the person who referred me for a job was arrested, overly long bathroom breaks, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Bathroom breaks right after regular breaks

Is there a diplomatic way to ask an employee to use the washroom on appointed break times as opposed to going during working time (which seems to be a regular schedule of immediately after the break, daily)? I feel like there is a lot of wasted time with the transition of getting back into work. I realize I can not dictate when a person has to use the washroom but this regular schedule which makes her breaks much longer then others is getting a bit out of hand.

In general, you should stay away from managing when or how often people go to the bathroom, unless it’s significantly interfering with the work (and then you’d want to prepare for the possibility that it’s a situation where you might need to consider medical accommodations).

And if we’re just talking about a couple of minutes, in most contexts it would be petty to track this or address it.

But if it’s a situation where someone has a scheduled break for a specific amount of time and is lengthening it by tacking on a bathroom break of significant length at the end of it, it’s not unreasonable to say, “Can you plan ahead so that you’re back at your desk and ready to work when your break ends, meaning that you’ve finished eating, used the bathroom, and taken care of any other non-work items by 2:30 (or whatever)?”

More importantly, though, I’d look at the rest of her work. When this sort of thing bothers managers, it’s often because it’s paired with other work issues — and if so, that should be your bigger focus. And of course, if the rest of her work is great, you should ignore her bathroom schedule unless it’s truly impacting the work in some way.

2. Can I ask to room with my fiance at an upcoming work trip?

This question is very hypothetical, since my fiancee is currently temping at my workplace, although she’s going to be interviewed for a permanent position this week.

In the next few weeks, we’re likely to need to make roommate arrangements for an upcoming 2-day event that my company puts on every year. All employees are strongly encouraged, although not required, to attend, and everyone at my level will be sharing a hotel room. I know that it’s fairly common to room with coworkers in other departments, as my fiancee would be if she was hired, and we are the same gender, which is also required.

We keep things pretty professional, but friendly in the office, and usually only cross paths when we come in in the morning and leave at night. (This is an almost aggressively casual office though, so we also try not to stick out too much by being overly formal with each other.) I’m afraid that asking to room with her (if she gets the job, big if still, I know!) would harm the image we’ve created for ourselves, even though it would only affect our non-working time. What do you think?

I don’t see why not. I’m assuming that people at work will know about your relationship, or at least that you’re not planning to hide it, since professionalism doesn’t require that you go so far as to deny that a relationship exists when one does. Given that, it would probably be weirder if you didn’t room together.

The only wrinkle I can see here is that she might not be hired by the time rooming assignments are being coordinated, but you can cross that bridge if/when you come to it.

3. Should I be paid like my manager when I fill in for her?

My question is about pay and responsibilities. My boss often takes time off and I have to fulfill her duties when she is out. Shouldn’t I get paid her rate of pay when I have to do her job?

No, that’s not typically the way it works. Your manager gets a higher wage because she has higher-level responsibilities all the time, not just sometimes. Also, when you fill in for her, you’re presumably filling in only on the day-to-day work for that period, but not for the longer-range responsibilities that come with managing (like setting long-term goals, creating strategies to meet them, developing staff members, giving feedback, addressing performance issues, hiring a strong team, and so forth).

4. The person who referred me for a job was arrested and fired

A few months ago, I interviewed for a position and was later given the impression by the hiring manager that an offer would be extended shortly. Several questions were asked about my availability, possible start date, etc. Then nothing happened. I followed up but never heard back. I found out about this position through a friend of my sister’s who I happened to work with years ago though in a completely different capacity. I know she was really pushing for me to get the job as she was essentially a one-woman team and adding me would’ve helped her tremendously. At the time, she told my sister that they decided to fill the position in another location and she was later fired for refusing to relocate.

I always thought something was fishy about the story but was forced to accept that nothing was going to come of that opportunity. I recently learned the truth about what happened. The person who referred me was terminated from the company after they found out she had been arrested. Apparently a bail bondsman called to verify employment and the rest is history. I’m not sure if the arrest was the sole reason for her dismissal or if they found out what led to the arrest (theft from her previous employer). Regardless of the reason, I’m sure it tainted the referral and I believe that’s why I didn’t hear back from them.

I’m wondering if there is any way I can persuade them to still consider me. I’ve never been arrested or stolen from a previous employer. I would easily pass a background check and have strong professional referrals. Normally I wouldn’t give this much consideration but I’ve been underemployed for over a year and am very unhappy in my current role. Working there would’ve allowed me to earn more money and get back on track professionally. I’ve not had a job lead that strong in a while and that’s why I’m wondering if there is anyway this can be salvaged. Also, they are still looking to hire someone for that role – not sure if its the one I initially interviewed for or if this is to replace the person that was terminated.

I have no idea whether you’re tainted in their minds because of who referred you or not, but there’s no reason that you can’t try applying again and see what happens.

That said, it sounds like you’re putting a lot of mental eggs in this basket and it’s generally a bad idea to do that. Even with a strong referral, anyone’s chances of getting any one particular job are low — so make sure you’re not getting too mentally attached to this role and are looking vigorously in other places.

5. Backing out of a job I’ve already accepted

I am set to start work in one week. I verbally agreed to take the job a couple of weeks ago and have discussed start times and dates but still have not received an official job offer letter. I am returning to the same company but a new position after a one year maternity leave. After a recent discussion with my husband, I really want to back out of this offer as I am hoping to take clients privately in a much more part-time capacity. My job is full-time with summers off.

Can I back out now or do I need to work an acceptable amount of time before quitting? I could work for three months and then give my notice as I don’t work for July and August anyway so I wouldn’t be leaving them in the lurch. Any advice would be appreciated.

It would be far better to back out now than to let them train you, work a few months, and then quit. Don’t let them invest time and resources in you if you know you’re going to spring a resignation on them in a few months. Tell them now.

{ 280 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT*


    That’s a tough one. You are really risking burning that bridge (since you’ve already accepted) but definitely let them know as soon as you can so they can find someone else.

    Also, Alison, I think the second last paragraph needs to be italicized.

    1. Sunshine DC*

      It sounds like they lead her to expect that some kind of formal job offer letter was forthcoming though, and she still hasn’t received it. She can’t count 100% on even having the job until that’s settled—because anything can happen until then (BEEN THERE, ugh.) The employer, by the same token, should know that by delaying this important paperwork, they risk losing her. I’d say she should inform them right away, before the paperwork is done.

  2. Artemesia*

    If $5 is a teaching position and the OP would be filling out the year, I would think that would be a better way to go than to pull out now. I am inferring this from the being off summers. Or if it is a position held before like school librarian — same thing. Or another option would be to offer to work out the school year and then resign. This might leave a better reputation than to leave them in the lurch.

    1. Treena Kravm*

      Yes, I think explaining that you’re just now realizing you won’t want to continue this position in the fall and asking what they would prefer (not starting at all or working through until summer). This would be the best possible way to frame it, I’d think.

      1. Elysian*

        I agree, this seems reasonable to me. If this job has summers off, its likely they do a lot of their hiring in the summer anyway. I would just spell it out for them, and let them know that you’re willing to work until the summer, and see if that is something they want. It’s possible that they’ll only train you on the bare-bones needed to get to June, but maybe that’s something that will work for them.

      2. Meg Murry*

        Yes, I think telling them now and letting them make the decision is the best way to go. If the position is substantially similar to what OP was doing before maternity leave, they may want to go ahead and make use of her skills to fill the position for 3 months, while looking for another person to hire in the fall. If it has a large learning/training curve it makes less sense for them to hire OP.
        Either way, OP should contact them ASAP – the longer this is up the air, the worse it will come off.

        1. #5*

          Thanks so much for all of the advice. I ended up calling my manager and letting him decide whether it would be best to find someone new or have me start and work through until the end of the school year. He was very curt, which is understandable as I am supposed to start on Monday, but indicated he would prefer I work through until the end of June. I am a little concerned that Monday may be pretty uncomfortable but hopefully I can still leave a good impression.

    2. carlotta*

      I guess it’s my UK perspective, but it is generally better to not quit until you absolutely have to when on maternity. Usually this wouldn’t get as far as accepting a new job though, but I think it’s understandable to realise a full time job won’t be for you going forward like this.
      The employer might even ask if they would come back for the remaining months with the understanding they will be replaced in September, which might work out for her short term.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        In the jobs I have had it seems to people treat leaving after maternity leave, in the same way as resigning at any other time, and give the 1 or 3 moths notice they have to.

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      I’m guessing this might be some sort of tutoring company if OP#5 wants to take on private clients and gets summers off.

  3. KarenT*

    #1 sounds like retail to me! Pretty normal (though perhaps appalling) to be expected to plan to use the washroom on your scheduled breaks. I remember working retail and asking to go the washroom ( I was the sole cashier at the front so someone would have to come cover me) and managers telling me I should have gone on my break and me answering like a five year old (I didn’t have to go then!)

    In fact, nor having to tell anyone/ask anyone when I had to go to the washroom was one of the most noticeable changes when I switched to office work.

    1. Artemesia*

      When I worked retail or food services I assumed that my breaks were for using the bathroom — it never occurred to me that I should get extra breaks on top for that. (barring one off emergencies) When I taught high school there were no bathroom breaks except lunch break and occasional free/prep periods which might not be particularly convenient. I never knew teacher who took bathroom breaks from class. The 4 minutes between classes (and I always had to change classrooms) were not sufficient for that.

      One of the pleasure of a professional job was not having to ask permission or schedule such things.

      1. TL -*

        My high school/junior high teachers would very occasionally leave class for short periods, presumably for bathroom breaks. They’d either pop their head into the neighboring classroom and give the head’s up or just tell us to behave. It worked- small school.

        1. Chinook*

          I was one of those jr/sr high teachers who would have to occasionally leave for a bathroom break during class. I rarely did it, though, because if anything happened while I was away, I was still legally responsible for the students. As a teacher, you learned to pee fast in case a fire alarm goes off at the wrong time.

      2. NoPantsFridays*

        Agreed. I drink a lot of water and pee several times per day. I remember hating it in school when I could only pee once or twice during the school day, and sometimes I had to sneak back in the building during recess to do it. Peeing was a shady, clandestine thing. I remember asking one of my teachers for permission to use the bathroom and she told me “Then just don’t drink water!” I had a continuous dehydration headache for years.

        Now no one can tell me when I can or can’t pee. I still have issues with long meetings or conference calls.

        1. Jana*

          Same, I really hope this wasn’t an office position, because I definitely use the bathroom A LOT and am on medication for it but it still doesn’t eliminate the problem. I would be mortified if someone at work told me not to use the bathroom as much, and I would get extremely stressed out and embarrassed. I try to be a hard worker so my bathroom habits won’t affect my performance, so if this employee is a fine worker other than the bathroom breaks, I don’t really see how it’s “getting out of hand” and am pretty offended by that, but realize that most people don’t have the same health issues I do.

    2. Sam*

      Agreed. I’ve been in a non-retail office position for several years now and it still feels like such a illusory to be able to go to the bathroom, take a walk around the office, get more coffee, etc at my own leisure. Pure bliss.

        1. Artemesia*

          Yes my fingers merrily type words that sound vaguely similar to what I am trying to say on occasion too.

    3. BananaPants*

      When my husband worked for a major electronics retailer, he had severe kidney stones and it took 4 weeks for him to be seen by a specialist and scheduled for a procedure to break the stones up. He was under doctor’s orders to push fluids and was on medication that might have let him pass the stones naturally, but he didn’t drink at all during his shift because the store policy was that employees could only take a bathroom break if another non-supervisor employee was working in the department and could cover the area – and they only had one employee scheduled (him) in his department for most of the shifts he worked. Seriously, for 6-8 hour shifts it was the norm that employees were totally unable to take a break without getting written up. He had a doctor’s note requesting that they allow bathroom breaks AND that he be allowed to sit when needed due to pain, and his supervisor was sympathetic but the store GM said “Not if he wants to keep his job.” Such compassion!

      It was an absolutely miserable four weeks for him, although his coworkers would kindly cover the department so that he could take a bathroom break at least once or twice each shift and his supervisor changed schedules at the last minute so he wouldn’t have to use a sick day for his procedure. A few years later we weren’t even remotely shocked to see that store location, among others, being investigated for state labor law violations. They constantly violated state law on meal breaks and time charging while my husband was working there, in addition to just plain poor treatment of employees.

      1. HR Generalist*

        Wow. This is terrible.

        I thought I had it bad because, during a brief stint as a Walmart cashier, they told me I couldn’t keep coffee at my cash register. Including when you worked the shift starting at 6 am! I was devastated – I have a hardcore coffee reliance and the idea that I had to get up EARLIER just to drink one seemed like torture. Now in my “real job” I sip coffee from when I arrive at the office at 7:30 until around 9:30 (and nobody tells me “no coffees by the computers!!”)

        1. Partly Cloudy*

          That stinks, but I understand why they have that policy — they don’t want cashiers accidentally spilling coffee on customers’ merchandise, having coffee breath, etc.

          I’m a huge klutz and I sip on water from a thermos (fairly spill-proof) all day long, and pee about every 2 hours. Would never make it in retail. ;)

          1. Lily in NYC*

            I would get fired my first day after they noticed how often I pee. My boss jokes that he’s going to get me a chamber pot for my birthday.

        2. Looby*

          One of the tackiest things I’ve ever seen is cashiers drinking coffee at their registers. When I worked on check outs in the late 90s, the only thing we were allows was water. Coffee was for breaks only and you know what? We survived just fine.

      2. Chinook*

        I am impressed Mr. Bananapants could get himself to work with kidney stones. Both DH and I have had them and been curled up in pain or high on pain killers the entire time while living in fear of the pain of urinating. I actually lost a month’s wages (and 30 lbs -the only benefit) but was lucky to have a very understanding temp agency.

        1. BananaPants*

          Mr. BananaPants has a high pain tolerance; I knew we were in trouble when I found him curled up in a fetal position on our bedroom floor! For the first few days he took full doses of pain killers and I had to drive him to/from work. I have no clue how he functioned there. After that when it was obvious it wasn’t going to be a quick cure, he switched strategies and took a half dose of Percocet as soon as he got to work because he wouldn’t have to drive for 7-8 hours, then a massive dose of ibuprofen 4 hours later to get through the workday. He was safe to drive home and then he’d take a full dose of pain meds and basically passed out on the couch.
          It was really a crummy month but he was working his way through college and we’d just bought a house, so he didn’t feel he had a choice but to go to work. The only good part was that he was well-insured through my employer, so we had access to and could afford medical care.
          He left his job there 6 years ago and we haven’t shopped at that retailer again – I can’t, not knowing how employees were treated.

      3. Katie the Fed*

        FWIW, I doubt he or the GM even knew this, but he could have requested reasonable accomodation under the ADA regulations for this. But the easiest solution would be for the GM not to be a jerk.

    4. Lyn*

      years ago, I worked with a young admin who did this sort of thing. She’d take her hour lunch, come back to her desk, then immediately take a 10-15 minute smoke break. I was not her supervisor, so I had nothing to say about it, but it was annoying to the rest of us to say the least.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Factory work or some of these distribution warehouses are the same way. I worked in a grocery store and I punched in one minute early. I had three people standing there for 20 minutes lecturing me about how I was stealing from the company. Yes, one full hour of payroll spent on me being one minute early.

      I realized I would never make it in this place. I did not want my mind so broken that this scenario actually made sense to me.

  4. Nina*

    #1: I think Allison made a good suggestion, because unless this person is spending 30+ minutes in the bathroom after lunch, it looks petty to track it. I always go to the bathroom after lunch so I can wash my hands. The last thing I want to do is track grease or ketchup or something on my papers. Even when I keep napkins around, there’s always some type of mess.

    I would talk to this person about having their bathroom break just before their lunch is over, so they aren’t taking too much time.

    1. Artemesia*

      Well that is what the OP expects — that the employee will use the restroom as part of their lunch break. It would be what I would expect as an employee and as a manager.

      1. Nina*

        Oop, I missed that part. Read the post too fast. But the OP said that this person’s routine bathroom break is making their overall lunch break significantly longer so that suggestion might not work anyway. It sounds like she’s in there longer than a few minutes. Again, I’d go with Allison’s suggestion to bring it up to her and see what she says.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      I highly doubt that everyone else is going to bathroom during their lunch break–they’re probably going a bit before or after as well. If anything, this woman is being more efficient by tacking it onto her lunch break (rather than sitting down, getting started on work, and then getting up again). In any case, unless she’s spending a ton of time in there, I find monitoring bathroom use to be extremely petty.

      1. Snowglobe*

        It really depends on the kind of job. As mentioned above, in retail or service jobs, you generally don’t leave to go to the bathroom whenever you feel like it. That’s what the scheduled breaks are for.

        1. Not Today Satan*

          I’ve worked retail for many years and people always took bathroom breaks when they wanted/needed. In some cases they needed to give their supervisor a head’s up or make sure there was coverage, but people were always allowed to use the bathroom in addition to their lunch break. People can’t control when they need to go or change a tampon and sane employers realize that.

          I didn’t get the impression that this is a retail situation though. Plenty of offices have scheduled lunch breaks.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Right? I’m almost wondering if California has se sort of law you have to let students and employeeea use the restroom? I’ve never been told I can’t I’m school and worked in restaurants for years and while sometimes you’re too slammed to be able to go right away, generally you get an opportunity and run to the bathroom real quick when you do

          2. Elsajeni*

            When I was in retail, we were allowed to take a bathroom break anytime as long as we had coverage, but the specific situation that OP#1 is talking about — essentially lengthening your scheduled 15-minute break by taking your entire 15 in the break room and then going to the restroom, and ending up coming back on the floor 3 or 4 minutes later than you were supposed to — was frowned upon, because the break schedule was generally laid out such that the person covering you while you were on break would be the next person to go. So, instead of briefly pulling someone away from another task for an unavoidable couple-minute break, you’re keeping them from going on their break just so you don’t have to give up a couple minutes of your break doing something un-fun, plus you’re creating a delay that will cascade down the entire break schedule for the rest of the day.

        2. Oryx*

          That’s going to depend. I’ve worked retail and service jobs where I’ve been allowed to go outside of my regular break.

          1. De Minimis*

            When I worked retail I think they didn’t try to monitor us on bathroom breaks, but if you were assigned to the register you couldn’t leave it unattended so you had to get coverage. If you were doing something else it wasn’t that big of a deal.

            I had a different job where you weren’t supposed to go outside your break times unless it was an emergency, but for that job we had a break every hour so it usually wasn’t a huge issue. It was data entry and they had found that people performed better if they took a short break each hour.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        If she is in there most days for 15-20 minutes beyond her break then she is basically taking a longer break. I could see if it happened once in a while. But if this is happening several times a week, week after week, then it’s not fair to the people who come back from break on time.

        If this is happening every day, she must know she runs over on her break time each day. Maybe she thinks this is okay.

  5. OriginalEmma*

    More importantly, though, I’d look at the rest of her work. When this sort of thing bothers managers, it’s often because it’s paired with other work issues — and if so, that should be your bigger focus.

    TIL micromanaging bathroom breaks is the bitch-eating-crackers equivalent of the working world.

    1. Snoskred*

      It can get a lot worse than just bathroom breaks, too. If an employer starts the train down the tracks of micromanaging bathroom breaks, the train tends to keep going.

      I was sitting at my doctors office the other day and I was already aware from previous sitting sessions in reception that the office manager there was a major micro-manager and this is why every time I go, there is a new receptionist. There was a new girl at the desk and every single thing she did, the office manager piped up with her better way of doing things, even interrupting a phone call this girl was on to tell her what to do next.

    2. YourCdnFriend*

      This stood out to me. I never thought of it that way but I’d put money on this being reality.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      Yep. Focus on the important stuff. I have an employee who has some performance issues that I’m addressing. He ALSO takes long breaks (bathroom maybe? I don’t really know). But I have enough big fish to fry with him that I’m not even going to touch the break issue. There’s almost never a reason to focus on that – if they’re doing a good job you won’t even notice the breaks. If they’re not doing good job – address that.

      Oh, and nothing makes me have to pee more than knowing I can’t easily go to the bathroom. The second I sit down in an airplane window seat I have to go. I know it’s psychological but it’s super weird!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        OMG ME TOO
        That’s the worst thing about flying. If I go right before boarding, then when I sit, I STILL think I have to go. I don’t remember it being an issue when I worked in food service–I think when lunch rush hit, I was just so busy I didn’t have time to think about it.

        Off-topic, but coming back from London last time, we got delayed because of a medical emergency onboard, and I had to pee but the paramedics were blocking the PE loo. So they let me use the business class loo. FYI it’s exactly the same as the regular one, just bigger.

        Same with the first class loo on the sleeper train. It’s all about space, baby.

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          On domestic flights, the toilets in First are exactly the same as those in Main Cabin, at least on Alaska, United, and Virgin. Not even bigger!

          I know this because I, too, have to go the minute I sit down on a plane, even if I’ve gone straight from the restroom to the boarding line. One of the nice unanticipated plusses of flying first regularly is that the second that dang seatbelt light goes off I am RIGHT THERE at the toilet.

        2. Connie-Lynne*

          How much train travel do you do? I’ve started really getting into the train as an alternative to air travel in the last few years. If I’m doing a long-haul, I can often convince my employer to let me travel Fri – Sun instead of “fly on Monday/Friday” so that they don’t lose any more of my time.

          I’ve done LA – PDX – SEA, PDX – SEA, SEA – CHI, [SF] – CHI, and tons and tons of San Jose – LA and back. I love it!

          1. Anon369*

            Yay trains! I travel on them for work as often as I can. Better wifi, better views, better all-around experience.

            1. Connie-Lynne*

              Ah, I’ve found the wifi on Amtrak to be crummy, but I have data tethering on my (paid for by work) phone, so I can always get to the internet if I need it.

              Mostly I try not to need it, and spend a lot of time staring out the window being relaxed.

      2. snarkalupagus*

        I’m a scuba diver. The combination of the mammalian dive reflex (the water temp doesn’t matter at all–it happens to me in warm and cold water) and knowing that I’m definitely going to have to go before the dive ends makes the urge absolutely unstoppable, and is why I invested in my own wetsuits. I cannot in good conscience go in a rental, even though they’re cleaned between divers. Blech.

        1. Michele*

          That was one of the reliefs of buying my own wetsuit for triathlons. I couldn’t go in a rental, but by the time you put on a wetsuit, wait for your swim wave to start, and swim a mile or so, two hours have passed. Because I don’t want to get dehydrated during a race, I usually start out pretty hydrated, so it would really be tough. I do advise that no one borrow my suit.

      3. Jeanne*

        You sound like a good manager. Focusing on his work is the right way to go. Can you imagine trying to have the bathroom coversation? Some people might start giving details on their intestinal issues. Ew.

    4. Dweali*

      There is a manager in a another department that makes his employees use a sign in/out sheet when they use the bathroom. Not sure about how his department feels but other departments tend to scoff about it. I always picture the sheet reading:
      Hermoine Granger—10:40—10:50–kinda chunky today don’t remember eating corn…
      but then again I’ve always figured that if a manager is going to micro-manage like that then I’m going to make sure that I get to take my two 15 min. breaks as well as my 30 min. lunch

      1. knitchic79*

        Oh Hermione, guess she got a hold of another time-turner or she wouldn’t be forgetting what she ate.

  6. JAL*

    #1 – I do not miss the days of unskilled labor where I was treated like a slave and I couldn’t freely pee when I needed to.

  7. Tara*

    #1– Bathroom breaks are the worst thing about high school. We get 5 minutes between classes to pack up our stuff, walk to our next class (often across the entire school and up a flight of stairs), and be sitting down for the bell. If you ask to use the bathroom within the first half hour of class, you should have gone during the break (and be marked as late, tracked on your report card). If you ask during the last half hour, you should just wait for break. If it’s right after lunch, I understand a bit more– but also, at any given lunch hour, half the people I know are at sports practice or meetings, doing test rewrites, getting tutoring, the list goes on… If you’re not in the middle of a lesson, just let people use the washroom (one at a time, if it’s been an issue). I promise people learn more when they don’t really need to pee. (/whine)

    At any rate, since this is a pattern, I’d say if she’s regularly taking over five minutes extra, to bring it up without necessarily mentioning the bathroom use specifically. “Linda, our lunch breaks are half an hour, and it’s expected that you’re back in your seat working by 12:30 or at least within a few minutes of then.” You don’t have to tell her to use the washroom during her lunch break; that’s patronizing and invasive. Just make your expectations about returning to productivity clear, and she’ll get the message.

    1. YaH*

      If you’re a high school student, you’ve just completely knocked my socks off with how well-spoken and self-assured you are. (Not that h.s. students can’t be mature and expressive, but you have a gift for written communication.)

    2. Anx*

      Is it worse than lunch?

      I remember having 20 minutes to buy and eat lunch. Some semesters I just bought cookies a few times a week because the line was shorter and I could sneak them in during study hall. I remember having to keep all traffic to the right (and only right turns out of classrooms) between classes so they could squeeze our transit time into 4 minutes, but they never seemed to figure out how a 20 minute lunch was going to work.

    3. TL -*

      You know, for all the lack of academic challenges, I’m really glad I went to a very small school where we had a lot more independence to manage things like going to the bathroom during class if we needed to.
      And five minute passing periods for our one story, two hallway school.

    4. blackcat*

      Schools are hard. When I taught at a private school, I had the “if it’s not disruptive or during a test/quiz, just get up and go” policy.* I also LOVED having my classroom adjoin the classroom of a friend. If either of us needed a bathroom break, we’d open the door, check with the other, and go while the kids were set to work on something.

      When I taught at a public school, it was a whole other kettle of fish. We were not allowed to let kids go to the bathroom whenever. Teachers were allowed to let 2 (!) kids from their class go to the bathroom during each (90 minute!) period. I was able to disregard that rule since my classroom shared a wall with the bathroom–my kids wouldn’t get “caught” in the hallway and get me in trouble. Because that rule was so, so stupid.

      tl;dr Your teachers may not make the rules, and they also may be grumpy about it. They know that students learn better when they don’t have to pee.

      *At private school, I also had the rule that if a student was too fidgety-having a hard time focusing, they could choose to excuse themselves and run laps around the (small) building. Worked like a charm. Kids were happy, I was happy. Doing that would have gotten me booted from the public school (can’t have unsupervised 16 year olds, you know. Not even for one second!). Hurray for schools that let teachers meet the physical needs of their students!

      1. C Average*

        The fidgety thing? If my school had had that policy, it probably would have raised my GPA by a whole point.

        1. blackcat*

          I remember one kid in particular for whom it seemed to make a HUGE difference. He took a few laps almost every day, generally right at the start of class (he’d come in, pull out his homework, and then disappear for 2-3 minutes of all out sprinting). He had ADHD, and earned a solid B in my class while nearly all of his other grades were low Cs/high Ds. The entire difference was he could focus in my class.

          I had this rule, in part because I went through a short term medical issue in high school which had the side effect of me being super hyper/fidgety. The need to move was a very strong physical impulse and it took a lot of effort to control it. Effort that I would have rather put into learning! So I was very sympathetic to the kids for whom movement is a physical need. Humans, particularly kids/teens, didn’t evolve to sit at a desk all day! Telling kids who can’t do it that they have some sort of personal failing just leads them doing even worse.

          1. HR Pro*

            I love this policy about running laps. I’m not surprised the student you mentioned also had ADHD — I think it’s pretty well documented that exercise helps people with ADHD focus. Bravo to you!

      2. Observer*

        Doing that would have gotten me booted from the public school (can’t have unsupervised 16 year olds, you know. Not even for one second!

        And then people complain when kids don’t know how to manage things on their own. It’s not that they are “spoiled” – it’s that their schools have taught them that they are incompetent, untrustworthy idiots who can’t be trusted to use the bathroom on their own! And, by the way you are a lazy slob if you are overweight even if we don’t let you get any physical activity when you need it.

      3. NoPantsFridays*

        I learn better while standing and maybe pacing a little. I always wished I could stand up at the back of the room when I was in school. It happened a few times in college when people from other lecture sections/times would pile in and the room would be extremely full. In ‘real jobs’ I just wish I could stand up during long meetings.

    5. Artemesia*

      As a high school teacher it was even worse. We had 4 minutes and my classrooms were at opposite ends of the school and I needed to be at my classroom door to welcome students. Students could get bathroom passes for a longer break if needed (although many were too embarrassed to request this) but teachers were stuck. Senior teachers had their own classrooms but newbies got stuck rotating around the school so we had to haul all our stuff and be ready to smoothly start class with only the 4 minutes to get from one class to another. Hardest job I ever had. In addition to the lack of prep time and time to organize at school, I spent every evening and weekend grading essays for 150 students and preparing lesson plans. (the plus was that in the good old days, I planned all my own teaching — no lockstep lessons dictated from on high.)

    6. Elizabeth West*

      We had passes we took with us–they were usually a huge piece of wood or something of that nature.

      I like how you put it–it addresses the problem of lateness but without calling attention to the fact that it’s bathroom-related.

    7. Michele*

      The regulated bathroom use thing is especially hard on girls, who might have either unpredicatable or very heavy menstrual cycles.

  8. hbc*

    LW5: Why not give them the option? “I’m sorry, there’s no way to do this without coming off like a jerk, but I won’t be able to do this job long term. I’ll either work until the break or just pass, whichever is better for you, though I realize neither is what you had in mind.” You have no way of knowing if they have a good candidate in the wings or are desperate to not have to do another search until August or whatever other factors might be involved.

  9. But I can tell you exactly how it will end*

    2 – if your fiancé gets hired after room assignment, you could perhaps work a fast swap with your assigned roommates.

    Two things that aren’t stated in the leter, though: 1 I assume that your office is enlightened and has no issues with same-sex relationships, and 2 your office won’t have problems with the notion of you two being a romantically involved couple inside (and conceivably outside) of your room? (I mean, at the very least you both will come down and eat breakfast together, I’d assume?). The two possible issues I could see might be some kind of jealousy on the part of other co-workers, or that management actively wants everyone to room with a random person because they feel that it’s a way of spawning and fostering new relationships at the business.

    I personally wouldn’t have a problem with any of this, but it might be something to watch for.

    1. Cheesecake*

      If the office has an issue with same sex relationships, it is a good sign to start packing. So yes, OP should definitely ask for sharing room together to see their reaction.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Unless the OP and her partner are both independently wealthy and don’t really need their salaries, announcing their relationship just to see if their employer or manager will retaliate is not a good idea. They should already have a good feel for their co-workers’ attitudes and their company’s policies if the OP has been working there for a while, and if there’s a decent chance that the reaction will be negative, they should probably not mention their relationship and start job-searching in earnest.

        (Yes, they may live in a state where they are protected against discrimination, but again, unless they’re independently wealthy, they should be careful about picking and choosing the time and method of calling out and fighting their employer’s potential discrimination…like when they’re an ex-employer and the two of them have moved on to a decent one.)

      2. nona*

        No. LGBT people may not be a protected class in their area. Dealing with fallout may not be easy, and finding a new job is never easy.

        1. NoPantsFridays*

          The protected class is sexual orientation and/or gender identity, not just “LGBT people” Theoretically, straight and/or cis people are equally protected under the law. We all know who are actually discriminated against, but in theory, you could not make hiring/firing decisions against a straight person just because she is straight.

          But yes, absolutely, if the OP and/or her fiance did get fired for their sexual orientation, it might not be so easy to find a new job. I agree with The Cosmic Avenger too. Sometimes I think this forum goes a little too far with the “Is that a company you really want to work for?” My answer is usually yes — that paycheck is important.

      3. Connie-Lynne*

        There are less-nuclear ways to find out if your office is gonna act discriminatively toward you.

    2. Elysian*

      I think both the problems you bring up are good ones to have in the back of your mind. Jealousy is an interesting point – are there any opposite-sex couples that would like to room together, but have been told no because the company’s policy is to have single sex rooms? If that could become a problem, I don’t know how to solve it, but it would definitely be good to be cognizant of it.

    3. BethRA*

      I’m going to assume LW#2 knows her office well enough to know whether or not people would have an issue with LGBT issues, but if it were me my partner, I would be more concerned with this: “jealousy on the part of other co-workers, or that management actively wants everyone to room with a random person because they feel that it’s a way of spawning and fostering new relationships at the business…”

      Not to mention that as a new employee, it might be better for your S.O. professionally to establish her self as Ms. MyOwnPerson before she gets lumped into “Mrs. LW2.” That can not only feel exclusionary to other staff, it can create some odd impressions about how either of you function in the work space.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        I’m also concerned about the office’s rule that coworkers sharing rooms must be same-gender. I get why that rule exists but I can imagine some straight couple griping about the LW’s perceived privilege.

  10. Anx*

    #1 Unless there’s truly an issue, I would hope my manager wouldn’t address my bathroom habits. I’m embarrassed enough over my slightly overactive bladder. Or rather, that I have the urge to pee during certain instances, some of which would likely occur after a schedule break: Changes in temperature and going to sit down to some work are two big triggers for the ‘gotta go’ reflex.

    1. Rebecca*

      I was just going to post something similar. After my Mom eats breakfast, it’s a short time before she’s in the bathroom. It’s like clockwork, to the point where she just doesn’t leave the house immediately after eating. The situation in #1 could be related to this – the person eats lunch, then has to go. Immediately. If there aren’t any other performance issues, and it’s a few minutes per day, then I hope the manager can overlook it.

    2. Purr purr purr*

      I agree that it’s a touchy subject. I have IBS so after lunch, I don’t always have a choice about going to the bathroom. If I could go during my lunch break, I would, but often it takes time for irritation to occur and for the need to arise, if you get what I’m saying.

      1. Hlyssande*

        I find that most days, I need to head to the bathroom about 20 minutes after I get back from lunch. I don’t have IBS but it is a very real need – when I didn’t need to go at all during my break. I would much rather deal with it during my break, honestly.

      2. H*

        I don’t have IBS, but I had my gallbladder removed several years ago and while it’s mostly sorted itself out there are still moments when I have realize that I have about 2 minutes to get to a bathroom and it cannot wait. It’s great when it happens in public, I’ve had to yell at poor store employees “I know the bathroom is for customers only and I’ll buy whatever you want when I’m finished but I need the bathroom key NOW”

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I hated Venice for this very reason. There are very few public bathrooms and almost every hotel or restaurant won’t let you use their bathrooms if you’re not a customer. So you have very, very few options and if you REALLY have to go (I was traveling with someone who had an overactive bladder) it can get very dire. Most of what I remember of Venice was looking for bathrooms or begging hoteliers to let us use their bathrooms. Ugh.

          1. NatalieR*

            Yes! There was an evening in Venice where I was fairly confident I would die (admittedly there was many glasses of vino e grappa involved with dinner) before we finally got back to our hotel.

        2. Gallbladder removal*

          Slightly OT, but I was wondering about just this very thing. I most likely need this surgery, (one more test, I think), and am worried about these sorts of life-changing issues. I am hoping for any other way to deal with the stones, rather than having to endure the surgery, change my diet, and make these sorts of sudden sprints to the bathroom. To also have to worry about employer perception is not comforting in the least.

          1. H*

            What I was told (in late 2007) was that surgery was the only way to keep it from becoming a recurring problem. Given that I elected for the surgery before trying any other options, I can’t speak to how accurate that statement is. That said, recovery is different for everyone. I will not lie- I know some people who have had the surgery and they have never had a normal poo since, though most of those people had it in the pre-laparoscopic era. For me the first two years were very tough- no fried foods, nothing even the slightest bit greasy or butter, no sodas, and tragically of all no coffee. Now I can eat whatever I want in moderation and am much better at telling when a “surgery side-effect” is going to hit me (though it’s not fool proof). It’s painful when it does hit, but my overall quality of life is so much better now that I think the surgery was entirely worth it.

          2. RH*

            If it helps, I have had no lasting issues from my surgery 10 years ago, and it resolved some issues that were chronic prior to the surgery. Very occasionally I will get sick from too much fat, but it is on the order of once every two years or so. So it isn’t always bad, and it is certainly preferable to the excruciating pain from the attacks.

          3. kd*

            Had mine out in 2011. I didn’t have a choice, really, for I had had 2 attacks already, one a ER visit. I had never experienced such pain – not even child birth. Rolling around on the floor in a fetal position demanding my partner take me to the ER at 10pm…fun.
            I did the research and found for me, I was better off without the gallbladder. The surgery was the easiest part of the whole experience for I had a laparoscopic procedure – that’s the way to go if you can. You can take off 1 week from work, but it wouldn’t have worked for me. My body was still recovering. I took 2 weeks.
            Employer perception – it was a medically necessary procedure, and with the stress I was in, I really didn’t care what my boss thought. I would handle that when I came back. And no, there was no backlash. People take vacation for 2 weeks.
            Bad diet was the cause for me. Unfortunately a change is diet is extremely helpful in prevention of stones and after surgery you will have to watch for what bothers you. Everyone is different – so ymmv.
            I have eliminated from my diet the foods that cause me issues – agree with H – fatty, fried, soda, tomato based, etc. For some reason coffee did not and does not bother me. (yay!)
            I have also taken steps in my diet to change my system to more alkaline based one, not for any fad diet or for any miracle heath claims, but simply because I feel much better eating that way. I don’t ever want to feel that way again.

          4. Dr. Johnny Fever*

            I had mine removed after I had a stone get lodged in a duct to the pancreas – that was 3 years ago. Done laparoscopically. The first 2-4 weeks for me was a tasty, but bland diet – no fats or oils, so I ate lots of broiled and raw foods as I recovered. I was able to add back foods over time. For me, I do have times where I need a toilet quickly, but not as often as within that first year. If you have an opportunity to have the surgery done without a stuck stone – I highly recommend it. Because of mine, I needed two additional procedures to insert stents before the removed the stone, and then to remove the stent later. Avoid the other procedures if you can.

            1. Gallbladder removal*

              Thank you all so much- this is very helpful and deeply appreciated! I don’t want to thread-jack, but just for clarification: There is preliminary evidence that stones do get stuck, (high bilirubin and dilated ducts). The GB is full of stones, or so they tell me- I found the ultrasound picture difficult to decipher. The next test is to see if a blockage is occurring at the time they test it. The only thing I really have to base a guess on is if I am not jaundiced, feeling strong, and not in pain at the time of the MRI. I think that’s about the only thing would keep me from having to deal with additional surgeries.

              I have severe attacks infrequently, but unpredictably. I have had painful, but less intense attacks after drinking alcohol, but sometimes I can have a drink or two and be fine. I gave up coffee because it seemed like it was a trigger (it didn’t help). On the whole, my diet is somewhat healthy- vegetarian with food allergies and no fast food. I don’t drink soda, but I love cooking Italian food with olive oil, and I do eat fats (which, I guess, relates to the discovery of stones). Once you take the fats out of the food- I don’t know what would be left for me to safely eat.

              I actually only had it checked out because I’ve been jaundiced and exhausted every few months or so at random, which is getting in the way of my job search and quality of life. I didn’t even consider the pain, because those attacks happened when I looked normal, though I’ve had lower energy for years & just thought it was “getting older”!

              I am worried that if I have the GB removed, it is an irreversible decision. My existing unrelated bathroom issues, which are infrequent but predictable, could be compounded by frequent and unpredictable ones. I am also terrified of surgery in general, but your comments about the laparoscopic procedure are reassuring. I am also trying to prepare myself for the possibility that they might have to switch to open. I hope that I do not need the additional procedures: stents & removal, but that is also within the realm of possibilities. I’ve been stuck in not-dealing with it mode due to fear, so hearing from people who’ve actually been through it is truly helpful.

              1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                I’m glad this is valuable! The stents are done via ERCP, using a scope through the throat to place the stent, and later to remove it. If there’s a chance that a stone could get stuck prior to or during surgery, you might need the stent anyway. Lap and ERCP both require general anethetic, lap requires a few days in hospital but ERCP is outpatient. Recovery is relatively quick. Honestly, the weirdest part I remember is getting used to the empty feeling where my GB had been. For about six months, I felt that area shift around as tissue grewback, organs settled, fluid settled, etc.

        3. Manderly*

          I have Ulcerative Colitis (IBD, a step “up” from IBS) and I’ve definitely used that last strategy!

          1. Collarbone High*

            I also wondered if this worker has an embarrassing GI issue where she’d prefer to use the bathroom when it’s more likely to be empty. Source: Crohn’s disease sufferer who would really prefer not to express the more unpleasant symptoms in front of colleagues, and who has those symptoms about half an hour after eating.

    3. Not Today Satan*

      Same. I drink a ton of water and coffee, *and* I find that minute in the stall to be a nice refresher to decompress from the stress at work, so I go pretty frequently. If a boss ever said anything to me about it even if I was doing a good job, I would be pretty pissed.

      1. fposte*

        The problem is that some people who find bathrooms a nice place to decompress or to play Candy Crush take more than a minute and use the bathroom run as an excuse to take an additional break on top of the scheduled one. I wouldn’t recommend micromanaging the actual employee bathroom output when they’re on break, but if an employee gets caught playing Candy Crush during their supposed time of unscheduled urgent need, it’s not going to go well.

          1. fposte*

            Of course, multitaskers such as yourself should be exalted for their efficiency. But sometimes the stall is the excuse, not the reason.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Yes, while I agree it’s something that shouldn’t be micromanaged (or shouldn’t need to be, anyway), there are a couple of guys where I work that I swear take “bathroom naps” each afternoon. It’s kind of a running joke, that we know the one guy is “in his other office” between 3 and 3:30 everyday. But, he is older and has a whole slew of health issues, so nobody says anything, and therefore assume he’s getting his work done.

    4. Viktoria*

      Yeah. I spent about 7 months with undiagnosed Type 1 Diabetes and I had to pee every 30-45 minutes during the day. I was guzzling water all day too and didn’t know that I had a health issue. I was still able to get my work done and it would have been both embarrassing and pointless to tell me to stop. I would have had no choice but to pee my pants, ha! Anyway, you never know when someone might have a health or digestive issue that requires more frequent trips. OP, if she’s having trouble getting her work done or performing poorly, address that issue separately.

  11. Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady*

    Confession from my past. As a child, I couldn’t use the bathroom if there was someone else in there. Therefore, during school, I always asked to go to the bathroom right after recess or lunch because everyone else had done that during the break and I could be alone. My teachers never questioned me (I was a straight A student and straight A students can get away with *anything*.). If they had, I don’t know what I would have done. Bladder infections, probably.

    I did grow out of this by high school, but some people really don’t. If the breaks are staggered, then this makes no sense. But, if everyone is going on break at the same time this may be the reason.

    Regaredless, Alison’s advice is sound. Focus on performance.

    1. dragonzflame*

      That (tangentially) reminds me of when I was at high school and people used to turn on the taps full blast to mask the sound of themselves peeing. I was evil; if I walked in and the tap was going I’d turn it off before entering a cubicle. Well, honestly, it was wasting water. And it’s not like I don’t know what you’re up to in there; I’m just about to do the same.

      1. Anony*

        TIL: A toilet stall is called a cubicle. My ‘office’ is a cubicle. I work in a toilet.

      2. LPBB*

        Some people have pee anxiety and the sound of running water helps things get flowing.

        It’s weird, I’ve seen a lot of people reference the running water as cover for peeing thing lately and I’d never heard of that before. The only times I’ve come across people running water while peeing, they’re are using it as an aid.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          I’ve read that in Japan women will flush continuously or set a tap to run because they’re ashamed that people will hear the sounds of whatever they’re doing. That’s why some toilets over there are musical — to cover the sounds of peeing/whatever and not waste water.

          1. Not Here or There*

            I think there’s some truth to that. The ladies I worked with from Korea would do that. Also, the smart toilets are crazy. They play music, have seat warmers, and have different wash settings. It would take forever to go to the bathroom if you had to get all your settings right. It took me forever just to figure out how to flush the toilet in my hotel room.

            1. Loose Seal*

              When we were house-hunting in rural Tennessee, the house we eventually decided on had a smart toilet in the master bathroom. My husband, the realtor, and I were looking at the bathroom and stopped dead when we saw the toilet. After a minute, I said I thought it might be a Japanese-style toilet — I had never seen one outside of TV — and the realtor started flipping through the pages for the house listing. He said that he had read that the sellers had stated the master bath toilet was not included in the sale price of the house and he could not figure out what they had meant by that (in the U.S., normally all bathroom fixtures stay put when the house changes hands). Sadly, for us, the sellers replaced that toilet with the average Western style toilet before we took ownership of the house.

              1. Cath in Canada*

                Oh booooo!

                I might get to go to Japan for work later this year, and I’m actually looking forward to getting to play with all the toilets. I’ve only ever seen one smart loo in real life before, in a very fancy restaurant my friend won some coupons for. I wondered why the queue was moving so slowly, then I finally got in and I spent a happy few minutes playing with all the different settings. The labels were all in Japanese, so every button was a surprise!

                Yes, I know I’m weird.

            2. Connie-Lynne*

              You can install the fancy Japanese toilets in your own home. I have a coworker with one.

              The biggest manufacturer is “Toto.”

          2. BananaPants*

            My coworker from China will not “go” if she’s in a stall and someone enters the bathroom – I can tell it’s her because I see her shoes! I assume it’s similar to what happens in Japan, where they have devices in ladies’ room stalls that play music or a continuous sound of flushing so that women don’t flush continuously and waste water.

          3. Mephyle*

            On a recent trip to Japan, I encountered no musical toilets, but I did use several that had a button you could press to play a continuous flushing sound.
            I had heard about how hard it was to figure out the toilets with their many functions and buttons, but all the public and hotel toilets I encountered had little pictures at each button, too, so it wasn’t so bad.
            What was hardest was that there was no standard place for the flush button. In some places, it was one of the function buttons, and in other places it was somewhere on the wall behind, beside or in front of the toilet.

          4. Connie-Lynne*

            It’s not just a Chinese or Japanese thing, I think it’s a girl thing. I went to an all-girls highschool and plenty of girls of all races did it. My guess is that it comes from being socialized to be freaked out by things your body does that society considers “gross.”

            1. NoPantsFridays*

              I didn’t go to an all girl’s school, but I did use the girls’ room at a co-ed school ;) and we had plenty of ‘gross’ discussions about peeing and pooping, and definitely did not try to cover the sound (although I imagine some of my classmates were probably pee shy and just weren’t open about it!)

              But I’ve since become the kind of adult that reads a blog where people submit poop stories, so…I might be a little unusual.

        2. JB*

          That was me. It’s mostly not an issue now, but when I was younger, sometimes I couldn’t relax, and water would help with that. I didn’t leave it running in a public restroom, probably because it never occurred to me. It is a total waste of water so I don’t think I’d do it now if I needed to, I’d just sit there longer. But for me it wasn’t to hide the sound.

      3. fposte*

        Yes, that’s pretty established as a psychological thing–I think you were being overliteral there about the acoustic element. Cecil Adams mentions a men’s room that has a picture of a waterfall that works pretty well too.

        1. Another Ellie*

          I know people who do it to cover the sound. I also know people who purposefully flush the toilet while going to cover the sound (which is just gross to me, as I’m sure they get splashed!). I sort of understand this, as I’ve been subjected to catty comments in the little girl’s room about my urination (during elementary school), but I’ve never done it myself.

        2. NoPantsFridays*

          Yes, I’ve heard of people using water to get things flowing, so to speak, but not to cover the sound. This is why some people pee best in the shower. (Not me, some other people ;) )

      4. Katie the Fed*

        In Korea some stalls have noise machines that you can play to mask the sound of you peeing! It cracked me up!

      5. matcha123*

        I also hate people hearing me use the facilities. That is why I happily use the oto-hime, even if it was really strange when I first encountered it:

    2. I.P. Freely*

      Confession: in 3rd grade I was told I couldn’t go to the bathroom because someone in class was already in there, and then for the rest of the morning I was afraid to ask again because it never seemed like a “good time” to go. After a certain point I just gave up and peed my pants.

      1. C Average*

        In second grade, our teacher had a strict “no bathroom breaks between recesses” policy. She let us know we shouldn’t even ask, because the answer was going to be no. The day I peed my pants in class remains one of the most humiliating days of my life, but the teacher did ease up on the bathroom policy after that happened.

          1. Observer*

            It’s a n EXTREMELY common policy. And it’s a bad idea at any age level.

            I can’t find it now, but Rick Lavoiue (a learning disabilities specialist) addresses the issue in at least one video. He does so in the context of LD, but what he says (and what he has to say about meeting children’s physical needs) is something that every teacher, parent and person involved in any way with education, should think about very seriously.

          2. Dmented Kitty*

            Sadly, in grade school some teachers had to enforce some bathroom policy, because a lot of the students abuse bathroom breaks. For example, a classmate will ask to go to the bathroom, then her close friend “coincidentally” has to pee a minute later. Then it would take longer for them to come back because they’re probably gossiping or doing whatever. I say “coincidentally” because they do this very regularly. But luckily most teachers just made a “one at a time” rule — the next person who asks can go for a potty break ONCE the previous person returns.

            I had bathroom anxieties when I was a kid because I’m extremely introverted, and raising my hand or walking over to the teacher to ask for a bathroom break kind of makes me the center of attention, and I try everything to avoid that. I’ve had my share of UTIs, but I’m happy I outgrew the habit.

        1. Helen*

          Ah, yes I peed my pants in first grade because of a similar policy, except it was no bathroom breaks during first or last period. They did say “only in emergencies” but I had a hard time gauging what an emergency was, and had too much social anxiety to ask. My mother gave the teacher an earful and I could go whenever I needed to after that.

        2. NoPantsFridays*

          Terrible policy and I’m sorry that happened to you. One of my classmates had a similar experience in the 6th grade when he threw up in a cupboard at the back of the room. We weren’t allowed to leave the classroom at all, so there was no way he could have made it to the toilet. He could have gone for the wastebasket at best. At least the teacher was chewed out by several other teachers and the school’s principal/head — it wasn’t a school policy, this teacher just liked to control his students.

        1. Observer*

          You think so? I’m not willing to bet. Some teachers actually think that “that’s how children learn”. And others just see it a moderately regrettable incident – even many who do realize that it’s a signal to notch the rule down.

    3. Not Here or There*

      I’ve always had all sorts of weird bathroom anxieties, and had tons of them as a kid. I still hate going to the bathroom whenever anyone else is in there, and my boss always seems to go at the same time as me and then tries to carry on a conversation. Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than someone trying to talk to me while I’m using the bathroom and I have no idea how to tell this to my boss without it being weird.

      Also, I can’t handle port-o-potties or non-flushies. I had a terror as a kid of falling down into the non-flushy, also non-flushies mean I can’t wash my hands. I was scarred as a really young kid after getting pinworms, and the Dr. put the fear of God into me about not washing my hands after using the bathroom. Like I said… I have a lot of bathroom anxieties.

      1. Partly Cloudy*

        Oh, I hate bathroom conversationalists! The bathroom should be a zone of silence, for the most part.

        1. NoPantsFridays*

          Yes, agreed. And I’m not really an anxious person, especially about the bathroom. I’m very relaxed in there. Which is why I’m not in a mental state to converse. I can also be very focused, depending on how things are progressing, and I can’t properly focus on a conversation while focusing on…other things.

          I’ve heard lots of awkward stories of pooping at work, and trying to avoid using the bathroom at the same time as one’s boss in order to poop in peace. I just poop. Now I wonder if my coworkers are judging me for pooping. My boss is male (and I’m not) so at least I don’t have that issue haha.

      2. Oryx*

        Ugh those people are the worst. Especially when I’m walking in and they are walking out but then decide to stay and start a conversation with me. Like, they’re just hanging out by the sink chatting and I’m all I HAVE TO PEE GO AWAY

        1. Beancounter in Texas*

          Ditto. I dislike encountering people in the bathroom, regardless of whether I know them or not and especially if they stay to chat.

          However, if they are chatting on their cell phone with someone else while in the bathroom, I’ll gladly make any ‘bathroom noise’ possible.

      3. Michele*

        I also hate people who talk on their phones in public bathrooms. I don’t want what I have to do to be part of their conversation, and I am sure the person on the other end of the line doesn’t want to hear it, either.

        1. Dan*

          +1 (huge pet peeve of mine…)

          To anyone out there reading this. Please don’t ever call me from the bathroom. Whatever you have to say to me can wait until you’re done with your business and have hopefully washed your hands. Eugch! >:-|

        2. Cath in Canada*

          If someone’s talking on the phone when I walk into a bathroom, I usually do a couple of preemptive flushes in the hopes that it’ll shame them into either ending the call or leaving the room.

    4. Jeanne*

      You are so right that the A students could get away with anything. I had to use that for extra time when I had to go often for heavy cycles. High school is impossible for anything bathroom related.

      You may have something with everyone on break at the same time. You get only a few minutes for break. There are only 3 stalls and 20 women to use them during break. You lose your break waiting in line for the toilet.

      1. Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady*

        Yes, being an A student was the best. One day, my senior year of high school, I was walking down the hallway, when I should have been in class. Another student was in front of me. The principal appeared and cornered the first student, “Why aren’t you in class? Where are you supposed to be?” Student replied and principal said, “Hurry up! You’re late!”

        Then he came to me. “Hi, Suzanne. Whatcha doing?”

        Me: “Skipping class.”

        Him: “Have fun!”

      2. Dmented Kitty*

        I think Teacher’s Pet trumps an ‘A’ student LOL.

        I was a favorite of one of our teachers because I do exceptional artwork for the class bulletin board, and the bulletin board is his “baby”. There was a period of time where I arrived to school late because of horrendous traffic. A lot of my classmates were late, too — including our ‘A’ student. We both walked into his class within seconds of each other — she got an earful for being late, while I silently walked into my seat, and he didn’t reprimand me. It just so happens I had to turn in some requested design/art work that day, too, so I guess he wanted to keep me happy because I held the advantage.

        I never felt so powerful, muhahahahahaha! :P

        PS. I felt kinda bad, but hey — it’s politics. I also didn’t feel like listening to his long-winded sermon that would take up most of the class period. Besides, on a good day, she is also his favorite, just not on that day.

      3. NoPantsFridays*

        I don’t know, I was an A student and couldn’t get away with cutting my hair or scarfing down a granola bar mid-morning, never mind using the bathroom. There were a lot of things wrong with my high school though…

  12. Marzipan*

    #4, if you do decide to reapply to this company, please don’t make a big thing of ‘I’ve never been arrested or stolen from a previous employer’ – there’s no way to make that sound not weird. (‘You should definitely hire me – I’ve never punched a customer in the face! I also don’t rob banks!’)

    If you’re already tainted by association in their minds, it’s unlikely anything you can do at this point will un-taint you. That’s unfair, but if they’re perceiving you as a risk then no amount of trying to convince them otherwise is likely to change their view.

    If, in the other hand, they really weren’t thinking about that at all – maybe you weren’t hired last time because they wanted to look at their needs following your referrer’s departure, or just because they didn’t think you were a good fit for the job, then bringing up her arrest and/or firing comes across as part-gossipy, part-methinks the applicant doth protest too much. You only know this information at second (or some bigger number) hand anyway, so may not have the full story; besides which, bringing it up would only serve to reinforce the connection, not diminish it.

    If, and only if, the company directly asks you about the situation, then I’d suggest having a response prepared. Generally, though, work on the assumption that they don’t think you’re a criminal, or you risk coming across as defensive.

    1. some1*

      Agreed. I don’t think the questions the LW was asked indicate that s/he was the top candidate, they could have asked that of everyone they interviewed. I’ve been asked when I’d be able to start if I got the job in phone interviews and then didn’t even get invited to an in-person interview.

  13. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    Alison said:
    When this sort of thing bothers managers, it’s often because it’s paired with other work issues

    This this this this this this this. This.

    This was so my trap once upon a time. I’d have someone whose job performance was an issue and I’d get myself stuck on issues like this. It’s not completely illogical. “My god, they can’t even get their work done/done well enough/reduce mistakes/pay attention, and if they would just not take that extra 15 minutes then all would be solved, let me obsess on the *nerve* of that 15 minutes , look my good people aren’t doing that, they must stop doing this thing, how could they.”

    And then I’d hate myself for being so petty in my brain.

    I don’t think it’s crazy, in some environments, to ask people to take their restroom break with their regular break. It’s not fair to other employees, if they have to cover for Employee Z, for instance, if Employee Z extends their break by 15 min every day in this fashion. If that’s an identified problem, and all else is fine with Employee Z, addressing the coverage issue seems reasonable.

    Otherwise, though, you might be in the trap I used to be in — not addressing the real stuff effectively while looking at individual small bad habits.

    p.s. One woman is driving me a little nutty at work atm because she is always washing out her dishes in the kitchen. How many dishes could she have? Apparently a lot. I swear every time I come into the kitchen she’s washing out her dishes multiple times a day. Not a quick rinse, the kind of wash you expect to see with rubber gloves up the elbows. Really though, even though it is out of tune to spend that much work time doing *dishes* during the day, it’s just my own irritation issue. There’s nothing wrong with her performance. (Although if she could move fully out of the way of the coffee maker thank-you-very-much, I might not notice as much!)

    1. Snoskred*

      Are you sure they are her dishes? :)

      I worked in a workplace with someone who insisted on going into the kitchen multiple times a day to wash all the dishes that were left in the sink. She was totally the dish-washing martyr – she’d whinge about having to do it, she’d whinge the whole time she did it, then she’d whinge about it until she had to go do it again.

      One day, one of my fellow colleagues called her out on it, very loudly, almost shouting, everyone in the workplace heard it.. they are not your dishes, you do not have to do them, stop doing them, and if you can’t stop doing them then at least shut up about it because everyone in this office is so sick of hearing you whine about doing dishes.

      Said person then bitched about that colleague instead of the dishes, foreverz. Probably they still are bitching about them now, but thank the deities I don’t work there anymore.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        ha ha!

        Yep, they are her dishes. She’s a body builder of sorts, also works out in our gym every day at lunch, and they are her tupperware from her regular diet. I think she eats every couple hours — yogurt and fruit, oatmeal, protein drinks, etc, so there are multi elements at each of the multi meals.

        I did once say “Wow, you do a lot of dishes!” and she said “Yeah, it saves me a lot of time when I get home.”

        I just bit my tongue and put cream in my coffee, muttering “good performer, good performer” internally.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I would bet that washing dishes is her version of reading AAM (i.e., taking a work breather), and bless her for being clean. Could be worse, right? She could polish her nails to relax. (I have a co-worker who does this– she polishes because it helps her think– but she works in a solo office so I don’t have to smell it.)

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Right, I don’t really care. And we’re not the kind of place where you have to fret about appearances, generally…although if you get a reputation of always being on FB when somebody walks by, that one is not a good thing.

            True story. I polished my nails in a meeting once. I was going through a Nail Polish Phase and had the most glorious new sparkly color and naked nails. It was with a couple of my close direct report team members who SAID they didn’t mind. :p Completely decadent like some fancy dragon business lady (I guess moreso if I’d had one of them paint my nails!) and not something I’d repeat but fun. We did half women’s talk about oooh shiny color whilst making evil plans to crush the competitors in ecommerce.

            1. Not Here or There*

              I had a co-worker who would always pick her nail polish off in meetings. It never failed, every staff meeting, she would start peeling her nail polish off. Granted, those meeting were boring as heck and did nothing for us peons. All I could ever think of when I saw that was how bad that was for her nails.

            2. Kerry (Like The County in Ireland)*

              I had a friend who took a job at a small law office while she looked for something more suitable to her goals–she called it the Pedicure Palace because the other women did their toes together on a regular basis.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          See, I save my dirty tupperware in my lunchbag until I can get home and stick it in the dishwasher, because I’m lazy like that. :-)

      2. the gold digger*

        Are you sure they are her dishes?

        For the longest time, I would wash the bowl with water and oatmeal that someone kept leaving in the breakroom sink all morning because it grossed me out so much to see it. (Waterlogged oatmeal looks like vomit to me.)

        After a few months of doing this a couple times a week, I got fed up. One day, I just threw the bowl away. Problem solved.

        1. Another Ellie*

          That is hilarious. Did it create any missing bowl drama? Or did it just miraculously cause the person to stop eating oatmeal in the office?

          (This sort of reminds me of my former room-mate who would leave her frying pan from making eggs on the stove for days on end. She would regularly use it, just not wash it between uses. The smell would get to me after a day of it sitting, so I took to washing it for her. I think that caused a bit of tension between us.)

          1. the gold digger*

            Ellie, I don’t remember what happened. I think this was shortly before my boss let someone kick us out of our eighth floor window offices to move us to interior cubicles in a converted warehouse ten miles away in a neighborhood where we were warned not to walk to our cars alone after dark.

            I kept making and eating oatmeal at work, but I always washed my bowl right away and cleaned any stray oatmeal from the sink because nobody wants to see oatmeal bits in the common sink. That’s part of what annoyed me so much – I was washing my dish and not leaving a mess but this person thought she could just leave hers soaking in the sink? Not on my watch.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I let mine soak between breakfast and lunch, but if there is oatmeal, that gets washed right away. Not only is it gross, but if someone inadvertently dumps out the water, then it immediately turns to cement.

          2. C Average*

            I have a reverse version of missing bowl drama.

            I have a plastic bowl that looks like a basketball and has “Wheaties” emblazoned on the side. I love this bowl! I got it by sending in box tops and a check for, like, $1.99. In 1990 or some other pre-internet dark age.

            I had it down at work and would use it each morning for my breakfast. When I was done, I’d wash it and stash it in a kitchen cupboard. I did this for a couple of years . . . and then one day the bowl was just gone!

            I asked around, but no luck. I gave it up as lost.

            Months later, I was working on a Saturday, so I was the only one in the office, and I was heading up the hallway to the ladies’ room when a flash of something orange caught my eye. It was under a colleague’s desk and it was full of dog food! Apparently he had also been working a few hours on weekends and had been bringing his small dog with him, and he’d stolen my Wheaties bowl to feed his dog.

            I stole it right back and took it home, where it’s been ever since.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              Just chiming in to admire your Wheaties bowl and say I have a Smurfs bowl that I’ve had since the early 1980s. I used to have a Strawberry Shortcake one, too, but it broke. The Smurfs one is warped from when my mom washed it in the dishwasher bottom rack (around 1985, probably), but it’s moved with me 4 times, and my kids are even too old for cartoon bowls at this point.

            2. Michele*

              Did you just dump the dog food on the floor, or did you throw it away? I can see being so annoyed after asking about it, that dumping it would be temping. Maybe not right, but tempting.

          3. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

            My MOM does that with the eggs/frying pan because it “tempers the pan,” even though I think it’s disgusting.

            1. Another Ellie*

              I don’t get this. It seems like such a great way to get food poisoning. My bigger objection, though, is that I don’t like the way that eggs smell after they’ve been sitting a while. So I definitely don’t want that pan hanging out where I cook and eat my own food.

              1. Dmented Kitty*

                I don’t know how egg bits can “temper” the pan. It’s a weird notion.

                Pans don’t generally need tempering. You don’t even leave grease and whatnot crusted over a nice cast iron pan for too long. While we don’t typically use water to wash cast iron pans (except when we were cooking saucy/acidic foods in it), we scrub the dried bits with a bit of rock salt and wipe the pan clean, then put a nice coating of shortening on it.

          4. Melly*

            Ugh, lately I’ve been doing all of my roommate’s dishes at least once a week because she lets them pile up in the sink where it starts to smell and no one else in the house can use anything. I think she feels bad that someone else is doing her dishes, but not enough to stop letting them pile up – we’ll see.

          5. Connie-Lynne*

            I recently thought it was my roommate who was leaving her frying pan on the stove every day after frying her morning egg. At first I was washing it, then I started grudge-watching to see if “anybody else” (ie, her) was washing the damn thing or at least taking it off the stove.

            After a month of this I discovered it was my husband. Which I should have realized, he’s the king of forgetting kitchen things in the morning (pan on the stove, yogurt or peanut butter left on the counter, etc). Cue embarrassment at all that simmering resentment that I could have resolved by just asking who was leaving the damn pan out every day.

    2. Rebecca*

      Off on a tangent, but I have become very jealous of workplaces that have an actual kitchen area with a sink that can be used to wash dishes. I take my dirty containers home because my only option is a small bathroom sink. Yuck. Many of you are so lucky to have amenities like that.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I had one at my old job, and don’t have one at the current one. I never realized how much I’d miss it.

        1. oaktown*

          omg me too!!! I am dealing with this this week actually, my first time working somewhere without a sink and I am completely thrown.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I just wish it wasn’t so close to the coffeemaker! If somebody has their elbows out in full scrub you gotta do a “scuse me, sorry, scuse me” to get to the caffeine.

        I should have the coffee maker moved. I might think about that.

        Seriously though, amenities do matter for bits of quality of life I think. I wish we had a lounge kinda room like I see on the teevee, that would be nice to sit and talk with people. Our diner (lunchroom decked out like a diner) is nice but it gets so much traffic, you can’t relax while you’re talking. A room with sofas and coffee/end tables would be great.

        (On television they come with stocked bars but not so much here ever I don’t think.)

        1. Lore*

          We had those when we first moved into our current offices! No bar, but it was still so nice to have an informal meeting space. Then they converted everything to open cube farms and made those all small conference rooms with big tables…supposedly so the cube dwellers could have a place to spread out and work periodically but they’re so difficult to book that it almost never happens.

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Our coffee maker is not quite within elbow-distance of the sink, but we also have the kind of coffee maker that brews directly into thermoses instead of glass coffee pots. If you have a coffee service vendor, you could ask about that, then maybe the thermos/urn could be placed a little further from the sink. IIRC, we had the option of what kind of equipment we wanted, because they were more concerned with keeping us buying their coffee than they were about which equipment they supplied to us.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            The water for the coffeemaker is plumbed in. The only thing I could really do is switch one of the microwaves for the coffee maker. I’ll have to ask other people if that is better or worse.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            p.s. we have carafes that the coffee goes into and theoretically I could put them on the counter in front of the kitchen area but half of the time I’m making the damn coffee anyway so that won’t really help.

            1. DarjeelingAtNoon*

              Just bring the carafe to your desk and pull out a plate of tea cookies. Your stress will plummet, and you will look like the queen/king of the office.

              1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                You know those small round “guest” tables some people have in their offices, about 3 feet in diameter?

                Mine is covered with instruments of destruction…er, caffeination. I’ve got a drip brewer, an aeropress, a burr grinder, a bunch of extra mugs, and a box full of teas.

        3. Natalie*

          I want a forcefield that keeps people from leaving the sponge, soaking wet, in the bottom of the sink to grow mildew and start smelling like absolute death.

        4. Dmented Kitty*

          While I don’t have an issue with the orientation of the kitchen appliances in our break room, I find it a little annoying when people take their absolute sweet time doing whatever they’re doing in one appliance. We have a fairly small break room, so it’s very easy to crowd around the area.

          By no means, prepare your coffee at a glacial pace while I wait to use the toaster.

    3. Cath in Canada*

      We used to have someone in our office who spent a LONG time washing his dishes every day, scrubbing every square millimetre over and over, with multiple rinses. There’d be a queue of four or five people behind him for minutes at a time. I just do a cursory wash – enough that my Tupperware looks clean from a distance and definitely won’t smell – then take it home to wash it properly.

  14. Ruth (UK)*

    1. I used to work in retail and dealt with my need to pee often by never consuming liquids. It was a big issue and I still sometimes used to need to ask to go which gave me anxiety.

    Now I work an office job and I massively appreciate that I can go when I need too. I go a lot but am always super quick. Barely out of the room for a min.

    When I first started I was super lost though because I felt i couldn’t go without asking but also knew it would be hilariously inappropriate to ask…

    I think you should only speak to her of ot creates a work issue or issue of coverage if its retail or something. And even then there should be a chance for her to explain if or why she needs to go after lunch instead of during. If I have anything to drink at lunch I’ll need to pee about 30 mins later. Because we have a 30 min lunch I find i don’t need to go till its time to go back. I am fast enough that its not really taking additional time though.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Ugh, that tradeoff always sucked. If I drank liquids, I’d need to pee, and if I didn’t, my throat would end up sore from all the talking.

    2. Merry and Bright*

      Nobody should feel apologetic about peeing. It is something we all need to do – even bosses! Besides, for a few days a month women particularly need bathroom breaks and there’s not much we can do about that.

      Nor should we feel the need to stop taking drinks. Dehydration is bad and no boss is worth risking kidney problems for.

      1. KerryOwl*

        You should try a Diva Cup! They are life-changing. This is not an exaggeration. And then you probably won’t need more bathroom breaks during That Time of Month than at any other time of month.

        1. Judy*

          I used a Diva Cup for a few years, and I really liked it. Also not an exaggeration. I then ended up with an ablation, so not necessary any more.

        2. Mephyle*

          It’s worth noting that Diva is just one brand, and there are over a dozen brands. There’s a LiveJournal all about cups that talks about the differences between them (shape, material, proportions, ease of use for different people), can help you choose the best one for you, and tell you where you can buy it.

          1. NoPantsFridays*

            I have one of the other brands that has a 30mL capacity (I measured it) and I have to change it every 3-4 hours. FML. That ablation is on the to-do list. (Although to the original point, I have to pee every hour or two so I still don’t have to use the bathroom more often lol)

        3. Connie-Lynne*

          A Diva cup’s not gonna keep me from having to spend more time in the bathroom one week out of every four. It’s not the equipment change that’s putting me in there more often, it’s the overdrive.

        4. Al Lo*

          My Mirena has changed my life in this manner. I haven’t had more than a little spotting at That Time of Month in almost 5 years, and it’s amazing. I told my husband the other day that with the exception of the time periods when I’m actively trying to conceive or pregnant, I intend to have a Mirena in always, until my body doesn’t need it any more.

      2. Not Here or There*

        Ha, tell that to most retail supervisors! I once quit a retail job in college over just such an issue. It was a big box home improvement store and one of the supervisors was on a serious power trip. She was just awful. She wouldn’t let you use the restroom without permission, and if you asked permission she often wouldn’t give it. Or if you insisted or asked another manager, she would find ways to punish you.

        The stomach flu went around and a bunch of people from work got it, including me. But when I called in to tell them I was sick, I got that supervisor and she told me too many people had called out and I needed to come in or I would be considered a no-show and would be fired. So, in I went but I told her I was sick and needed to be close to the bathroom. She put me as far away from the bathroom as she could. Needless to say, I got sick and rushed to the bathroom. While I was in there throwing up, she came in and started to berate me for leaving my post without permission. Then she told me if I was so set on spending all my time in the bathroom, I could clean them. I quit that day.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Oh yeah, and in the novella, how once Red was out he still went at the same exact time as in prison, and he’d always have to fight the urge to ask his boss if he could go.

  15. BritCred*

    We used to have someone like this who would disappear on the bell for lunch and then after lunch would take a bathroom break and take ages getting a drink in the kitchen 15 – 20 minutes after lunch. I can get needing the bathroom but in this case it was far more of an indication that this person was rather slacking off and this was also backed up by the fact she’d take phone calls that were barely more than gossip from her friends and family all day too.

    Then the complaints come that she still has too much work to do and every one starts getting a little annoyed…

  16. Cheesecake*

    OP #4 You can always reach out to them. But i’d move on. Mentally and physically.

    Here is THE thing: when offer is “extended shortly”, hiring manager calls and says they want to hire you/HR sends you the contract. There are no hints. The fact that they ask about your availability and possible start date is as good indicator of an offer as a hiring manager smiling at you more than once. You might feel good about the interview or they can even say you are a strong candidate, yet, it still does not suggest you get an offer.

    1. Sunflower*

      Yeah really can’t read into anything hiring managers say. At this point I’ve just let it all go over my head. Things like ‘this is where you’ll be working’, ‘this is who you’ll be reporting to’ – just mentally add on ‘if you get the job’ to all of those things.

  17. CJ*

    OP #1 One of my co-workers comes in late, tacks on extra time to his breaks (10-20 minutes) and then takes extra 15-20 minute breaks randomly (he leaves his desk to get food or take phone calls, so it’s not a medical thing). It makes me and my coworkers resentful that he gets away with so much extra break time even though he’s the least productive and skilled person on the team.

    So if this person is getting *a lot* of extra break time, it’s good to consider how other employees may be noticing and viewing it.

  18. CAinUK*

    I think context is needed for OP1.

    If this is a teenager taking advantage during a shift-work at a retail/hospitality job, then I’d actually address the issue point-blank: “Penelope, you need to use your breaks for the bathroom, not take extra time after your break when you are supposed to be back on the floor/till/whatever.” That’s an expected norm in those jobs where you often end up managing behaviours of folks new to the workforce.

    If this is an adult and/or an office-type culture, then Alison’s advice is spot-on.

  19. illini02*

    #1 just doesn’t sit right with me. I get what you are saying, but I still wouldn’t do it. Put it this way, are her bathroom WAY longer than and more often than others? Because if she is taking a 5 minute bathroom break after her scheduled 30 minute break, its not really much different than someone taking their 30 minute break then an hour later taking a 5 minute break. Its just when its happening. Also, and I’m trying to be as diplotmatic as possible, possibly what she is doing on that break (drinking coffee for example) is causing her to need to use the bathroom soon after the break is over. Do you really want to be the manager who is monitoring the bathroom habits of an adult and telling them when they can and can’t go?

  20. Allison*

    When I was in college I worked a job that had me manning the entrances to the dorms for security purposes, and we could *never* leave the desk without coverage. We were told to use the bathroom before our shift and on our breaks (which were heavily monitored and couldn’t be a minute longer than half an hour), and if you needed to go to the bathroom any other time you had to call for relief, which sometimes took 45 mins. It was an otherwise sweet gig, but that one aspect is something I don’t miss.

    I get that sometimes a person’s bathroom habits need to be restriced, and some people use going to the bathroom to get extra break time, but generally speaking, when (or how often) a person uses the bathroom is a personal thing and should be managed as little as possibe

    1. LBK*

      But in that case isn’t it kind of understandable? It definitely seems like the backup coverage system sucked (45 mins to get a reliever!?) but someone does have to be at the desk. What’s the alternative? Just lock the door for a few minutes and make people wait outside until you can check them in?

      1. Allison*

        Shoot! Sorry, should have been crystal clear, I wasn’t bashing the policy, I knew it was there for a reason. People were talking about bathroom breaks and work, I wanted to contribute. Seems a little off-topic and misleading now . . .

        1. LBK*

          No worries! I actually like your example because it seems like the common response to these threads is that it’s so outrageous to expect people to think twice about when they take bathroom breaks, but sometimes it’s unavoidable as part of the job (like in your case).

          1. Allison*

            I guess my overall point was that unless someone *needs* to be at a desk or post, actively working when not clocked out on break, it’s a little silly to manage when they go to the bathroom. Our bowels and bladders don’t always work like that, y’know?

            1. Kelly L.*

              I had halfway forgotten this, but you’ve reminded me of another retail memory: I had a lingering cough from a past cold, and was eating massive amounts of cough drops so I wouldn’t cough while ringing up customers. I was trying to look out for my dental health a little and so I got the sugar-free kind. Sorbitol! It can have some…effects in large amounts. I got my manager’s blessing to run off to the restroom, but he was furious at how long I was gone, at least until he saw something in my facial expression that convinced him I genuinely had been doing “business” the entire time.

              Now I get the sugar kind.

  21. Anon Accountant*

    Alison’s advice is spot on. Focus on overall performance and is there something else happening that is bothering over her work or another issue?

    Speaking of restroom breaks we had a secretary that actually kept a tally sheet of the number of times staff went to the restroom daily because she felt the trips were excessive. I’ll never forget the look on her face when she told one of the managers and she responded “If you have enough time to track the number of times staff go the restroom then see me in an hour and we can look at shifting some work around to you. I have a few projects in mind”.

    Her desk was very close to the restroom but it was just one of the silly things she worried about. This was 3 years ago and we still joke about it.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      If you have enough time to track the number of times staff go the restroom then see me in an hour and we can look at shifting some work around to you. I have a few projects in mind”.

      Ha. Brilliant response — I love this manager. We had a secretary once who took it upon herself to monitor everyone’s time and report so-called discrepancies at time-sheet time (we were all salaried exempt, and she wasn’t, so she was envious of others’ ability to come and go more freely). I wish someone had shut her down with such simple effectiveness.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        That’d have been great if someone would have made your company’s secretary stop monitoring other’s time as that wasn’t part of her job. Someone definitely should’ve shut her down with that since it wasn’t her job duty.

        It was just another reason our manager was great. She backed up employees as needed but didn’t tolerate such silliness.

    2. LBK*

      The caveat, though, is that sometimes presence is a performance metric. For a retail job, sometimes you’re just there to be a body, and your availability on the floor or at the register is as much a core part of the job as anything else. Particularly if you’re juggling lunch break schedules amongst a few people, someone tacking an extra 5 minutes onto the end of theirs to use the restroom does screw with your schedule for the day because the next person can’t leave until that one comes back.

      In the long run it’s probably not the biggest deal, but if there’s a repeat offender and their coworkers are constantly getting their breaks messed up by it, that’s definitely an issue that merits bringing up to them, IMO.

      1. Poohbear McGriddles*

        I think this is predominantly true at positions such as retail, especially for hourly employees. I remember working solo in a mall store and not having the luxury of being able to take a bathroom break whenever the need arose, lest merchandise become subject to five-finger discount. Also, if an hourly employee is taking extra breaks on the clock and of significant length, that time adds up. In addition to the extra burden on coworkers, she is getting paid for time she is not actually working.
        I think some perspective is needed here. If this is an infrequent thing where the person needs a few extra minutes to take care of business before heading back to work, it’s no big deal. But if the 30 minute lunch break becomes a 45 minute one just about every day, especially with the last 15 minutes being on the clock, then I can see where it would be a problem.

        1. Natalie*

          IMO there needs to be some kind of contingency plan to deal with a bathroom break in that case, though. Maybe that’s locking the doors for 5 minutes, maybe it’s getting the store security to watch the store, but I think it’s inhumane to tell someone they can’t use the bathroom for their entire shift, no matter what.

          1. LBK*

            I don’t think anyone is saying you can’t use the restroom for the entire shift, but just that if you can, giving some consideration to when you use the restroom isn’t an outrageous expectation.

            1. Natalie*

              I was responding to specifically to Poohbear McGriddle’s job where they were the only person in the store.

      2. Xarcady*

        I’m working a part-time retail job at the moment. This is so true.

        We get adequate breaks, and we are free to visit the restroom when necessary–we just have to alert another sales person to the fact that we are going to be off the floor.

        But there’s one person who takes her unpaid meal break, clocks back in and then visits the restroom and stretches her break by another 10-15 minutes–every single time. Then she takes her paid rest break (we get either half an hour or an hour meal break, depending on the length of the shift, plus 20-30 minutes rest break), and then visits the restroom after it is over, adding another 10-15 minutes of break time. Plus she darts out to the parking lot about every two hours for a smoke break–which is supposed to be on her rest break time.

        Adding all those minutes to her meal breaks pushes everyone else’s meal break back, and we’re pretty tightly scheduled. And there are state regulations about taking your meal break within a certain number of hours of starting work, and her lateness has caused problems for other people, because they have the choice of going on time and leaving the floor one person short, or waiting and then getting on “the list” of people who wait too long to take their breaks.

        Our manager has been tracking her, especially after someone figured out she was taking both the rest break time and the smoking break time. We are understaffed and underscheduled as it is, and this one person is taking about 45 minutes a shift as extra break.

        And yes, as Alison points out, there are other performance problems. She takes returns and does nothing with them–doesn’t put them back on the floor, or in the Damages section, or even label them so someone else can figure out what to do with them. She doesn’t like straightening up the department when things are slow. She gets assigned to a specific cash register right by an exit, on purpose to help stop theft, and doesn’t stay there, but wanders around the department chatting with other staff.

        She was a seasonal hire for December, and they made her permanent when someone went out on extended sick leave. She’s been permanent for two weeks, and every one is complaining about her. She’s about to have a conversation with our manager, and I don’t think she’s going to enjoy that.

        Management really doesn’t care how often we visit the bathroom at this job. But this person is taking that freedom a little too far.

        1. jag*

          Yeah, that’s not right. Here’s the message I think management should be sending about breaks:

          “I want to remind everyone that our employees are free to use the bathroom as often as needed during their shifts, including immediately after a shift ends. At the same time, I would ask that if you regularly need to use the bathroom at the end of your lunch break, please try to anticipate that need and use the the bathroom during your break if you can. Thank you.”

        2. Allison*

          Sounds like her extra 10-15 mins of break time is only part of the problem! In fact, it’s probably a symptom of an overall laziness issue.

        3. Anon Accountant*

          This person sounds like her employment isn’t working out. She won’t put returns back out on the sales floor, put damaged items in the designated section, or straighten up the areas? It sounds like she isn’t working out as an employee unless she modifies her behavior greatly.

        4. Poohbear McGriddles*

          That’s the type of situation I envisioned from reading the OP’s letter, not an occasional case of Montezuma’s Revenge on Taco Tuesday.

      3. Anon Accountant*

        In that role it could be an issue for sure. Especially when breaks are stacked back to back (during Christmas shopping season at a department store for example).

    3. Allison*

      Before starting my first job I looked up the company on Glassdoor, and one reviewer recounted a story where someone got an e-mail commenting on how often they were going to the bathroom, asking if everything was okay. Now, it is possible the manager was actually making sure the person wasn’t sick or something, but it seemed really passive aggressive. Now, two jobs later, I’m still worried someone will keep track of my bathroom habits.

  22. class factotum*

    My boss often takes time off and I have to fulfill her duties when she is out. Shouldn’t I get paid her rate of pay when I have to do her job?

    Of course, if you are the athletic director at the University of Wisconsin and your football coach quits before a bowl game and you have to take over as coach for one game – for a subordinate who quits, you absolutely deserve to be paid an extra $118k.

  23. Mike C.*

    Maybe it’s because I work for a large company, but I really disagree with the advice for #3. If you’re taking on the role for a significant length of time, you should be paid for it.

    Yes, you aren’t always taking on every single thing, but at least where I work those roles can last anywhere from two weeks to the greater part of a year. You’re still responsible for everything else an official manager is responsible for during that time period (including hiring/firing and so on), discipline, safety, team deliverables and so on. Yes, as a temp you may get a little more coaching/training from fellow managers, but you’re still showing up before and after shift to hand off information, you’re still coming in to do your weekend rotations and you’re the one that gets to deal with the “you smell” conversations.

    Shouldn’t that alone be worth the extra pay?

    1. LBK*

      I think it depends on the length of time – I read the letter as the OP is just covering while the boss is on vacation, so maybe a few weeks at a time at most. If this were several months (like the boss is out on medical leave and the OP is the official interim manager) I’d agree that some sort of additional compensation is due.

    2. Judy*

      I would think that if you’re taking it due to, say, a boss’ 3 month medical leave of absence or something like that, there should be a temporary pay increase or bonus. If you’re taking it two weeks because the boss is on vacation, that’s just part of the job.

      1. Musereader*

        In my place we get Temporary Duties Allowance for each day starting 3 days after you start acting up as a manager

        1. LBK*

          That seems like an insanely short period of time to be considered a true acting manager – in 3 days you are almost definitely not going to start doing everything a manager does. I doubt you’re going to hire anyone or do any kind of performance management.

          1. Natalie*

            Do you think the allowance is the full amount of what the manager makes, though? I was reading it more as a little extra bump because you’re doing more work.

            1. LBK*

              Depends how it works, I guess – if it’s just a discretionary fund that becomes available once someone has acted as a manager for 3 days but doesn’t automatically pay anything out, that might be fine. Although I still think 3 days is way too low a qualifier – I’d say the absolutely minimum for when this makes sense is a month, because that might be long enough for you to do some performance management, cover employee one-on-ones, serve as a department representative in management meetings and some other higher-level tasks that I wouldn’t anticipate someone covering a week-long vacation to have to handle.

        2. LabMonkey*

          Mine too. I’m in Australia and labour laws are kinder here, but I’ve been working as a shift manager in my department for about 4 months aa a higher duties fill-in and I’m paid at that rate. I’m doing all the work, so it’s appropriate.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      If you’re covering the manager for a year, sure. If for a two-week vacation, I would not expect a temporary raise like that. If it’s several months, a bonus should cover it and that would be a nice way to thank the employee for stepping up.

      1. Mike C.*

        If it’s several months and you’re not getting the full pay of a manager for taking on the insane workload managers have, you’re being taken advantage of.

  24. Amber Rose*

    #4: Some years ago I interviewed with a guy who was very positive about hiring me and I got a tentative verbal offer. Then… silence. Turned out he’d been fired and arrested for a variety of problems starting with destruction of company property.

    I still got the job, once the district manager showed up. Though I had to track her down and talk to her because she really had no idea who I was or anything.

    Off topic: one of my first tasks at that job was breaking the lock off a secure door. The fired guy had been hiding work in there that he didn’t want to do, in a workplace where pretty much everything was time sensitive (government mail room). We also found unopened mail with tens of thousands of dollars in cheques. I dodged a bullet, not having to work for that guy! What was he thinking? Yeesh.

    1. Evan Þ*

      I can just imagine you telling someone else, “Yep, my first day on the job, I broke into a locked room. Nope, they haven’t fired me yet. Why do you ask?”

    2. Anon Accountant*

      Wow. You sure dodged a bullet on that one. Hiding work he didn’t want to do in a locked area? That’s rather…creative. We’ve had people stuff things in a drawer and toss other papers on top but that’s a new one to put it in a locked area.

      1. Amber Rose*

        He had to. All incoming work is required by government policy to be processed the same day it shows up. And we measured the incoming work in feet, so a desk drawer wouldn’t help, haha.

        The only exception was the time our ISP’s building exploded and we couldn’t accept work for three days. That was a clusterfcuk.

        I could almost write a book of crazy stories about that job, actually.

    3. Natalie*

      Wow, that is nuts.

      One of my friends had a similar experience when he started a job as a chef, although the money flowed the other way. The freezer was full of spoiled and out of date food – the former manager had been freezing it instead of throwing it away so to inflate his numbers. (They didn’t write the food off the books until it was thrown away.) My friend pitched all of it so he could, duh, use the freezer and blew his year’s food budget in a matter of hours.

  25. soitgoes*

    I only see the bathroom this (OP1) being an issue if the employee’s overly long breaks are forcing other people to wait for her to return so they can go on their breaks. It’s rough because obviously “you gotta go when you gotta go,” but as an employee, it sucks for morale when you’re following the rules and you see another employee getting away with extending her breaks by 10+ minutes. The salient point, I would think, is that it wouldn’t work so well if everyone started doing that.

  26. BadPlanning*

    On OP#1 — Wondering if this is not a desk job? When I worked in on a factory line (several short lines to fill assorted bottles, cans, etc), they put people in different spots to manage the load — if someone wasn’t there, then there might not be enough people to run the line. So someone coming back from break and then going to the bathroom would delay line startup. Sure, if you were having an “Gotta go, gotta go, not going to make it until break” moment then the line lead could step in for you.

    Although if the OP manages something more in the factory/warehouse realm, it would probably be more cut and dry for the OP to say that the employee had to use their breaks for the washroom.

  27. H*

    When I worked retail we got 2 15-minute breaks, that began the minute you left your department. Since my department was literally across the store from the backroom, I had to swim through customers to get to it- if I got stopped and asked questions I didn’t get to add time to my break, I was already on it! Then factor in that there were two restrooms available- a general one for customers and the occasional employee at the front of the store, and an employee-only one. The line at the employee only bathroom could be 5 people deep, and a lot of the time those people were changing into their work clothes taking upwards of 10 minutes in the bathroom. The customer bathroom also had a frequent line, and was a really popular place for homeless people to clean up and drug users to use drugs, meaning the wait to use that bathroom could also be upwards of ten minutes. Since my employer did not seem to care that it was frequently impossible to go to the bathroom in a 15 minute break I had no qualms about going over my allotted break time (or clocking back in from my 30-minute lunch) so that I could use the bathroom.

    Granted unless something was actually wrong with me (if I got one of my fabulous 20-minute random nosebleeds I had HR call my department and tell them I’d be awhile), these breaks really only added on 5 minutes when you counted the time actually spent in the bathroom and the time it took to walk back to my department. I would encourage LW1 to stop and really look at why the employees might be tacking the bathroom onto their regular breaks- is it because they won’t have time to do anything else if they don’t? Because the time they have break there is a large influx at the bathroom? It might be that the answer to all this is just that the employee is trying to milk their break time, but there might be larger issues at play.

    1. Xarcady*

      Good point. I worked a temp job where the rules changed. We had been able to use the restroom whenever, but a new temp manager arrived and decided that we should “try” (read “had to”) use the restroom only on breaks.

      There were a total of 12 restroom stalls for the women, I don’t know what was behind the doors of the 3 men’s rooms. But there could be up to 250 temps at a time, and a 15 minute break was not enough time for everyone who needed to use the facilities.

      So we were “allowed” to use the restroom if we “really” couldn’t wait until break, but if the manager caught you in the hallway, he’d yell at you. *

      *Well, up until the time he chewed out a guy he found in the hall, loudly and publicly, for over 15 minutes, screaming about how “you people,” (meaning all us temps), “don’t appreciate a good job when you have one,” only to discover the poor guy was from our internet copmany, and not an employee.

  28. skyline*

    #3 If this is frustrating you, it might be helpful to consider covering for your manager as part of your regular duties. In my workplace, we have “in charge” responsibilities that kick in when the manager is not present, and that’s just part of normal business. Certain job descriptions also say something about covering for the manager or supervisor when they are absent. Being in charge means directing work and handling urgent situations, not developing and coaching staff.

    Now if someone’s on extended leave (such as maternity leave), and a person is formally put into that position on an interim basis, then they get also temporarily get the appropriate pay for that position. But that doesn’t sound like what you’re describing.

  29. Oryx*

    I used to be a librarian at a prison and the library had a staff bathroom just for me, but I couldn’t use it when the inmates were in there unless I had coverage. The corrections officer was next door so I always had to call and ask someone to come over and sit at the desk so I could go pee. Sometimes, depending on what was going on next door, I had to wait an obnoxiously long time for the CO to come over.

    When I finally left and took a job at a college library it was both liberating and weird to be able to just leave my desk whenever I needed to.

  30. OP#2*

    I’m the OP from #2, and I just wanted to clarify that our office is well aware of our relationship, since I referred her for the job in the first place. They’re pretty committed to hiring a diverse workforce in general, and it’s never been a problem! (I also live in a state with employment protections for LBGT folk.) Thanks again for answering my question Alison, I was clearly way overthinking it!

  31. Wilton Businessman*

    Concerning #1, I saw an article somewhere in the last 3 months where some employers were having a real problem with people taking multiple 20 minute potty breaks. These 20 minute potty breaks started shortly after the company’s IT group started blocking social media sites like Facebook and Instagram from their corporate firewall. The breaks stopped when they unblocked the same sites.

    Which leads to another discussion entirely, but…

  32. Ella*

    Apologies if this is repetitive–i’m at work so can’t read all the comments.

    Regarding bathroom breaks, if the employees are generally free to go to th bathroom whenever they need to, I don’t think you can reasonably require he go to the bathroom within his break time without seeming like you’re nickel-and-diming. Do you want him to come back, work for ten minutes, and then go? (I’m just imagining how petty this can get.)

    However, if there’s an expectation that break time is bathroom time, and particularly if you’re in a situation where you’re scheduling people’s lunches back-to-back, then it’s more reasonable to ask this. If another employee doesn’t get to take their break until he’s back from his, pointing out that he’s taking extra time and inconveniencing his coworkers is a totally legitimate correction.

  33. Cassie*

    I recently read an article about city bus drivers and how difficult it is for them to get access to bathrooms while working. Being able to go use the bathroom is high on my priority list (thankfully I’m in an office job that does not care about stuff like that).

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