee.

Best wishes with this problem. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.