my boss follows me into the bathroom to talk about work

A reader writes:

My boss does this weird thing where she follows me into the bathroom to talk to me. Like, if I’m heading towards the bathroom and pass her in the hallway, she’ll say, “Oh yeah! I needed to ask you about X and Y!” and then she’ll follow me. And then, while I’m in the stall, she’ll stand by the sink or whatever and talk to me/ask questions, etc. I suppose this isn’t that terrible but it’s just … awkward.

A couple of times, I have told her I’ll come right back and see her as soon as I’m out, but she just kind of ignores that and follows me in anyway. And I could probably deal with it if these were urgent matters, but they’re not. It’s just general, conversational project talk.

Also, if my boss comes in to use the bathroom and someone else is in another stall (me or otherwise) she will strike up a conversation while everyone is … bathrooming. Alison, I am NOT the type of person who likes to get chatty while doing those things.

But I have no clue how to tell her to stop talking to me during that time, or how to ask her not to follow me to the bathroom. I feel like this is the kind of thing I should just let go, but it makes me cringe every single time it happens.

Oh noooo.

There’s a certain type of person who is somehow oblivious to the fact that other people might like privacy when they’re in the bathroom, and your boss is apparently one of them. (At least she’s not doing what LBJ apparently did and making you follow her into the bathroom so she can hold meetings from the toilet.)

But you can assert some boundaries here. You’ve tried the first reasonable step, which is to say that you’ll come find her once you’re out. Since she’s ignored that, you’re going to need to be a little more direct. For example: “I’d rather not talk while I’m in the bathroom. Please excuse me now, but I’ll come to your office once I’m done in here.” Or: “I need some privacy in here so I can’t talk work right now, but I’ll come by your office when I’m done.”

If she ignores these too, then you’ll have to move to very blunt, hit-her-over-the-head language, like “Jane! I can’t use the bathroom while you’re in here!” (That’s how I’d say it, but adapt to your comfort level.)

You may need to do this a few times, but she’s likely to catch on with enough repetition.

And you will be the hero of your office if you call her out on this and get her to stop.

{ 280 comments… read them below }

  1. Myrin*

    Ugh, how annoying.
    I’m not a particularly shy or private person, both with regards to bathroom activities or otherwise, but this would irritate the hell out of me, not least of all because I’m not a multitasker and wouldn’t be able to fully concentrate on either her words or my bathroom business; she’d have to repeat half of what she told me anyway.
    But yeah, follow Alison’s advice, that way lie quiet bathrooms runs, hopefully.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I have no shame whatsoever, really, but because of that I’m constantly on guard to make sure I’m not doing something to make other people uncomfortable, and I know this would probably be incredibly uncomfortable to any third party in the bathroom or who came to use it during our conversation, so I’d be really resistant. I mean, I will talk at the urinal if the person next to me initiates it, but that’s fairly quick, and usually we’re the only ones in there.

      Unfortunately, the precedent has been set, and it’ll be much harder to shut down now than it would have been the first time. Sorry, OP, I’m not saying that to daunt you, but to remind you next time a situation like this comes up, screw up your courage the first time, and it’ll be much easier for you overall.

      1. paul*

        Who initiates conversations at a urinal?! That’s even worse than taking the middle one.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          A few people, mostly those I’ve worked with for 10 or 15 years. I don’t remember how it started, but now we both know that the other isn’t self-conscious about it, so if I see certain people and the stalls are empty, I’ll say hi and possibly start chatting if I have anything to say.

          I warned you, I have no shame. :D

          1. Lil Fidget*

            Yeah, when a pee talker meets another pee talker, it’s fair game. Some people are saying they are horrified even if someone else is carrying on any conversation in the bathroom, which is something to think about, I guess.

          2. mdv*

            Yeah, but you’re not following your coworkers into the bathroom to do this! Not to mention that your description makes me think you’re having more of a “how are you doing?” conversation, and not a work-related meeting-like conversation…? Also, with people you KNOW don’t mind, and when it’s just the two of you.

            Nothing I can see to be ashamed of here.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Right, but even this would squick some people out. I try to remain aware of that, and wasn’t comparing what I do to what the OP complained about, but rather contrasting the two and showing that it can be done properly.

              And we do sometimes start up about work, but then usually take it to someone’s office, or at least part with “I’ll email you the details” instead of lingering.

      2. The OG Anonsie*

        Right? I have said “I have no shame” on many occasions and I’m not shy about using the facilities when other people are in there or anything, but if someone was actively speaking to me I would not be down with that.

        I worked with someone who would follow you in and talk, then be silent once we were in the stalls, then start talking again when we came out, which… I would have thought would be ok, but like, I still knew she was right there right a-listening and it did make me super tense every time. Somehow if I’d just seen her come in at the same time it wouldn’t have mattered, but knowing she went in just because I went in and was waiting for me to talk to me made it different.

      3. jo*

        Yeah, the OP has to acknowledge that it apparently hasn’t caused a problem in the past, by saying something like, “Jane, I wish I’d said something earlier, but the truth is I don’t like to talk when I’m using the bathroom! I’ll come and find you right after, but please let me finish all bathroom business first.”

        Captain Awkward has good scripts for this sort of situation, where you’ve let something slide for awhile and hints haven’t worked, and the person has learned to think the boundary doesn’t exist.

  2. Elemeno P.*

    My mom’s boss once followed her into the shower to talk about work.

    It is was one of the moments she really regretted working for her mother.

    1. Future Homesteader*

      At first I was really afraid of where that was going, but then I lol’ed.

      My mother and I are shameless about leaving bathroom doors open and chatting while doing just about everything. But work talk is definitely crossing a line!

      1. Elemeno P.*

        My family is also very open about this (obviously), but the work talk was definitely what set her off! She would have been fine if Grandma just wanted a regular chat.

      2. Justme, The OG*

        Same about bathroom doors. I have pets and a kid and I cannot tell you the last time I was able to use the bathroom alone while at home. The one person bathrooms here at work are a veritable respite at the very least because there is no animal sitting on my foot.

        1. Sally*

          My pup likes to come in the bathroom when I go in there in the morning, but the rest of the day, he doesn’t seem interested. I think he’s trying to hurry me up so I can take him outside so he can do his business!

        2. Rainy*

          My fiancé’s and my youngest cat insists on following him into the bathroom to supervise (we call it “snoopervising”); she only does it to me when she aggressively wants a pet. Every dog I’ve ever had would insist on coming into the bathroom with me, though–and when I owned a 4lb Chinese Crested, he’d IMMEDIATELY hop into my pants and curl up, which is adorable but profoundly annoying when you are, say, snatching a quick pee while supper is on the stove and anticipate having to move quickly.

        3. ket*

          I have a 1-year-old and she’s gotten trapped in the bathroom once or twice (can close doors, can’t open them, in trying to open them wedges herself in front of the door and so opening it from the other room involves pushing her away from the door). Unfortunate side effect is that she is *terrified* whenever I go in there alone. She’ll sit at the door and sob and try to open the door for me. I didn’t think I’d be a mom who lets the kid in the bathroom while doing my business, but argh, the sobbing & distress… It is cute that she’s trying to rescue me…. someday when she’s taller she’ll discover doorknobs!

          1. Harper the Other One*

            Aw, it’s really cute that she’s worried for you… but you have reminded me how glad I am to be long past the toddler phases!

          2. jo*

            Aww, poor kiddo! This sounds like our cats. They yowl and scratch at the door if we have the nerve to close it. “Don’t worry, mom, I’m coming!”

          3. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

            Put a towel over the top so the door can’t close all the way. My cats pushed each other down the basement stairs and then one of them would shut the door on the victim trapping them. The litter boxes were in the basement so 24/7 access was important.

        4. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

          At home our bathroom door is nearly always open. My kids (who are older than you’d hope they be) think nothing of following me around the moment I walk in the door and that includes into the bathroom. My oldest child will close the door when she goes to the bathroom. My husband and I still wonder where she learned that since it never seems to happen in our house. ;)

          Work bathrooms though? Uh-uh, no way, not going to happen. I once went into the two-stall bathroom here at the office. One stall was occupied. The second my tush hit the seat I heard a voice ask “who’s there?” I instinctively said “Shhhh, I’m peeing.” Conversation ceased and I stayed in the stall until the person had left the room. Now I scope out the bathroom before I go and won’t go if someone is in there already.

          1. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

            “Shh, I’m peeing” is now going to be my default if anyone tries to talk to me while I’m in the stall. I was in the military, and I work with a ton of other veterans, and we (my work friends, at least) don’t have great boundaries about that sort of thing. I’m much better at minding my business now, but I do still sometimes continue a conversation into the ladies room and into the stalls.

        5. Annoyed*

          My cats (all 5 of them) will either sit on the other side of the door mewing pathetically or stick their hands under the door. Often it’s a combination. If I let them in they just stare at me. Pervs…

      3. Elizabeth H.*

        I like it when the cat comes into the bathroom to keep me company. Is that weird? I find it very sweet that she wants to be in there with me and even scratches at the door, or will wait outside if I have it locked. She will also check on me in the shower sometimes – she puts her paws up on the edge of the bathtub at the far end and peers in. She has yet to actually get into the shower with me but I’m hopeful (my boyfriend’s family’s cat would do this sometimes, apparently).

        1. strawberries and raspberries*

          My cat does this too. He’ll go between the shower curtain and the liner to watch me like an aquarium. It’s very cute. If he pokes his head in I have a multi-verse song I sing to him about how no cats are allowed in the shower. (I mean, no I don’t, weird, who does that?)

          1. Canadian Public Servant*

            Re: singing to our cats, we all do that! Or at least, I do that. And I am thrilled stepkid has picked up the habit of taking catchy tunes and creating nerw lyrics about our cats.

            Also, my kitties sing to me as well…mostly while I cooking and may be able to give them cheese.

            1. Mama to kittelach*

              I have been singing the same stupid songs to my cats for three years and have still not managed to come up with sufficient rhymes to make them interesting.

          2. Mama to kittelach*

            My cat comes in as soon as I’ve turned the water off and rubs against me before I’ve even had a chance to grab my towel. Every morning. He’s a cat. He’s not supposed to like getting wet!

            1. feminazgul*

              Mine doesn’t rub up against me but he walks past me right after I get out and gets in and lays down in the wet tub! He comes out with a wet belly and a wet head from rubbing against the faucet and I do *not* understand it

            1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

              Can I just add in one of the songs I sing? It’s to my doggie, but it’s adaptable!

              It’s to the tune of the jingle for the My Buddy dolls from the 80s-90s, with a bit of a departure at the end

              My puppy (my puppy)
              My puppy (my puppy)
              Wherever I go, (s)he goes
              My puppy (my puppy)
              (S)He’s the best puppy, don’t you see?
              (S)He’s the very best puppy for meeeeee!

              1. maya8i8*

                That is hilarious; I sing the same song to my cat with the chorus of “my kitty.” I wonder how many of us do this.

            2. Cornflower Blue*

              I have one for my pupper who likes to follow my mother into the bathroom (but not me, I don’t know why!). It’s to the tune of ‘happy birthday’

              “A good doggy is you!
              A good doggy is you!
              The best doggy in the worrrrrllllllllllld–
              Is you you you!”

          3. Clorinda*

            My cat supervises baths (not showers). She sits on the edge of the tub and meows continuously. She’s part Siamese, so I mean NONSTOP MEOW. I think she’s warning me that I am sitting in water and will get terribly, terribly wet.

            1. Nonnon*

              I feel this may be of amusement to you:

              youtube[.]com/ watch?v=WwSYm1NPHP4&

              MEOW! MEOW! MEOW!

          4. Michaela Westen*

            My cat and I used to play with the shower curtain. I would poke it on the inside and he’d pounce on the outside. Great fun! We did that for years. :) <3

        2. Pebbles*

          My first cat would never come into the bathroom with me, but instead would follow to the door and lay outside waiting. She’d lay down and stick a paw underneath so we could play while I’m bathrooming. I’d touch her paw and she’d yank it back and then stick it back underneath somewhere else under the door. (It was cute, trust me!)

          Anyhow, my then-boyfriend saw this a few times from the cat side of the door and eventually used that trick to propose to me (I was not bathrooming, just getting ready to shower.)

          1. Pebbles*

            Thank you all! My husband is definitely a keeper! Sadly first cat is no longer with us (I’ve told her story on AAM before), but I was so shocked and pleased when second cat started doing that to me as well! I have of course shamelessly encouraged it. I find it so amusing, in part, because both kitties would/will only do it to me and no one else.

          2. Friendly Hi*

            The amount of squeeing that is coming out of my face right now is unbelievable. That is ADORABLE.

        3. TheBeetsMotel*

          Bathrooms are Black Holes Of Dispair into which owners disappear, never to be seen again. Cue scratching and wailing (and probably gnashing of teeth).

          Until you open the door to a nonplussed look of “Oh, you’re back.” XD

          1. LBK*

            My boyfriend usually goes to bed before me so he’ll have the bedroom door shut, so when I’m in the bathroom later getting ready for bed also with the door shut my cat decides that we have abandoned her to die and sits in the living room crying as loudly as she can.

            But as Calvin says about Hobbes, “It’s hard to be mad at someone who misses you while you’re asleep.”

        4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Back when I lived in a multi-cat household, the bathroom was the official “newbie room” for acclimatizing (and also for holding the kitties during spring cleaning/moving/etc), so the cats all learned that being in the bathroom with Mom or Other Mom or Dad meant getting one-on-one attention without competing with the others. If you dared to go in the bathroom by yourself you’d get paws pushing under the door to try and get in, because how dare you be in the Petting Room without them?

        5. Elemeno P.*

          When I had the litter box next to the toilet in my old apartment, my cat would come in while I was in there and we would do our business together. It was a gross little bonding moment.

        6. jo*

          I love it, too! My oldest cat will sit by the tub and chat with me while I shower. And people think cats are nothing but aloof. I ask you.

    2. NW Mossy*

      My boss and I exercise together (along with a couple of other colleagues), so we totally talk about work in the locker room. So much so, in fact, that we joke that the company should pay for our trainer since we solve so many work issues while we’re lifting weights.

      And as a side note, my boss originally hired me because she knew me from these workouts. I’d never thought to use a locker room for networking, but it worked!

      1. Foxtrot*

        This sounds like a bad idea. Doesn’t it give one sex an unfair access to “work stuff” than another? Anyone can join the weightlifting, obviously, but the locker room is naturally open to one group only.

        1. NW Mossy*

          I see where you’re going, and it’s something to be mindful of in that there can be an appearance that men are excluded from these conversations. That said, we do note that it’s on us to schedule a meeting with not-present colleagues when we discuss an issue that affects them and that we don’t make decisions that affect them without their input. One of the themes we tend to hit in our conversations is how frustrating it is to be left out of discussions that impact us, so we try pretty hard not to do the same to others.

          I’m sure we’re not perfect about it, and the nature of us four women spending additional time together does mean that we’re closer to each other than a randomly selected colleague of any gender. It’s one of the downsides of networking – it’s built on relationships, and it’s really hard (and sometimes impossible) to keep all your work relationships on the same level so that everyone has equal access to the benefits you can offer them.

          1. Aurion*

            Yeah, I think the key is that you don’t make decisions in the locker room because the men then don’t get input. That’s where this sort of cloistered networking fail. But if you’re essentially brainstorming in the locker room, that’s much more acceptable.

            1. Foxtrot*

              I think it’s much more on the boss than the coworkers, but it’s about being aware of everyone in the office and making sure they have equal access if they *want* it. Brainstorming with a running group, for example, is different if you have a coworker who laughs off exercise compared to a coworker who is wheelchair-bound. Same with Friday night happy hour if one of your coworkers is very devout to the Jewish sabbath instead of just kind of shy. Things that start innocent can always become not innocent later, even if just by not fully thinking it through.
              I don’t think this is on *you,* but it’s totally the boss’s job to make sure all reports at least have the same *chance* to bond.

      2. Canadian Public Servant*

        I quit the office gym in my previous organization – I do not want to see that many colleagues and executives in various states or undress.

    3. Bea*

      LOL, my mom and I are the same way. I still lurk outside the bathroom talking to her in the shower from time to time.

    4. On Fire*

      Oh dear. All these replies above make me realize I’m an extremely squeamish prude. I *always* close the bathroom door. Nobody else is *ever* in there with me (but I don’t have pets OR kids, so that’s easy). I’ll talk on the phone to my husband if we are both in private bathrooms (like, he’s home while I’m in my hotel room on a business trip). Anyone else? No way. My mom went into the bathroom recently while we were on the phone, and I tried (and tried. And tried.) to get off the phone, but she was all “oh, it’s fine, I don’t mind” and kept talking to the point I could get a word in edgewise to say “NO IT IS NOT FINE I DON’T WANT TO HEAR THIS GOTTA GO BYE.” Which was what I really wanted to do.

  3. NYC Redhead*

    Might it also help to clearly stop outside of the bathroom until the conversation is over? Or when she starts to follow you? It might require a bit more timing and control, but it might open the opportunity to say, “Oh, let’s finish it up here” or “I am more comfortable speaking here.” or “Since this will take a few minutes, why don’t I stop by your office when I am done?”

    1. Seriously?*

      I was thinking that too. If she says she needs to talk and won’t accept “I’ll come to your office in a few minutes.” then simply stop outside the bathroom and finish the conversation or redirect and walk to her office instead.

      1. SierraSkiing*

        As long as you aren’t in too much of a hurry for the restroom! There is no horror quite like being indefinitely trapped right outside the bathroom by a chatty coworker when you really need to go.

        1. Murphy*

          Haha, my husband does this sometimes. But with him, I can just say “Dude, leave!”

      2. Luna*

        I’m wondering if she should even let if get that far or just do it right off the bat. When boss gets up and starts to follow you after you’ve said you will stop by later, just stand there in her office door and don’t move- just repeat “I will stop by to see you on my way back from the bathroom.”

        1. Seriously?*

          True, but not everyone is comfortable even small amounts of confrontation and the boss has already demonstrated that she ignores it when OP tries to say that. Postponing the bathroom trip (assuming it isn’t an emergency) takes away the ability of the boss to force the bathroom meeting without actually being confrontational.

          1. Penny Lane*

            Sometimes confrontation is needed. This is an entirely reasonable request for the conversation to wait and for the OP to stop by in a few minutes.

            1. Seriously?*

              I agree that it is reasonable to just say “no that’s not happening”. But there are people who would not do that. Having a right to do something is not the same as having an obligation to do it.

          2. Sylvan*

            Postponing the trip is letting someone’s weirdo behavior dictate your bodily functions. Nooo. No.

    2. k.k*

      Stopping outside the bathroom was my thinking. I have a feeling this would lead to the boss asking why she wasn’t going in, but that would be a good time to insert some of AAM’s language about wanting privacy. Seeing someone standing next to a bathroom door clearly waiting for you to stop talking might be a good visualization the help get the idea through her head.

      1. Seriously?*

        And it doesn’t rely on the boss being a reasonable person or the OP feeling comfortable asking the boss to stop talking to her in the bathroom. Boss is getting what she wants (immediate answers) so can’t complain.

      2. jo*

        This is a possible solution if your relationship with your boss isn’t particularly collegial or warm, and if the boss isn’t completely oblivious to nonverbal cues. I got the impression from the OP’s letter, though, that her boss is a warm and friendly person who wouldn’t get her hackles up over being asked to observe the OP’s request. Especially if it’s delivered in an upbeat, “we’re on friendly terms, I’m sure you didn’t mean to make it weird!” tone.

        My feeling is that someone whose personal boundaries are so loose that they’ll chat with you through a bathroom stall is also chill enough to take it in stride when someone says, “hey, we’re cool, but could you not?”

      3. AnonRightNow*

        This. Although it seems that the boss could just be dense about boundaries and a “Uh, could we not?” might give her the jolt needed to get it. I used to have a manager that would pepper me with questions as soon as I got off the elevator in the morning or coming back from lunch. Since I wouldn’t have work at my disposal in the moment, I had to get used to saying, “Give me 5 minutes to get back to my desk and I’ll get you an answer on that.” That manager was totally unreasonable about a lot of things, but she got it when I took that approach. I think some people are “in the moment” and it doesn’t occur to them that the issue can wait 5 minutes. Or maybe they think they’ll forget if they don’t talk to you right. this. moment.

    3. MicroManagered*

      +1 The less-subtle conversation takes place *outside* the bathroom. OP, you want to draw this boundary verbally *and* physically!

    4. The OG Anonsie*

      This works if time allows, but I’m also imagining that if she’s having walking conversations with her boss before this then there might not be time to just stop. I have a lot of back to back meetings in my job and most of the time I’m catching people in the hall like this either because we’re going between the same meetings or we’re running to grab coffee / water / go to the bathroom really quickly between meetings.

      Then again, it might work just because it would highlight that she’s keeping you from the bathroom. It might make her think, oh, I should stop and let her go in since she’s waiting for me to finish… But with the boundaries she’s already shown, I think the result may just be that she’s annoyed that the LW won’t just go already because they’re wasting time or going to be late.

    5. Colleen Anna*

      The evil twin in me thinks “keep flushing the entire time you are in the stall…..” Can’t hear anything when toilet is flushing!

      1. Bostonian*

        Good cover for that if it’s automatic flushing! “These flushers are so sensitive!”

  4. nnn*

    Options for if being direct doesn’t work or if you don’t have the social capital to do so:

    – Don’t talk while in the stall, as though you’re concentrating on an important task and momentarily can’t keep up your end of the conversation. When you step out of the stall, pick up where you left off. Similarly, don’t talk while washing your hands, because obvs you can’t be heard over the running water. Same for if you use a hand dryer. If boss talks while you’re doing anything that makes noise, ask her to repeat herself.

    – If the topic being discussed is anywhere near remotely private, ask “Wait, is there anyone else in here?” or “We’ll discuss that back in the office for confidentiality reasons” or something.

    1. MarisaNova*

      Best would be…
      Flush the toilet a number of times while the boss is talking. Each time she follows you in. After a few times like that, the boss should get the message.

      1. TrainerGirl*

        And flush as soon as she starts talking. If she keeps having to repeat herself, she might see that it’s worth it to wait a few minutes.

    2. CM*

      I like #1 — if your boss keeps asking you, say, “Just a minute,” until you come out.

      Also, I find that issues that are kind of embarrassing and awkward like this one are actually easier to bring up. You can say, “This is so embarrassing, but I need some privacy in the bathroom and feel weird having work conversations in there! I’d really appreciate it if we could keep our work conversations to the office and keep the bathroom for… you know, bathroom stuff.” (In contrast, if your problem was with how she sent emails or something, I think it would be harder to raise it as an issue.)

  5. Future Homesteader*


    My boss would *never* do this, but even so, if it looks like we’re headed to the bathroom at the same time, I’ll make a detour to another office so it doesn’t happen. And I’m not necessarily opposed to light chatter between coworkers while peeing, but…..just….NOT THE BOSS.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Yeah I’ve come to realize that some people (women?) are pee talkers and some are not. I admit I tend to be one but I appreciate that others may be strongly NOT.

      1. Dragoning*

        I honestly don’t even like it when two other people are having a conversation in the bathroom while I’m trying to use it. Just, so awkward.

        1. Alex the Alchemist*

          Same! Or when someone’s taking a phone call. Like, does the person on the other end of the line feel weird/can they even tell?

          1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

            Yes… Who talks on the phone in the bathroom?!?! That is SOOO weird to me. I have only done that a couple times and generally it was because I was on a conference call I couldn’t miss and an emergency bathroom trip became necessary, so I just muted myself, and no one was the wiser because I didn’t actually have to *talk*, but I still felt SUPER awkward doing so.

            1. jo*

              I do it with my (same-gender) spouse and my former (same-gender) roommates with whom I was very close. At a certain point in those friendships, we dropped a lot of normal roommate boundaries (like having to be clothed in front of one another) because it was just easier! Especially when you have four women sharing one bathroom.

              So when I hear someone on the phone in the bathroom, I assume the person on the other end is also fine with bathroom conversations.

              I’m okay with other people conversing around me in a public bathroom because then I know for sure they aren’t paying the slightest attention to what I’M doing! It’s an extra layer of privacy, to me.

          2. Specialk9*

            I had a huge phobia about this, so my HS friends/sibs used to announce they were on the pot while talking on the phone with me. I eventually got over it, and am now a pot talker – in a single stall bathroom only, and only with them. Otherwise, no way.

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          People seem to embrace the chit chat over handwashing in my office. There are 3 or 4 stalls in most of the bathrooms, 4 sinks, and an entry area with a couch, and there are often several people coming in/waiting/washing hands/sprucing up their hair or makeup/digging around in their purse on the couch, which lends itself to a lot of chit chat. I don’t really mind as long as the stall portion of things is off limits for talking.

          The worst number of people in a bathroom is 2. Alone is fine. Lots of people creates a different kind of privacy. Only one other person makes me feel awkward.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            I think some of us pee talkers tend to do it *because* of that awkwardness TBH. If just it’s me and an acquaintance in the bathroom at the same time, it’s not *less* awkward (to me) if we’re just … listening to that audio tracks. Light talk is one way to cover it up and also get through the cringe factor. However, I respect that other people don’t feel this way AND would never deliberately follow someone into the loo in order to chat!

          2. Alienor*

            I don’t mind chit-chat at the sink while washing my hands, but if someone talks to me while I’m in the stall, I physically can’t go, no matter how badly I need to. I’ve had to pretend to be finished, wash my hands, leave, and find another bathroom to actually do what I went in to do.

          3. TrainerGirl*

            What I love are the folks that use common areas (i.e. the bathroom, kitchen, etc.) for private conversations, and then glare at you when you come in, as though you’re spying on them. Umm…if this conversation is private take it to a PRIVATE area, not the bathroom where I and others have business to attend to!

      2. JustaTech*

        I have a newer coworker who was totally a bathroom chit-chat-er until I finally said “Sally! Not in the bathroom!”
        This is partly because I hate chatting in the bathroom, but also because there is zero sound insulation between the men’s room and the women’s room, so your conversations are far less private than you think.

      3. Jaguar*

        Talking while urinating is a male bonding past-time. Going to the bathroom at a sports game is basically joining an open chat room.

  6. JokeyJules*


    I’m appalled. Restrooms = privacy. It even bugs me a little when I’m using the restroom and someone else is in there on the phone. Not that using the bathroom is “bad”, but I just want some privacy.

    1. Turquoisecow*

      The phone thing is just horrible. I can understand saying a few words to someone while in a public restroom, provided both parties are okay with it. But the person on the phone might not be aware of your location, and can’t give consent either way.

      As a bystander, it makes me super uncomfortable.

      1. paul*

        My father’s talked about taking conference calls in the bathroom before. He couldn’t understand why I was slightly horrified. I just hope whatever bridge they were using had mute options.

        1. Turquoisecow*

          I guess that would be ok if it was a long conference call and you don’t have to speak through most of it. I don’t do these often but my husband is often on calls where he’s only required to say about two sentences in an hour long call – the rest of the time he’s working on other tasks.

          But yeah, mute. Always mute.

          1. Sally*

            This is sort of off topic, but it reminded me. Last week, while we were waiting for a remote meeting to start, and I brought my dog an empty plastic iced coffee cup and said, “Do you want to tear this up?” and then I realized I was NOT muted. I thought it would be a good idea to explain why I said that, but at least everyone laughed.

      2. Emi.*

        I don’t have a private office, so I’ve definitely considered calling my doctor from the bathroom (on another floor, so my colleagues can’t hear).

    2. Amber T*

      Yes! I feel like most of my coworkers agree there’s the unwritten rule of – once you’re in the stall, you’re in a completely separate room and can’t hear/see anything (if you’re in the States, bathroom stalls have ridiculously large gaps). But there’s always one, and she’s the known “stalltalker” who will just carry on the conversation while she or you or whomever is bathrooming. It’s awful. I can’t pee if someone’s talking to me! And I don’t really wanna talk to you while you’re peeing… just wait the 30 seconds.

    3. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

      Heck, I get annoyed when someone picks the stall right next to me when there are other options. I like me space and privacy. The talking thing makes me crazy!

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        This. !!! We used to have a bathroom with three stalls and I would always take the one farthest from the door, to give the next person a choice of not sitting right next to me. And they would always sit right next to me! I was like, why? Discussed it with a few women I know and found out that 1) most people don’t mind being in the next stall from someone else, but 2) the stall closest to the door is considered dirty or something, and people tend to avoid it. (I was as puzzled at that as everyone else was at my “I don’t like you being in the next stall”, but it’s a common perception apparently, don’t know why.) So I started either picking a stall next to the door, or going to another floor where the bathroom had something like ten stalls. Problem solved.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Ironically, I’ve heard the stall nearest the door is statistically the cleanest one, because fewer people use it.

            1. Grapey*

              I don’t because there are always stupidly large gaps between the door and frame. Everyone would be walking by that one in particular so I tend to skip it.

            2. Perse's Mom*

              Not just the gapping, but that sound carries, so the idea is distancing yourself from the door means lessening the chance that anyone (outside of the bathroom) hears you.

          1. Peaches*

            That’s interesting. The bathroom at my work has 3 stalls, and it’s the only one I ever use (there are only a couple other women in the office, so rarely am I not alone in the bathroom).

        2. Birch*

          I tend to see the nearest stall to the door as less private, in a way. Because everyone has to walk past it to get to the rest of the bathroom.

        3. Specialk9*

          It’s urinal rules. Look it up, there are even little games for choosing the correct urinal. I always use urinal rules in stalls, and in a house of worship. (Ack strange person, there’s a whole empty pew, why did you sit right next to me?!)

          1. Former Retail Manager*

            YES! This is true in so many ways. Now that most movie theaters have reserved seating and you can see which seats are already occupied when you buy your ticket, why on earth do you choose to purchase the seat right next to me at a movie that isn’t even 50% sold out and when there are other open seats on the same row? Utterly baffling to me. Give people their space. Geez. When this happens, I will wait for the movie to start and get up and move to an unpurchased seat, but not before giving the person some side eye.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Now that most movie theaters have reserved seating

              Off topic, but I wish this were true. Not in my area or in the nearby larger cities.

            2. Harper the Other One*

              Our local movie theatre actually requires you to start taking seats right next to other people as soon as the theatre reaches 25% full. I think it’s an effort to avoid ending up with a lot of 1-seat gaps between couples that nobody will want to take. Fortunately, my husband and I are quite happy sitting on the far side where there is one section that’s only two seats wide.

          2. Luna*

            And on public transit! Don’t sit right next to me when half the train car is still empty!!

      2. TrainerGirl*

        I sometimes wonder if folks can’t stand to be on their own, like we’re having some sort of camaraderie because you picked the stall next to mine even though there were 8 other stalls you could’ve chosen.

    4. CatCat*

      It’s petty, but I always flush when bathroom phone talkers are talking because I know they won’t be on mute.

    5. JustaTech*

      I had a coworker once answer a complicated call from his remodeling contractor in the bathroom. I got to hear all about it because, while I was in the women’s bathroom, there is no sound barrier between the two bathrooms. (I think he was alone.) I felt like I was eavesdropping, even though it was totally involuntary and I was kind of trapped.
      (I did make sure to tell him about the sound thing.)

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I had a coworker with no filter and no boundaries. (She eventually stopped talking to me altogether after I lost it and yelled at her for Insensitive Thing Number 10000 that she’d said. Don’t be me. I should’ve nipped it in the bud with her instead of letting things come to that.) One of the ridiculous things she did was, she once walked into a bathroom when I was either already in the stall, or I walked in ahead of her, either way I had no idea she was also there. I’m sitting on a toilet minding my own business, when I hear her outside asking “What are you working on?”

      I figured someone else had probably walked in and she was talking to that person. Finally realized the question was for me when she repeated it a few more times, louder each time. Can’t recall what I said to her in response. I think I was speechless.

      1. CM*

        When people ask me how I am or what I’m up to through the door of the bathroom stall, I cheerfully reply, “Pooping!” Then they usually don’t ask again.

    7. Allison*

      I take a dump at least once a day at work, I DO NOT need my boss or anyone who knows me to know when that’s happening. Or what it sounds like. Or smells like.

      At my first job, girls would come into the bathroom and go “ewww, it stinks in here!” or come out of the bathroom and actually tell other coworkers that someone was having diarrhea and they’d all go “eeeeeewwww” and now I’m always really self conscious when I have to poop at work.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Check out the comments on the “office pooper” letter linked below the main letter here. They’re very validating that the behavior at your old office was Not Normal and Not Okay.

        1. Allison*

          I read that, and actively participated in the thread. Still self-conscious because I know those types of super judgmental “ew people who poop are gresss!” women exist.

      2. JokeyJules*

        girl, Poop in peace!
        I like to think of it as an extra break that my employer can’t do shit about (pun intended).

    8. Samiratou*

      My phone hardly ever rings, but when it does, if it’s not a scammer, it’s my kid’s school or doctor’s office or something while I’m in the bathroom. The only time I answer calls when in the bathroom, feel horribly awkward about it, but don’t have much choice.

  7. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    I don’t know. I’d be tempted to tell her the breakfast burrito I had was not sitting well in my stomach…..

    (I wouldn’t actually say this.)

    Otherwise, yeah, follow Alison’s scripts. I can all but guarantee you aren’t the only one who feels this way.

    1. Hey Nonnie*

      I think I’d be even more direct:

      Boss starts talking to me, I tell her I’ll come to her office to discuss when I’m done, she follows me to the bathroom anyway.

      At the bathroom door, as she’s starting to enter behind me, put on a REALLY uncomfortable / creeped out expression and say, “Will you grant me some privacy, please? I’ll come talk to you after I’m done.” The idea being to convey through tone of voice and body language how seriously weird and inappropriate this is.

      If she still insists, ask “Why am I not allowed to have privacy in the bathroom? This is really invasive and is making me uncomfortable.”

      If she’s still insisting after that, there’s more going on than cluelessness.

      1. GreenDoor*

        I like the phraseology here. Workplaces are generally really respectful of medical privacy, salary confidentiality, financial privacy….a good reminder that bathroom activities, even in a multi-stalled bathroom – are worthy of privacy, too.

  8. Sarah*

    I think I’ve told this story before, but one of my bosses is famous around my old office for having seen an employee in the bathroom and having said, “Hey, while we’re here, let’s just knock out your mid-year review real quick.”

    He apparently learned his lesson, but it was a story passed along to every new teammate as a warning that he would often do things a little differently – and that you should call him on it as needed.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      He? so they were both, like, standing at the urinals? This is awesome and horrifying at the same time!

      1. Sarah*

        Yep. I desperately wanted to ask him how he thought his employee was in any position to take feedback whilst standing at the urinal, but sadly I was one of the new employees who got this story as a warning.

    2. Magee*

      I wish my mid-year reviews were casual enough to have quickly in the bathroom. They always require long typed out formal responses to generic objections that have no real basis on what I actually do everyday. And we have them quarterly! I hate review times. Not because I don’t want feedback, but because it’s such a long drawn out process when all my boss really says is, “You’re doing what you are supposed to.”

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        I guess that “I’d rather have my review in the washroom while both my boss and I are standing in urinals / sitting in adjacent stalls” is a good yardstick for a review system that has outgrown its usefulness or is otherwise hampered by more downsides than benefits.

  9. BRR*

    In addition to those responses, I would stop walking if she follows you and say it again. Basically wait for her to go in another direction then proceed to the restroom.

  10. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    OP, you appear to work for my mother. I am so sorry.

    (No, seriously though, all good ideas in this thread will be applied the next time I go home for a visit. AUGH!)

    1. LilySparrow*

      I feel your pain. When I was in my early 20’s, my mom once brought the phone into the bathroom, because I had a call from a hiring manager to schedule an interview.

      While I had *food poisoning.*

      Cellphones were a godsend.

  11. Mediamaven*

    This is so awful. When similar things have happened to me I tell the person I have “performance anxiety” and need privacy in the bathroom. Good luck.

  12. Murphy*

    Ooh, I don’t like people talking to me when I’m in the stall. Whatever it is, it can wait.

    I think if she tried to follow me after I said I’d swing by her office in a minute, I’d be more blunt, but I’d maybe laugh a bit while I was doing it to soften it and so she could see how ridiculous she was being. “Jane! Really! I’m going to the bathroom. I’ll just be a minute!”

    1. Seriously?*

      I agree with one exception: the person in the next stall asking for toilet paper.

      1. This Daydreamer*

        When I was working retail, I actually had a manager page me to the bathroom because she was in desperate need of toilet paper and her stall neighbors weren’t helping.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          Those stall neighbors will end up in the Bad Place. Unless they also had no toilet paper.

    2. tink*

      Right? Unless you need bathroom supplies I’d rather just do my bathroom business in peace.

  13. Chocolate Teapot*

    Anyone remember the film 9 to 5 when Jane Fonda is warned to check for the office gossip’s shoes?

    Boss and ablutions do not mix!

    1. Yvette*

      And the scene where the busybody is crouching on the seat taking notes is priceless!

  14. Ama*

    Usually this is not a problem with my boss (my cubicle is very close to her office and the bathroom is all the way on the other side of the floor) but the other day I happened to be finishing washing my hands as she was coming in, and she started in on something I needed to know and kept talking after she walked into the stall. So I felt like I had to stand there and respond verbally since she couldn’t see if I left.

    The only thing I ever miss about my old job is that we had bathrooms that were just individual rooms with a sink and toilet so there was absolutely no risk of awkward bathroom social interactions. Some days I miss it more than others.

  15. Traffic_Spiral*

    I’d stop by the restroom door and be like, “so, I’m going to use the restroom now, I’ll drop by your office when I’m done,” and sort of look at her expectantly, waiting for her to leave. If she just looks confused, or says something like, “no problem, we can chat now,” I’d say “I really don’t like having conversations on the toilet (“on the toilet” instead of “in the bathroom” is a slightly blunter description that might knock sense into her) – can we pick this up later?” Regardless, I wouldn’t step into the restroom until she had gone. Wait her out.

    1. MuseumChick*

      Yeah, I have a feeling the conversation is going to need to be this explicit for the boss to “get” it. I like the strategy of stopping outside the bathroom door making it clear you will be using the restroom alone and waiting for the boss to walk away.

  16. BadWolf*

    In the weeks leading up to discovering that I’m now lactose intolerant…following me in the bathroom would have been an unpleasant experience for everyone.

  17. Colorado*

    This reminds me of the scene in Along Came Polly where Alec Baldwin talks to Ben Stiller at the urinal and then touches him afterward. Just funny.
    Tell boss you’re trying to get a quick game of solitaire in or checking Facebook and you’ll come find her when you’re done. haha, that’s what I like to do ;-)

  18. Irene Adler*

    Just before entering the bathroom, when it is obvious boss intends to follow you in, assure her that you can handle things by yourself. No need for assistance

  19. Imaginary Number*

    Oh man. I can so relate. I used to work in a small office that had a single-stall bathroom right off the main area. My boss’s office was next door and if he saw me walk in he would literally start talking to me through the door. After not taking the hint several times one day I finally yelled “SIR, I’M ON THE TOILET!” and that was that … (it was the Army, thus the sir was necessary.)

    1. Bea*

      Omg I’m laughing because at least he stopped.

      I’ve always wondered how men deal with peeing next to one another. It’s awkward enough with stalls. Argh.

      1. paul*

        Eyes forward, don’t make small talk, and try to leave a spare urinal between yourselves (obviously if its’ getting full that may not happen, but if you can…).

      2. John Ames Boughton*

        70% of us keep our eyes forward in dignified silence. The other 30% talk incessantly and get mentally strangled by the first 70%.

  20. Bea*

    Ever since my gallbladder removal, if I just ate the wrong thing, I don’t care who you are, even my cat can’t come in at that point.

    Thankfully around here nobody wants to share the bathroom even with two stalls.

  21. Boredatwork*

    If having a conversation doesn’t work, you’ll have to practice some willful boundary setting. Under no circumstances should you enter the bathroom until the conversation is over, offer to go to her office before using the restroom. This will require some better bathroom planning, as you can’t wait until you need to go RIGHT NOW.

    If you have done step 1 and step 2 and she still follows you into the bathroom, do not enter the stall until she leaves. Just keep standing there, awkwardly. Eventually, she’ll make a comment about you needing to use the restroom. This is when you smile really big and say that you wanted to make sure your SUPER important conversation had concluded before.. you know… and kinda gesture toward the stall. Keep standing there, until she leaves.

    If she mentions that you can just keep talking, offer to immediately leave the restroom, actually open the door and walk out, hopefully she’ll follow, stay there and you can re-enter the bathroom and pee in peace.

    good luck!

    1. tamarack and fireweed*

      I like that. Stick to the outside, make it clear you won’t enter while in the conversation. If she finds herself in need of a leak as well, the OP will have to say something that indicates her intention to suspend the conversation while in the washroom, though.

      Also, an argument is that it’s really disrespectful for other potential users of the facilities. I once entered our office washroom. I was alone and and sat down in a stall somewhere in the middle of the (short) row. Two co-workers (from a different unit) came in chatting about work and took the stalls to my left and right. The conversation went right on cross my stall with me in the middle. Awkward. (I flushed multiple times, and that stopped it. Then I quickly washed my hands and left to avoid an encounter in the washroom lobby.)

  22. stitchinthyme*

    Don’t think any other post I’ve ever read has made me so glad I’m a woman working in a predominately male industry. Most (though not all) of my bosses have been male, so this has just never been a problem. Which is good because I hate talking to anyone in the bathroom, inside or outside the stall, to the point where I’ll often wait to come out if anyone else is in there, or else try to hurry through washing my hands before whoever it is finishes and exits the stall.

  23. McWhadden*

    The administrative assistant at my work does this to me all of the time. It’s not just if we were talking about something work related. If I go to the bathroom and she notices she’ll come along to chat. It drives me nuts and I’ve politely hinted that I’d prefer some privacy. But I think it’s just such a habit to her.

    It’s just one of those things that some people don’t have a problem with and others can’t abide. Some women are used to going to the bathroom being a social thing. Like all the cheesy stand up comics used to say. (I am not saying this is a “women issue” but I can’t speak to what men do in this case except to say I don’t think they generally intentionally follow someone into the bathroom to talk.)

    1. Snark*

      If you want it to stop, you can’t politely hint. You need to just say it. There are some people who are just immune to hints. “Uh….Lucretia, I don’t like chatting while I’m on the toilet, please don’t follow me to the bathroom.”

      1. paul*

        Yes. Someone this out there doesn’t strike me as someone who’ll understand subtle hints.

      2. Tom Trump*

        The time for hinting is past. A couple of thunderous, rip-roaring farts will solve this bad habit. A skilled practitioner will even get the boss blamed for it. They will then only go to the bathroom alone.

  24. Knitting Cat Lady*


    Anyone following me to the bathroom would regret it very quickly.

    Especially when they follow me while I speed walk there.

    IBS can be very noisy and smelly…

    1. Environmental Compliance*


      I was just thinking that anyone that followed me would get a rather nasty surprise if my IBS was acting up…

  25. YesPleaseandThankYou*

    When OP said “I could probably deal with it if these were urgent matters” and “the kind of thing I should just let go,” the 12-year-old in me takes over, and my mind races. I have MS, and everyone’s MS issues are different. If my boss did this to me, she would soon learn the hard way that all of my bathroom issues are “urgent matters” and that when I’m in the bathroom, I do indeed “let go.” In my world, there is no standing outside the restroom to finish the conversation. Chronic diseases dictate the rules.

  26. Meg Murry*

    Another way OP could frame this is “when we have these random conversations in the hallway or bathroom or wherever, I don’t have my notepad with me and I’m afraid I’ll miss something since I can’t write it down. I’ll be back with my notepad in 5 minutes and then we can talk about the ABC project”.

    1. not really a lurker anymore*

      Or simply – this is NOT a good time boss. I’ll come find you when I’m done.

  27. Sam*

    I’m so glad that my boss is a different gender from me, so that we never encounter each other in the bathroom.

    1. Anne of Green Gables*

      I am a different gender from my boss so we likewise do not encounter each other in the bathroom. But I am very near to his route, and I can frequently tell when he is on his way to the bathroom. (He hums and sings to himself a lot.) I do admit that I sometimes wait until I hear the bathroom door indicating that he is done and then I will go catch him in the hallway, but it’s always on the after part of the bathroom visit.

  28. LBK*

    I’d definitely start interjecting with “Running to the bathroom – I’ll swing by your desk in a minute,” and if she persists I think I’d be blunt and just say “Seriously, do not follow me into the bathroom – I’ll be by your desk in a few.”

  29. Cheesehead*

    Once when someone accidentally walked in on me while I was pumping at work, I was lamenting about it to another nursing mom. I will never forget what she said “Geez! It’s not a spectator sport!”

    I’d stop outside the bathroom (if the need wasn’t terribly urgent) and try to have the conversation. If she tries to follow you in, say “Jane, I should have told you this earlier, but I really don’t like to have conversations while I’m trying to do my thing in there, you know? Privacy and all that…..I don’t really like an audience. I’ll swing by your office in a few minutes when I’m done, ‘kay? Thanks!” (And feel free to throw in the line about bathroom breaks not being a spectator sport if you want. ;) )

  30. Little Bean*

    If it were me, I think I’d just refuse to go into the bathroom until she finished her conversation and left. Like, if she came up to me in the hallway, I’d just stop there and talk to her in the hallway. If she tried to encourage me to go into the bathroom, I’d say “No thanks, I can wait”.

  31. CER*

    My office is right across the hall from the staff restroom (only a single occupant restroom so as far as I know no one has followed anyone in there) and I try very hard not to interrupt staff on their way there. There were quite a few times the former occupant of my office would think of things while people were walking by and insist on talking to you right there at the door. There were several times that I had to tell her, I’d love to chat, but I have a bit of an emergency situation right now and I would stop by the office later. Never trained her out of the habit but at least made me feel less rude about just going about my business. Thankfully the fan in the bathroom is loud enough that I couldn’t hear her if she tried to talk through the door.

  32. Goya de la Mancha*

    I’ve never loved my single occupancy bathrooms more after reading this!

  33. Oxford Coma*

    I would be sooo tempted to see how uncomfortable you could make her before her brain sent the “this is not appropriate” signal to her mouth.

    How’s your acting?* You could drop pennies into the bowl and desperately proclaim “THANK GOD! My kidney stones!” or make straining noises and then say “That’s weird, I didn’t eat anything with blood in it.”

    *Don’t actually do any of these things.

    1. This Daydreamer*

      “Weird. Why is it that color of green? Have you ever seen anything like it?”

    2. Goya de la Mancha*

      Yell “That’s right! I had asparagus for supper last night!” midstream….

  34. Falling Diphthong*


    Never have I been so glad to freelance from a home office.

  35. John Ames Boughton*

    What bothers me the most about people who insist on having work conversations in the bathroom is that they always seem to end up being the most successful people in the company. Sometimes I wonder if it’s my unwillingness to talk while I poop that keeps me back.

  36. anonny*

    One thing I’ve learned from reading this site for so many years is how many issues are non-issues if you can learn how to be direct. To a person who hasn’t learned how to be direct or is uncomfortable with directness because it feels like conflict or confrontation, this kind of stuff can FEEL like a really big problem. And I’m not judging, because I have not always known how to be direct. It’s hard to be direct until you’ve learned how to do it politely without emotion or embarrassment or rudeness, and that takes practice and determination to get the wording right and the courage to speak freely without worrying about a person’s reaction.

    “Please don’t follow me into the bathroom and talk to me about work while I’m using it. You need to wait 2 minutes because people need privacy while they’re taking a restroom break. I will be right out and we can resume talking about this, thanks!”

  37. Becky*

    My work recently installed a single occupancy restroom on each floor (for gender neutral/accessibility/family/whatever purposes). If my boss were prone to doing this I would start going to that one.

  38. Pink Hair Don't Care*

    My manager once came in asked me to hurry up because a customer was on the phone for me. The pressure of that situation made me take even longer! lol! I didn’t hesitate to let her know how inappropriate that was.

  39. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD*

    This is sort of my nightmare. I get very inside my head and have to work to remember to employ basic manners and boundaries. The part where I *could* follow an employee into the bathroom and talk about work? It is real. But I do not believe I ever have because I have been muttering to myself “do not follow employees into the bathroom, do not follow employees into the bathroom, see they are in the bathroom, wait until they are back at their desk, nope, bathrooms are for peeing conversation is for later” for 20+ years. What happens as I age and lose what few filters I currently have? It’s a legit nightmare. :)

  40. Sylvan*

    “Stop following me into the bathroom.”

    Step 2: “Stop following me into the bathroom,” said in front of other people.

    1. Nonnon*

      Step 3: “If I wanted my boss to follow me into the toilet, I’d apply for a job with my cat.” (Probably don’t do this, but…)

  41. Amanda*

    As usual, Alison gives great advice.

    Another aproach – 1 hour before your next bathroom break gulp down a large coffee and a bag of Oreos. Your boss will never follow you in again. Joking/NotJoking.

  42. Peaches*

    Ugh, this is frustrating!

    I get annoyed when coworkers come into the break room on my lunch break to talk about COMPLETELY non-urgent matters. But, the bathroom is a whole different monster. I’m sorry!

  43. AnonNurse*

    That is a hard pass for me. I’m not a super modest person and deal with bodily functions all day long but I need a few minutes to myself in the bathroom without talking about work and to just take care of business (so to speak!). I would absolutely say something along the lines of “I need a minute to not talk about work and to have some privacy. I really appreciate you respecting that.” And then I would walk away with the presumption being there should be no further conversation or discussion regarding the issue. I know it probably feels rude in the moment but it’s completely ok to say you need privacy!

    1. AnonNurse*

      Just to be clear, I understand that not everyone is able to be as blunt as I would be but if she still made a motion to follow me, I would probably say something along the lines of “I’m about to sit on a toilet and complete normal bodily functions and I don’t need an audience or conversation to be a part of that time. Thank you.” and seriously just walk away. But I know that’s just me and not for everyone. Good luck with this!

  44. PsychicMuppet*

    My old boss was really inept. She needed help from everyone working under her to do everything and she was always in a panic. Once she frantically texted my coworker while she (the coworker) was at the doctor with needles in her arm asking her if she had completed some work while at her appointment. And while she often asked me about work stuff when we ran into each other in the bathroom, she once came looking for me in there and even knocked on the stall door to ask me to help her with something.

    She eventually got moved to a different position but dang that was a rough few months.

  45. Elder Dog*

    Ask your boss to run the water in the sink for you so you can go.
    Or say there’s no TP would she get you some, please.

    There have to be other ways to involve your boss in participatory pottying.
    And make it clear this isn’t a good environment for work chat.

    1. Nonnon*

      Just be as loud, splashy, rustle-y, onomatopeia-of-air-dryer-y as you can, and then ask your boss what she was saying when you get out of the loo, sorry, couldn’t hear you in there…

      (Seriously, how do people have conversations in public loos? There’s so much noise and they’re extremely echo-y.)

  46. GarlicMicrowaver*

    I have an idea. “Hey, Boss, I’m heating up a keester casserole in here. Please hand me the poo-pourri so it’s less unpleasant for you when you open your mouth to speak.”

    1. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

      Keister casserole is one I’ve not heard before, and I’m having a hard time not cackling at it.

  47. DC Limey*

    My last boss tried this. A resounding “NOPE!”, put paid to that.

    “Boss makes a dollar,
    I make a dime,
    That’s why I poop,
    On company time” – Abraham Lincoln.

  48. Larina*

    At my job, I answer a lot of questions for members of my team, and if I’m up and about from my desk, people will often call me over to get eyes on a specific issue. When I’m going to the bathroom and someone tries to grab my attention, I’ll give them a “1 minute” finger or say “I’ll be back” before heading into the restroom. This way, I’ve acknowledged them, but also, I’ve speed walked past them so they can’t stop me to chat. I don’t know if that might work for you, but the casual dismissal might help your boss get that now is not the time.

  49. I See Real People*

    I once had a coworker/up one level in management come to the women’s restroom when I was in a stall, held the outer door open to the public hallway, and screamed “(My Name), you have a phone call. What should I tell them?”.
    I did not respond until I got back into my office.
    True Story.

  50. Hannah*

    I HATE THIS. I hate bathroom convos. I am a chatty person generally, but NOT IN THE BATHROOM. My best friend can come into the bathroom while I am bathrooming and I will not talk. I just can’t. My brain won’t let me do both things at once.

    I deal with bathroom chatterers by saying “I’m sorry, I need to put this convo on pause. I can’t multitask.”

    1. Lil Fidget*

      This may be a good line for OP to use, actually. It’s hard to argue with and it makes it into an “I statement.” Nice job.

  51. GreenDoor*

    I’ll admit it…just from routinely hitting the restroom at the same time of day as others in my building I can tell you that
    Stella pees with the force of a racehorse.
    Molly shoots out farts like an AK-47
    Joan will bring a book with her ‘cuz she’s going to be sitting there a while and it will smell like the land of 1,000 corpses. And Emma uses the toilet, then brushes her teeth without washing hands in between.

    I don’t like knowing these things about the very fine people I work with. I shudder at the idea that my boss will know this level of detail about what I do, sound like, and smell like in the bathroom. Set. Some. Boundaries.

    1. Alienor*

      Omg, there’s a racehorse pee-er in my office too. I don’t know who she is, but sometimes I sit there in my stall and marvel at her sheer velocity and capacity.

  52. AnonaMama*

    This is my worst nightmare. As someone with a rather sensitive stomach, my trips to the bathroom are not always for a quick pee… if you catch what I mean. I make every effort to use a bathroom alone and when nobody else is in there because… well… noise. To have my boss try to talk to me while I am dealing with the aftermath of a heavy lunch… I don’t think I would ever leave the bathroom again!

    I like the idea of stopping either outside the bathroom or even mid-walk before you even hit the bathroom. This way you signal to her that a joint adventure in the bathroom is not happening. She sounds like someone who needs to hear a blunt “I am not comfortable with chatting while I use the restroom, can we finish this later?” Sometimes with obtuse folks like this, you have to hit them over the head with boundaries.

  53. Database Developer Dude*

    Uh, no. I’m an IT Professional, but I’m also a salty veteran, and an Army Reserve officer. Someone trying to initiate a conversation with me while I’m peeing or pooping is going to get shut down, and rather rudely too. This is not ok.

  54. MoFlo*

    Oooooh, noooooo…. I detest bathroom talkers. I either stand by the stall, pointedly not going in until they STFU or I blatantly ignore them. Yuck.

  55. A Cita*

    I can’t be the only one who initially read “LBJ” as LBK, right?

    Like, jeez, LBK, you seemed so level-headed in the comments.

  56. Anonymous for this*

    Just…no. I have paruresis, which means I’m pee shy, and if someone is in the next stall over sometimes I won’t be able to pee at all. It just doesn’t come out, no matter how badly I have to go. I’ve actually had to go to the hospital to be catheterized in the past (I’m better now, but If my boss did this I would have to quit my job).

  57. puzzld*

    I have to wonder how many people with a desperate need for potty privacy are only children, or at least the only child of their particular plumbing type? I’m the only girl, with just the one brother and like way more privacy than my Mom seems to need (she grew up with 6 sisters) and I grew up watching the whole group of them heading to the restroom for some grown up lady talk. I was thrilled the first time I was invited in at 11 or so, but I waited till they all headed out to pee.

  58. Ginger*

    How about… Oh, Jane, you’re not gonna to want to join me for this one. I had some fierce Mexican food for lunch. It’s gonna get ugly in there! Trust me!

  59. Rachel*

    If this were my boss, I’d ignore her and then come out, wash my hands, dry them, fix my clothes, walk out the door and THEN say “now, what did you want to talk about?” All as if she’d actually waited until I was done…

  60. Indie*

    My mother’s plumber did this to me. I was staying with her and he was working on her new bathroom for days, all day from early morning to evening. I got caught short late on on the day (In spite of trying to time stuff for when I was out) and nipped into the toilet, which is opposite the actual bathroom, separated by a hallway. I knew he’d hear me, but bit the bullet. Well he only stepped into the passageway to chat at me through the toilet door! I didnt answer. I started staying at my boyfriends for the next few days. I think my mother peed into a potted plant or something she was so horrified he was going to do the same!

  61. Courageous cat*

    This is so unusually wrong of her that I’m a little surprised you’re having trouble saying anything. I’d literally just go into the bathroom and if she follows me, turn around and be like, “Sorry, I have a hard time peeing if I know someone’s right outside the door/listening/etc” or “Sorry, I prefer to keep talking and peeing separate” or whatever.

    It’s one of those things you just have to casually say in the moment, and not make a Talk out of it. I can’t imagine anyone taking it poorly in this context.

    1. Wintermute*

      it’s a phenomenon I’ve run into before and described here before. People run mental scripts, things that are a little outside of your experience or that you predict will go wrong you have a script for: “that’s not my experience with John’s leadership”, “Pardon me, I was talking”, “I don’t think we should say things bout Fergus we wouldn’t want him to overhear”, and so on.

      If you ask someone if they want coffee, you are probably prepared for a yes or no and a “can I get some tea instead?” would probably not throw you off too badly. But if they stand up and start shouting about how you’re a part of the evil Barista conspiracy and you’ll never take them alive, you’re not going to know HOW to react.

      To a boss that violates little boundary norms you’re probably prepared, but when they have NO boundaries whatsoever?

      ALSO, this is a complete power play, it’s not an accident, that makes it even more intimidating.

  62. Michaela Westen*

    It sounds like the boss might be too anxious to wait till you come back from the bathroom. Or is afraid you’ll forget.
    Maybe if you can find a way to reassure her, that would help.

  63. Blue Eagle*

    I do not like bathroom talkers. My approach is to repeatedly flush. I’ve been in a stall when two others came in and started talking. I stood up and flushed, and flushed again, and flushed yet again. Finally they got the message and I was able to sit back down and finish my business.

    p.s. I also use this method in a public restroom when someone in another stall is talking on their cellphone.

  64. Been There, Done That*

    When I was car shopping, I made it clear to the male salesman I wasn’t buying that day and was only starting to look. Took a couple of test drives, and back at the dealership he introduced me to the hard-sell female sales manager. I repeated that I was just starting to check out the models, thanked her, and I took my leave. Asked for the ladies room before I left & Ms. Sales Manager followed me in, used the facilities while I did, and kept pitching the whole time. Yuck. Even if they’d offered me the car of my dreams for five dollars, I would’ve bought it elsewhere. What a turn off.

  65. Wintermute*

    LBJ used bathroom meetings as a way to enforce a power dynamic, the same reason he met with reporters while skinny dipping in the whitehouse pool (he was, erm, well, of substantial physical stature, in more than just the sense of being 6’6″ tall, and he would legendarily use that to intimidate people).

    Don’t bet your boss isn’t doing the same thing by not letting you have ANY boundaries.

  66. MelfinatheBlue*

    I unintentionally freaked out a boss who liked to do that. I have IBS and digestive scarring from endometriosis so poop time hurts (generally a lot, sadly). One day I’ve gone into the (empty) bathroom to do my thing, and she and her subordinate wandered in a bit after. They were talking rather loudly, and I had a pain spike and whimpered right as they both got quiet. Female boss screamed and ran out of the bathroom. The subordinate, on the other hand, made sure I was okay, which was nice of her. I found out later that day that the boss hadn’t realized anyone else was in the bathroom and thought I was a ghost.

  67. Cat Lady*

    Oh yikes. I get really irritated if one of my coworkers goes to the bathroom at the same time as me, I can’t imagine my boss actively following me EVERY time. Is there another route to the bathroom?

    Also, re: cats and bathrooms. My cat doesn’t really care about me using the bathroom, but she is fascinated with the shower. As soon as I turn it on in the mornings she perches on the edge of the tub to watch the water. It’s very cute. When I first adopted her she’d also meow with increasing frequency and alarm during my showers but she’s mostly stopped that.

    1. Cat Lady*

      To clarify so I sound like less of a jerk… there’s only five of us in the office and we always announce when we’re stepping away to use the bathroom. Most of us are conscious of when the others are in the bathroom and wait for each other to come back before we go, but two just don’t seem to care. Sigh.

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