COMMENTARY According to the website Above the Law, the head of HR at a law firm issued a memo detailing how employees are supposed to behave in the bathroom. Everything from where to keep your eyes when you're at a urinal (up and ahead!) to counsel on waiting to conduct business until after you've finished using the facilities was covered.
All good advice, mind you, but what in the heck is the head of HR doing drafting such a memo? (Well, she or he didn't draft it -- there's evidence that it was copied from an eHow article.) But why spend time plagiarizing articles on bathroom etiquette when you could be doing something worthwhile, like reducing turnover, developing current employees or filling out government paperwork?
Should HR get involved in things like this? Most HR people have encountered an employee with a hygiene issue of some sort during their tenure. We usually get tapped to deliver the delicate news that you, well, stink, or that it's okay to wear different clothing every day. We also get to fire people for playing Angry Birds while hiding in a stall, but that's really where the bathroom supervision should end.
Besides, this memo didn't even address the real bathroom etiquette problem: Selfish people who leave the place in an unsanitary and unpleasant condition for their coworkers. This is how HR should handle bathroom policies:
1. There should be bathrooms with plenty of toilet paper and soap.
2. There should be either an employee or a janitorial service assigned to clean the bathrooms on a regular basis.
3. If there is an employee causing problems in the bathroom, then that employee should be spoken with.
That is all. HR should not take on a motherly role. We should not tell you to stop speaking to people in the bathroom because, presumably, you already know that. If you don't, then don't be surprised when people don't answer you back.
And a memo to my HR pals: Don't go moaning and complaining that you're not taken seriously and you don't have a seat at the lunch table when you're busy focusing on things like air freshener usage in the men's room.
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