new hire can’t work the schedule she agreed to, men’s bathrooms vs. women’s bathrooms, and more

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

1. Should my company have more men’s bathrooms than women’s bathrooms?

I am a woman working at a software company of about 10,000 people. Like many software companies, we have about twice as many male employees as female employees.

As our hiring increases, there started to be an occasional wait for the men’s restrooms. One solution that has been thrown out to fix this is to convert some of the women’s restrooms to men’s restrooms. This would mean every other floor has a women’s restroom and some floors have two men’s restrooms. I don’t have any sway in the decision, but I want your take on whether this is ridiculous. I go back and forth on understanding that building more bathrooms is unrealistic and expensive but also feeling like, in an industry where women already feel marginalized, this just adds to the feeling that software is a male industry. Not to mention, it sends a poor message to our women candidates who come to our building for interviews.

Yeah, I don’t think it’s a great idea to make half your women employees walk to another floor to find a bathroom, and you’re right that it’s especially bad messaging in an industry that’s already dealing with a gender problem.

I don’t suppose unisex bathrooms with individual stalls would be an option? That would solve the whole issue, although I understand some people are squeamish about them.

2. New hire can’t work the schedule she agreed to

I’ll start by saying I’m a new manager — six months. I just hired for a PRN position that I desperately needed. I consider my interview style to be blunt and straightforward; I don’t tip toe around the hours or responsibilities of the job. During the entire interview process, I reiterated the hours needed and what would be required in the job, and the candidate was eager in her affirmation that she would be able to meet those requirements. When I called her in again to formally offer her the job, I reiterated the schedule required before having her signing any papers, and again she confirmed that it was no problem.

I schedule her for orientation, and during orientation the HR Director calls me into the office because the new employee is now saying that she has a second job (that was not once mentioned during any of the interviews or the day of signing the offer) that conflicts with the schedule that she agreed to. In fact, she said that the day I had her sign the offer, she was heading to her second job. I told her, in front of HR, that if she is now feeling as though she can not work that particular schedule, she needs to tell me now because that is the schedule that the position requires. She confirmed that she could make it work and that she’s excited about the job.

The next thing I know, after she’s signed all of HR’s paperwork and completed orientation, she comes to me and tells me she can’t work those particular shifts and that she doesn’t want to get stuck with “crappy shifts” because she’s the new person and she knows how they do the new person. I am floored and at a complete loss on how to deal with the situation and, to be honest, her attitude. I’m her supervisor and while I consider myself open with my employees and encourage them to speak their minds and try to be flexible with them, this woman is already trying to take advantage and being, in my opinion, disrespectful before she’s even worked her first shift. My first instinct is obviously not the professional one: unceremoniously show her the door and move on to the next candidate. Any kind of advice on how to handle a new hire who has already lied and tried to throw me under the bus before her first day of work?! Am I an idiot for being completely fooled during the interview process?

No, you’re not an idiot. You were careful to spell out the schedule requirements and she assured you multiple times that she could meet those requirements. However, she’s now telling you that she can’t meet those requirements, and she’s displaying a really bizarre attitude, so I’d end it here. Say this: “It doesn’t sound like you’re able to work the shifts that we need, and I’m concerned that we’ve gone back and forth about this so many times. At this point, it doesn’t make sense for us to keep moving forward with your employment.”

3. What things should I carry to work in my first office job?

I am hoping to transfer from retail to office work sometime this year and was wondering what kind of things should I carry to work. For my retail job, all I needed to bring was my wallet, phone, and lunch.

I am planning to bring a notepad, pens, and just a purse, but the list seems too short and I feel like I’m missing things. Should I get a briefcase to carry my belongings in (and would a rolling briefcase be weird)? What do you recommend?

You actually don’t even really need the notepad and pens; your office will supply those, although it wouldn’t hurt to bring your own, especially if you have a particular pen style that you like.

A briefcase isn’t necessary unless you’ll be carting a bunch of paperwork back and forth; you probably won’t be, especially in an entry-level job, but wait and see if turns out to feel like it would be useful. But I wouldn’t buy one before you start; there’s too much chance it’ll end up going unused. (If you’re thinking a briefcase is a default part of the business world uniform, it is not! Lots of people don’t carry them — in fact, these days more people don’t carry them than do.) If you do get one, though, a rolling briefcase would be unusual unless you’re doing a lot of traveling.

Just your wallet, phone, and lunch will probably serve you just fine in a professional job. You might end up wanting a laptop bag — but again, wait and see what feels useful once you start.

4. Wording to avoid being scheduled for early morning meetings

I need help in wording something. I work 9-5, but get scheduled for a lot of meetings at 8 a.m. or even 7:30 a.m., quite often for the next day. We work internationally, so I understand that there is a small window of overlap in business hours and these meetings must be held sometimes. The problem is that I’m carpooling and commuting from 7:30-9 a.m. and can’t really change that due to my children’s school schedule. Once a week or so, my husband can do the carpooling, but not often and he needs advance notice to clear the extra time on his schedule. I’ve tried joining by phone while in the car, but with kids in the car that did not go well (and even with hands-free, I found it scarily distracting).

I want to put a recurring appointment on my Outlook calendar (which is public by default) saying something like “Please ask before scheduling meeting — carpooling/commuting but can sometimes make exceptions with advance warning” but that seems very wordy. Any suggestions?

By the way, I compensate a LOT on the other end to accommodate the time differences when it’s just me on the U.S. end. I often take calls and exchange emails at midnight and beyond. The meetings are when there are other U.S.-based people who need to be involved.

I’d just mark the time off as busy and not include the explanation. If you want to convey that you can occasionally make exceptions, I’d use this wording: “Can occasionally schedule in this period with X days advance notice.” There’s no need to explain the reason.

5. Two-column cover letters

I’ve read about using a T-style cover letter with “Your Requirements” on one side and “What I Offer” on the other. This is supposed to save the hiring manager time because they can see exactly how you match their job ad. What do you think of this approach? Worthwhile, or it is better to stick to a conversational tone and conventional paragraphs?

Spelling out your qualifications in a chart feels a little unsophisticated, and I’d rather see how you communicate in a traditional letter. There are certainly some hiring managers who like it, but I think you can write a stronger and more effective cover letter without it.

{ 554 comments… read them below }

  1. Mando Diao

    OP1: Obviously there are logistical details you know better than I do, but if your hiring has increased to a point where there are frequent lines for the bathroom, you might need to move to a different building. Make sure you’re following regulations regarding the amounts of fixtures per employees; you might not be able to convert the women’s restrooms even if you wanted to. I’ve worked at businesses that cut it pretty close with that regulation, and there were still never any timing issues that couldn’t be solved by waiting five or ten minutes. Does everyone take lunch at the same time? Maybe you could start working to stagger breaks more, or extend lunches so people feel more comfortable stepping out for food and using the facilities elsewhere.

    1. INTP

      Yeah, I’m curious what “occasional wait” actually means. If there is often a backup of several people, that could be an issue worth looking into solutions for. But I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere that I did not occasionally have to wait for a bathroom stall. If the frequency and duration of waiting is reasonable, and the issue is just that these men have apparently never had to wait for a restroom at work before, then I’m inclined to say it’s just something they should get used to.

      1. Bookworm

        Yeah. I worked at a tech company with more men than women, and as a women I still had the odd wait for the bathroom. There was a brief period where one of the women’s restrooms was out of order so we had to go upstairs…and yes, that was kind of a pain. I certainly would be displeased to work somewhere if that was the norm.

        1. Kyrielle

          I would have to ask for an accomodation if there was not a ladies’ room on my floor. I sometimes need to dash (well, walk briskly), unfortunately, for medical reasons.

          Having to go to another floor is Not A Good Thing. (And, of course, what do you do if there’s a new hire whose team is on a floor with no ladies’ room, who is in a wheelchair or otherwise unable to utilize the stairs, and is female? Because our waits for the elevator at certain times of day (when most arrive/leave/go to and from lunch) can be 5 minutes or so. Most of us can take the stairs instead if we care enough, but – not everyone can.)

          1. RVA Cat

            Seconded. Also it is extremely common for pregnant women to have to dash and also for stairs to be more of an ordeal esp. in the later months. If your employees also skew young, this will be fairly common.

          2. Callie

            In my building, there is one men’s room on the second floor and no women’s room; on the first floor there are three men’s, three women’s, and two single occupancy restrooms for anyone to use. I despise the fact that there’s only a men’s room on the second floor and I really hated it when my office was up there and I had to take the stairs anytime I wanted to go to the bathroom.

            1. Chameleon

              Honestly I would have just started using the men’s room. I bet they would find a solution in a hurry.

      2. Mando Diao

        Yeah, I’m sort of amused by all of the comments from women so far along the lines of, “We always have to wait around five minutes and we’re used to it and it’s not worth making a fuss over.” But we could also go reallllllll deep with this and try to figure out if there’s something else going on. Is it the kind of workplace that “encourages” employees to work through their lunches? Does the nature of the work force employees to wait for obvious gaps instead of allowing them to come and go at their leisure? I’m taking it to this place because, provided that the business is following regulations (and assuming that we’re not just talking about men who aren’t used to waiting), I’ve honestly never heard of an office that had employees waiting on long lines to use the facilities. It’s such a basic human need that there might be something weird going on in the scheduling or the workflow if it has escalated to such a huge degree.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Since the OP said that it’s started happening as they increased their staff, it’s probably just that they now have far more people per bathroom stall than they used to. I’m sure there are guidelines out there about how many toilets you should have per capita; it’s possible they need to install more bathroom space for both sexes.

            1. Mike C.

              A trough? Do you think we’re animals or something?

              Seriously though, I have to go 4.5 floors to reach my bathroom, is going up or down a single floor really that bad? I would kill for a bathroom on my floor.

              1. INTP

                If everyone has to go up or down a few floors because of the building design, that’s annoying and not ideal but understandable. But when the building allows for women’s and men’s restrooms on every floor and they actively take away women’s restrooms, forcing women to go to other floors, because men’s bathroom wait time is deemed more valuable, THAT is problematic.

                1. Newby

                  I agree. Changing women’s rooms into men’s rooms would mean that women would always take longer to go to the restroom because they have to walk to another floor, rather than the men “occasionally” having to wait. It seems like it would simply shift the problem to the women.

              2. Blurgle

                It may actually contravene municipal code – and yes, it’s a huge deal and not just politically. I can imagine this being an accessibility issue; as another commenter mentioned, not everyone can just take the stairs.

                1. Charlotte Collins

                  Yes, the ADA is very clear on what constitutes accessibility.

                  But a lot of building codes are pretty clear about “potty parity.” An old building can be grandfathered in (just like for ADA requirements). But you can’t do something to make accessibility more problematic.

                  I’d add a few unisex/disabled accessible bathrooms if this is such a problem. (And an “occasional wait” seems reasonable. Try working somewhere with shifts and scheduled breaks. It’s not like people are lined up outside the door, but there are times when you might have to wait a couple minutes for a stall. Then again, I was raised in a house with one bathroom, so maybe my tolerance for waiting is higher than others’. Try it with two teenage girls sometime…)

                2. sam

                  you also have to think about whether, particularly if this is an industry that already has issues with recruiting women, reducing the number of women’s bathrooms sends a signal that women are actually less welcome.

                  When I was in college back in the 90s, I had a friend who was a computer science major at our large, public university. Every building on the “new” campus was built in the 1960s or later, so nothing could be blamed on, say, 19th century design. The CS building was 10 stories tall. It had two. TWO. women’s bathrooms in the entire building.

                  When you talk about subtle yet structural barriers to entry in various professions, do you think the fact that my friend sometimes had to walk up or down 5 flights of stairs to pee might have affected how welcome she felt in that field? At a minimum, how much additional class time did she miss having to deal with this issue compared to her male classmates?

                  Other buildings built in that era, like the English department, had comparable restrooms. It was only the science and engineering buildings that had this problem.

                  needless to say, she and the other women in the department lodged a formal complaint with the university.

              3. Ellie H.

                Yeah, I understand if it contravenes a regulation or something but I used to work on a floor without a bathroom. The floor had the main lobby of the building and a smallish office suite on either side. There were bathrooms in basement and 2nd floor, and an elevator. Both the stairs and elevators were about 20 feet from my office. I definitely lived. I can understand the whole sends a message about women employees thing, but it makes a lot of rational sense to me to have more men’s than women’s bathrooms available if there are really so many more male employees. At my school, my department building only has student bathrooms in the basement and the building I teach in has one gender specific bathroom every other floor and the library doesn’t have bathrooms on the ground floor. Everything is accessible and we all survive. I don’t really get why this is a big deal. I mean, I get the legal issues, but it’s not something that would bother me personally. Fortunately it’s not up to me ;)

                1. Callie

                  If there’s one gender specific bathroom every other floor, so that EVERYONE has to (potentially) go to another floor, that’s one thing, but to make it so one gender has bathrooms on every floor and the other one doesn’t is terrible. Our building has a men’s room on the second floor and no women’s, and when I had an office on the second floor (I’m female) I hated it SO MUCH.

              4. neverjaunty

                Apparently it is that bad for the men at the OP’s company, since they can’t simply go to a men’s room on another floor.

                1. Stranger than fiction

                  I wondering they could just make a couple of them unisex? And maybe temporarily, like with paper signs over the permanent signs on the door? I’m sure eventually there will be more women working there and hey need to think long term.

              1. Minion

                Sadly, the solution is always such a simple one, really. Excellent idea. I wish I knew your boss – I’d tell her you need a raise! lol

          1. Office Girl

            I work in the building design and construction field. The International Building code governs required quantity of toilets and sinks for men and women. Sounds to me like maybe they’re under the required amount of facilities for men. But unless they’re making any renovations to the building, this wouldn’t be a violation really. There’s nothing that prevents you from being not in compliance with a code, until you make any renovations to your building, in which case you must bring your facility up to the current standard.

            I would be more concerned about how eliminating some of the women’s restrooms affects compliance with travel distance to restrooms. There are maximum travel distances to restrooms outlined in the ADA as well as in the international plumbing code (maximum 1 floor above or below your workspace, cannot be more than 500 feet of travel distance to the restroom from your workspace).

    2. Leeza

      There are many more women than men in our company, so much so that the men’s bathroom on one floor was turned into another woman’s bathroom. So the men on that floor have to go up a floor or down a floor to use the bathroom. I’ve never heard any complaints. And I hate, hate, hate unisex bathrooms. That would make me so uncomfortable.

      1. Anonymous Educator

        And I hate, hate, hate unisex bathrooms. That would make me so uncomfortable.

        I’m curious as to why a unisex bathroom makes you uncomfortable. It’s a one-at-a-time bathroom, so you get full privacy. Is it because someone of a different gender was potentially in the bathroom before you?

        1. Charlotte Collins

          I think she’s referring to the types that have stalls and a unisex sink area. (I’ve heard of them but never seen one.)

          1. Sparklekitty

            I looooove these bathrooms because the walls and doors tend to extend fully from ceiling to floor. So they’re completely private (no horrible door crack or kids peeking under), and pretty quiet so I don’t have to worry about making noise other people can hear or hearing other people’s noise.

          2. cataloger

            The large library conference I’m attending this weekend has, for the past several years, put up signage on some of the large multi-stall bathrooms in the conference center declaring them to be for anyone’s use, regardless of gender identity and expression (with gender-specific restrooms also available throughout the conference center). I’ve found using them to be pretty normal / uneventful.

        2. Pennalynn Lott

          I hate those kinds of bathrooms because men seem to pee everywhere except in the actual toilet. I have yet to go into one that didn’t reek of urine. And I’ve been in far too many where I had to spread paper towels on the floor (and toilet paper on the seat) just to feel safe enough walking up to and sitting on the toilet.

          Boyfriend and I have separate bathrooms in the house, for this very reason. His is cleaned by a maid every two weeks, but no matter what kind of cleaner she throws at the toilet, walls and floors, his bathroom still smells like urine. (It’ll have to be gutted and remodeled if I ever sell).

          1. orchidsandtea

            He pees outside the toilet so badly that the only solution is remodeling. That’s…not normal. Does he have a medical problem? Has he considered sitting down?

            1. Pennalynn Lott

              No medical condition. And I have encouraged him to sit down. Or bend his knees to get closer to the bowl. He just says that all men “splash a little when they shake it off”.

                1. Viola Dace

                  I have a husband and I raised four sons. The boys shared a bathroom and hub and I share. Throughout childhood and the teenage years, there was NO peestorm in the boys bathroom. One of my adult sons lived with us for a while. If his bathroom had reeked of urine, I wouldn’t have hired someone to clean it up FFS. He would have cleaned it. I did once know someone who had a boyfriend who peed on the walls when he was angry. Not saying this is you, but it did remind me of it.

              1. orchidsandtea

                He does not care that he is getting urine all over. Wow. And you hire a cleaner rather than making him clean up his unnecessary pee-mess? You plan to hire a contractor rather than getting him to just be more conscientious? This is somehow your problem to fix, rather than getting him to pee like a grown-up?

                No man I’ve lived with does that either. I think this fellow just doesn’t care, and he’s inept at peeing. I’m sorry, Pennalynn, I don’t mean to be harsh. This is just mind-blowing to me.

                1. Dr. Johnny Fever

                  Yours is not the only mind blown. I’ve seen toddlers with better aim and attitude toward cleanliness in the bathroom. Dude’s got issues.

          2. Sparklekitty

            I’ve seen far worse messes in women’s rooms than in men’s. Women like to squat above the toilet and then just spray pee all over the place and not wipe it up.

            And your boyfriend sounds like he just can’t be bothered to actually pee in the toilet.

      2. Anonyymous

        I went to school for education which is female dominated and is often trying to recruit more men for teaching in the primary grades (positive role models for young boys etc).

        They had converted some of the men’s rooms to women’s rooms in the education building. It often resulted in my male peers walking into one of them because they saw the sign on one door for women and crossing over automatically to the other door (Much hilarity often ensued).

        It was problematic though. One of my colleagues had had surgery on his foot while in the program and the only men’s rooms were on the other side of the building or up on other floors. And I recall another classmate having issues when he had a UTI (Close friend or I wouldn’t have known!).

        That’s why I like the the unisex idea for such situations as someone else suggested in this thread.

    3. Trainer

      My first thought was that it seemed reasonable to convert the women’s bathrooms to men’s rooms if there are so many more men than women, but once Alison suggested the unisex bathroom idea I had a better idea. What they could do is set up unisex bathrooms on every other floor. That way everyone can use a restroom on their own floor, but if they’re uncomfortable with a unisex restroom, they can just go to the next floor.

      1. Manders

        Ooh, that’s smart. I think that’s the best solution, and may actually be a selling point for new employees, especially if this is in a state with one of those awful bathroom bills.

      2. Chriama

        Only as long as they convert both men’s and women’s bathrooms to unisex, not just every second women’s bathroom. The key here is to find a solution that works for *both* groups, not just making things easier for one group at the expense of another.

    4. LQ

      Depending on where your building is this is a very good point. The number of bathrooms in a building is often a building code thing, you may not be able to change it because of that. (I’m not sure how unisex bathrooms work for code, I’d be all for them.)

      But I think that everyone going at the same time seems more likely to be the culprit. In addition to the break and lunch questions, are there possibly big meetings that you have? Or just a lot of meetings and everyone is going right after that.

      When our building was at completely full and far more women than men in that section of the building there was still almost never a line. The only time was when there was a bigger group meeting, or a team lunch, something that had everyone moving about at the same time and then using the bathroom after. Generally a 2 minute wait maximum.

    5. Artemesia

      I always laugh at this. Forever women have dealt with restroom lines; it was just assumed to be ‘the way things are’ everywhere. Let a man wait a minute and it is a crisis problem that must be solved. I’d certainly not emphasize that women are lesser beings by making them go to another floor to find a restroom.

      Anecdote. When the football stadium was built in Nashville, it was done under new ‘potty parity’ laws that mandated equal restroom access for women defined in terms of wait time — so that means often more facilities/larger rest rooms for women since the time of use is longer. They miscalculated and on opening day there were long lines for the men’s room and no lines at the women’s room. i.e. in other words exactly the situation women have faced in public venues routinely and forever. Well, MEN were waiting. It was a crisis and a problem that must be solved immediately and so immediately they reorganized rest rooms and assigned more of them to men so that such an unfair outcome could not occur again. These same problem solvers had been walking by long long lines of women at such event for years — it was never a problem when it meant women stood in line.

      1. LBK

        Yeah, I had to kind of chuckle at this whole question. As a man myself, waiting for the restroom just seems to be a part of life for women. God forbid you have to hold it for a couple minutes.

      2. Emily, admin extraordinaire

        When they were building the brand new LDS Conference Center (seats 20,000 or thereabouts), the leader of the LDS Church at the time was looking over plans. He asked the number of women’s restrooms available. The answer, of course, was that they were equal with the men’s restrooms. He told them to double the number of women’s restrooms. There is rarely a wait for either sex.

        1. Dynamic Beige

          This is one of my pet peeves with hotels and conference centers, especially the older ones. It depends on the group, but there is usually a line out the door for the 15-minute break on the women’s side. First of all, you can’t have a 15-minute break for 500 people and when there are only a dozen toilets for the women, you’re going to spend most of that time (or all of that time) waiting in line. This LDS guy has some wisdom on him.

        2. Elizabeth

          The first of the “potty parity” laws came about because an elected official in New York was horrified that his wife missed a decent chunk of the second half of an expensive event waiting in line for the bathroom. He was further shocked about how nonchalant she was about it, as it was something she was accustomed to. He hadn’t realized how much time she had spent in the bathroom at public events over the years they had been married until then, and how many school programs, sporting events & concerts she had missed chunks of because of it.

          As he said “The worst case for men is we can go in a toilet or urinal. Or in urgent need, a sink. That isn’t an option for women.”

      3. Newby

        A local bar recently changed all of their bathrooms to unisex (all their bathrooms were already single occupancy) and one of my male friends was outraged because now he has to wait when he never did before. The fact that women have a much shorter wait now did not matter to him at all.

        1. Artemesia

          The angry white men are right. They are disadvantaged by both civil rights laws for minorities and for women. If all your life you got to go to the head of the line, fairness is going to feel like oppression. They don’t want equality; they want it the way it used to be where they always got the short line and the giant piece of pie as a matter of rights.

          1. Zillah

            If all your life you got to go to the head of the line, fairness is going to feel like oppression.

            +5000

          2. Sarah

            I take great enjoyment in using the single-occupancy men’s room at my local coffee shop when someone is in the women’s. There is no reason, none at all, that they should not be unisex. The men’s doesn’t even have a urinal.

            1. Dr. Johnny Fever

              I was at a bistro where 4 women, including me, were waiting for the single occupancy women’s room. The single occupancy men’s room was empty. After waiting for a long time, I finally gave up and went into the men’s room. Two of the waiting women were shocked, and my friend wound up using the men’s room after.

              The other two women insisted on waiting for the women’s room to open. I have no idea what the person in there was doing in there for so long, although there was a bottomless mimosa special that day.

      4. Eden

        Oh, isn’t this the truth! One thing I have never understood is why a single-occupancy bathroom would be gendered. I have seen several women queuing for the women’s room while the men’s room door is ajar and the light is off. ??? I walk right over and into the men’s room in those cases. Have gotten some funny looks coming out, but I’m always pleased to find that there are both soap and paper towels in the men’s rooms.

        1. Artemesia

          I have worked in offices where after trying genderless one person restrooms, people rose up and demanded they be designated. In those places, men had bad aim and the men’s rooms were gross.

        2. teclatrans

          I once did that at a nightclub and the man who ended up having to wait while I finished up was so outraged that he rounded up an employee so he could tell on me. I am guessing he was not expecting the shrug. I on the other hand was agog because it had never occurred to me that a man would expect women to leave a bathroom empty and waiting while women stoof uncomfortably (alcohol!) on line. (This was decades ago, I am wiser and sadder now.)

          1. lowercase holly

            ya, i (woman) use single occupancy men’s rooms all the time in emergencies if they are empty. why wait? it is bad for the bladder.

          2. sara

            Ha! Maybe I have just lived in liberal places, but I have used regular men’s room at concerts and clubs when there’s too long of a line for the women’s room…sure I might get a sort of weird look, but oh well.

        3. Elizabeth

          A local pub owned by a friend has 2 restrooms that are single-occupancy. I’ve used the men’s room a couple times, with other women nodding knowingly. The last time, there was a guy waiting for me to finish, and he was very much “oh yeah, if it is empty, you should go for it” when he saw a woman coming out.

    6. snuck

      I used to work in an large corporate, on a large floor plate. On the floor were two sets of toilets for each gender… and four women, vs 115 men.

      We each took a stall in one of the women’s bathrooms (it was one of the perks hahahah) and completely abandoned the other. I have no idea if the men started using it, but we weren’t.

      I vote for making some of the toilets unisex. Then you aren’t breaking rules, and those who are pernickety can still have their own gender toilets. If you make it the women’s ones there shouldn’t be much more need than a sign change and a polite reminder that this is a unisex toilet so please close the stall door.

      1. Zillah

        If you make it the women’s ones there shouldn’t be much more need than a sign change and a polite reminder that this is a unisex toilet so please close the stall door.

        This might be a dumb question, but do people not usually close stall doors in public restrooms??

        1. Grapey

          I would imagine that men are used to using urinals by just walking up to them and letting it out, so to speak. So in a converted women’s room that has no urinals, I can picture guys would just walk up to a toilet and do the same without concerns of privacy behind a stall door.

        2. Christina

          I think she meant if you’re converting a women’s room to a coed bathroom, ask men to close the stall door rather than using it with the door open if they’re standing.

          1. Zillah

            I just didn’t realize that men didn’t always close stall doors! It’s never occurred to me.

  2. Rubyrose

    #3 – I would add, on your first day, take in a mug that you will leave at the office. After you are there for a day, you will get a sense of what else you might need.

    1. all aboard the anon train

      I would even wait on that. Almost every office I’ve worked in has given out mugs as part of a new employee “gift package” or they have mugs you can claim from the office kitchen. It’s nice not having to bring in a mug from home.

      1. Meg Murry

        I would also wait. For the OP, I wouldn’t bring more than you can comfortably carry around, because sometimes on your first day you don’t even go to your new desk right away. At one of my jobs (granted, with a larger company) my first few hours were spent in the HR office filling out paperwork, walking to get my ID picture taken, meeting in a conference room with other new hires to go over safety policies, etc. It is possible your first day will have some kind of group orientation, so I wouldn’t go beyond what you can fit in your purse, pockets and maybe a small notepad or similar to carry by hand.

        It is worth asking your HR contact if there is anything special you need to bring on your first day – at many companies in the US you need your passport or birth certificate + social security card to fill out an I-9, and you may also need your banking information (like a blank check that you void) for direct deposit.

        1. LSCO

          Oh yes – I once started a new job, and had visited the gym before work. I’d naively assumed I’d be shown a desk fairly early on in the day, but I was wrong. I spent all morning traipsing around the building, meeting various departments.. with a heavy gym bag full of sweaty workout clothes on my shoulder. That was not so fun. Now I skip the gym on the first day of a new job, and wait until I’ve figured out the logistics before arriving with lots of stuff.

        2. Elizabeth West

          This. If you have stuff you want to bring, carry a tote bag. Not a huge one with your entire house in; maybe one that will fit a small purse and your lunch, a water bottle, and a few odds and ends.

      2. Violet Fox

        I’d wait on the mug as well to see what the office provides and what it doesn’t in that way. My office provides paper cups, which I really don’t like so I bring in my own mugs, but a lot of other people don’t seem to care and don’t mind skipping out on washing their own dishes in the sink in the hallway.

        For the first day, purse, phone, and lunch sounds like plenty until you get a feel for the place #3, and see what you might or might not be missing that you would want. Also, deep breath, everything is going to be great, and congrats on your first office job!

        1. JessaB

          The only thing I disagree with some people on is having something to write on. Just because I’ve been to first days where you want to make a note and they don’t actually provide the paper til you’re either in a training room or in HR. I wouldn’t necessarily bring a full sized pad, but a note pad that fits in your purse would probably be useful, and seriously always bring a pen (by the time they get you to a place where they hand you a pen, it’s probably a cheap one, and I admit I’m a little fussy, and you might be too during the OMG fill out steen million papers phase, make it blue or black ink though, not fancy colours.) But a whole load of stuff, nah. Not needful until after you see what you need/want and what they actually give you.

          On the other hand I don’t leave the house without my purse that ALWAYS has a pen and note pad, so maybe it’s me. Also, even if you have a note taker on your phone, don’t be sure they’ll be okay with you using it. You won’t know the phone rules until you’re there, so paper is cheap and small note pads are easy to carry.

          1. Persephone Mulberry

            Agreed on the smallish pad and pen – and if you’re not in the habit, throw a small bottle or even just a baggie with a few of your headache medicine of choice, because by lunchtime or early afternoon, you might be wishing for it.

        2. LQ

          Lunch is a very good point. I’d bring one that you don’t have to eat that day but can. And bring cash in case you find yourself in a lets go have lunch with the new person situation. Having something like that gives you flexibility. (And some of those lunch things you can fit in a purse so you are good to go that way.)

          1. blushingflower

            Definitely make it something that doesn’t need to be refrigerated and won’t suffer if you ignore it. At my company, every new hire gets assigned a buddy who takes them out to lunch on their first day (the buddy pays, the company reimburses). Our new hires also don’t get shown to their desks until about 3:00 on the first day (the majority of the day is orientation in a conference room), so it’s smart to only bring what you can comfortably carry.

          2. CM

            My first-day lunch is always a PBJ and an apple… it fits easily into a purse, doesn’t need refrigeration, and if I don’t need to eat it for lunch (because somebody takes me out or invites me along) then I can eat it for snack later.

      3. Chocolate lover

        I’ve always had to bring my own. ‘ve occasionally gotten mugs at special events, but I’ve never received any kind of new employee package with stuff, just the employment paperwork.

        I’d still wait a little though, because you don’t know what the exact schedule for the day is, or don’t know the setup of your physical space.

      4. Artemesia

        Good advice for any job start is to observe first before making any sudden moves. See what other people are doing, what the norms are etc and then adapt. Re first day. I would probably have a small pen/notepad set in my purse in case I am pulled into training without that being provided. Other than that, I would just observe before lugging things in.

      5. JMegan

        On the other hand, I have never worked anywhere that *did* supply mugs, or even have an extra stash in the kitchen – it’s always been BYO.

        OP, I’m with the others in waiting a few days before bringing anything in, to get a feel for what you might need. The only thing I would add on top of the pen and paper is a water bottle, separate from your lunch, just in case you get thirsty and you’re stuck in a long orientation meeting or something. Most workplaces are fine with you having a water bottle with you in meetings.

        Good luck on your first day!

      6. Stranger than fiction

        How nice, but far from universal. I’d bring a travel mug with coffee because the first day is like a whirlwind and Op may not even have time to go get coffee in the break room first thing.

      7. Karowen

        On the flip side, we used to do this but haven’t for about 5 years. Now, about once a month, HR is stopping by asking if we have any because the new hire needs one so (s)he can get coffee. So…Maybe if it’s a large purse, throw a sturdy traveler’s cup in there?

    2. Yetanotherjennifer

      I have a portfolio (I think that’s what it’s called) that holds a full sized pad of paper. I use it in interviews and also on my first day at a new job. But just having a pad of paper and a pen would be fine. Tote bags are very trendy right now. Not the ones you get for the grocery store; fashionable, purse-like ones. If you have one, it’s a popular substitute for a brief case and keeps all your stuff together.

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

        Same here! My padfolio comes out for interviews and first days, then gets squirreled away until the next job search.

      2. Stranger than fiction

        Yes I have one of these too. Great for taking notes. Again, Op may not have time or they may not think to take her to the supply cabinet right away.

    3. Kate M

      #3 – This might not be relevant for the first day, but before you buy a purse, think about other things you’ll need to carry (in case you might need to get a bigger tote bag). If you drive to work it might not be an issue, but a lot of times I’ll walk to work in flats, and change into heels at work, so I need a bag big enough to carry heels, plus my lunch. Also you might end up bringing things like a blazer to work to leave in your office/at your desk for last minute meetings. For guys, it might not be a bad idea to bring shoe covers to leave in your office, in case it starts raining or something.

      I’d also suggest bringing on the first day/week (and leaving in your desk) a tide pen, needle and thread, safety pins, static guard, a lint roller, small pack of kleenex and maybe an extra pair of tights/hose if you wear those. You never know when a clothing emergency might come up. And you could also forever ingratiate yourself to your coworkers if you have these for them to borrow in a bind.

      Lastly, if you wear makeup, it might be useful to have a few duplicates (concealer, blush, mascara, eye shadow) that you keep in your purse with you, maybe even for going out after work.

      Not all this you have to bring the first day, but think about getting a purse that could accommodate these types of things if you end up wanting to bring them.

      1. JMegan

        Yes! And you’ll probably need an “office cardigan” (or blazer) eventually, since temperatures in office buildings are notoriously hard to regulate. Not only something for the summer days when they crank the air conditioning to Refrigerate, but also in the spring and fall when the temperature is fluctuating outside.

        Again, not for the first day, but something to keep in mind. Most women I have worked with have a sweater or a shawl or some extra layer that be worn with pretty much everything, and that they just leave at the office year-round.

        1. Kate M

          Some (Capitol Hill Style) even recommend bringing a heating pad to sit on at work. Not something I do, but for frigid offices where you aren’t allowed space heaters, may be an option.

          1. Elizabeth West

            That’s a good suggestion, but I wouldn’t take it the first day. I’d wait until she gets a space assigned–some areas of the building can be warmer than others. My cube is cooler than the ones on the other side of the room.

            1. Kate M

              Oh yeah, def just for future reference. For the first day I wouldn’t bring anything you need to leave at work. Always get the lay of the land first, see what other people do, and decide from there.

        2. snuck

          The small objects that used to win me over in workplaces were nice quality tea bags, postage stamps, a small amount of small change for vending machines and a small collection of museli bars. We used to work long and random hours and that was the stuff that held you together until you could leave the office.

          That and the coffee machine on my desk ;)

      2. Artemesia

        I wouldn’t think about this the first day, but one of my rules for my kids when they worked in DC and other big cities was, always have a pair of shoes in your desk that you can walk 20 miles in. My kids were both in DC on 9/11 and my daughter had to walk a long ways from her work place to join her brother at his place. Lots of people had to walk a few miles out of Manhattan on 9/11. In case of disaster you don’t want to be in high heels. (obviously I couldn’t enforce the on my grown daughter, but she agreed when I urged it and got in the habit of having walkable shoes in the office)

        1. Paige Turner

          Solid advice- more recently, a lot of people got stuck walking home after the DC earthquake, and I’ve had to walk in or right after snowstorms when public transit is down.
          OP, for your first day, it would be smart to bring a sweater and either bring or just wear more comfortable shoes. You might get a tour of the building and if you don’t want to be uncomfortable or feel like you can’t keep up with the group. Definitely don’t wear brand new heels that you haven’t broken in yet (ask me how I know ha). Good luck and enjoy the new job!

          1. Stranger than fiction

            Ha, don’t even get me started on platform/stiletto heels at the office. I think they’re stupid in general. If you have to hobble around the office all day like you’re on a catwalk…please don’t.

            1. Kate M

              Hey now. Some of us under 5 feet need the extra help here. When you’ve been walking in heels since 13, it’s not so hard anymore. (That said, I sit at my desk a lot. For first day tours, definitely something comfortable).

              1. Stranger than fiction

                Well, ok, you’re probably a pro and don’t look like you’re hobbling around. :)

        2. Bibliovore

          yes to this. an emergency bag- easy to walk in shoes, a pair of socks, bottle of water, emergency stash of medicine, granola/powerbar. portable phone charger and cord.

        3. Something Clever

          I actually do the opposite . I leave 2 pairs of heels (neutral and black) under my desk and wear various flat shoes to and from the office.

      3. Kirsten Korona Wright

        I’ve always found bringing everything you could possibly need is the best way to go about it. To my first day at all my professional jobs I brought:
        – My laptop and cable. You seriously do not always know if they will have one for you. My current job I work on my laptop. (They did offer to buy me one but I was not in favor.)
        – notebook and pen (in the form of a nice portfolio)
        – 2 forms of legal id (often they have you fill all your forms the first day)
        – cash for lunch, and a lunch to eat or not eat
        – a sweater
        – all my personal items (I have a lot, I am a ‘like to be prepared’ sort of person’

        With the laptop, I’ve honestly found it better to have it than not have it. If you don’t need it, don’t bring it back but you might, and often do in many fields.

    4. Hello Felicia

      We had someone start who needed three (3!) trips to her car to bring in all her stuff on the first day. She definitely got a lot of side-eye. It was, for far longer than it should have been, the way she was known around the office. ‘Maltilda? Haven’t met her. Ohhh…. you mean the woman with all the stuff, yeah I do know her.’

      1. Paige Turner

        Ha, yeah that’s awkward. For my job, it took me a week of bringing things in one bag at a time (I had a bike & metro commute at the time and couldn’t carry a lot at once anyway). But I’m a contractor at a government building in an out of the way area, which means I brought all my own office supplies, my own snacks and mug and coffee and sugar packets, plus my own tissues and advil and band-aids and so on.

      2. Stranger than fiction

        Oh my goodness. Sometimes you don’t even sit at your permanent desk right away. I sat at a desk on a different floor my first few weeks of training, so they didn’t even bother setting up my permanent desk right away.

    5. Lily in NYC

      Ha, I thought this was your solution for the first question in Alison’s post and that you were recommending bringing in a mug to use in case there was a long wait for the bathroom!

  3. Teapot Dome

    1. This would be a good reason to have more gender-neutral bathrooms. Of course, that’s also a way to inclusiveness toward the trans* community. (I hope I’m not starting any heavily charged debate with this comment.)

    5. They already know what their qualifications are. Your job involves just showing that you possess those qualifications.

    1. Bookworm

      I went to a college with gender neutral bathrooms in all the academic buildings and the dorms. Honestly? I didn’t even register that was unusual until a visiting parent commented on it.

      1. Putting Out Fires, Esq

        When I was in college, my boyfriend came to visit me at my sorority house (this was allowed, no problem) but he would always want to leave when he needed to go to the bathroom because “these are girls’ bathrooms.” I even showed him the fact that our bathrooms were like the bathrooms at a house- the door to the bathroom itself locked, the toilet was just out in the open, there was one sink, and one shower- if he had no problem using the bathroom at someone’s house, these were just like that. He couldn’t get over the “girls'” part.

        Our school was transitioning to gender neutral bathrooms in the new dorms. It really isn’t a big deal. It’s not like we stood around completely naked in the women’s bathrooms.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot

          Am I correct in assuming that is now an ex-boyfriend? (I apologize for prying, but my curiosity got the better of me.)

        2. Kelly L.

          My college got really draconian about this between my freshman and sophomore years. When i first got there, a woman could use the bathroom on a men’s dorm floor if a male resident escorted her there and stood outside the door, and vice versa. Then they changed it so a woman couldn’t go on a men’s dorm floor at all, or vice versa. My roommate’s boyfriend was always trying to get her and me to both come over to his building to drink. NOPE, because drinking leads to peeing, and he lived in an all-men’s building, and I was not leaving the entire building just to pee! So I would only hang out if it was in her and my building, which was coed, so all he needed to do was go up or down a floor.

          1. Charlotte Collins

            My college had a rule similar to your first one (showers were also in the bathroom area, so it made sense). However, I can’t even imagine the updated rule. (Luckily, all our dorms had lobbies with male and female restrooms, so you wouldn’t have had to leave the building, but still!)

        3. Stranger than fiction

          I’m thinking that was more of a stage fright thing and or he didn’t want to smell it up. Some people can’t go number two in someone else’s home. I actually have a female coworker that goes down the street to Starbucks to go to the bathroom if a guy is visiting her house!

          1. The Strand

            My friend almost married a lady like that. She was deeply ashamed of her bodily functions to the point where she would pretend she didn’t have any.

      2. CADMonkey007

        I think all single occupancy toilets should be unisex. However in the dorm my now-husband lived, the lobby restroom was a multi-stall unisex. Literally men and women sharing the same restroom at the same time. And not the full partition type stalls either! That was a bit much for me.

        1. Elizabeth West

          That wouldn’t bother me if the stalls were British-style and didn’t have those damn huge gaps around the edges of the doors and at the bottom. I don’t mind going with a dude in the bathroom, but that doesn’t mean I want accidental eye contact while I’m doing it!

          1. Charlotte Collins

            Or like the stalls in some train stations: door to the floor and individual sinks/mirrors in each stall.

          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

            That’s my thought. Just make them properly private stalls (bonus: with the indicator for available/occupied like a few places have) and a lot of the concern about ~oh no bathroom predators~ goes away.

            1. Charlotte Collins

              Also, with the more common types of stalls, it’s easier for people to steal from you. (Not at work, I’d assume, but more public places. We had a problem with that at a local mall a few years back.)

              1. Sarah

                A new mall built near my house this year has the BEST bathrooms for that. They’re almost full-partition doors (still a small gap at the bottom, but more like ankle-height than knee-height) and, in addition to numerous hooks, there’s a raised shelf big enough to fit a duffel bag on behind the toilet at chest-height. In the accessible stall, there’s literally just a table. You could unpack and repack a suitcase in there. (Which makes it a shame that it’s a mall and not an airport…)

        2. Anonsie

          I had multi-user gender-neutral bathrooms and showers in college (two stalls and two showers per bathroom, one bathroom per floor). I had no problems, neither did anyone else. It felt much safer to me than single-sex bathrooms, which still scare me.

          1. Chalupa Batman

            Would you mind giving more details about why you feel safer in unisex bathrooms? I think the idea of gendered bathrooms is kind of silly anyway, but I’ve heard safety brought up as a in very vague ways as a downside since this became a hot button issue, so I’m curious about your reasoning on why it’s a plus. Only if you feel comfortable doing so, of course.

          2. Sarah

            I never noticed until now, but the bathrooms at my last dorm in college (owned by a student co-op, not the university) were multi-user unisex bathrooms. There were 3 or 4 toilet stalls and 2 shower stalls in each one. Different bathrooms were arranged differently, but no matter what there would be a corner between the bathrooms and the showers, and multiple doorways in and out (which always stood open), so in some cases, you could be in the shower half of the bathroom and never see someone entering and leaving from the toilet half of the bathroom. (It was also impossible to corner someone since if they turned around and went the other way, they could leave through the opposite end of the bathroom.)

            It was a good system, and it never registered as strange to me. Worked really well.

        3. sara

          This was our college — including the shower area (obviously there were curtains between the shower stalls). You get used to it a lot faster than you might think when you’re living there 24/7! I thought it was kinda weird for a couple of weeks, but then it was completely the new normal.

      3. Emmy Rae

        In my hometown the coffee shop put a sign on their bathroom indicating “Unisex”. A few months later they added a note: “That means both men and women can use it.”

        That was at least 15 years ago and I still think about it all the time. How many people had questions about the word unisex??

          1. Tau

            Perhaps whoever was responsible for one bathroom sign I saw in Italy* visited and took it as inspiration.

            * “Do not use without consummation.”

    2. Violet Fox

      Around where I live, they have been building more public restrooms as a row of individual gender-neutral toilet and sink bathrooms with fully closing doors, and then usually at one end a handicapped one, and a family one (for baby changing, baby feeding and the like). A lot of smaller businesses, especially coffee shops and the like, have one bathroom that is a everyone bathroom because that is all the space they can afford to give one.

      It really seems like these sets of fully closing bathroom are a great solution since they are more inclusive of well, everyone, and it means that gender balance in number of bathroom stalls is something that no one has to even think or worry about.

      1. Editor

        Yes. I’d like to see gender-neutral bathrooms where the toilet and sink are in the same enclosure become the new code standard. This also reflects trends in home construction, with bathrooms becoming more numerous and private (master bathrooms with toilet rooms, for instance).

        It would be nice to see some conversions, too, where architects or interior designers found a way to put the same number of toilets and sinks into spaces that were formerly unisex bathrooms with stalls.

      2. Elizabeth West

        I’m seeing more family restrooms–and I assume they’re gender-neutral, because dads change diapers too. There’s one at the natural foods store and I used it once when the single-occupancy women’s room was busy. It was also single-occupancy and very spacious. I don’t know about larger ones with stalls.

        1. Violet Fox

          They are pretty common in newer construction here, but I’m in one of those countries that gives legally mandated maternity and paternity leave, so it is assumed that these things just have to be gender neutral.

      3. HOBBITS! The Musical

        Yes, here in Christchurch recently constructed or renovated (i.e. in the last 10 years) public buildings like the public libraries & hospitals have unisex single occupancy “rooms” with sink/dryer. I think they’re pretty common. Could be building code? I’m not sure. Still not well-designed! Add a disposal bin and there’s no room to, um, twist around to reach behind you.

    3. Sort sort of management consultant

      We only have gender neutral bathrooms in our office.
      (Big 4 firm)
      It’s so much more practical.

    4. Florida

      I suspect that eventually all bathrooms in the US will be gender neutral. We will start by having more single occupancy gender neutral bathrooms, then eventually we will have multiple occupancy bathroom with stalls going from floor to ceiling. The bathroom issue is becoming a very contentious issue in many areas. I wouldn’t be surprised of building codes started requiring a certain number of single occupancy gender neutral bathrooms.

  4. anon in the middle

    All I can think is that converting women’s bathrooms into men’s bathrooms would be a PR nightmare if it happened. LW1 is totally right that it sends a bad message and it would make me think twice about working for a company that decided to take away women’s restrooms to replace them with men’s. Especially since I go to the bathroom frequently and I’d be pretty annoyed if I had to book it to another floor.

    Waiting for the bathroom is part of life. It sucks, but we’ve all had to do it. Are people really waiting that long? If it’s 15 minutes, yeah, that’s a problem, but if the “wait” time is a minute or two, that’s nothing out of the ordinary in a big, busy office.

    1. JessaB

      Not only bad publicity, but in most municipalities there are regulations about bathrooms x number of each type determined by occupancy. If you’re converting one to the other, make sure that the numbers match up to the building standard.

      I however see no reason not to just have closed stalls for everyone, and make them gender neutral. Because really who cares who is next to who if the stalls have doors.

  5. INTP

    #1: Agree that it sends a bad message. In even-gender-distribution situations (like airports or restaurants), the Women’s restroom line tends to be at least twice as long as the men’s. If I saw that women’s restrooms had clearly been replaced with men’s, I would think “Wow, either there are incredibly few women working here, or the management is not at all interested in being woman-friendly.”

    Also, at pretty much every single place I have worked or encountered a public restroom at all there has been an “occasional wait” for the women’s room. Unless “occasional wait” is a great understatement, I think the women in the company are going to see it as utterly ridiculous for bathrooms to be redistributed to solve it. We wait longer for restrooms almost everywhere else on the planet, so if I was even further inconvenienced to walk to a different floor so that the men never had to wait, let’s say my annoyance with my employer would be enough to compound any festering dissatisfaction with my job.

    1. Engineer Girl

      I have very, very, very strong opinions on this subject based on my own personal experience as a woman engineer back in the 70’s and 80’s. My university was exactly as you proposed. The labs in the basement of the engineering building only had men’s bathrooms. The women’s toilets were only on the 2nd and 3rd floor. The science buildings had women’s toilets on all floors, by the way. The message was clear to women – you and your needs are inconsequential. Then I moved on to the real world and was in for a bigger shock. Several locations I worked at had no women’s toilets at all! There were a few times where I was the first woman engineer at the facility and I had to quite literally kick in the men’s room door (coming in, boys!). I took great pleasure when that facility exploded and they had to bring the replacement up to code by adding women’s toilets.
      But let me make it VERY clear – if you remove those toilets you are sending a clear message to women that even their most basic biological needs aren’t important to you. It’s OK to add, it is never OK to subtract.
      If you are really having a problem with the male/female ratio of engineers I suggest you hire more women.
      You know what makes me most upset? Seeing this same stupid issue after 30 years. I thought we had come further toward equality.

        1. Bookworm

          I was assuming that she meant that metaphorically – as in, the company grew and “exploded” out of their former space. But…Engineer Girl, if that facility literally exploded, I’m curious about that.

            1. Sarahnova

              I love everything about this story. Like, this is what happens when you don’t build women’s loos: SH*T BLOWS UP.

              (Engineer Girl, I am sure that you were not in any way implicated in this sexist-facility-demolition incident. :) )

            2. The Strand

              Thanks for the smile.

              So, by any chance did you work in Nevada…?

              Or was it Georgia?

              I have to admit my first thought was some of the covered up Soviet experiments that went wrong.

            3. Lizzie

              We really need a Like function. My office has been laughing at this for like five minutes.

              1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

                Well, the facility exploded. Presumably not the faculty – at least, I hope not!

      1. Xarcady

        The university where I went to grad school had formerly been all men, but started to admit women about 15 years before I went there. Some of the older classroom buildings only had women’s bathroom on every other floor, although there were two men’s bathrooms on the non-women’s-bathroom floors. Clearly, when they converted the bathrooms, they never thought they’d be in a situation where more women then men would be attending their university, as was the case when I was there.

        It was a hassle, especially between classes, when the women’s bathrooms were mobbed. I remember one night class in that building, when the building was basically empty except for our class and a few professors in their offices, where the women in the class would take over one of the men’s rooms on the floor, so we didn’t have to run upstairs or downstairs and the entire length of the building just to pee.

        At least in that case, there was kind of, sort of, a reason why there were so few women’s bathrooms. But I do think it will send a poor message to any women working in the OP’s building if they take away any of the women’s restrooms.

        Let the men wait, reconfigure the men’s rooms, make some single-stall unisex restrooms, move to a different building–there are several options available to the powers that be here.

        1. Aella

          My university’s converted some of the single stall toilets in the older buildings to unisex. I recently came across an older man who was absolutely baffled when the women in line tried to explain this to him. “That’s disgusting!” I nearly asked him how his home toilets worked.

          I’m told that, given the differences in stall design between the UK and the US, converting multistall toilets to unisex is easier over here.

          1. Artemesia

            I can’t remember the UK specifically but in most of Europe bathroom stalls are fully enclosed — no foot gap at the bottom or short stall doors and so they afford a fair degree of privacy. Often restrooms are unisex and those that are not could easily be converted that way if needed. They do have a habit of having urinals placed in ways that provide little privacy.

            1. Mabel

              I would not want to use a restroom that had urinals in it (they can be really gross). If the bathrooms are going to be open to everyone, then tear out the urinals and maybe add a stall or two.

          2. Just Another Techie

            True facts, when I was growing up our house had the toilet for Dad and male visitors, and the toilet Mom, my sisters and I, and female visitors were allowed to use. Of course, the men’s toilet was on the ground floor where the living room and dining room were. Ladies were directed to use the facilities in the basement.

        2. LQ

          My high school added a wing for math and shop. They didn’t add a women’s bathroom to that new wing. It said so very, very much. (This was in the 90’s. So not actually a forever ago.)

        3. dmk

          This happens the other way, too — my high school had been all women until sometime in the 70s. In the main building, there was a women’s restroom on each floor. When the school became co-ed, male students had to walk to the gym and use the restrooms in the men’s locker room. In the late 80s, they added a new floor of classrooms above the locker rooms, and that new floor included another men’s restroom. But they never changed the main building — it still only has women’s restrooms, and male students still have to walk either to the locker rooms or into the new wing to use the facilities. Interestingly, it never seemed to cause problems for male students, in terms of having enough time to use the restroom between classes. Of course, the women’s restrooms were always crowded between classes, so female students were often late.

          1. Alter_ego

            That’s so strange to me. I went to an all girls school from k-6th grade. It had always been all girls, but there was still at least one men’s restroom on every floor. We had male teachers, and parents who came either for events, or to drop their kids off and pick them up. There were far more women’s restrooms, but men’s rooms were still pretty easily accessible.

            1. dmk

              Yeah, it was a Catholic school and most of the teachers were nuns, who lived in the adjacent convent. And I think there was a single bathroom in the office area, near the teachers’ lounge. I very rarely saw a teacher in the hall bathrooms.

          2. my two cents

            at the small engineering school i attended, everyone had to live in the dorms their first 2 years. even with the growing nursing and business colleges, the board of regents would NOT take out the urinals that were still installed in the restrooms on the ladies’ floors of the dorm, claiming they may need to move the women’s floors around. they still haven’t removed the urinals, and they haven’t changed any of the 4 ladies floors (of 24 total floors) in over 15 years.

            1. Zahra

              The college I went with still had urinals in the women’s dorm floors… even if the college had been coed since 1968 (not sure if the dorms became coed later). They still automatically flushed regularly too.

              That was in 96-98. However, it meant that I wasn’t phased at all to enter in a male restroom to use the facilities… It even happened to me to enter the men’s restroom inadvertently and I didn’t realize until I got out of the stall!

        4. Pinkie Pie Chart

          The building where I had the majority of my classes had one restroom on each of the three floors. 1 women’s, 2 men’s. It’s a hard science, so not terribly surprising. And while it was annoying to have to go up or down, at least both genders had to do it. Of course, the women’s room only had two stalls and one was TINY, which was it’s own annoyance…

      2. blackcat

        I *still* encounter academic buildings with no (or few) women’s bathrooms. It drives me bonkers when I’m visiting other places.

        I love being in my shiny new building with giant bathrooms where there are only two of us women on my floor, compared to ~25 men. Progress!

        (It matters much less when classes are in session, since there are two classrooms on that floor. While the student population using those classrooms skews male, the 8 women’s stalls seem far less ridiculous when there are 10 or so students using the bathroom before or after class.)

      3. dancer

        I went to school in the 2000’s and I had a similar situation in some of the older buildings. I hated writing exams in those buildings because if you had to use the bathroom during an exam, you’d lose extra time running up and down between floors. There was another building where they converted a men’s bathroom to a women’s bathroom and they had to put barriers up in front of the urinials because apparently some men refused to stop using it. Of course they couldn’t be expected to use a bathroom on a different floor…

      4. the gold digger

        I work for an engineering company. There are about 250 people in my office and maybe 10% are women. It is so bizarre never to have to wait for the bathroom. I bumped into (literally) another woman in the ladies and apologized, noting that I was not used to not being alone in there.

        She said, “This must be what it is like for men almost all the time.”

        1. Stephanie

          Ha. Job 1 has casual dress (and I have to wear the tutoring center’s t-shirt). I started changing at Job 2 (which is in a factory-like setting), because there are almost no women there at night and I have the choice of two bathrooms to myself. At first, I was like “I should go into the stall to change”* and then it’s like “Why? I’m literally the only woman in the office annex at night”

          *I should say, I’m usually just switching shirts.

        2. Pennalynn Lott

          Before going back to school, I worked for a tech startup where an intern and I were the only two women in the company. We loved having a 6-stall, 3-sink bathroom all to ourselves.

        3. Dan

          No, men’s rooms aren’t always empty. I work in a male dominated field, and my loo always has traffic during normal business hours.

          Loos at sporting events are packed when the game isn’t in progress.

          Loos at bars have plenty of traffic.

      5. INTP

        I noticed that there were some buildings at my university with alternating men’s/women’s facilities on alternating floors – I wonder if that was going on?

        Unfortunately even the female-dominated faculties aren’t immune to sexist bathrooms. My grad student office was on the French, Spanish, and Italian floor in the Humanities building, where 90% of the students and professors and 100% of the admins were women. We had two single-toilet bathrooms. Instead of making both bathrooms unisex, they kept a men’s and women’s bathroom, so there was often a significant wait for us. We spent so much time waiting for the restroom that we would usually just go back to our offices and check again in 5 minutes, though this ran the risk that it would be occupied by someone else. And somehow the social awkwardness aspect of hearing and smelling other people’s bodily functions is worse when you’re standing outside waiting the whole time than when there are multiple stalls and people.

        1. ThursdaysGeek

          In cases like that, I just use the empty bathroom, whatever the label says. I’ve done that at gas stations (if it’s clean enough) and other public places, when the single toilet women’s room has a long line and the men’s toilet is empty. It’s just a label!

      6. Engineer Girl 2

        Don’t want to hijack your story…..because that is pretty hilarious! But I want to let you know that I agree with you on everything. I graduated college in early 2000s and I have also sadly worked at multiple places that did NOT have a women’s restroom when I started….

      7. TempestuousTeapot

        Exactly! And I have to say if that were to happen where I work, I’d still use the bathroom on my floor. If the men don’t like it, they can all go back out and wait until I’m done (Sorry all, this is a button pusher for me). Nothing was stopping them from going up or down a floor before this. Women didn’t have the issue, they should not be burdened by the solution. The men are the ones waiting in line, why aren’t they taking the stairs? Is every floor so overstaffed with men? Seriously, this is just silly!

    2. One of the Sarahs

      Yeah, the idea of making women walk to a different floor and take more time to use a bathroom, so men don’t have to wait is a really odd one to me. “Waiting is bad” but having to go to a different floor (and maybe waiting there) is fine?

      1. Yetanotherjennifer

        It makes me wonder if at least subconsciously there isn’t some “well women always have to wait for the bathroom; they’re used to it” logic going on here.

      2. Apollo Warbucks

        It is very odd, why have a plan that is guaranteed to inconvenience the women in the office and maybe save the men the occasional inconvenience of waiting or going to another floor (I can’t believe the wait for the men’s room is that long).

    3. Alston

      Getting rid of bathrooms for women, and giving them to the men also says that they’re not interested/planning on hiring more women to help fix the gender discrepancy.

      1. Editor

        If they’d hired more women over the years, maybe the men wouldn’t be standing in line now. This is really a problem the powers that be have brought upon themselves. They should just add some unisex bathrooms somewhere on each floor or, if that isn’t possible, find new office space with plenty of gender-neutral bathrooms.

      2. ThursdaysGeek

        Yes, that is a very clear message that they don’t expect the ratio to change, and will help ensure that the ratio does not change.

    4. Clewgarnet

      I used to work in a building that was about 70/30 male/female. There was a men’s toilet with three stalls and three urinals, and a separate, unisex disabled toilet (which was also the cleaning supplies cupboard and the home of the building alarm). That was it. No women’s toilets. And the men had a tendency to use the disabled toilet because they ‘liked the privacy’.

      If the disabled toilet was occupied, I’d just march on in to the men’s toilets, because sod ’em.

  6. De Minimis

    #5: Don’t do it, it’s gimmicky and I’ve seen one case at my employer where the odd formatting goofed up something in our application system where we couldn’t access the person’s information at all.

    1. Liza

      And I’ve seen one where the formatting was fine but the content wasn’t. It was in the format “You need…” “I offer…” and claimed we needed experience in a program we have never used (and that I haven’t heard of anyone using in ten years or more!) One more example of “if you’re going to do it at all, pay attention and do it right.”

  7. Nobody

    #1 – Interesting question. I work at a male-dominated company, too, and the restroom situation here kind of bugs me. On the main floor, there is a 1-stall ladies’ room and two 3-stall men’s rooms. The next closest ladies’ room is on the second floor, but it is out of order approximately 75% of the time. When the 1-stall ladies’ room is out of order, women have to go either to the third floor of the main building or to the second floor of the next building over. I have often wondered if I’m wrong to be annoyed by this because it’s true that there are a lot more men here and it makes sense to have more men’s rooms, but it just feels like the company doesn’t care about the needs of women when they can’t even provide a working restroom for us in close proximity to our work area.

    I think in a situation like this, the ideal solution would be to make the men’s room bigger and the ladies’ room smaller, but of course that would require construction and cost a lot of money (and could cause problems in the future if the gender distribution changes).

    1. INTP

      So there are 6x as many facilities for men as for women on your floor. Compensating for the fact that women use the restroom more frequently and have to do more time consuming things in there (hence our longer lines in non-male-dominated locations), I’m going to say that unless your company is fewer than 1/14th women, you definitely have a right to be annoyed. And if there’s a single woman on the second floor that only has a restroom 25% of the time, she has a right to be annoyed regardless.

    2. Erin

      We are just now adding a women’s restroom to the manufacturing floor. We have 20 women working in the facility and they all have to trek back up to use one of two single stalls that are located in the main office. It pisses me off to no end when a man uses one of those two because he has at least five other options for facilities. There is ALWAYS a line for the women’s bathroom and it often cuts into their break time.

      I would be very upset if any company decided to convert restrooms from women’s to men’s. I think other policies and procedures would be appropriate or installing some unisex bathroom stalls.

      1. INTP

        This kind of thing pisses me off because it has effect that reach beyond the annoyance of waiting for the toilet. While men are chatting in the break room, networking and strengthening work relationships, women are spending their breaks trekking to and waiting for the bathroom. It sounds like a small annoyance but over time is actually going to affect women’s career trajectories within the company.

        Also, I’d be tempted to hang a women’s restroom symbol on the unisex bathrooms. They can’t exactly call it unfair if the other areas have men’s only.

    3. I'm a Little Teapot

      “Out of order approximately 75% of the time” sends a downright insulting message to the women who work there – we can’t even be bothered to have your bathroom fixed. Yuck.

      1. neverjaunty

        Yes, this. That pretty much answers the question of whether the restroom situation reflects the company’s attitude about women.

      2. Nobody

        To be fair, right now, the men’s rooms directly above and below the second-floor ladies’ room are also out of order, so the message is that they don’t care enough about the employees in general to fix the restrooms. Usually, though, it’s just the ladies’ room that is out of order for weeks or months at a time. Oddly enough, the restrooms near the management offices never seem to be out of order.

        There is a similar situation in the training building, which is a very long building. There is a men’s room and a ladies’ room on each end of the building. My department’s classroom is right next to one set of restrooms, but that ladies’ room was out of order for over a year, so women had to go all the way to the other end of the building to use the restroom. We have hourly breaks during training, but usually only 5-10 minutes, which isn’t long enough to walk all the way to the other end of the building, use the restroom, and get back to the classroom. The instructors would give a longer break if we asked, but it’s kind of annoying to have to ask just because the company couldn’t bother to fix the ladies’ room.

  8. AcademiaNut

    I’ve worked in places that had women’s washrooms on alternate floors – a hold-over in older buildings from when women didn’t work in the field. And yes, it does send a bit of a “No Girlz!” message. If a business chose to make women walk up an extra floor every time they had to go to the washroom, the women will be legitimately upset, and it will be a PR problem.

    And waiting for the women’s washroom is a very, very normal part of life. Work is probably the only place where this *doesn’t* happen for me. Besides, having half the women go up a floor every time they use the washroom is likely to waste more working time than men having to occasionally wait to urinate.

    The first time I went to Palomar Observatory, an old and venerable telescope facility, I was initially impressed that the telescope building had a unisex washroom. Then I realized that when the facility was built, in 1949, the expectation was that only men would work there. The first woman to legally be allowed to use the telescope was in 1965.

    1. GeekyDuck

      We had this issue as well — it’s a large medical research facility built when women were hired as occasional histo techs and that was it. Long before I came on scene, someone went with a can of paint and evened out the bathroom count. Not particularly stylish, but functional and good for a laugh.

    2. MIT Engineer

      I went to MIT, where many of the older buildings were originally built only for men, and then later some of the bathrooms were converted over to women’s rooms. This meant that often (but not always) if you only came across a men’s room, you had to go up a flight of stairs to the bathroom directly above which was a women’s room. In the areas near the big lecture halls new bathrooms had been put in to have equal men’s and women’s restrooms, but in the side halls there was usually just one restroom. Even more annoyingly, because the main doors to the academic corridor are pretty much never locked and there were fears of predators loitering in the bathrooms (not sure if this was founded or not, but there were many homeless people living in ATM lobbies around Boston or Cambridge, so maybe it was), many of the out-of-the-way women’s rooms were locked with a numeric code lock, and I could never remember what that code was, so half the time I just gave up and headed for the bathrooms in the main halls, even though that was sometimes quite a hike. Apparently there was a “women’s tour” during orientation that included all the out of the way women’s rooms, the code for the locked women’s room, and the code for a women’s lounge that I didn’t even know existed until my senior year.

      Relatedly, at one of my college internships I was the only woman who was regularly working in the manufacturing plant – there were women in the labs and main office, but none in the plant. There were 2 locker rooms that had officially been built to be men’s and women’s, as well as a smaller “guest bathroom” that only had toilet and sink, no lockers or showers. Since there weren’t any women there (and hadn’t been ever, as far as anyone could remember), the men had always used both locker rooms so they didn’t have to wait as long for a turn in the shower. I felt weird kicking the guys out of the locker room as an intern, especially since my job didn’t really get me physically dirty like theirs did so I almost never showered there, so we compromised by temporarily hanging a “men’s” or “women’s” sign on the door when it was occupied, plus typically did a “hello, anyone in there?” yell. It worked well enough for that summer.

      1. Government Worker

        I finished grad school at MIT a few months ago, and I can’t recall ever running into a key-code women’s restroom so they may have eased up on the security worries. But the women’s lounge is awesome and now on card access.

        At least when they changed some of the bathrooms from men’s to women’s they made life just about as hard for each gender. And now signs are going up on some of the most-used restroom doors listing off the locations of the single-occupancy and gender-neutral restrooms on campus.

        The bathroom nearest my lab happened to have a fantastic view looking over the Charles River and downtown Boston. I appreciated that the space was used in a way where everyone got to appreciate the view, not limited to one person’s office.

      2. Just Another Techie

        I have never heard of this women’s tour! I did get the code to the women’s lounge my senior year, from my male GRT, who apparently used the women’s room to nap in between classes, rather than trekking all the way home, on the grounds that “No one is ever in there to be bothered by [his] presence.” *shrug* I just used the men’s rooms and ignored anyone who was unhappy about it.

    3. jhhj

      One of the buildings where I went to undergrad had been built way pre women being allowed to take courses in that field, so there were two sets of restrooms on the main floor and in the basement, but floors 2-5 all had one set each. Retrofitting wasn’t feasible, so the women had the odds and the men the evens (or maybe vice versa) and the women’s restrooms had urinals.

      But since this had an equal effect on men and women, it felt reasonable. New buildings/renos either had two sets on each floor or only gender neutral, depending on the building size.

  9. Graciosa

    Regarding #2, I agree that you need to end this now. This early in the employment relationship is generally when people are on their best behavior.

    So far, this employee has tried twice to find ways around clearly defined (and essential) job requirements and she hasn’t even started yet.

    On top of that, the first effort may have been an attempt at an end run around you by going to HR. The second effort involved at least speaking directly to you, but with some weird misdirection about the new girl getting stuck with bad shifts. This kind of rewriting of history to suit her convenience means that she is going to be raising it again and again with whatever new excuse (or accusation) she can come up with to get out of her shifts.

    It’s only going to get worse, so cut your losses and move on.

    Regarding #5, I realize that there are exceptions in the world, but I have yet to meet a hiring manager who appreciated these types of cover letters. The only time this type of two-column check-the-box approach makes sense to me is when there is an idiot on the other end screening out applications who is going to disqualify applicants with masters or doctorates (“Because it says Bachelors Degree right here in the requirements!”).

    If you write me one of those cover letters, I assume you think I’m the idiot, which is not a great start.

    This is at least kinder than assuming you’re the idiot who couldn’t figure out if you were qualified without keeping the table in front of you, or who couldn’t think of anything else to say and decided to fill up the space.

    You would be much better served to write a genuine, interesting cover letter of the type Alison recommends, but in the hierarchy of cover letters, even decent form letters, (“I am writing to apply for your X position, which I saw posted at [location] . . . “) are better than these, as are nonexistent cover letters. This type of letter ranks at the absolute bottom.

    Reading how strongly I expressed myself about these letters, I should add that I’m not trying to slam the OP for asking the question. I just *really* dislike them and wanted the OP to understand the risks and possible reactions. Among the hiring managers at my company, the only time we tend to excuse these is when dealing with former military just out of the service.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

      I agree about #2. If she was “on her way to the second job” the day she came in to sign the offer, waiting to bring the conflict and doing it with HR rather than the hiring manager is shady.

    2. Artemesia

      Absolutely on #2. If she had come in sheepishly and said ‘I am willing to take any shift if we can work this out’ I might have tried to work with her. But ‘I won’t do what I was hired to do and I don’t want any crappy shifts?’ She should be out the door before she starts. There is no upside to continuing this woman’s employment and she sounds like the kind of person who down the road will have an arsenal of game playing moves if you go forward. It is easier to terminate now before she starts then after she has worked there a month and then suddenly has a ‘disability’ or ‘feels discriminated against’ or whatever game she has lined up to play next. She lied about availability thinking that once she was hired you would have to deal. That suggests someone whose major skill is working the system not working. I’d have her gone today.

      1. Stranger than fiction

        Yes, entitled attitude and dishonest. She sat through several interviews agreeing the schedule was no problem. Clearly she thought she could just get her foot in the door and then they’d have to work with her on it?

      2. LibraryChick

        When I was a hiring manager this happened to me, but thank goodness it was prior to the person actually starting the job. I was extremely clear about the required work hours in the job posting, and asked multiple times during the interview process if the candidate was available to work those hours. During the final interview he announced to me that he would have to leave an hour early every single day, and he acted as though he thought that was reasonable. Needless to say, I hired a different candidate.

    3. New Manager

      When she went to HR instead of me first I already got a sour taste in my mouth about her. And my other employees have already come to me concerned that she isn’t going to show up to her shifts because she is complaining to them about shift she “can’t” work and asking for numbers in case she needs to “switch”. This is a grown woman, significantly older than me…and I’m just in complete shock and disbelief at her behavior.

      1. my two cents

        there’s also something particularly disingenuous about her also engaging her brand new co-workers regarding her shifts – either she’s happy to have the job, or it’s not working out. cut your losses and move to the next candidate.

      2. kms1025

        Be happy you found out right away what a train wreck she is going to be and cut your losses…so many red flags is so little time…your instincts are right.

      3. Annonymouse

        you made it clear:
        These are the shifts you are needed for at this job. She agreed.

        Now she’s saying she can’t do any of them? After being told and agreeing repeatedly that these were her shifts.

        There was no miscommunication: she isn’t someone you can trust. She lied her way into a job and is now trying to make it suit her.

        Tell her as Alison has suggested above that she is no longer in consideration for the position due to her not being able to cover the available shifts and move on to your next candidate.

    4. insert witty name here

      #5 – yes, there are exceptions. I was once brought in for an interview because I used that type of cover letter. And I got the job. I should add that I am an analyst and the hiring manager believed it demonstrated analytical capability. He didn’t want to read paragraphs and sentences, but just wanted to know how I was qualified.

  10. MsChanandlerBong

    #4 reminds me of when I used to work for a bunch of forex traders. They followed the American, London, and Tokyo markets, so the office never really closed. I’d come in at 8:30 a.m. and find traders asleep on the lunchroom couch with their glasses askew and crumbs down the fronts of their shirts.

    1. Chocolate Teapot

      I once heard of a PA who had to schedule a meeting with various bigwigs in Europe, America and Australia. Eventually, after much calendar jiggling (a technical term!) she ended up scheduling 3 separate meetings as none of the participants could be available at the same time.

    2. Stephanie

      LastJob was at a consulting-type company that had clients in the US and abroad (Europe and Japan). My boss dealt with clients directly. He confided in me one day that the nature of our clients being in multiple, disparate time zones meant that he was essentially on-call and it was wearing him out.

      1. Sammie

        Yah–we support EMEA and Asia–so it’s like be available, always. In our corporate culture, it is expected that the US will accommodate but the other geographies will not.

        1. Edward Rooney

          I’ve worked in a job that supported EEMEA, EU and AP. There were times I had to work from home from 9-11PM in order to work directly with our AP team. Also, there were times when they would stay late in order to communicate with us in the morning. If it is one sided within an organization, that should change to be fair on both sides (every other meeting switches to business hours of the other team).

  11. Zoogie2

    The OP #1 said it wasn’t her decision, but isn’t there anything that she can do? It must not violate any building codes or regulations, but isn’t there a way she can go to HR and say “does this send a bad message?” or something? It seems terrible that we can all agree with her that it’s wrong, but can’t give any actionable advice for what she can do to (at least try to) fix it.

    1. Mando Diao

      To me it reads like she’s stopping just shy of asking whether it’s legal. I know lots of people here aren’t fans of “is this legal?” but I’m on board with that question. When people are being unreasonable, it’s pointless to argue logic with them. It’s easier if you already know the facts of what is and isn’t allowed. OP might just be getting her mental ducks in a row while things play out. It’s a stance I think more people should take: getting the information first instead of scrambling after a bad decision has been put into motion.

      1. Meg Murry

        On the “is it legal” front, only having a women’s restroom on every other floor could potentially open up ADA concerns if women with mobility issues were assigned to work on floors without women’s restrooms.

        But beyond “is it legal?” I am 100% on the “this sends the wrong message” side. Especially since you are talking about a software company with 10,000 employees – converting women’s rooms rather than finding another solution (like building additional restrooms) seems like a petty way to pinch pennies. And if there really are that long of waits for the men’s room, I’m willing to bet there are other issues, like people crammed into an open concept or hotdesking space that was originally designed to house far fewer employees in offices or cubes, or areas with conference rooms that never had enough bathrooms to begin with.

        If bathroom space really is a problem, building additional unisex single occupancy restrooms would definitely be the best way to go long term.

        1. Mando Diao

          There are actually laws requiring that there be a certain number of toilet fixtures per a certain amount of employees. When there are separate washrooms for men and women, it is required that there be 5 toilets for 100 women, while there only have to be 4 for 100 men, though the law also seems to require that there be 4 urinals installed as well (so there should be 8 fixtures for every 100 men). If too many women’s restrooms are converted to men’s rooms, the company could have a concrete legal problem on its hands, if it isn’t already in violation of this law due to its expanded hiring. Plus it seems like simply relabeling the bathrooms wouldn’t solve the problem. They’d have to install more urinals too. (Alison, correct me if my read on the numbers is wrong.)

          I realize I’m jumping all over this particular question, but bathroom stuff comes up far more often in lousy workplaces than it should. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to research these laws just so I could be quick to say things like, “A company is legally required to buy soap for the bathroom,” or, “For unisex bathrooms, you need to fix the lock on the door. It’s not sufficient to tell us to wedge the trashcan against it.” This isn’t stuff over which you want to get dragged into a long argument. So I may be biased, but the scenario presented in this question (too many men for the existing facilities, plus the implication that they expect to hire even more men but few women) is making me think that there’s a deeper issue with the workplace that’s coming to a head over bathrooms because people are sick of never being able to find an open stall when they need one.

    2. BRR

      The lw might be able to offer suggestions to someone with more influence. I have barely any decision making power but I can approach our department head who is senior management at anytime and she can bring something like this up. Our senior hr person also makes herself available. So I think there are options for the lw in that they can voice their concerns.

  12. Marina

    #5 might depend on the field. If the job ad is mostly about requiring X years of experience using Y skill, I can see how it might work, but most of the jobs in my field are more along the lines of… well, for instance a current job ad we have out mentions “ability to analyze complex information and communicate results effectively”. That kind of fuzzier skill set is better addressed in a narrative format, since there’s so many ways that skill could be demonstrated, and some will be more relevant to our organization than others.

  13. Chocolate Teapot

    2. I was wondering if the employee had several offers at once and is trying to back out of one of them? The part about new hires getting all the rotten shifts concerned me.

    1. MK

      She is going about it in a very weird way, if so. Having someone back out of an accepted offer because they got a better one wouldn’t be good, but giving the impression that you outright lied to get the job and then tried to tried to browbeat your manager into accommodating your schedule is much worse.

    2. Koko

      It’s an especially bizarre attitude for a PRN position. Wouldn’t the nature of PRN suggest that you’re probably always going to have the less desirable shifts, no matter how many other new employees come on board, since those are probably the ones most likely to need coverage?

      1. LQ

        This is what struck me too. I have lots of people in nursing in my family. None of them always get good shifts. The one who has been at the same job for longer than I’ve been alive still works nights, weekends, and holidays when needed. The only ones who don’t have consistent less desirable shifts are in management. (They all work in hospitals or nursing homes, I suppose if you worked in a clinic setting you could work only bankers hours.)

  14. Alanna

    #5 – those kinds of cover letters always made me feel like the applicant wasn’t a very good writer. It gave me the impression they were using a table because they couldn’t explain in complete sentences why they were a good candidate.

    1. Revolver Rani

      That would be my concern. I want to see a cover letter because I want an early assessment of a candidate’s communication skills – how well do you string a sentence together? Can you write coherently, without grammatical mistakes or spelling errors? And so on.

      I know those skills are not equally relevant to all jobs, so I’d hesitate to make blanket statements about cover-letter style. After all, I am hiring for a writing position, so I care a lot about whether candidates can write clearly and with attention to detail. But if the job includes any kind of written-communication component – even just frequent emails to people outside your group – I imagine that hiring managers would prefer a cover letter that demonstrates that you can do that.

    2. Artemesia

      I actually like information presented in tabular form if it is done well, but I have enough experience with using tabular instruments in research and in presenting data to novices to know that LOTS of people are put off by tables. It isn’t the norm and being bog standard in how you present yourself is important in a job search. You distinguish yourself with substance not with format.

  15. Ruth (UK)

    1. My workplace has both neutral and segregated loos, all individual stalls. Each block of toilets is 4 neutral ones (including one disabled one), one male and one female. I think this works pretty well. There’s also a pub I often go to that has unisex toilets downstairs and traditional segregated ones upstairs. Each one has a sign outside letting people know of the alternatives on the other floor.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      One of the biggest differences between UK and US bathrooms (in my opinion, anyway!) is the stall doors. In my experience, when you use a stall in the UK, it completely blocks the outside. No gaps. In the US, however, 9 times out of 10 you get space between the door and the frame, and the door never goes all the way to the floor. There’s a lot of pretending one can’t see inside and averting of the eyes. Which makes unisex bathrooms in the US slightly more problematic. I wish we had UK-style stalls here– it would make a conundrum like this so much easier!

        1. Case of the Mondays

          Just a guess but maybe for ventilation? In my state, a bathroom has to have a fan or a window. Individual stalls with open tops can all share one fan. If they were fully encased they would all need individual ventilation. This does not, however, explain the gaps in the doors. The open bottoms are also an easy way to see if they are occupied. I love the new locks on single stall doors that just say vacant or occupied. No annoying knocking and bugging the person already in there.

          1. One of the Sarahs

            Interesting – in the UK, doors fit, but the tops of cubicles are often open, so there’s no issue re ventilation (but we’ve pretty much always had vacant/occupied, or red/green locks, since Victorian times, I think). We sometimes have gaps at the bottom of stall doors, but I’ve never seen gaps down the side in places like the UK, Netherlands, Spain etc.

            (I’ve always been baffled by the stories about USA bathroom laws in regards trans people, and I guess if you’re used to actually seeing people on the toilet… no, it still makes v little sense to me, but I guess it’s a bit less weird, knowing you’re queuing trying not to make eye contact with people in cubicles)

          2. HOBBITS! The Musical

            Gosh, that only just sank in for me. Re: stall locks, are you saying that “vacant/occupied” or “vacant/engaged” or even just “red/green” are new in the U.S.? Or just your building? It’s something I’ve always taken for granted in NZ and Australia. Very useful, even where the doors are short – after all the occupant may be a child or have very short legs.

            1. CM

              I’m in the US and I’ve only seen the “vacant/occupied” thing on airplanes. All the public bathrooms I’ve been in just have a lock, and you knock if you’re not sure if somebody is in there.

        1. Myrin

          I’m in Germany where we seem to have similar stalls to those in the UK – there’s usually a little gap between the floor and the door (we’re talking something like ten centimetres) and depending on how high the room is, the door might end at something like two and a half metres height, so I’ve basically never had any chance to even guess who’s in another stall. That’s the reason I was so confused for the longest time whenever I kept hearing US-based people talking about bathroom stalls. I just didn’t get how you’d know – much less see! – who’s in there but the thought that the doors are just differently designed never even occurred to me. I think I went something like three years until I figured this out.

      1. Nico m

        #5 its a gimmick, but are gimmicks necessarily bad? If its a long shot, why not gamble on second guessing the hirers pecadillo?

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yes, gimmicks are bad if you want to screen for good managers. And lots of hiring managers do dislike this particular format, whereas people aren’t holding the traditional format against candidates.

    2. Hornswoggler

      That reminds me my horror when visiting Russia back in the Gorbachev era, that there were no doors at all on the lavatories in most public buildings. Even in places like the opera house and the concert halls, you had to walk down the row of cubicles averting your eyes from the well-dressed ladies with their evening dresses hoicked up. The feeling of vulnerability whilst crouched over the loo (I couldn’t bring myself to sit) was excruciating. I daresay things may have changed now!

      1. Artemesia

        They have weird toilets in Russia. The Mariinsky has doors on their loos but while the stalls are very deep — 5 feet at least, the actual toilets are placed about a foot from the door, so they are very hard to use. Maybe it wasn’t an issue when there were no doors. I still remember with distaste all those elementary schools and middle schools with no doors on the loos. If you had your period you would have to ask for use of a private toilet. Humiliating. (In Chinese elementary schools they have a long trough that the kids sort of straddle. As an old lady using one of those (Luckily when it wasn’t filled with kids — between classes) I had this horrific vision of losing my balance and ending up very awkwardly. They make the squat toilets of the far east or old European venues positively easy to use.

        1. the gold digger

          I had to use the toilet in the bus station in La Paz. It was a hole in the ground next to other holes in the ground. No stalls. No doors. Just an old woman and her young granddaughter staring at me as I tried to balance over the hole without being pulled back by my backpack, which I did not want to remove because I did not want to put it on the ground.

      2. Paige Turner

        I’ve seen doorless toilets in Europe (France and Switzerland) as recently as ten years ago, and I’m guessing they are still there. I have strong feelings about French restrooms in general but that’s probably off topic. I agree that getting rid of women’s restrooms because there are more men now sends the message that the company does not expect to have more women ever.

        1. LatinGeek

          You’ve seen doorless toilets in Switzerland?! May I ask… where? (I’m Swiss and thankfully have never had the bad luck to come across such a thing…)

  16. Nico m

    #4 if the meetings that vital can you phone in from home at 6:30 am ?Or even 11:30 at night?

    1. Mela

      #4– Can you arrange with your husband to do carpool duty on the same day once per week? Then you can mark yourself as not available for meetings M, T, Th, and F and have a standing open slot that is just for early morning meetings. Might make things a bit less hectic.

      1. AnyOtherJennifer

        I’ll give that a try. The meetings tend to be more sporadic than that (and depend on many more schedules than just mine), but I’ll see what I can do to regulate them.

    2. AnyOtherJennifer

      OP #4 here. I’d be happy with that, and often schedule meetings at those times when it’s just myself and the foreign staff. But the rest of my US-based colleagues would not be agreeable with that. Most of them skew younger (single, no kids) or older (kids can take themselves to school if needed) than me.

      1. Erin

        Is it always the same group of people? I’d block the time out on your calendar for sure, but if it’s the same three people who disregard your scheduling requirements, talk directly with them. Maybe it’s the workplace culture, but I’m younger (single, no kids) and often come into work at 6am in order to fufill some of my job requirements. Many people are ok with doing that especially when time zones are involved.

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

          I agree with Erin. My schedule is 8:30-5, and while I don’t mind coming in for meetings before that, it’s frustrating when they are scheduled the afternoon before.

          It seemed to be a few common offenders, especially one of my coworkers who worked 7 -4. By reaching out to her directly, I was able to mostly get these stopped or if they do happen, now I get an email that says, “I searched everyone’s calendar and this was the only time everyone was available.”

          1. Hlyssande

            Or they made a weak attempt to make sure people were available, but somehow missed that you had it blocked out on your calendar…

          2. Anna

            I think that’s the important part. At least make an effort and don’t just assume that if it works for you, it should work for everyone.

            Having said that, at one point in my career I was responsible for scheduling meetings for a variety of extremely busy people and once in awhile I would have to just throw a time out and tell everyone this was the time that could work for the MOST people, please try to make it.

    3. Rat Racer

      I have a similar problem – perhaps less exaggerated because I’m on the West Coast and the majority of my colleagues are on Eastern Time, so not quite as large a time difference. I’m happy to take meetings at 5:00 am in the morning, but the hour between 7:00 and 8:00 is when I’m trying to feed my kids and get them out the door.

      I have a block on my calendar from 7:00 – 8:00 showing that I am out of the office, and it helps me keep that hour clear about 90% of the time. Sometimes, there are meetings that are too big or too important to reschedule around my calendar, and then my husband has to take over my part of the morning routine. And then there are people who schedule meetings without checking availability, to whom I politely ask that we reschedule for another time.

      It’s not unreasonable to request to hold 1 hour out of a 24/7 schedule as unavailable. But I know that it can feel awkward – especially for women – to ask work to flex around the needs of family. It sucks that corporate America tells us that having children is a liability we have to conceal at all costs if we want to be taken seriously as high-powered professionals.

      1. Ife

        I also block an hour in the morning as “busy” (no further details). If someone tries to schedule during that time, I treat it just like I would any other meeting conflict — e.g., how important/urgent is the new meeting, how much notice did you give, etc. — and decide if I can accept. If not, I send a reply saying that I have a conflict at that time, but I’m available at XX and YY.

        I also block an hour as “busy” for lunch, and handle it the same way if someone tries to schedule over it (although I’m willing to be more flexible with that time).

  17. Knitting Cat Lady

    #1 reminds me of a question that often is asked about our parking garage:
    ‘The disabled spaces are always empty! Can’t we convert them to regular parking spaces?’
    In this case the answer is clear, as there are laws about the percentage of disabled parking.

    In the building I work there are two washroom blocks per floor.
    The women’s rooms consist of a sink, a stall and a stall with a sink.
    The men’s rooms consist of three stalls and three urinals.
    Each floor also has a unisex disabled loo.

    Converting women’s rooms to men’s rooms would be a PR disaster.

    1. Mando Diao

      There are laws concerning bathroom count too. I’m surprised no one is acknowledging the actual facts on that count, as opposed to discussing PR and disability accommodations (which are obviously crucial as well). Clearly no one at this company is googling this stuff.

  18. Sarahnova

    The employee in #2 sounds like one of those people convinced hiring is an elaborate game, and you just say whatever you have to say to get the job.

    That or she suffers from a really bad case of wishful hearing. I’m with everyone else: end it now. She sounds like a headache and a half, one that you will regret taking on.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

      Yup.

      Wishful hearing employees don’t stop at just one agenda item.

      This is a thing that happens/person you come across and show her the door now.

    2. Myrin

      I also got the feeling that maybe she thought that once she’s got the job – any job there – she could negotiate to actually not work the shift she was hired for but a more desirable one. A “at this point, they’re already invested in me, clearly, since they offered me the job and I already signed and everything” kind of train of thought. Like the people we sometimes read about here who apply for an admin role but only to get a foot in the door because they actually want to work another role but in the same company/industry.

      1. LSCO

        I wonder if it’s just a badly interpreted version of advice similar to AAM gives out on a regular basis – ask about flexible start times/telecommuting/adaptations for a disability/whatever until you’ve got an offer in hand as the employer is then interested in bringing you aboard.

        Obviously, AAM’s advice is meant in a way that “if you can’t get what you want, you have to decide to either work with the job as offered, or decline the job offer entirely”, and it sounds like the OP was very upfront and direct about the need to cover certain shift patterns, so the fault lies squarely with the new employee. But it seems to me this case may just be good advice applied inappropriately by the new employee.

        1. Myrin

          That’s a very good point – I didn’t think of it that way!

          Although if that is the employee’s thinking in this case, she’s really stretching the advice (not Alison’s, specifically, but any kind of advice in that direction). Because, I mean, it’s one thing to ask about e. g. telecommuting after having an offer. It’s another thing to try and do that when throughout the whole interview process, the employer has made it clear already that telecommuting isn’t an option and the role the person is hired for specifically requres no telecommuting, ever. Which I’d say the OP has done here – she’s reiterated many times what exactly the shift looks like and that the employee will be needed for exactly these shifts so I think it comes off as obtuse at best to then go and want one of the things changed that were very clear from the beginning.

          But yeah, I can totally see someone thinking the way you describe here.

          1. Koko

            There’s also a big difference between, “when you have an offer in hand,” and “after you’ve accepted an offer.”

        2. BRR

          I thought it could be a loose interpretation of aam’s advice but I’m pretty confident in saying its likely just a person who completely ignored what was stated as being essential for the role and just expected to have things work for her. There are just people who have a difficult time seeing things from another perspective. I can see them telling people how unfair it is that the lw wouldn’t schedule them to accommodate their second job leaving out the part where the schedule was explicitly stated.

          1. Anna

            It sounds like the new hire thought that once they had signed all the paperwork, it would be really hard to get rid of them. Faulty logic. The company have pieces of paper and a few hours invested in someone who has yet to prove they were worth THAT amount of time, and now they’ve shown those few hours were a waste. Why waste anything else?

  19. McDerp

    #3 – These are all the things in my Work Pack. I don’t carry them all inside, but I have them available either in my bag (a nice black pleather messenger bag can serve as a purse and laptop bag) or in the car for easy retrieval. Yeah, I like to be prepared. You definitely don’t need all this stuff on the first day or even the first week. I just don’t like being caught off-guard, so I bring a little of everything just in case. For you, this might be total overkill.

    messenger bag
    • my favorite pens (Pilot Precise V5) • notebook/Moleskine for notes/reminders/deadlines • earbuds • phone • sometimes laptop • extra AA batteries • wireless mouse (when bringing laptop) • sometimes a book for reading over lunch

    toiletries bag (usually stays in the car or desk drawer)
    • pocket mirror • extra lippie • extra powder • travel deodorant • travel toothbrush • travel lotion • 2 tiny tins of Altoids • spray antiobiotic • a few Band-Aids • little bottle of ibuprofen • travel Q-tips • hand wipes (technically butt wipes) • travel pack of tissues

    other stuff
    • bento box or tupperware for lunches (fits in messenger bag) • sticky lint roller in the car • extra roll of TP in the glove compartment – so you don’t waste tissues for things like blotting lippie • Bubba jug for water/tea (one for home, one for work) • spray sunscreen for the drive home • umbrella in the car just in case

    1. aelle

      This is a great list! Mine is pretty close; additional stuff that I keep in a drawer include: hand sanitizer, hand lotion (scent free if you don’t want to make enemies), nail clippers, tweezers, gum, a travel sewing kit, spare phone and MP3 chargers, and non perishable snacks (trail mix and fancy dark chocolate). If I were really organized I would keep spare pantyhose and a clean shirt at the office, but I’m not there yet.

      1. One of the Sarahs

        I used to walk to work, so had work and walking shoes that alternated under my desk/in my drawer when we moved to hotdesking, and spare socks for those nasty rainy days, and a scarf. But yeah, my drawer had pain killers, tampons, charger, umbrella – but I wouldn’t bring all those on the first day, I’d build it up once I’d got to know the culture.

    2. Seven of Nine

      I’d add to that list a tide-to-go pen and an extra pair of nylons, just in case. (I rarely wear nylons to work, but the times I do, it gives incredible peace of mind to know that a run won’t ruin my day…)

      1. Persephone Mulberry

        Totally irrelevant.

        I’m not a “chap” and most of that list is irrelevant to me, because I tend to be a minimalist in what I’m willing to cart around. But for someone who’s never worked in an office before, it’s a pretty great list of things to consider that they might not have thought of.

      2. Oryx

        Um, all of it? It’s not a gender-specific list. Even the “lippie” could be read as lipstick or lip balm.

      3. Rusty Shackelford

        I’m a woman who wears makeup and all that, and even I find half of this list unnecessary.

        1. YaH

          Unnecessary, until you really need it.

          I keep a toiletries bag in my desk at work with deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, lotion, lip balm, febreeze, a lint roller, and a small box with assorted antacids, Alleve, and allergy medication. I’ve only ever used the lint roller, toothpaste, and toothbrush, but it’s awesome to know I have the other stuff when I need it.

          1. Rusty Shackelford

            Yeah, but that’s my point. I never need, for example, Q-tips or spray antibiotic at work. I’m not saying somebody doesn’t, I’m just saying this isn’t necessarily a list of the core items everyone needs to carry around with them.

      4. Decimus

        I used to carry a messenger bag to work. Most of the time it just contained a notebook and pens/pencils. I’d also carry my lunch in it if I was bringing lunch, and often I’d have ibuprofen and/or antiseptic wound cream. That was all I needed most of the time. (Archives. Always be prepared for rusty paper clips and those old style fold-over metal clips that turn into rusty daggers.)

      5. McDerp

        OP said they were planning to buy a purse, so it was a reasonable assumption that they were female. And it’s not like any of this stuff is that out of the ordinary. It all fits into one messenger bag and a toiletries bag that stays in the car or a drawer. It’s not like I’m wearing a frame pack everywhere.

      6. Ultraviolet

        I can’t be sure, but it sounds like this comment was meant as an insult? If so, it seems pointless, weird, and mean.

    3. Granite

      If you wear contacts, be sure to bring back up supplies. Some office HVAC systems make the air very dry.

    4. Solidus Pilcrow

      Wow, and I thought I carried around a lot of stuff day-to-day.

      Something I carry is a mini sewing kit (saved me some embarrassment from popped-off buttons and a seam falling apart!). You can either buy one or put one together from scratch. The advantage of buying a pre-made kit is that it comes in a self-contained package; the disadvantage is they usually come with things that you don’t really need for an emergency kit like a paper tape measure. The advantage of a from-scratch kit is you can customize it for what you need; the disadvantage is you have to buy all the individual components if you don’t sew. The must haves: safety pins (at least a few tiny ones and a couple medium sized ones), a few yards of basic thread colors (white, black, navy), a sewing needle, a couple generic buttons (transparent, black).

      And because I wear glasses, I keep a mini screwdriver and eyeglass screw kit.

      1. Artemesia

        I stocked my desk with this sort of thing i.e. one of those hotel freebie sewing kits, ibuprofen, hand gel, tampons, granola bars etc etc but everyone sort of knows what they actually need and use and those can be brought in once you have a desk or locker and know what your environment is like.

        As a side note. I used to be the person who traveled with a messenger bag or large purse that carried all these things needed to survive a week i.e. just in case. My shoulder would sag; my head would ached. When I finally figured out how to travel without even a purse for just ‘around town’, it made travel so much more pleasant. I invested in lots of clothing with hidden inner pockets and when traveling in cool weather my scottevest.com trench coat with the hidden pockets is complete sufficient for anything I will need during the day. But even in warmer weather, I learned to put the necessary basics in pockets and avoid bags as much as possible. Meds go in the watch pocket, tissues and chapstick in the front pockets, personal wipes and mosquito repellent wipes in the back pockets and a few bills and a credit card in a hidden pocket in the shirt. Sun screen goes on before I leave the room. Very freeing not to lug everything all the time.

      2. LQ

        I really like the minisewing kit, and if you are going to make your own I really recommend prethreading at least one needle with a black thread. When you are under stress and your day is already gone to the need of the kit I’ve found having a prethreaded needle makes a world of difference over stabbing myself with a needle and not getting it in and the stress and it just manages to snowball.

        1. Solidus Pilcrow

          Oh, I like the pre-threading idea! *Now I have my evening planned with threading needles – I have no life*

          1. LQ

            For me when I’m stressed it snowballs really fast so a button unraveling is bad, but I’ve got a small little go kit with goodies like this woven right into the inside of it that makes them all no big deal. Amazingly I can put a lot of one time fix things into one little bag. If I use something up I have to replace it. But for those strange instances where you need them being able to say, oh hey, no big deal is entirely worth it.

    5. Elizabeth West

      I have a purse with a deep cosmetics pocket, and a big tote I carry back and forth every day. Right now in the purse I have:
      –Wallet, phones, my foldaway Cath Kidston shopping bag (I LOVE that thing), and lipstick / concealer / compact, a Tide pen, a manicure kit, etc. in the cosmetics pocket.

      And in a caddy I can move to different purses:
      –Lotion, tissue, ibuprofen, contact solution, earbuds,stamps, a notepad with a tiny pen, tiny lint roller, gum, my reading glasses, a foldaway phone stand, a microfiber cleaning cloth (omg I just found my Oyster card in there LOL–I wondered where that went). Ergh, I don’t have a contact case. Or a sewing kit!

      Ugh, that’s a lot. No wonder my purse weighs a ton! If I had to use public transport, I’d probably cull that quite a bit.

      In the tote, I carry:
      –Chargers, my wrist guards, big noise-reduction headphones, a brolly, a book, a tiny canvas tote I got at the Cutty Sark (extra bag for shoes, etc.), and my lunch bag and water bottle (when in transit).

      I only carry the tote to work. The purse goes with me everywhere. At work, I have a cube cardigan and a blanket in my footrest. And once I moved into this cube for the duration, I filled the overhead cabinets with snacks, soup, tea, and stuff like baby wipes, extra tissue (they don’t provide that here), and a duster to keep things tidy. There’s a drawer filled with stuff for when Aunt Flo drops by so I don’t have to haul it back and forth.

      They did indeed give us a company mug in our welcome kit, but I have my AAM mug and a warmer for tea. :) Most of the work stuff waited until I had a better idea what I’d need day to day.

    6. Penny

      On your first day/week, I’d stick with some basics-wallet, keys, phone (on silent), lunch, maybe some floss, chapstick, jacket & kleenex depending on your needs. I’ve never been to a company that won’t provide notebooks & pens, but it wouldn’t hurt to bring those or a portfolio to start with.

      I see very few men carry briefcases except the upper level execs and I work in a building with everything from Finance to IT to Marketing and HR housed. Some guys carry messengers or backpacks, most carry nothing. Usually the only people with the rolling bags are ones that have to take home laptops and huge stacks of paperwork each night or have back issues.

      Also, take your license and social security card or passport for new hire paperwork.

      After that, you’ll get a feel for what you need daily and what others keep around (and some offices provide more/less than others). I have a drawer where I keep a lot of stuff, but depends on your set up and probably your commute style too.

      Glad I’m not the only one who has a ton of stuff on hand; always be prepared! I always keep floss, various medicines, travel deodorant, mouthwash, chapstick, a couple cups for coffee/water, headphones, travel hairspray, sanitizer, lotion, headphones, my planner (yeah a paper one!), tampons, tide pen, snack & lunch foods, and various other items.

  20. Daisy Steiner

    #3 – My standard first-day procedure is to take my lunch, but to take something that either I’m not fussed about throwing away, or can keep for another day. It’s possible you’ll be asked out to lunch somewhere, or someone will order in pizza, and you don’t want to have to decline because you’re worried about wasting your lovely sandwiches.

    1. Aella

      I’m currently working a part time job as a Telephone Fundraiser, and on the first training day they said they were giving us sandwiches. Alas, it turned out it was only tiny sandwiches, in addition to what may be the saddest fruit I have ever seen, so I ended up running out to a coffee shop for a hot drink and something more solid anyway. They have put me right off the university catering company.

      They’ve promised that there will be better catering for the actual shifts.

  21. The Wall of Creativity

    #3. Yes there are some people who come to work with nothing more than a phone, a wallet and lunch. I see them on the train every day staring out of the window while everybody else listens to music, reads books or watches videos. What a miserable existence! Even on a first day I couldn’t go to work without my manbag equipped with tablet, kindle, MP3 player and headphones.

    1. Aella

      Alternatively, they enjoy having a little time at the start of the day to clear their minds, and look out of the window of the train, and think that having to consume something at every moment of every day must be “a miserable existence”

      (I read on the train, but read off the kindle app on my phone, because having too many electronics bouncing around my handbag is a recipe for disaster.)

    2. Mookie

      Good rule o’ thumb: do the people you’re describing as miserable [or whatever] look miserable [or whatever]? If not, they’re probably not. They’re probably not-doing-what-you’re-doing because they’re enjoying their own thing, day after day. Not everyone needs to busy themselves or consume something at all times (although, yeah, looking out the window counts).

      1. Artemesia

        This. As an old lady I am sure I have RBF but I have no trouble entertaining myself in my head without media electronic or not on public transport. My husband reads books on his phone on the bus; I wander about in my head. We are both happy.

        1. WildLandLover

          Indeed! I am the same way. I use commute time on the public transit as a way to think about what I need to get accomplished during the day . . . or to think about family issues. I use the commute time in the afternoon to go over my day . . . or to think about family issues :-). I don’t need to be occupied by anything other than my own thoughts. If I had to stay connected during all those daylight hours, I would pull my hair out from stress. There is such a thing as too much!

    3. Mookie

      Also

      Even on a first day I couldn’t go to work without my manbag equipped with tablet, kindle, MP3 player and headphones.

      LW 3 wasn’t asking about entertaining herself during a commute (presumably as an adult she already knows how to do this in a way that suits her because it’s part of being alive and she’s likely had some considerable practice being a member of the living*).

      *what zombies do is none of our business, but I imagine it involves stitching together large pelts of human skin like that farmhand did in one of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book.

    4. Kelly L.

      They may just be daydreaming or trying to get their brain booted up. Some days I read on the bus, some days I just watch the scenery go by and let my brain start gradually working for the morning. If they do this every morning and still haven’t been driven to bring entertainment, they probably know what they’re doing.

      And OP didn’t say she was taking the bus/train. You can’t read while you drive. I was actually going to suggest a book for lunch reading, if she ends up eating alone, but I know not everyone does that either.

    5. BRR

      I have a long train commute and have plenty of entertainment options but sometimes I just want quiet. My commuting list of items is also separate from what I brought when I wasn’t using public transit. I have a separate comment for work stuff but my commuting specific items include a portable cell phone charger, a snack, hand sanitizer, and tissues.

    6. Myrin

      What a strange comment! Especially considering how many people get bent out of shape about “teh young ones” being always on their phone and stuff so, basically, the complete opposite of what you’re saying. There’s a saying my language which translates to “However one does it, one does it wrongly” but I had no idea that now applies to how you occupy your time on public transit!

    7. LQ

      When I spent 5 hours commuting via bus every day I would often stare off into the window until I fell asleep because that extra hour of sleep in the morning was like freaking magic, even if it was fairly light. (And the bus driver knew where to drop me off so he’d wake me on the few times I slept through that.)
      Not everyone is the same, and that’s a very good thing.

      1. Alter_ego

        I love the fact that my commute is from the first stop to the last stop on my train line. I do normally wake up before my stop, but the few times I haven’t are no big deal, because I’m going to the end of the line anyway, and the conductor just wakes me when we get there.

    8. Cat

      I’m one of those people who always needs something to do, and I’ve always seen it as kind of a character flaw. I respect people who can get lost in their thoughts or just be!

      1. LBK

        Likewise. I think I was better at it when I was younger, although that was probably mostly for lack of always-available entertainment. Now I wish I were better at detaching myself from my phone, but I get bored and anxious so easily that I’d probably have to put it in a time-locked safe if I wanted to force myself to keep my hands off it. I don’t know if I totally buy the idea that technology is shortening our attention spans as a whole, but I certainly believe it for my own person experience.

    9. SarahTheEntwife

      I can listen to music, read books, or watch movies on my phone. Plenty of people don’t love the tiny screen, but for me it saves way more money and space to just have one device than dragging around five different things just for casual entertainment.

    1. Sarahnova

      Yeah, as a hiring manager, I’m with those who say “this feels like you think I’m an idiot”. With a side of “you’re giving me the impression that you lack confidence in your ability to write a straightforward letter”.

  22. LSCO

    #5 – Don’t do that. It’s gimmicky at best, and just lazy at worst.

    However, it’s a worthwhile exercise to help you write your cover letter. Obviously don’t send the table, but constructing the table for your own use might help you see where you match the requirements, and make it a bit easier to construct a cover letter from those bones. Just use it as a tool and something to build from, rather than your entire argument.

  23. SandrineSmiles (France)

    I once went to a conference/salon type of thing, and I needed to use the bathroom.

    I see the women’s bathroom with a LONG line (like, about 10-15 minutes wait).

    Absolutely NO MEN for the men’s bathroom.

    Guess where I went… I think bathrooms should be unisex, full-closing-door stalls type so no one can peek under the door (had a kid do that in a restaurant once, his mom was mortified) and voilà, problem solved.

    1. Chrissie

      hehe, that is the nice thing about working in a tech-field. At our conferences, there are lines from the men’s room and women get to walk by and smirk. Little things that brighten the coffee break.

      1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night

        I recently went to a software seminar and it’s the first time I can remember breezing past the line for the men’s room into the ladies’s!

    2. Different Day

      “I think bathrooms should be unisex, full-closing-door stalls type so no one can peek under the door (had a kid do that in a restaurant once, his mom was mortified) and voilà, problem solved.”

      Ha! A few months ago I was in a public restroom when a young boy (7 or so) came into the Ladies’ room looking for his Mom and decided he would not leave until he got her permission to go to his cousin’s house (from what I got to hear.) While he was standing outside the stalls pleading with her, older brother (like 13 or so) came in to retrieve him– but then didn’t leave. Then both stayed arguing with Mom outside her (and my) stall.

      It would have been nice to have a stall that offered a little more privacy, but for some reason floor- up restroom stalls just don’t seem to be happening in this country (nowhere I frequent anyway). Until that becomes a thing, I would not really consider using a unisex multiple stall restroom.

      1. SandrineSmiles (France)

        Ohhh, I totally get you, Different Day. Hence why I think of full-closing-doors.

        Though making the stalls a bit larger would be rather nice, too. I mean, sometimes with my huge presence (ha) it’s a bit… awkard trying to manoeuver around certain bathrooms xD .

        1. ancolie

          There are a decent number of restrooms around me that use the absolute least amount of room possible for each stall. I’m talking about where everyone has to literally straddle the toilet just to open or close the door because there’s only about an inch (2-3cm) of clearance between the two.

          1. LQ

            I went to a bathroom where there was not enough room for me to sit down. My knee to toilet length was too long. How is that even a thing!
            (Also please, make your door to your bathroom stall swing out, it makes so much more sense!)

      2. Eden

        Ha, there are some problems no amount of door length can fix! I also would be happy if restrooms universally addressed the door gap so that it is never possible to make eye contact with people outside the stall. That for me is super awkward and also very common.

        My nightmares tend to be about searching for the public restroom, only to find that it doesn’t have doors on the stalls/has tiny doors/has a upholstered armchair rather than a toilet/has a convex porcelain mushroom rather than a toilet.

        1. Nikki T

          When I have those dreams, it always means I need to wake up and “go”. I’ve quite rarely found a regular bathroom in a dream. ..

      3. Chameleon

        In my city, we have a big heroin problem among the homeless (of which there are many). So, wherever homeless are likely to use the restrooms–most especially the public libraries–the stall doors are super short and easily looked over. They are *supremely* uncomfortable to use, and for a taller woman like myself, really awkward to walk past as well, as I can easily end up staring some lady in the face as she’s seated.

        1. One of the Sarahs

          There was a thing here for putting some kind of UV lightbulbs in toilets to try to discourage shooting up – they made it harder to see veins… but didn’t last long, because in no time at all people were drawing their veins in some kind of marker pen that made things even easier….

    3. Penny

      @Sandrine
      LOL, ok, OT, but this reminds me of when I was in the bathroom at Target and some kid started knocking on my stall saying “mommy”. I’m like, ‘no, I’m not your mom’ which I guess he didn’t understand and cuz he kept saying ‘what mommy’ and was trying to look under. Finally, I yelled ‘I’m not your mom, get away from the door. Whose kid is this?!’ Turns out the mom walked out of the bathroom without her kid (not sure how, it’s a small bathroom). LOL, that was so awkward but funny!

    4. WhichSister

      Yeah. I almost got kicked out of Blue’s Clues Live for just this reason. I had three children under 5 doing the potty dance, and I line wrapped around the center for the ladies room and the 4 dads there had their pick of restrooms.

    5. straordinaria

      Ha, that reminds me of a One Direction stadium concert I attended (one of many). Guess which bathroom had a twenty minute long line, and guess which one was deserted and spotlessly clean. (And still those of us jumping into the men’s bathroom got weird looks.)

  24. Random Lurker

    #1 – I worked for a software company that did this. We were nearly 95% men and that was the reasoning. I was very angry at first, and had all sorts of plans to raise a stink, use the men’s room if I had to go, etc. Before I could act on any of this, my company moved my office down a level by the women’s room. I wish I could tell you I followed through and fought the good fight, but once I personally wasn’t impacted, I lost all indignation.

    The arrangement lasted 1 year and the converted men’s rooms quietly turned back. Not sure the cause but am happy it resolved.

  25. Particleman

    Two jobs ago, they provided nothing. I had to bring my own pen, paper, post-it notes, headphones (which were a vital part of the job), lunch and a glass/mug. They provided a desk, a computer, a chair and water and coffee. No one ever took me to lunch. Since then I’ve made sure to brings anything I think I might need on the first day. I can always take it home if it’s not needed.

    1. Nerfherder

      Hell, at one of my jobs I had to bring my own computer. Complete with pirated software.

      I don’t have many fond memories of that one

  26. BRR

    #3 I would wait until after you start to figure out what you need based on the position, company, and commute. My first job I just brought my lunch sometimes. Now I commute far and bring a backpack because I carry shoes, a couple of small things, my lunch, and need space for anything else. Usually you get basic office supplies but some places don’t have good things like notebooks for example. My current employer has terrible notebooks. I know when I use up my current one I’ll just have to buy one that I like. I also find a rolling bag unusual (also annoying since I commute into New York and they are a tripping hazard and block walking space) but if you need it go ahead and get own. There’s no set rule. Create the routine that works best for you.

    1. Paige Turner

      I have a “travel” backpack from Herschel that is made of lightweight nylon and folds up into a pouch. It’s great for when I walk to work but still want to have a purse when I get in. Nothing wrong with backpacks, but this is a nice alternative when I need something dressier, and since I just put my whole purse inside, I don’t have to bother with switching everything from one bag to another.

  27. Roscoe

    #1 This seems like a very charged conversation to have. But to me, it really is just about numbers and logistics. If 66% (just as an example) of the employees are male, having the bathrooms be 50/50 really doesn’t seem practical to me. I’m fine with unisex or gender neutral bathrooms also. But really, if there is more of a need for men’s restroom space, then there isn’t much to be done with that. From what I can gather, men’s restrooms usually have more spots to go than women, since they typically have more urinals taking up less space. So if there is still a wait, it is a problem.

    And the fact that “women wait all the time” really has nothing to do with this. There are natural reasons why it typically takes a woman longer to go to the bathroom than men. But just because it happens in other places, that isn’t a reason it should happen at work.

    Put it like this. If this was at a school or some other location that had a big gender gap skewed toward women, and someone wrote in saying that they had more (adult) women’s bathroom’s than men’s, or even if they cut the size of the men’s bathroom in half to improve occupancy for women, would that be seen as a problem? Doubtful.

    But I do think the gender neutral bathrooms is the way to go here, at least for those on every other floor.

    1. Roscoe

      Also, to be clear, I’m not advocating only having women’s bathrooms on every other floor, but I am saying the women will probably have to compromise here. Whether that is going to unisex, or possibly losing space in their bathroom to expand the men’s bathroom. Something is probably going to have to give. And I don’t think that compromise is necessarily bad if that is what the numbers dictate.

      1. Chriama

        It doesn’t make sense to me to covert the women’s washroom to unisex, so they’d have to convert all the washrooms. Which is a decent compromise in that a lot of men and women would probably be equally uncomfortable (assuming it’s the typical multi-stall configuration with doors that don’t go all the way to the floor).

        But I disagree with your statement that women will have to compromise. When you’re in a work environment it’s never ok to say one group of people will need to compromise so another group of people isn’t slightly inconvenienced. The solution needs to address the mens’ needs without subverting the womens’ or it’s not a real solution (and as others have mentioned, could even potentially open the company up to legal issues).

        1. Roscoe

          I’m fine with converting all of the restrooms, not just women’s. Sorry, that was unclear.

          But the reason I said the women will have to compromise is that they have it (seemingly) better in this case. More space for less use. So thats why I think it would be a compromise there.

      2. Temperance

        What’s wrong with expecting men to use a different floor or even (gasp) wait a few minutes to use the restroom? They wouldn’t make this accommodation for women, and if it does happen, it will send a clear message to the women at this company that they are not as important as the men there. It can also have a chilling effect on hiring women, quite frankly.

        1. Roscoe

          I’m not saying there is anything wrong with either, but it seems that company has decided its an issue. At my last job, the men’s restroom was smaller, so I’d often have to either wait or go to another floor. I didn’t care in general about it (got me some extra exercise), but if this was constantly the case, I could see it being a problem. Again, I’m just going by pure numbers. I threw out the random 66% – 33% as an example, but my guess is that is probably not super far off. If you have twice the number of people who need something, it does make sense to make more room for it. There is probably finite space in this building, so that means something has to give.

          And I don’t necessarily think its true that the accommodation wouldn’t be made for women. When I was a teacher, the women’s bathroom was bigger and held more people than the men’s bathroom. It made sense because there were significantly more women. Also, I can think of something like wellness rooms. If all of a sudden you went from 0 nursing women, to 10, an office would probably take out some other space to make it a 2nd wellness room. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that either.

        2. C

          As Roscoe said, this is a charged conversation to have – but his/her point about the percentage of males in the company/organization is the key here. And if the OP says quite clearly that the ratio of men to women in this company is 2:1, then how is it insulting/degrading/inconveniencing to women that the number of male restrooms (or unisex) most likely needs to be increased? It’s simple math.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

            Sure, it’s simple math if you were talking about X receptacles to pee per Y population.

            It’s not simple math if you’re asking only female employees to go to another floor to pee but all male employees have a bathroom on their floor.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

            Or: the last thing the tech industry or a tech company needs to reinforce the “management isn’t welcoming to female employees” message.

            Like, the last thing. Like, it would be a super dumb thing to do.

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

                :)

                I smiled at that but, in fairness, I don’t know that it is pervasively true. I think that a lot of the tech industry/management is tone deaf to what’s holding women out and back.

                Like, I don’t know, believing it’s a logical plan to limit the number of floors women’s room are located on. They aren’t thinking “women not welcome!”, they’re just not thinking.

                And then wondering why they have such a bad rep.

                1. LQ

                  I think the difference comes in when things are pointed out.

                  “Hey, having to walk to a different floor to go to the bathroom is really alienating.”

                  “Oh crap I never thought of that, well yeah, how can we fix it.”
                  vs
                  “Well it isn’t a problem for anyone else and it has been like this for ever and it is expensive to fix.”

                2. neverjaunty

                  Oh, I’ll buy that they’re probably just not thinking (as opposed to actively being hostile to female employees) – but tone deafness can pivot pretty quickly into hostility and being unwelcoming to women who point the tone-deafness out, instead of pasting on a smile and being Chill Girls. But that is really a rant for another day.

          3. Shiara

            There’s also what it says about this company’s plans for the future: That they see their current gender imbalance of employees as totally okay and likely to continue that way indefinitely. Which can easily turn into a self fulfilling prophecy.

            I think there are better solutions to the problem the company sees than converting women’s bathrooms to men’s.

            1. Tau

              +1000. I’d take it as a red flag if I interviewed at a company that had done this for precisely this reason.

            2. Alston

              Also as Editor said above–“If they’d hired more women over the years, maybe the men wouldn’t be standing in line now. This is really a problem the powers that be have brought upon themselves.”

          4. Aunt Vixen

            Man, remember when Sam found out there were bathrobes in the women’s locker room at the White House gym? Good times.

            Sam: Where’d you get the bathrobe?
            Carol: The gym.
            Sam: There are bathrobes at the gym?
            CJ: In the women’s locker room.
            Sam: But not the men’s.
            CJ: Yeah.
            Sam: Now, that’s outrageous. There’s a thousand men working here and 50 women.
            CJ: Yeah, and it’s the *bathrobes* that’s outrageous.

            1. Nobody Here By That Name

              STG I was going to reply to ask if anybody else was thinking of that quote. If the gender makeup of the company is so out of whack that they’re pondering redoing the rest rooms, hopefully someone has twigged to the fact that they need to be taking a hard look at their hiring process as well.

              Granted, in companies where this happens they’re usually blind to being part of the problem. See also: where I currently work, which treated the issue of all of our VPs and above being white males by hiding the pictures of our executive team.

          5. One of the Sarahs

            I guess we don’t know the bathroom layout though do we? As someone said elsewhere, building codes aren’t always exactly 1:1 – eg in lots of places there’ll be 3 stalls in each bathroom, but also 3 urinals in the men’s, making it equal number of *rooms*, but 2:1 facilities. If the OP’s work bathrooms are laid out like this, then there’s already an equal provision.

          6. Engineer Girl

            No. There are multiple factors at play and you don’t get to put a weighting factor in the one you like the best unless you can prove why that favor should be weighted. That’s cheating at analysis.

          7. TempestuousTeapot

            Because the gender not having the issue is being told to shoulder the solution. It’s not appropriate regardless of the way it falls. And it definitely shows a clear lack of forward thinking on the part of management.There should be a light bulb of ‘why is this happening in today’s world’ going off.

      3. Engineer Girl

        Roscoe, by post from above shows that we HAVE been compromising for decades. The compromise has always men on our side with no reciprocation from the men. Maybe it’s time for the men to reprobate. That’s fair.

        1. Engineer Girl

          Wow. Spell checker got me good. Women have had to compromise on facilities for years. It’s time for men to compromise.

    2. Observer

      You seem to be missing the point here. No one is saying that the general number of bathrooms should not reflect the percentage of men vs women. However, the idea that women should be the only ones who have to go to a different floor is very, very different.

      As for “There are natural reasons why it typically takes a woman longer to go to the bathroom than men. But just because it happens in other places, that isn’t a reason it should happen at work. “ What exactly do you mean? Are you saying that at work, we should ignore physical reality and pretend that women can be in and out of the bathroom in the same time as men?

      1. Kelly L.

        +1. Are we supposed to magically overcome, just because we’re at work, the fact that we have to remove more clothes to do our business than men do, or the fact that many of us have one week during the month when we have to deal with one more thing while we’re in there? Because those are the reasons it takes longer, not because we’re doing secret occult rituals in there or something.

        1. Artemesia

          I cannot count the number of times I have heard older men dismiss the long lines at women’s rooms with ‘well you know these women, they are in their primping and doing their faces so it takes longer.’ The lines are not for the mirrors, they are for the toilets and it takes women longer for many reasons to use the toilets, duh.

              1. Aella

                Well, obviously only when needed! Wrestling a small goat into one of those stalls isn’t a trivial matter.

        2. Rusty Shackelford

          The first rule of secret occult bathroom rituals is, don’t talk about the secret occult bathroom rituals.

      2. Roscoe

        No. My point with that is that there seems to be an air of “women have to wait in bathroom lines all the time, so if men have to do this at work, so what?” in this comment section. I don’t think that is a useful way of looking at things. So not ignore it, but just understand that I think if the men are having to wait more, its probably due to the shortage of space to go (in relation to the number of men there) and so it is more of a problem that needs to be addressed.

        1. neverjaunty

          You’re misreading. It’s not “so what?” It’s “why is this only important when it affects men?”

          1. Roscoe

            Ok, well I think thats perspective. But even so, I think what you have to do at a restaurant or out in public, and what you deal with at your job, shouldn’t be lumped together. Thats my main point.

            1. One of the Sarahs

              Sorry, I still don’t understand your point – how can bathroom use be different at work than in a restaurant? It’s the same functions, surely?

              1. LBK

                I think his point is that most public places just go with a 50/50 split by default because they aren’t analyzing the gender makeup of their customer base and adjusting bathroom availability accordingly, whereas in an office building with a relatively static set of people using the facilities it might make more sense to tailor the ratio to the gender makeup of your employees.

                I don’t know that that necessarily counters the idea of this being the norm for women, though, because the whole point is that half of the population seems to figure out how to survive with having to wait a few minutes to use the restroom on a regular basis. This is not a problem that needs a solution unless we’re talking consistent 10+ minute wait times.

                Savings those few minutes here and there certainly isn’t worth the trade off of the message it sends. It would be quite a lot of time and money to spend on something that communicates “We don’t intend to hire more women.”

              2. Elsajeni

                I do see Roscoe’s point, assuming we’re talking about a situation where there’s often or always a line for the men’s room — I think a lot of us would be irritated, and suggesting that our building needed to add more women’s restroom facilities, if we had to wait in the same kind of restroom lines at work that we put up with waiting in at concerts, restaurants, movie theaters, etc. There’s a difference between “occasionally, when out and about at events I chose to attend, I have to wait in line to use the restroom” and “every day, in my workplace where I have little choice about spending 8 hours, I have to wait in line to use the restroom.” I don’t think the every-other-floor arrangement proposed in the letter is a good solution, but I do think it’s a problem that needs some solution beyond “So what, women have to wait in longer lines at concerts and baseball games.”

                1. neverjaunty

                  Except that nobody has said “so what, we have to wait in line at movie theaters”. People are pointing out that waiting to use the restroom seems only to be a national crisis when the waiters are men.

                  And in the case of OP’s workplace, management’s solution is incredibly stupid.

                2. One of the Sarahs

                  But Roscoe seems to be suggesting that women should “compromise” so that men don’t *ever* have to wait – and this compromise involves women waiting more/leaving the floor.

            2. Kelly L.

              This. What on earth would a person do differently in the bathroom between a restaurant and work?

            3. Observer

              That still doesn’t answer the question of why it’s more important for men not to wait than for women or the even bigger question of why it’s more important for men to not have to wait that for women to not have to wait AND not have to go to a different floor to use the facilities (when men don’t.)

        2. jhhj

          It might need to be addressed — it’s not clear how often there are lines, or how long the waits are, so it might not even need to be address (for instance if there are only lines just after lunch, or if there are occasional lines and the wait is a minute, or if just one floor has lines) — but the way to address it is not to just switch over all the women’s washrooms.

        3. Shiara

          I think some of this may also be to the fact that the proposed solution to some men sometimes having to wait (or check a bathroom on a different floor?) is to make it so that all women on certain floors always have to go to a different floor (and maybe wait?).

          It’s also a little unclear from the letter writer’s thing how much of a wait there really is, which is making it more easy to dismiss it.

          Inadequate facilities are a definite problem that the company needs to resolve. But as a woman in tech it gets really frustrating being asked to compromise for the sake of a gender disparity that such compromises often unintentionally end up perpetuating.

        4. Liana

          Neverjaunty said it perfectly – we’re not saying “so what if men have to wait”, it’s “why is this only a problem when men have to wait (and not women)?”

    3. Oryx

      “There are natural reasons why it typically takes a woman longer to go to the bathroom than men.”

      Citation needed.

          1. many bells down

            But it’s still going to take you longer to do that than a dude who just has to undo his fly and pee at a urinal. It’s not about how quickly one can change a tampon, it’s that there’s just not a male equivalent to what we often have to do in the bathroom. Even if both genders take equal time to urinate and defecate, women still have one more thing they generally have to do in there.

      1. Lily in NYC

        Citation: TIME magazine:
        Women need to use bathrooms more often and for longer periods of time because: we sit to urinate (urinals effectively double the space in men’s rooms), we menstruate, we are responsible for reproducing the species (which makes us pee more), we continue to have greater responsibility for children (who have to use bathrooms with us), and we breastfeed (frequently in grotty bathroom stalls). Additionally, women tend to wear more binding and cumbersome clothes, whereas men’s clothing provides significantly speedier access.

        1. Elizabeth S.

          On a side note, without my reading glasses on I initially read that as “TMI magazine.”

      2. blackcat

        1) We (generally) have to remove more clothes to pee.

        2) Sometimes we need to deal with menstrual products.

        But just because it (often) takes women longer to use the rest room doesn’t mean people should just assume women are fine waiting anyways… what it means is that, all other things being equal, more toilets need to be set aside per woman to get equal bathroom access.

        I agree with a lot of others there’s a big message sent by making many women *go to a different floor* to use the bathroom. That’s effectively making *all* women on those floors take longer to use the bathroom ALWAYS, rather than having some men have to wait some of the time. It’s choosing a guaranteed inconvenience for women over an occasional inconvenience for men. And that’s just not cool.

    4. LBK

      This kind of “it’s not personal, it’s just math” thinking is part of what contributes to the feeling of women being unwelcome in science and tech fields where that line of logic is pervasive. It may just be math, but it’s math that involves humans, and humans aren’t inanimate objects in a word problem on your SAT. It’s lacking in empathy and ignores any kind of connotation this action might carry, eg “We’ve decided that the solution to our apparent gender bias in hiring is to fix the number of bathrooms in our office instead of fixing the number women in it.”

      1. Roscoe

        I agree, but we are still talking long term vs. immediate need. I will agree that they probably do need to work on, long term, evening out the genders. That doesn’t mean that the lack of men’s restrooms isn’t a problem that needs to be solved now. You aren’t going to automatically even the number of employees (unless you just fire half the men). But if there isn’t an issue, its not fair to dismiss it either. Again, I never said the making women go to another floor is the best idea, but I don’t necessarily think it needs to be equal either, because if thats the case now, it IS making a problem for the men.

        1. Zillah

          It’s not clear to me how significant the problem is, though. Maybe it’s just because I’m a woman, but having to wait a couple minutes a few times a week to get a stall open doesn’t seem like a horrific problem that Must Be Solved Immediately.

      2. Searching

        And its only the simplest part of the math that ignores possible disparate impact and costs. If true equality is the goal, then additional factors like avg wait time vs. avg time needed to travel to another floor (again, are you saving the guys 5 minutes occasionally while costing the women 5 extra minutes 2-3 times a day every day?), avg time spent in bathroom, number of actual bathroom fixtures in the restroom (men’s restrooms have more), projected goals for hiring more women in the future, maybe even a surveyed factor for ‘how much individuals would care about the change” which could vary widely (i.e. the majority of men only care somewhat whereas the women would care a lot more.) That’s leaving aside the reputation/message and possible compliance and legal factors. If you really want to talk math, do more math than just one calculation.

        1. Roscoe

          All of this is right. But it still seems to me that most of the responses on here are more of the “too bad the men have to wait” as opposed to actually considering that its a problem that needs to be solved. Everything you brought up does make sense to consider, but again, looking long term vs. finding a solution for now is important as well.

          1. Callie

            Because it’s really not as big a deal if guys have to wait in line for a minute or two SOMETIMES as opposed to women having to go to a different floor EVERY TIME.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            The solution to “men have to wait to use the bathroom” shouldn’t be “okay then, because we can’t have the men wait, the women must go to another floor”.

            You have to see why that would be problematic. Men are waiting? Inconvenience women!

            (BTW, I am so completely over bathroom discussions after the last couple months of bro ha ha, it seems to clear to me that gender neutral bathrooms are the only move possible for world peace)

            1. Aunt Vixen

              I know we don’t nitpick typos here, but I have to say “bro ha ha” is my very favorite Freudian typo ever. <3

              1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

                Hilarious.

                I was intentional with the “ha ha” but missed that I’d made it “bro ha ha”.

                I have won the thread and didn’t even know it!

          3. LBK

            But it still seems to me that most of the responses on here are more of the “too bad the men have to wait” as opposed to actually considering that its a problem that needs to be solved.

            Because it isn’t a problem. Waiting to use the restroom occasionally is not a problem, unless it’s having genuine impacts on productivity because people are standing around outside the bathroom for 15 minutes every day. I have to wait a few minutes for the coffee machine during the morning rush, but that doesn’t mean we need to add more coffee machines because waiting a few minutes for something is just part of being alive. Sometimes you have to wait for things. Relax.

            1. Tau

              And if it really is a case of seriously excessive wait times, then that’s a case of inadequate (and possibly illegal) facilities which it’s unlikely the few extra bathrooms from the women’s will fix.

          4. Mockingjay

            Two possible solutions:
            1) Add more bathrooms (unisex or for the men). [Cost.]
            2) Wait in line. [No cost.]

            The solution is NOT to take away or reduce the women’s facilities.

            You may not get the resolution (1) you want.

            My workplace has a gender imbalance: 60 men, 10 women. We have two restrooms each: 5 stalls for the women, 3 stalls and 2 urinals for the men. The men’s rooms sees steady usage all day. There have been complaints about cleanliness and odor. The boss made it clear that the solution is for the gents to be courteous as possible. We lease the building, and the owner is not interested in paying for an upgrade when the building already meets code. My company is small and renovations are not in its budget, even if the lease allowed it, which it doesn’t.

            1. Zillah

              This. If a woman said, “Yeah, two or three times a week, I have to wait a couple minutes mid-morning after I finish my coffee to use the bathroom,” I have a hard time believing that anyone would see that as a problem that needs to be solved.

              1. Dr. Johnny Fever

                Precisely. How many would tell this woman to finish her coffee earlier?

                As a woman in the tech industry (and currently the only woman on my team), if management said I had to go to a different floor or toilet than my colleagues, I’m out. That is a clearly seixst environment.

                How is this different from making a black person ride at the back of a bus so white people can have seat closer to the door, or use a separate water fountain because some white people don’t want to drink after a black person?

    5. Desdemona

      Wait a minute. Even assuming the men’s restrooms have the same number of facilities as the women’s (i.e., no urinals), I don’t see how taking facilities from 50/50 to 75/25 in a company that’s split 66/33 is any more reasonable than leaving it at 50/50, especially since women do have more needs to take care of in a restroom than men.

      Also, right now, the men get at least half the existing facilities, which isn’t enough to accommodate them all. There are half as many women as men — by my count, halving the number of women’s facilities simply offloads this problem onto the women, since you end up with the ratio of women to facilities matching the current ratio of men to facilities.

  28. shep

    #1 – I’m of two minds as to whether or not I’d balk at the conversion of restrooms. I’ve often grumblingly thought to myself that it would be great if some men’s restrooms were converted to women’s, so I could see how management would try to alleviate the issue if the wait is consistent and more than just a minute or two. If I knew I had to wait five minutes each time I had to go to the restroom, that would make me pretty antsy.

    That said, I’d be irritated if I had to go to a different floor to use the restroom, especially if the layout wasn’t conducive to getting me there quickly. I’ll sometimes go to a different floor to use the restroom even now, but it takes maybe twenty seconds longer for me to do so, and I’m glad I have the option of a restroom on my floor.

    As for unisex restrooms, I thought I was progressive enough that they would be fine, but I found myself in one a few months ago and it was DEEPLY uncomfortable. I’d much rather have to travel a floor up or down to use the restroom than use a unisex restroom.

    1. shep

      An additional note: I’d be totally fine with gender-neutral restrooms if they were the type of floor-to-ceiling, no-gaps-in-the-doors stalls that you find occasionally.

      I’m thinking of my current office restrooms, which have visible gaps in the stall walls and through which one could make eye contact with someone. If *those* were converted…no. This was also the type of gender-neutral restroom I went into, and largely why I took such issue with it.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        I’m a bit baffled by this, but I get that it’s just me. Bathroom stalls with gaps are crappy (hee!) regardless of who else is in the bathroom. Is it actually more comfortable to accidentally make eye contact with my female boss than my male colleague? Uh, no.

        1. shep

          I don’t want to make eye contact with *anyone* through said crappy stalls, of course, but to me it’s the difference between very uncomfortable and cripplingly uncomfortable.

            1. shep

              Oh, I really hope I didn’t make myself out to sound like I enjoy hanging out in the bathroom and making eye contact with people. I mentioned only that it were *possible*, if very unfortunate, to do so to describe the quality (or lack thereof) of the stalls my office’s restrooms.

              In short: It is already a deeply uncomfortable experience for me. I have a lot of public restroom anxiety. Ergo, were the shoddy office restrooms I deal with daily to be converted to gender-neutral, I would have HUGE problems with that.

              1. ancolie

                Oh, I really hope I didn’t make myself out to sound like I enjoy hanging out in the bathroom and making eye contact with people.

                I’m imagining an amazing train wreck of a personals ad that lists that as a hobby.

  29. Phyllis B

    When I worked as a telephone operator we had the opposite problem. We didn’t have male operators until maybe mid-seventies, so we had no men’s rooms on our floor. The men had to go to 1st or 2nd floor. AND we didn’t have elevators, so it took most of their 15 minute break just to “take care of business.”

    1. orchidsandtea

      They’re delicate, you know. They can’t handle it. The necessary muscles just aren’t as strong as women’s.

      1. Aella

        I am trying to remember whether it was here that I came across the woman whose boss thought women could just…stop menstruating if they wanted to.

            1. Aella

              Thank you! As you can imagine, the outline is…not the sort of thing you forget in a hurry.

              Or possibly ever.

        1. TempestuousTeapot

          Alright, that stopped my brain cold. I really didn’t want to know how clueless some people are. But I am going to read that.

        2. Michelle

          I wish I could remember the context, but I swear to God I recently had someone tell me that I could just stop menstruating — permanently, just never have a period again — if I just wanted it enough. And it was a woman.

  30. Sammie

    Alison–I’ve got an ad autoplaying–it’s HBO, Game of Thrones–and I’m using Chrome with Adblocker.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        The box above the comments, and the sound only plays when it is on my screen (i.e. before I’ve scrolled past it). Where my cursor is appear to be irrelevant.

    1. Elizabeth West

      I was able to make it stop by clicking Block Element and then clicking where the ad was–but I suspect I’m going to have to do that on every page. :(

        1. Aloot

          I am having the same issue with the same ad (and upon reloading I hit an autoplaying ad about women’s soccer team?). It is below the post itself but above the comments, and it plays the sound no matter where my cursor is and when I’ve scrolled past it. More irritatingly, the controls for the video are hidden unless I right-click on it and select “show controls” so that I can pause the damn thing.

          (And I’m using Chrome with both adblock and flashblock, if that helps.)

  31. Jennifer M.

    When I was living overseas, the restaurants tended to have unisex bathrooms. You would enter the restroom and there would be a long counter with sinks. And then 5-8 stalls. These weren’t the prefab modular stuff we have in the US. These involved drywall. So basically it was a row of little powder rooms. It was totally fine. The issue we would have here in the US is that the prefab stalls are of size X but have to be fit into restrooms of sizes A, B, and C so the result is ridiculous gaps that we all pretend we can’t see through.

    The most uncomfortable bathroom experience I have ever had though was at a place called Tortilla Flat in Arizona. The stalls were so low that when you were seated on the toilet, your head was visible above the door (well, not me so much because I am 4’9″, but regular people). They even painted silhouettes on the stall doors so it looked like one of those photo thingies where you stand behind a painting but your head shows. Don’t know what the men’s room was like, but this ladies’ room was not good.

    1. Alston

      There’s a mall food court in Seattle that’s almost like that–standing up the stall wall was barely to my chin (and I’m not that tall), shudder.

    2. LQ

      I’ve had to change in stalls like this. I’m over 6 ft tall. It sort of feels like why even bother having stall doors at some point. There’s something weirder about the whole well you can clearly see my entire torso here. Make your stall doors AT LEAST 6 ft tall, please. (Nearly all stalls I can see over the top of and it is so weird, even when I keep my head down and people want to talk to me or say something because I’m visible. Doors, real doors! Please!)

    3. Annie Moose

      Oh that place! I’ve been there a couple times, and it is VERY awkward, yes. It’s part of the, uh… charm, I guess? The menfolk in our party reported their facilities were much the same.

      The whole place is rather crazy, it’s fun (if you’re not using the bathrooms). Dollar bills of every currency you can imagine cover the walls, the bar has saddles for barstools, and the ice cream is amazing. It’s in the middle of the Superstition Mountains, along the Apache Trail, which is equal parts terrifying and thrilling when you’re driving it in an RV (or, as on later excursions, a 12 passenger van). I highly recommend it.

  32. Beezus

    #4 – I avoid explaining the reasons for scheduling conflicts when the scheduling goes into my personal time, unless the context is particularly useful for some reason. Block off your calendar with a note like the one Allison described. If someone tries to schedule you anyway, respond with something like “My work day starts at 9, and I’m not able to rework my morning schedule to participate in a meeting before that on such short notice, sorry. How about X time instead?”

    Also, make sure your American colleagues aren’t always skewing the meeting schedule to US hours at the inconvenience of everyone outside the US. When I worked with offices in China and Taiwan, some of my colleagues preferred to schedule early morning meetings (which meant our colleagues overseas were always calling in on their evening hours) and balked at evening meetings during the Asian workday. I had similar morning commitments to yours and strongly preferred US-evening meetings if I had to meet outside my normal workday, so I was a stickler for making sure the split of early morning/late evening calls was 50/50 and we weren’t being inconsiderate of our partners in Asia. ;)

    1. irritable vowel

      I love the idea of blocking off early-morning time in Outlook, and I’m going to do it, too! We have flextime where I work, which is great, except the early-morning people seem to think that 8:30 or 9:00 is a great time for meetings without stopping to consider that not everyone comes in that early. I *hate* having to get up an hour early to come to a meeting that could just as easily have been held in the late morning to early afternoon period when everyone is there. (My husband suggested that I start scheduling my own meetings for 4:00 to stick it to them, ha.)

    2. the gold digger

      A former boss used to get up at 4 am. to exercise, then drive 90 miles to work. Then, once he was in the office and had had his coffee and done his email, he would, at 9:00 a.m., have his weekly meetings with China and India.

      I, who would have my calls with Dubai at 6:30 a.m. from home, asked why he didn’t just have his calls at 4:00 a.m. so the Asian folks wouldn’t have to be on the phone late in the evening their time.

      He just shrugged and said that they knew what they were getting into working for an American company.

      I thought he was a jerk – it would not have inconvenienced him to call them early from his home, but it would have made their lives a lot easier.

    3. AnyOtherJennifer

      OP #4 here. We work mainly with offices in time zones about 6-9 hours ahead of our own. Thus 8 am for us is maybe 4 pm for them. So it’s actually the opposite – we’re skewing our hours a little to meet within their working day. Some of my colleagues normally start at 8, so they see that as the perfect mutually acceptable time, and figure the rest of us can be flexible. I try to be! (see phone calls at midnight and 6:30 am) But that 7:30-9 block is just outside of my control.

  33. Adam V

    > “she knows how they do the new person”

    Oh yeah, it’s so horrible how at every job I’ve had, they make the new person work the schedule they’ve been told about throughout the entire interview process. What monsters.

  34. CAS

    #3, if you’re commuting, bring your nice shoes in your bag (or leave them at work so you don’ t have to carry them back and forth) and wear different shoes for the commute.

    1. CMT

      I didn’t do this for a long time, mostly because I thought I looked weird walking to the metro in walking shoes when I was wearing professional dress. But it really makes a difference in the life of your nice work shoes! I now live in a place where I never wear those nice shoes anywhere but work, so I just leave them all in a drawer in my cubicle.

    2. Nicole Michelle

      THIS definitely. I’ve matured and started doing this. I felt so dorky and self conscious before but now I see the error in my ways, considering it took me only a year to wear out two pairs of shoes. Now, sneakers it is!

  35. Lora

    OP1: Guarantee the building codes will dictate this. Only way to get around it is to make bathrooms unisex. You could have 100% men, 100% women, you’d still have to have exactly the number of restrooms for each that the building code requires. It’s not really up for debate or anyone’s opinion.

    Once, as the only woman on a job site where we were building an entire facility, they had one women’s port-a-potty, and it was locked to make sure the men didn’t get in to peek at me. Except, the site manager who had the only key got in a horrible traffic accident and was in the hospital for weeks on end. There was one particular port-a-potty that the guys refused to use, as it was in a corner of the lot that was more shaded, and thus spiders liked to use it as a refuge. I don’t mind spiders, so I got a port-a-potty to share with nobody other than a passing tarantula in the end :D

    1. Alter_ego

      Gaaaaaah, I genuinely think I’d rather have a dude watch me go to the bathroom than a spider.

      1. KR

        Same – for that matter I don’t know how Lora could even use port-a-pottys every day at work. I avoid them as much as possible.

        1. Lora

          It was a construction site literally in the middle of the desert, nearest gas station was a 20 minute drive (not counting the 1+ mile hike across the facility lot). We didn’t even have running water, they trucked in bottled water for literally everything. And the thing about the desert is, it doesn’t have a lot of trees or shrubs to pee behind. I don’t mind it much, it’s just part of the job. At corporate HQ we had extremely nice restrooms with Dyson hand-dryers, which made up for it.

          That said, if I am interviewing at Corporate Office and the restroom isn’t 1) clean, 2) fully stocked with toilet paper/soap/paper towels 3) free feminine hygiene products, I will respectfully decline any forthcoming offers. Not because they don’t care about women, but because if they are soooooo financially strapped that they can’t afford the most basic utility support, then I know they will have no money for raises or capital equipment or lab renovations or anything else I might require to do my job. I know that when I say I need a decent computer to do my job, they will hand me a TRS-80 and if I ask for a piece of required safety equipment they will tell me to quit being such a wuss. And I don’t want to work under those conditions.

          1. jhhj

            I’m intrigued that “free feminine hygiene products” is a make-or-break issue with you (I get your reasoning for the other two). Is it common in your field? I pretty much never see that, except sometimes in nice hotels or at particularly thoughtfully planned weddings.

            1. the gold digger

              The only place I have heard of it is at a tech center. A friend used to work at Kraft. The scientists and technicians in the tech centers were not allowed to take anything into the labs with them, so Kraft stocked the ladies with supplies, which I thought was reasonable.

            2. Lora

              Since I moved to the Northeast, yes – in the Midwest it was sporadic, luck of the draw. But then again most of the places I’ve worked also have showers for people who bike to work (you bring your own soap and towel), a company gym or at least discounted gym memberships if they were too small to have one on-site, a cafeteria, lots of amenities. Even if they were a tiny startup, they would make sure they were located in an incubator hub type of deal, where several startups share amenities.

              There’s a fine balance there, though – one employer I worked for had spectacular amenities, including a full day every day from 6am till 7pm of instructor-led gym and yoga/meditation classes, plus a personal trainer and massage therapy, cafeterias with every option you can think of in every building (not just the main one), healthy snacks available 24/7, and a Quiet Room in addition to the Mothers’ Room. Seriously, you could lay down in a comfy recliner and nap if you wanted. They also paid well above market rate. The catch was, nobody lasted more than two years regardless, because the management was nothing short of a nightmare and workers regularly had to be rushed to the hospital for absolutely preventable on-the-job injuries. Like…blinded by hot acid type injuries. It’s a lot easier for HR to set up a company gym with a couple of instructors and a part time massage therapist, and convert a conference room space into a cafeteria than it is to change the entire management culture of an 11,000 company.

              1. orchidsandtea

                Oh God. I was nodding along up until “absolutely preventable…blinded by hot acid”. How horrific.

            3. Annie Moose

              My company does this, it’s lovely. They’re cheap, of course, not as nice as the stuff I buy for myself, but when you’re in a bind, it’s right there. It’s a small gesture, but it goes a long way to making you feel like, hey, someone thought about me and my needs when they put this bathroom together.

              I work in an IT department that’s definitely got more men than women, but my company’s worked pretty hard at making female employees not feel like afterthoughts, and I appreciate it. We have a number of female managers (and our CTO’s a woman), which probably contributes to that.

            4. CM

              Most of my employers have had this… but now I work for the government, where we have to ask someone to unlock the supply closet if we need a pen, forget free feminine hygiene products.

            1. Alston

              I work in a fancy coworking space and there’s free tampons and a little mouth wash dispenser.

          2. Shell

            I’ve never worked anywhere (or even seen a place) that had free feminine hygiene products in the bathroom…is this a common thing?

            Then again, I’ve never worked at any really fancy corporate offices, so that may be it.

    2. Engineer Girl

      Tarantulas are nice. It’s the black widows hiding under the toilet set that bother me.

  36. Sunflower

    #4- I think there is an option in outlook to show your non-working hours and not allow people to schedule meetings during them. If not, I would go with Allison’s suggestion of marking yourself as busy, no explanation and then allowing meetings every so often when you want to. Is it possible that the scheduler doesn’t know your hours and thinks you are in the office at that time?

    1. One of the Sarahs

      Oooh, yes, that’s good – and the advantage is, you can set it up so it autofills forever.

      1. AnyOtherJennifer

        OP #4. Yes, this. My “working hours” in Outlook start at 9. Doesn’t matter.

    2. AnyOtherJennifer

      The schedulers know what my hours are, they just assume more flexibility (from everyone) than what I can provide. What I want to get across is that I *might* be able to make it work, with enough notice, but not when scheduled the day before.

  37. CADMonkey007

    #1 Changing the sign on the bathroom door and sending the women to another floor doesn’t really solve anything, it just spreads around the inconvenience and perhaps just shifts it all to the women instead. If the wait for the men’s restroom is enough of an inconvenience to do anything about at all, then certainly your company can put JUST A TAD effort and money into doing it right. And as stated elsewhere, that would include reviewing the number of fixtures required by building code in the first place.

  38. New Manager

    Hi! I’m the New Manager from Question 2. I really appreciate the sound advise and I’m glad that your advise just backs up what I have already planned to do. After her training week I’m convinced she just won’t cut it. She’s gone so far as to go to the other employees and tell THEM she can’t work a certain shift while at the same time trying to get phone numbers in case she needs to call out. I think I’m ready to stop this train before it becomes a wreck that I have to clean up. I think I’m just floored by the general work ethic and attitude of this woman….especially since she is significantly older than me.

    1. LQ

      Don’t fall into the trap of thinking older people are x and younger people are y. There will always be people who do or don’t do whatever you expect. But this person? Let them go quickly, its the kindest thing to do for everyone involved.

      1. Trillian

        Don’t comment on her age, to anyone, at any point in the process, or you could lay yourself open to accusations of age discrimination. Document everything, and talk to your own manager and HR for coaching and backing.

    2. Artemesia

      Oh yes. Get out now. It get progressively worse the longer she is there. She has no leverage now. I have experience of an employee who was hired to type, came in first day with ‘I hurt my finger over the weekend’ and can’t type; everyone accommodated; it went on for weeks. When they finally put their foot down she lodged a racial discrimination complaint. This whole circus lasted many months in which this woman never did any work. When someone comes in and is big trouble the first week around things you have nailed down like this schedule, they are in the trouble making business and will be spending most of their time making your life miserable. It is easy to fire the first week; it gets progressively more difficult and gives her time to lodge discrimination complaints (I am sure she can come up with something.)

      1. Karowen

        I…what? She hurt one finger so her other 9 became useless? I cut my left pointer finger last weekend – it was a pain to type without it, and I was probably slower than usual, but I managed. That’s such a crazy excuse!

    3. TT

      Oh no. At least the recruiting materials are still relatively fresh – I’d move on with a different candidate immediately.

      1. LQ

        This is a great point, was there a solid second choice? You might still be able to reach out to them.

    4. One of the Sarahs

      Yikes. Cut your losses – doesn’t sound like she’s a good fit. And don’t feel guilty about it!

    5. Liana

      She’s bad news. I’ve worked with people like her before, in retail, and they continue to be high-maintenance employees until they quit or get fired. I think your best bet is to let her go and go with another candidate.

    6. starsaphire

      I’m glad to hear you’ve decided to separate her. If this is what she’s like at the very beginning, when most people are still trying to make a good impression… it’s only going to get worse from here.

      Best of luck with your next hire!

    7. Grey

      You can’t have your reports wondering why you let her get away with this and you can’t have your bosses questioning your ability to hire. Save yourself.

  39. Ann

    Your advice to LW#2 was spot on. Thank you. If new hire can’t commit to the schedule she agreed to, cut her loose the very first day before she becomes a huge liability. Unfortunate that she has to start the hiring process over again but better that than to continue down this path with an employee who is already showing herself unreliable and untrustworthy, not to mention disrespectful.

  40. Juli G.

    The bathroom discussion is interesting. I too work in a building that was previously all men except for assistants and is now majority male. On some floors, the women’s restrooms are in odd spots since they were crammed in after the fact and we make jokes about that but now I realize that at least every floor has them!

  41. NK

    #4 – I’ve seen this on a couple people’s calendars here; they typically say something like “blocked – please schedule X days in advance”. I agree that people don’t need to know the reason. You could also say something like, “blocked – please contact me to schedule”, which would be a concise way of indicating that the time generally isn’t available, but that you have some possible flexibility.

    1. Annie Moose

      Yeah, I don’t see anything wrong with this. I’ve seen similar things on a few people’s calendars at my work too–and a number of people who just plain have it blocked, without even “contact me to schedule” in there!

      If you’re working with the same group of people and it’s the same small number of people scheduling meetings, it may also be worth it to go to them directly and say, “Hey, I have obligations that make it difficult for me to attend these morning meetings, can you give me a heads’ up a few days before they’re scheduled so I can make alternate arrangements?” This is in addition to blocking it off on your calendar, of course.

      But of course that may not work if it’s always different people you’re meeting with.

  42. LiveAndLetDie

    #2 – I would get rid of this employee ASAP. She has already shown a great deal of disrespect to your authority by trying to make an end-run around you with HR. You stated the shift before she was hired and even clarified with her that she would be able to work that shift as she did the paperwork, and she is STILL trying to get around you. That is not ignorance or a mismatched schedule, that is someone knowing the hours and trying to get you to bend them for her immediately. If NOTHING else, that is a sign that this person is constantly going to be a challenge to manage, because she thinks she has the right to negotiate with you about her job role.

    I would also be concerned about the “new employees get crappy shifts” remark. It shows a combative attitude and a presumption about ulterior motives behind the scheduling. It’s not a good attitude to have.

  43. TT

    #5 – I snagged the job I’m in now by writing exactly that cover letter. I also submitted my application to the system and FedEx’ed my cover letter and resume to the Director, who was impressed and passed it along to the hiring manager. My goal when I wrote this letter was to allow the reader to quickly scan my materials, know I met the minimum quals and allow my application to go on to the hiring manager.

    Here’s the caveat: that was almost 10 years ago, and it was for a government job. I don’t know how well that will play now, especially since it’s a technique that’s being promoted. Personally, it’s not a turn-off for me. We receive hundreds of of resumes for jobs, we scan materials very quickly and any effort on the part of the applicant to show that they are qualified without burying the lead in paragraph three is appreciated and will move you forward.

    I noticed a lot of comments calling this technique “gimmicky”. It doesn’t play that way around here, but that just goes to show you that there is no such thing as a magic bullet when it comes to job searches.

    1. insert witty name here

      I commented upthread, but I used this technique and it really worked for me. I wonder if it has more to do with the job position?

      I’ll be honest: I didn’t major in English, but in a STEM field. I had to take a technical writing course and it was all about how to convey information quickly and accurately, which isn’t always sentences and paragraphs. I apply that same thought process to cover letters.

      And it’s not a table of “bachelor’s degree” and next column “yes.” That would be gimmicky. It’s more like, “demonstrated capability to program in X language,” next column “Y years of experience working in X using Z types of data, performing A analyses.” It’s not something that can be communicated by simply listing X language on a resume and it’s a great way to summarize when X experience spans multiple jobs.

    2. Mockingjay

      I can see why it would work for a government job. When you are staffing a contract or a writing a proposal, you usually have to create a matrix of the government labor categories against the qualifications of the proposed hires. So a cover letter in that format would be really useful – I can tell at a glance that you meet the required degree and minimum years experience.

  44. IT_Guy

    Op #4

    I am a morning person so I’m usually in around 7 and try to leave around 4:30. To prevent people from scheduling a meeting at 4:30 or 5:00 I have a continuing meeting scheduled that is marked private. This works great. At a previous job where I didn’t have it set up, people kept trying to schedule late meetings and when I told them that I couldn’t make it, they’re response was “If I schedule it, you HAVE to attend”. After I started scheduling meetings at 7:15 and told them: “you HAVE to attend” they quit doing that. :)

  45. Amy Farrah Fowler

    #2 – I agree with Alison’s advice and wording. I’m just wondering if this is an attempt at a power play or a very ridiculous game of chicken. Once the OP asserts “dominance” (for lack of a better word), I wonder if this woman would be like, “Oh no, I really do want the job, I’ll take those shifts.”

    Of course, even if she did that, I don’t think it would be a good idea to take her back.

  46. Chriama

    Bathroom debates are so contentious! I think whoever came up with this idea thought it would be a good idea because they just need to change the signs on a few bathroom doors. Super easy, right? Unfortunately, the conversation here has shown that it’s not really easy at all. If they don’t want to (or can’t) put money into renovating the space and adding *more* bathrooms then the best thing to do is convert an equal number of men’s and women’s bathrooms into unisex. OP, come back and let us know if you talk to anyone about this and/or what the final decision is!

    1. Searching

      Yeah, but essentially they might be replacing guys “occasionally” waiting in line for 5-10 minutes with the women always having to make 5-10 minutes more time to go up or down a floor to use the restroom. Its someone’s time at the expense of someone else’s. There’s a hidden cost that the guys who came up with this may be blind to.

      1. Chriama

        But if renovations are just off the table, then what other solution is there? If this is an issue and needs to be addressed, then telling the guys to just suck it up isn’t any more fair than telling the women to just take the stairs.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

          IF they’ve actually analyzed the situation and determined that average time-from-desk-to-toilet is reduced by changing over some of the women’s bathrooms; and grappled with the optics and how it will affect the morale of their female employees; and reflected on what it means that their staff is so lopsided and decided that they aren’t going to do anything to change it…. then, yeah, ok, I guess it might be a reasonable solution. But I’m more than a little skeptical that they are thinking about this as deeply as we are in this comment thread, and that speaks volumes.

  47. BananaPants

    OP #1: You may be restricted from doing this by municipal building codes anyways. I agree that it wouldn’t send a great message to female employees or job candidates to make them alternate floors, especially in an industry which already has a pretty crappy track record for inclusion of women.

    I’m an engineer in a very male-dominated organization (the ratio is around 85/15 men/women). We still have a women’s bathroom on each floor, even though the men’s bathrooms are much more heavily-trafficked than the women’s bathrooms.

  48. Searching

    OP#1: Don’t do this. Or *maybe* switch one restroom on one floor and set a time to reevaluate in a year or so (when hopefully your ratio of hires improves). Or make all single stall bathrooms unisex (actually you should do this anyway). And you should get input from your female employees about any changes.
    I understand the logistics concern, but unless guys are waiting much more than 5-10 minutes at non-peak times, it just looks bad. There are going to be women who would be upset by this, if not among your current employees, quite possibly among prospective employees and/or guests. As a woman who has worked in a different male-dominated industry and dealing with having to go down two stairs to the right past the boiler room for the one women’s room… it sends/ reinforces a message of “you’re not as welcome/ valued here” or “we see your presence as an aberration so its ok you’re inconvenienced” and “we’re not planning on hiring more women.”

  49. animaniactoo

    OP #2 – Actually, I think showing her the door immediately is an extremely professional thing to do in this situation.

    She’s mouthed off to you about shifts before she’s even pulled her first one, confirmed her availability and then retracted it twice. She’s shown you that she’s not somebody you can feel comfortable relying on to do what YOU need her to do, rather than what she prefers to do.

    Unprofessional would be going ahead with her hiring and then dealing with the fallout when she proves herself to be exactly the unreliable risk that she’s shown great potential to be.

    Unprofessional would be allowing your other employees and the patients to deal with her and the chaos likely to be created by her.

    Risk assessment: Do you still feel she’s a good candidate? Right now is when you have the ability to shortcut and pull the plug before this gets any further than mere attitude and reneging on shirt confirmation.

  50. Kiki

    Aside to AAM: scrolling on this page is super laggy, the error is ‘loading tags’ something. (Running Chrome on OS X 10.11.4) Giving up now, took forever to get to the bottom to write this! ;)

  51. harryv

    #4.

    This happens to me a lot and I already log on at 7:30am but at times, I get meeting requests at 6am and even 5am at times. I set a rule in my outlook so that the server responds with a message to say my regular working hours and if they need me earlier, I can accommodate with 2 days lead time. Otherwise, they should expect to work with my delegates. I also note that if they send any meeting invite with less than a day notice, I won’t be able to respond to it as I am offline.

  52. Collarbone High

    So, I live in the state currently (and correctly) under fire for passing a ridiculous law on who can use which bathrooms. My advice for LW1’s company: Start converting your restrooms to single rooms, each equipped with a toilet and sink, that can be used by anyone. Maybe they could do this on alternating floors. My office is looking at doing this, and it actually doesn’t take up that much more space.

    Is it more expensive? Yes, in the short term. But it will save a lot of hassles in the long run. It makes your workplace more welcoming to transgender people. If you have office visitors with young children, it’s much easier for them to take (or change) the kid in a single room. And as people live and work longer, there will be an increasing number of employees with things like colostomy bags that they would prefer to handle in a private room.

  53. Chelle

    OP#1: Based on the company description and the bathroom issue, I think we might be co-workers. If so (or at least at my company), the issue is more that we have a pretty young workforce and there are a lot of people on their phones in the restroom taking 10-20min breaks when that’s not necessary (and I have IBS, so I know it is sometimes necessary). As a woman at my company, I’ve never had to wait for a stall, but I frequently hear men grumbling about it.

    I’m not sure if there’s a good solution to that, though. You can’t really time people’s bathroom breaks!

  54. CMT

    #5, This *might* work for a government job where you do have to address every requirement from the posting in your cover letter (even if it’s just to say you don’t experience in X). But still, for those kinds of jobs I’ve applied to, I’ve just written a normally formatted cover letter that’s longer than a standard one.

  55. Barefoot Librarian

    As for the problem with building occupant genders vs. number of bathrooms. We actually encountered that problem at my library, but we service an almost entirely male population (we are a men’s school). We were told we could not legally change the ladies on one floor to a second men’s room, so we opted to make it unisex. Honestly the ladies in the building still rarely use it for that reason, but they could if they really wanted to. It’s not perfect but it worked.

  56. BadPlanning

    On OP #1’s concerns about making female candidates feeling welcome, I can say that seeing free tampons and pads in the women’s restroom at my STEM field employer (with male majority) was a big check in the “pro” category. Not quite the same as basic restroom availability, but similar category.

    Of course, our site has artifacts from being build in the 50s and the restroom balance. There are a couple women’s restrooms with urinals left in them (I assume some day these restrooms might finally get to the top of the remodel list).

  57. WhichSister

    I have actually used a cover letter format similar to what OP 5 describes and was quite successful with it. I used it 3 times the summer I discovered it, and received 3 phone interviews, 2 face to face interviews and one job offer with a Fortune 500 company. Anyone I have shared the format with has been equally successful The original article I saw on it recommended using it instead of a resume and I just couldn’t do that. I fleshed it out and made it more letter like and included my resume. I always submit my documents in PDF so maintaining is not an issue. BUT you want to be careful to not make it look like a check list.
    Later I was on the personnel committee for a University Department and was tasked with screening out apps. I wished people would use that format. So many cover letters and resumes were convoluted. If it took me longer than 5 minutes to figure out if you met our qualifications , you went in the rejection pile.
    My theory is it is it increases your likelihood of getting through the first screen. The person is either an entry level or the hiring manager’s assistant and going through tons of resumes to move forward and you have just made their job easier.

  58. specialist

    Letter #1: Given that you are in an industry currently under fire for some issues with gender, I would not solve this problem by removing women’s restrooms. First, identify the severity of the problem. Have you ascertained the frequency of waiting and the length of waiting for the men’s facilities? Have you determined what is a reasonable wait time? It is possible that you have one nut-job who thinks any wait is too much and that is the source of the complaint. Next, I would set goals. Those goals would include finding a solution that kept women’s rooms available on every floor. You could even put out a suggestion box. Employees like to feel they have a say in things. I do really like the idea of building at least some unisex bathrooms on every floor.

    I can tell you it takes on average 2.5 minutes for a high school age girl to complete her business in a stall, door to door, not involving the sinks. You probably don’t want to know how I know that, but let’s just say I know this with great certainty. I don’t know the average for men.

    I attended college in the dark ages, and always appreciated the opportunity to study in an historic building. I never cared that I had to go to another floor to find a restroom–I’d take the old construction any day. I still actively seek out events that let me explore old buildings. Our dorm was a suite of six small rooms off a central area with a restroom and central room. For the time, it was quite advanced. I loved being able to study in my own small area despite the fact that it essentially was a walk-in closet. The suites all had urinals. The university could change them over based on the makeup of the student population. As far as our urinal was concerned, where else would one place their bathroom fern?

    Letter #2:
    Oh, my question really isn’t about whether or not you fire this woman, but rather how you go about it. This would never fly with me. So hopefully you have the authority to just flat out tell her to be gone now and never come back. In this case, the dilemma would be if you were to mark her as not eligible for rehire. (I would) Should you not have the authority to fire her immediately, how are you planning to accomplish ridding your staff of this problem? Do you tell her that she was specifically hired to take these shifts and that there is no negotiation? That would give her the opportunity to adjust her schedule if she really wanted the job, which I think would be bad. She sounds like a just miserable employee and better to be rid of her now than deal with firing later. Do you schedule her for the shifts most likely to conflict with her other job with the hopes that you can fire her for being a no-show or that she will quit? I admit that this piques my curiosity. I am a solo practice surgeon, and as the stereotype goes, would be most likely to tell her not to let the door hit her in the gluteus on the way out.

      1. specialist

        Neither. There is more than one university with similar issues. I am glad to find like minded individuals.

  59. Ronny

    #3 What I am seeing is that the briefcase (and wheeled case) are going away in favor of backpacks. (Black if you want to look more professional.) That is what I carry. (I’m a manager and 62 if it matters.) I can’t remember when I last saw a briefcase.

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