one of our coworkers isn’t flushing the toilet

The questions on today’s podcast are:

  • Someone’s not flushing the toilet
  • Using personality tests in hiring
  • My manager keeps me late with no notice
  • How do you do layoffs the right way? (read an update here)
  • Did I make a mistake in leaving my last job?

The show is 27 minutes long, and you can listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever else you get your podcasts (or here’s the direct RSS feed). Or you can listen right here:

If you want to hear your question on the show, email it or record it on the show voicemail at 855-426-WORK (855-426-9675).

Or, if you prefer, here’s the transcript.

{ 189 comments… read them below }

  1. Justme, The OG*

    I have so many questions (logistical mostly) about the toilet one. I can’t listen to the podcast now but I hope some of them are answered by the caller.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I can’t listen to it right now either BUT I feel like I have at least one explanation: in our area of the office, we have a single bathroom shared by a handful of people. The toilet works, but sometimes it runs for a very long time after flushing and if you try to flush it again too soon, well, it won’t flush. You may very well have had the intention of flushing but there are times where (I hope!) people may not have noticed that it hadn’t finished running before doing their business (or didn’t have time to wait until it finished — emergencies happen!) and then they’re stuck with an unflushed toilet despite wishing desperately to flush it. The only solution is to then either wait in the bathroom until it stops running and try again or wander off and come back to flush it later.

      I’ve learned to do a quick toggle of the handle before trying to use the toilet because I don’t ever want to be stuck in the “waiting for eons for the toilet to stop running” moment, but not everyone does.

      1. BadWolf*

        Some of our auto-flush toilets do not seem to have a “flush now” button. I suspect some of our non-flushes are when it flushes too soon and people don’t know how to force it. Through some trial and error, I figured out if you hold your hand in front of the sensor for 10 seconds, it triggers another flush.

        1. Sally*

          This is what I was thinking, too. There are several multi-stall bathrooms in our office, and they all have different flushing mechanisms. One is manual (push down the handle), and the others are “automatic,” but one of the “automatic” ones usually pushes the toilet paper back up into the bowl at the end of the flushing cycle. You have to stand there and wait for it to finish and then flush again. Something like this could be happening at the OP’s office.

          1. all the candycorn*

            We had manual flush toilets in a high traffic customer restroom at work where the toilet would flush, but any toilet paper that fell towards the front of the bowl would just stick there, turning into a bigger and bigger wad with each subsequent use, until it became so heavy it collapsed on itself and finally flushed. No amount of extra flushing would move the stuck TP until it was ready.

        2. Zap Rowsdower*

          A weird thing I noticed with some auto-flushers is the color/material of my clothes seem to affect the trigger. I have this charcoal gray knit jacket I wear when flying/in the airport and it’s guaranteed to trigger a flush while still on the pot! My black leather jacket on the other hand will never trigger a flush and I have to figure out how to fool the sensor or hit a button.

          My guess is that it has something to do with how the material is reflecting/absorbing the signal from the sensor.

          1. D'Arcy*

            Yeah. Auto flushers generally use cheap infrared sensors dialed to low sensitivity, so clothing can make a substantial difference.

      2. Zap Rowsdower*

        I was wondering this, too, are the facilities in good working order? I would assume the OP would have noticed if there are problems with the flush mechanism, but I’ve seen things like the toilet would flush OK 4 out of 5 times and then not work the 5th time.

      3. Ellex*

        If you have access to the tank of the running toilet, odds are good that the chain that connects the handle to the flapper at the bottom of the tank is too long, or the flapper needs replaced. It’s a pretty quick and cheap fix either way, especially if you have no/limited building maintenance available.

        I’ve lost count of the number of office toilets with this issue that I’ve fixed. And yes, I have had a reputation as the office “person who can fix stuff” at more than one job. Sometimes it works out well, and sometimes it doesn’t.

        I’m kind of happy that my current job is in an office with auto flush toilets, so there are no phantom non-flushers anymore and my limited plumbing skills are useless.

      4. Ozma the Grouch*

        Oh yes! Good observation! I didn’t even think of that. I have a client that, whenever I visit their offices I feel like I spend most of my time in the bathroom babysitting their toilets because the stupid things flush BEFORE I sit down! And they don’t have manual push buttons (at least I haven’t found one and I’ve looked every time hoping that I just missed it last time) It takes forever for that tank to refill with water. Finally once it’s done I stand there waving my hands in front of the silly sensor until it sees me so that it will flush. If I was less patient I wouldn’t bother, the whole ordeal must take me 10 minutes every time. But as I am a guest and a representative of my company I can’t just not flush!

      5. Pandop*

        We have that problem with one of ours too. We have asked for a new toilet, but what we get instead is another visit from the plumber, who claims there is nothing wrong with it ::sigh::

    2. ACDC*

      I had a coworker that REFUSED to flush the toilet for any #1 situation and only some #2 situations. She said it was disrespectful to people in the world that don’t have access to clean drinking water. Any time someone brought it up with her there would be a minimum 20 minute political tirade. She was a delight in case that wasn’t obvious.

        1. fposte*

          Sounds like she just follows the old dictum of “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.”

            1. TooTiredToThink*

              My mom followed this. I still remember the embarrassment when a friend was over and she came out of the bathroom hollering that someone hadn’t flushed the toilet.

          1. irene adler*

            This is the norm -in private homes-in San Diego where water needs to be conserved. But NEVER practiced in public restrooms- including businesses.

            1. MissDisplaced*

              Yeah, I was gonna say, when I lived in California the state did suggest not flushing for every pee. And I admit the habit kind of stuck in that if it is only pee during the overnight hours, my husband and I don’t flush, nor do I always flush every pee during the day if I work at home (because it’s just me).

              But #2 Ugh! no way. That’s nasty.

              1. Marion Ravenwood*

                Same here (although we’re in the UK). But that’s mostly because our toilet flush is really loud and we’re both light sleepers, so it’s more a case of not wanting to wake the other one up!

            2. Ozma the Grouch*

              Yeah, I also grew up with this mantra. However we were/are a large family so saving water was a big deal (we also bathed in shifts). But we were NEVER expected or encouraged to practice it outside of the home unless expressly asked. That was just not considered polite.

          2. Zombeyonce*

            That policy never made sense to me for women. We use toilet paper for every visit to the toilet so it’s not like it’s just urine “mellowing”, it’s toilet paper building up in the toilet, too. If you did that in an office where most of the visits from people are just urine, you’d have a clogged toilet within an hour. Or are people putting their toilet paper in the trash can instead?

            (I ask, but I really don’t want to know the answer.)

            1. Bagpuss*

              I think it’s a case by case thing. It depends how much paper you use, and (in terms of any smell etc) also how well hydrated you are – if you are well hydrated your pee isn’t particularly dark or stinky, not to mention how frequently you pee.
              If you are someone who pees little and often and you only flush every 2nd or 3rd time, then you are still flushing every few hours and there’s no reason you’d have any major build up of paper.
              I’m a woman, and *in my own home* I don’t flush every time, and I’ve never had any issue with either smells or blockages. (I *do* flush every time when I am on my period, or if I’ve used a lot of paper, or anything solid, or where there is any other reason why it needs flushing)
              I wouldn’t dream of not flushing at the office or anywhere else which was public.
              I think we all know that other people use the same toilet, but no one likes to be reminded of it by seeing any evidence to that effect…

            2. Close Bracket*

              I’m a woman who follows leaving-it-mellow. I flush every few times using the toilet depending on how much tp I’ve tossed in it precisely to prevent that build up you mention.

              I should add that I do this in the privacy of my home, and I am extremely well hydrated. I would not want to do this in a public bathroom, and I always make it a point to flush before anyone comes over. Nobody should have to be exposed to another person’s urine.

            3. LurkieLoo*

              I grew up in the sticks and we had a septic system. Definitely followed the “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” rule. The yellow TP goes in the trash (there are really only a few drops on there) and the non-yellow TP goes with the flush. In a family of 5, we flushed at least 5 times a day . . .

              None of us that have moved on to a move civilized existence still follow that rule.

            4. Ozma the Grouch*

              We were taught to never over use toilet paper and we never used “luxury” toilet paper. Honestly having a little build-up of toilet paper was never an issue. Once you get to a certain amount you flush it.

            5. Windchime*

              In my office, we have someone who has started putting their used toilet paper behind the toilet. Not on the floor, but on a little wide spot directly behind the seat hinges. It’s disgusting and it’s only been happening for a couple of weeks. One day last week, I had to go to a different floor to find a bathroom that didn’t have a wad of used TP sitting behind the seat.

            6. Nicole Maria*

              At my house we use the “let it mellow” policy, for environmental reasons: it’s just me (a woman) and my spouse (a non-binary person with “woman” parts) and we always use toilet paper of course. It’s worked fine because for the most part our policy in practice is more like, let it mellow… like 2-3 times, unless you’re dehydrated or ate asparagus, then always flush. If I notice any serious amount of toilet paper I will flush regardless of did while I was in there.

          3. Alton*

            Except it sounds like she didn’t always adhere to the “if it’s brown, flush it down” part!

          4. like whatever*

            Last year Cape Town was at risk of running out of water, because they just didn’t get enough rain. There were severe water restrictions, so people just had to flush less often. Not exactly pleasant, but better than having no water.

            They have been getting some rain this year, so the situation is slightly better.

        2. ACDC*

          Someone asked that the first time this happened at work and she said she only flushes at home once a week! So disgusting…

          1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

            Ughh… so there’s someone’s potluck dish I’d be skipping.

            1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

              We used to have a co-worker who rarely flushed (she would if someone was in the washroom) or washed her hands. Her potluck offerings sat untouched every single time and she never knew why.

          2. GreyjoyGardens*

            Uuuggghh! FFS you’re supposed to clean the *cat box* every day! She sits around with a bunch of unflushed excrement at home? D:

          3. irene adler*

            She’s lying. If you fill up the bowl high enough, toilet will flush on it’s own. You can test this your self by pouring several gallons of water into a toilet bowl. It will flush on its own after a few gallons are added.

            Alternatively, if she is only flushing once per week, the water level of the bowl goes down. Makes it more difficult to flush down bowl contents. Hence, her plumbing would be clogged up. Does she talk about plumbing problems much?

            1. ACDC*

              That makes a lot of sense! And, honestly, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if she was lying. I always wondered about the logistics of how full the bowl would get…

            2. nonegiven*

              This is true. Our water was off twice this summer due to water main breaks. After it got high enough, the level went down. We were putting the paper in the trash. One more day or a third time, I would have packed and gone to my sister’s. One time I couldn’t have because the break was at the end of my driveway.

          4. Close Bracket*

            Oh my gosh, nononononono

            I leave it mellow, and if I leave it overnight, it is not mellow. Not at all. I did that once, and never again. In fact, in general, frequency of flush needs to be adjusted for hydration levels bc concentrated urine is not. mellow.

      1. boo hoo*

        What the!! It’s not like that toilet water would otherwise be shipped to another county. Good grief.

        1. ACDC*

          This is exactly what I thought every time this came up! I always kept it to myself though to avoid her unpleasant antics

        2. Jadelyn*

          Also, look at water consumption by usage type. Personal water consumption (showering, flushing toilets, running the water in the kitchen while you do dishes, etc.) is a tiny, tiny gnat compared to the enormous elephant that is industrial water consumption. Taking shorter showers and not flushing every time is not even remotely going to make a dent in the world’s water issues. You are one person versus entire industries. If you want to save the planet, start with them, not with your personal hygiene habits.

          1. Nicole Maria*

            I agree with what you’re saying, but I still “let it mellow” because I think it’s wrong to use excess water — even if the excess water I use is minuscule compared to corporations and factories, it’s still wrong. Kind of like the idea that someone committing a thousand murders doesn’t make it ok to murder one person, except not that serious, obviously. :)

      2. mark132*

        There are some bathrooms now that have flushless urinals in them. While they definitely work, they can have an odor to them.

      3. Lance*

        Someone should then tell her that it’s disrespectful to her coworkers to make them put up with the smells afterward.

      4. feministbookworm*

        Yeah, I’ve been in situations with environmental folks who subscribe to the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” school of thought (which, there is some evidence it can save both water and money, and potentially (counterintuitively!) reduce the number of germs that get sprayed around the bathroom with each flush). But it’s generally only been in environments where that issue has been discussed and agreed to as a group. Not cool for one person to unilaterally decide that on behalf of the rest of the office. Better to use your environmental passion advocating for low flow toilets.

        1. ACDC*

          That’s interesting, I’d never heard of it reducing germs! Still not on board LOL. The city the office is located in has a mandate that all toilets (at least for businesses) have to be low flow, so we already had that base covered, but it wasn’t enough for her…

          1. kittymommy*

            I believe the idea with germs is that since there is (likely) not a lid on the toilet and, if there is a lot of people don’t use it, the germs aren’t spraying around the room during the flush.

            Personally, the idea of if it’s yellow let it mellow is fine in someone’s home, not in an office setting.

            1. feministbookworm*

              yup, that’s the idea, plus the fact that urine is actually a very clean substance (much cleaner than saliva…). I also realize that I’m somewhat out of the norm and have a very high squick tolerance for bodily functions, and this just doesn’t bother me as much as it obviously bothers most people. I think this is the product of being the child of a doctor and working as a lifeguard who ended up spending a lot of time cleaning a bathroom frequented by unaccompanied preteen boys…

        2. Tired*

          I don’t want to see my coworkers pee or fecal matter. Hard no. It’s even worse when a woman is on her period. I could never do this.

        3. Zombeyonce*

          As far as the germs go, I don’t want to risk any splashback of someone else’s pee when I use the toilet! Gross.

        4. Database Developer Dude*

          And besides, you can lower the lid prior to flushing, wait for the flush to finish, then take a paper towel and wipe down the inside of the lid.

          1. feministbookworm*

            well, you can if the toilet has a lid. In my experience, most toilets in public restrooms don’t.

        5. Starbuck*

          Well, of course it saves water if you are flushing less, and you’ll save money if you’re paying for water. Particularly if you’re doing something like using grey water to supplement flushes (for example, shower water collected in a bucket). That’s not really a matter of opinion or belief.

          1. TardyTardis*

            In the summer, I try to use the bathwater from the night before out in the flower box (letting it stand overnight increases the humidity in the house, which in our neck of the woods is almost always a good idea).

      5. Arielle*

        I’m horrified but also so, so curious about “some” #2 situations. What constitutes being worthy of a flush?

        1. ACDC*

          I can’t believe I’m writing this, because it makes it too real… but she said diarrhea was fine to leave unflushed because it was soft. “Small” solid poops were also unflushed because it wouldn’t clog the toilet if a second person were to go (her words, certainly not mine). “Big” solid poops were flushed though.

          I wish I could make this stuff up…

          1. Alton*

            Wow. That’s really disgusting. Sometimes drops of water splash out when you use the toilet! There’s no way I’d want to use a toilet with unflushed poop in it.

            1. Pomona Sprout*

              No kidding. You could actually get a uti if that contaminated water went in the wrong place, or those of us who have vaginas could get an infection there. Leaving poop unflushed is not just gross, it’s downright unhealthy.

            1. ACDC*

              When she gave us the “rules of flushing” and went through all of this, the smart a$$ in me couldn’t help but say, “This sounds complicated. Do you think you could make a pamphlet about the rules of flushing, preferably with pictures, because I don’t think I’m really getting this.”

          2. Pomona Sprout*

            That’s ridiculous. Diarrhea is freaking stinky. No way would I leave that crap
            (ahem) to marinate in the toilet!

            Also, fecal matter of any type is far from sterile, unlike urine, so we’re talking serious sanitation issues here.

      6. Psyche*

        I had roommates like that. I couldn’t convince them to change. But I told them that just meant that I would be flushing before AND after I used it.

        1. ACDC*

          You might’ve been this coworker’s roommate LOL! She would often come to work complaining about her roommate and how she couldn’t figure out why her roommate didn’t like her. Maybe it was the lack of flushing, the naked yoga in the living room (wish I was making that up, but she told us about it many times), or the plant hoarding (think episode of hoarders, but instead of trash and random stuff, it was plants)…

          1. Close Bracket*

            “the naked yoga in the living room ”


            I am not a prude, but nooooooooooo

          2. Starbuck*

            I’m trying to imagine a level of plant hoarding that would truly be problematic, and I’m struggling. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a living space with too many plants. Maybe if you were putting dirt on the floor and planting things in that? Or I suppose if plants are really covering all your necessary spaces, like countertops…stovetops…But I am impressed at whoever would be able to keep that many plants alive. Maybe I am a candidate for developing plant hoarding….

            1. TardyTardis*

              I had a friend who purchased more orchids to grow whenever she was bored. I have no idea what went through her head when she got the banana tree (indoor-sized, but *still*).

      7. NotAnotherManager!*

        Good lord, did she also live outdoors as not to be disrespectful to people who do not have permanent homes and forage for her own food as a show of respect to people who are food insecure?

        We have low-flow, high-pressure toilets that flush with significantly less water than traditional toilets. (We have them at home, too, and they make a huge difference in our water bill.) If something’s not going down, its a maintenance issue, not a political statement.

      8. tink*

        Yikes. My parents did that for a while because of a sewage/plumbing issue, but they never would’ve suggested it in an office setting unless there was a similar need for that as a short-term solution.

    3. LiveandLetLove!*

      These drive me nuts – I can’t listen to podcasts either!!!! We need a translator who can put these in writing for us! lol

  2. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

    We recently had the office non-flusher issue here in my office – an office of similar size (~35 people). I put up a sign, which did help tremendously (although it did not eliminate, haha, the problem entirely).

    I had a suspicion about the identity of the non-flusher based on the timing (never had this issue before a person was hired). This person is now out on leave and the issue has not happened at all in this time. The person in our office is a foreign national and potentially genuinely did not know US toileting norms. While I can’t say with 100% certainty that I am correct in my suspicion, it has helped to view it as a cultural difference rather than an act of aggression/insensitivity.

    1. Hobbit*

      I’m not from the US and I’ve lived in many countries and I’ve never heard of a culture where it’s acceptable to not flush the toilet. I’ve heard that Chinese tourists are notorious for not cleaning up after themselves but I’ve had Chinese roommates and they’ve always flushed the toilet.
      This behavior is disrespectful everywhere. Cultural differences are not an excuse. I’m all for cultural sensitivity and all but not everything can be explained in this way.

      1. BadWolf*

        It could be that the person thought an auto-flush was involved and never realized the toilet wasn’t flushing (some are set on a long delay).

        1. Kelly L.*

          We have auto-flush at work, and sometimes when I’m other places, I have to double check to make sure I remembered to flush. I spend so much of my week with autoflush that I forget!

          1. Sally*

            Me, too! And sometimes I forget to turn off the non-automatic water faucet until I’m at the bathroom door.

          2. Teapot Tester*

            This was a problem with my kids when they were in elementary school where the toilets auto-flushed, they often forgot to flush when they were at home. Fortunately after me yelling at them enough times they started remembering to flush at home.

    2. Arielle*

      We had a seat pee-er in the ladies’ room who I suspect was one of the summer interns based on the timing. The issue seems to have resolved itself but it was pretty bad for awhile. It wasn’t a few drops here and there, it was the entire seat completely covered in pee.

      1. Khlovia*

        This is so very unacceptable. She cannot possibly have been unaware that she was leaving a mess for other people to deal with. Ladies, stop hovering. Put down some TP or whatever you need to do, but sit your butt down. And if you do hover and leave puddles, clean up after yourself. You are long out of kindergarten and your mom does not work here. But basically, stop hovering.

        1. Trouble*

          Putting down TP is actually less hygienic than just sitting on the seat.

          Toilet seats are made of a non-porous, germ inhibiting substance. TP hangs by the side of the toilet in public place where toilets often don’t have lids. The faecal matter from the toilet flushes happily lands on and survives on the tp roll. The toilet seat is designed to repel these germs.

          The toilet seat is often cleaner in a public restroom than the sponge is in a private kitchen.

    1. Tired*

      Yeah I’m just going to flush before I use it so nothing saved. Did the extreme environmentalist ever think about this?

  3. motherofdragons*

    I really love Alison’s final take on the toilet situation, that it may be indicative of someone who’s unhappy, and that doing a scan of current personnel issues and starting to tackle those may resolve the problem. That’s a great big picture view of the problem, and as Alison notes, something that should be happening anyway! And her calling it “the poop in the coal mine” made me snort so loudly at my desk that I alarmed my coworkers.

  4. Scout Finch*

    I was once a part of a GROUP of non-flushers, tho not intentionally!

    When I worked for the humongous global paper company, we were moved from the awesome IT building (that was near a swanky golf course) to a building in a much worse area of town (two people were found dead by the lake in the office park).

    Golf course building had automatic flushing toilets. Building to which we were relocated had manual flush toilets.

    We found ourselves running back to the stalls (which were sometimes already occupied by the next user) to confirm that we flushed. We were mortified.

    Our new building mates surely thought we were uncouth yahoos. We were just spoiled by the building near the golf course.

    1. the gold digger*

      Do we know each other? :)

      I enjoyed being in an office with a door in the HQ buildings with the covered parking on Poplar. Did not enjoy being moved to a cubicle in a converted warehouse in a part of town where we were told not to walk to our cars after dark without an escort.

      1. Scout Finch*

        No, but we worked at the same place (tho not at the same time). I used a different name here for a long time. I follow your blog.

        Southwind was awesome – Anne and Gabe ran the cafeteria – it was like having your personal set of Greek grandparents that made sure you ate well & often!

        Yeah – the office park was a scary place. I miss the $$, but not the job.

    2. Oh god*

      I was unintentionally in this group once too. No matter how many times I flushed it wouldn’t go down… The next day there were signs with diagrams (!) posted on the inside of the stall doors. It’s been a year, it’s never happened since… I wish we could take the signs down so my shame wasn’t staring me in the face…

    3. Essess*

      I don’t understand people who leave stalls that have auto flush stalls before it flushes. Even if it is auto, you should be looking back to make sure it fully worked before exiting. I have a coworker that bugs the heck out of me because she doesn’t bother waiting. She flings the stall door open and she’s usually washing her hands at a sink before it flushes. Obviously, if it doesn’t flush, she’s not going back to flush it herself. I’ve gone to use the restroom at times and found all 6 of the stalls sitting unflushed and it is gross. If the auto flush hasn’t activated by the time I’m ready to exit the stall, I turn and push the manual button on the machine before I exit.

  5. ACDC*

    Old coworker flat out refused openly that she would never flush the toilet for any #1 situation and only some #2 situations. She said it was disrespectful to those in the world that didn’t have access to clean drinking water. She tried to convert all of us to do the same thing but was faced with a hard NOPE.

    1. Tired*

      I wouldn’t pee or crap over someone else’s output, so the flushing is just delayed not eliminated (no pun intended). No water saved. Just contribute to a charity that provides clean water, that’s what I do and it will actually make a difference. People without clean water don’t care about having your respect. Totally off the wall. I bet she doesn’t wash her hands either after #1 or 2. Yuk.

    2. motherofdragons*

      Oh, you must have worked with my MIL! She tried to institute that policy at my house, and we shut it down entirely.

    3. RaccoonMama*

      See, in the privacy of my own home where I live by myself wth my dog, sometimes I will wait to flush after several #1s. Like, when I get up and pee in the middle of the night or something I save the flush for the morning.
      But #2s:…always flush after. #1s in public…always flush after.

    4. The Redshirt*

      I had a roomate who did not flush his urine after using the bathroom. Roomate thought that doing so was wasting water. Though I care about the environment, I found this to be totally gross. It was horrible walking into the bathroom and finding a yellow toilet bowl.

  6. KateHR*

    We had someone who didn’t flush in our office. We put signs up all over the bathroom. She is no longer with the company so it is no longer an issue. The bigger problem we are having is someone who works on the 3rd floor comes down to use out first floor bathroom and destroys it daily. My boss bought a jumbo can of Lysol so we can spray.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Not that the Toilet Destroyer would use it, but I seriously have to recommend Poo-Pourri. It’s amazing. Couple spritzes in the bowl before you go and (at least for the semi-average pooper) it blocks any bad smells.

      1. Carla*

        At one point when the office bathroom was particularly chronically repulsive I used to spray it in each stall as a stank prevention measure every time I left the place.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I have to admit I will go down a floor to go… because the toilet stalls on floor #1 are many and not busy as the 3 stalls in the ladies room are on my floor. No privacy! I hate, hate, hate having people walk in and out constantly when you’re trying to do your #2 thing that absolutely needs doing. I avoid this at work, but sometimes can’t be helped.

      1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        We were on the 5th floor and the washroom was always busy because women came up from other floors. There was public access to the washroom on floors 1-3 and apparently they got nasty fast.

  7. Riley*

    Funny story: my building has old pipes and the water that comes out is often yellow. It took us awhile to realize why it always seemed like maybe someone didn’t flush. It’s more yellow early in the morning before people have been using it all day. I still do a double-take sometimes when I walk in and see yellow water, but nope – it’s just the pipes!

  8. Mediamaven*

    We have someone who flushes but leaves behind a mess in the toilet if you know what I mean. Like, there is a toilet brush right next to the toilet. Use it. So gross.

    1. like whatever*

      I sometimes want to send a company wide email, saying “Whoever used the toilet on floor x, please clean up your mess. And go see a doctor”

  9. mark132*

    I’ve listened at the last several podcasts, I was just curious does this podcast only interview females?

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Your sample size is too small to make that assumption. There have only been a few podcasts so far.

      Wait. Your analysis doesn’t become statistically significant until your sample size is larger than 30.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s been a couple of guys, but yeah, for some reason I receive way more podcast questions from women than men. (I think there may be a gender imbalance with advice columns in general, but I’m just basing that on what I see in my own mail.)

      But men’s questions are welcome — send them in!

      1. mark132*

        Thanks, it was more curiosity rather than complaint. I listen to some other podcasts and you can see some skewing there as well, some male some female depending on the topic.

    3. Myrin*

      I remember that some time ago, Alison made a post (? I think it was a specific post; it might have been an addendum to something, though, maybe the podcast by the guy who feared he might be mansplainy?) asking for people willing to call in with their situations, and she specifically encouraged men to do so because she didn’t get any submissions by men at all! (I also believe that both the letter writers and the commenters skew heavily female on this site in general, not just regarding the podcasts.)

    4. baster*

      in my personal experience, generally non-men people tend to prefer “women” over “females.” (you could also say “non-men” if you want to include nonbinary, etc). just so your question or voice isn’t misconstrued.

      1. Teapot Tester*

        Agreed – I don’t mind female as an adjective but as a noun it’s bothersome. I am female, but I am a woman.

      2. Clorinda*

        I can’t get on board with ‘non-men’ at all. Nor would I call men ‘non-women.’ If there’s ever a grammatically positive term for nonbinary, I’ll use it gladly! It’s much better to call people what they are rather than defining them by what they are not.

      3. The Redshirt*

        Based on personal feelings, I prefer “female” over “woman.” It feels more respectful and unbiased.

        Though I’d rather be thought of as Homo sapiens aka “human.”

        1. Airy*

          My own experience is that the sort of man, specifically, who refers to “females” has much less respect for women and much more bias against them than the sort who says “women.” Even the ones who sometimes refer to adult women as “girls” tend to have a better attitude than the ones who say “females.”

          1. Magenta*

            I tend to agree, generally men I have met who use “female” seem to have a lot less respect and much more enmity/anger than people who say “girls”, they just tend to be patronising.
            Calling women “females” in dehumanizing and othering, it really grates on my nerves and is an indicator that I don’t want to spend much time with the man saying it.

  10. Rebecca*

    What’s more disconcerting to me, re the unflushed toilet situation, is when I go to the ladies’ room and find #1 and/or #2 unflushed…and no toilet paper in the bowl. It makes me wonder, did they use toilet paper? And if so, where is it?

    1. Not All*

      I once had a roommate who never flushed tp…she always put it in the trash. Grossed me out & drove me nuts! Finally found out it was because she grew up in a really poor, rural area where the plumbing and septic systems couldn’t handle much in the way of tp so everyone just trashed it rather than dealing with constantly backed up systems. (makes me grateful for things I take for granted!)

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I saw a commercial recently, I think it was supposed to be a science fair, and a kid said that now that they were buying this new non-clogging paper, they could start flushing the TP again. And at least one classmate was horrified that they hadn’t been flushing their TP. And the next time I saw that commercial, it was basically the same thing, but they’d removed the lines about not flushing it, like someone realized after the fact that this wasn’t a common enough problem to be normalized in a commercial. Did anyone see it, or did I dream it?

        1. TooTiredToThink*

          Ok, I seem to vaguely remember a commercial for non-clogging TP. I’ve only ever been to one house (in the boonies, of course) where you were supposed to throw away the TP. I had no idea and felt so bad for not knowing (yes, I’m the type of person that feels bad about the strangest things). So, yeah, I think its not unheard of, but it is rare.

      2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        My first visit to my BF’s house, he had to explain the old septic system and how no paper products of any kind were to be flushed.

  11. Jenn*

    I couldn’t listen to the podcast, but count me as someone who LOATHES personality tests. The head of my org loves them and pushes them as part of manager training, so I have done several with follow up training and I have found them to be stereotyping and frustrating. They put you in a little box and then make huge assumptions about you, ignoring that most people are a spectrum.

    They are also super easily manipulated. I have done this by deliberately getting very specific personality types on a Myers-briggs test as a demo. It is very easy to figure out what someone wants and give it to them.

    If they ever try to use them in hiring, I will be very vocally opposed.

    1. ACDC*

      Agreed! Everyone has different personalities and that’s part of what makes us all unique and creates diverse workplaces! I feel like the stereotypes from personality test results automatically put people into “good” person and “bad” person categories, without any regard for people’s personalities existing on a spectrum.

    2. Genny*

      They are really easily manipulated, especially if you’ve already taken any sort of personality test before. I think they can be helpful to jump-start self-reflection about resonates with you/makes sense to you, but it shouldn’t be the beginning and end of everything.

    3. Susan Calvin*

      Same. Particularly M-B.

      Although ironically, my current org used to use one (something with word association I think?) during hiring, where “what do you think about the result?” was kind of the segue into the personality self-evaluation bit, and the results were literally never spoken of or used for anything ever again after people had the chance to *actually* get to know you. But without knowing that in advance, definitely gave me pause during the process.

    4. mark132*

      I find the Myers-Briggs test to be fascinating from a gee-whiz point of view. I’m an INTJ, and this personality type is very over represented in my field as an IT professional. Which I find interesting, but for me that’s where it ends. There are plenty of other personality types who are also very competent, happy IT professionals.

      I suppose it could be useful for somebody trying to get ideas for career choices as long as it is only a small part of the process.

      1. Failed Feline Finder*

        I went through one job interview, many years ago, that included all kinds of silly tests. Some were “personality” kinds of questions, but most were of the checkout-stand puzzle book variety: “How many words can you make from these scrambled letters?” “Find the hidden [whatever] in this picture.” I have no idea how any of this was supposed to relate to an admin/transcriber position — but I didn’t get the job, I assume in part because I am really bad at that kind of puzzle.

        (As far as I can tell, my inability to find the hidden kitty has never affected my professional life.)

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        It’s also unethical to use it to suggest career paths :) (as well as do not use it ever in hiring/promotion/layoff situations).

        It’s more properly used to help people appreciate differences… like if you had a manager who had S & F preferences, get them to back off on thinking that you’re doing something wrong by looking at big picture and realise you don’t hate them because you’re more inclined to talking results :) And vice versa.

        My closest colleague has totally opposite preferences… not only do we not drive each other up the wall, we work it to our advantage!

    5. Close Bracket*

      I’ve been told that Raytheon puts your MB type on your badge. I have never attempted to confirm, despite knowing Raytheon employees.

    6. YetAnotherNerd42*

      IMO if you administer personality tests to job applicants, what you get is a bunch of people who are willing to lie on or game a personality test in order to get a job.

      The MBTI is about as accurate as the horoscopes in the newspaper and for the same reasons. They’re good for amusement and as conversation starters but that’s about it.

      Many of the tests used in hiring are based on the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) which has its own problems, including outdated and culturally biased questions. One criticism I read of the MMPI around the early ’90s pointed out the question, “I like to play ‘Drop the handkerchief’ Y/N”. Are you puzzled by that one? Saying someone “likes to play drop the handkerchief” was a 1940s euphemism for a male homosexual! Like saying “confirmed bachelor” or “flamboyant” or any of a number of other outmoded expressions. It was on the test back in the era when homosexuality was per se proof that you were mentally ill, and should have been removed in 1974 when homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

      One thing I’ve read about trying to game employment related personality tests is, “Always think, ‘How would Ned Flanders answer this question?'” The premise is that management wants extroverted, optimistic, rule-followers. YMMV.

      1. Kahlessa*

        In regards to the MMPI, I remember that one of the questions was “I engage in abnormal sexual practices” Y/N?

        I thought “What is abnormal? If maple syrup is involved? Star Trek uniforms?”

        For some people it could mean leaving the lights on.

        It illustrates the inherent problems with these kinds of tests.

      2. Almost Academic*

        The MMPI is totally valid, as long as it is used for what it was intended for – namely as a guide for clinicians to aid them in working with and diagnosing patients. Any individual question doesn’t matter on the test, it’s the pattern of responding that’s important (and very hard to game). So even a few missed or misinterpreted questions doesn’t make the result null. Some of the questions from the first version were, uh, interesting and downright discriminatory to say the least though.

        Note, however, that the MMPI shouldn’t be used in employment decisions. That’s totally not a valid way of using it. Old workplace had it used (including the M/F scales, which clinicians usually don’t even use anymore!) to try and predict who would do well there, which made my head explode in how non-valid and unscientific it was.

    7. Akcipitrokulo*

      Myers-Briggs specifically states it’s unethical to use it for hiring.

      Which might be worth mentioning if anyone tries to use it that way!

    8. Liza*

      I hate them, too. I’m a psych grad and even when we learned how they are supposed to be designed and used, I still had objections to their use in many contexts.

      Such tests are often misused badly in non-research settings. I’ve even found their use in clinical settings to be flawed (we used one to assess patient progress in a mental health context and found the results from the wellbeing metrics to be completely at odds with all other feedback and assessments). At best, they are a very small set of data that get far too much importance ascribed to them. At worst, they can be misleading and confusing for both testees and testers.

  12. Master of None*

    For the Mad Pooper – i wonder if it’s an issue with inadequate toilets? I don’t always double check to make sure everything was fully flushed when using the toilet, and if you don’t have industrial strength toilets, maybe people making large deposits are flushing, but the toilet isn’t adequate to address their deposits.

    1. ACDC*

      This was the case at my old job! The city the office is located in has a mandate that all toilets must be low-flow, coupled with our office being more on the outside boundaries of town (so extra low-flow), we had clogged toilets 2-3 times a week. After about 10 visits from a plumber, they finally upgraded our toilets and all the problems magically disappeared.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Yes, I once worked in some god awful old warehouse converted office building and the toilets were so old and crappy and always breaking. Plus, the water didn’t fill fast enough for a courtesy flush or two.

    3. YetAnotherNerd42*

      Early low-flush toilets marketed in the US were poor performers, and often, 2 or 3 or more flushes were required to dispose of solid waste. Rather than copying European designs that were known to work, American fixture manufacturers reinvented the wheel, and did so poorly. When environmental laws in the US started to require these poorly-working low-flush toilets, a substantial business in contraband toilets purchased in Canada and trucked across the border arose. No, I’m not joking.

      At this point, though, those toilets would be over 20 years old, and should have been replaced as part of any normal office renovation/redecorating plan. Later models worked better.

  13. Susan Calvin*

    I’m honestly SO GLAD Alison addressed the underlying problem with the hiring strategy of #4, because wow. Doing mass (by percentage) layoffs every time a customer delays their project timeline? Holy cow. I’d be on edge too if that was my employer’s strategy. Using independent contractors (or partners like, whatever your field’s equivalent of CapGemini and Accenture is) is a good strategy, as suggested in the podcast. You might also consider offering part-time model during lean times, or encourage taking unpaid time off, which might be preferable to some if it means fewer lay-offs – then again, to make this financially feasible your employees would have to be able to somewhat anticipate those times and plan in advance, and to be honest (and a bit uncharitable), it sounds like foresight might not be this company’s strongest suit.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Me, too! When I was listening, I was kind of thinking that they were asking the wrong question (softening the blow of layoffs versus an alternative hiring strategy), so I was really happy that Alison suggested it. I think that contract or temporary hiring for staff-ups would be much less difficult than constantly hiring/laying off people based on workload (and would also give the permanent employees a bit less angst every time there is a layoff).

      1. Susan Calvin*

        Exactly! How much time do they even waste on constantly hiring new people? Or do they just not try that hard because they actually realize they’ll be laid off soon enough? And why is it so hard to find clients and projects that aren’t more than they can chew with a staff they can sustainably afford? I have so many questions!

    2. TooTiredToThink*

      I’m also wondering what their unemployment taxes/insurance looks like with this many people being laid off. I don’t know the particulars but I am assuming that the more people laid off; the more the company has to pay in those fees. This model…. that can’t be cheap.

  14. FameThrowa*

    To add to the topic of personality tests, another big issue with using them during the hiring process that they can be discriminatory towards people with mental health issues or disabilities. It’s especially a big barrier to employment for autistic people because a lot of the traits that are screened out are autistic traits. For example, the tests often require a lot of reading between the lines and anticipating how employers want you to answer, which is something most autistic people would struggle with. As someone with mental health issues, I always nope out of hiring processes that require any kind of personality testing because of how invasive and discriminatory they are.

  15. HailRobonia*

    I sort of have the reverse problem. Our bathroom at work has auto-flushing toilets, and I’ve gotten so accustomed to them that I have forgotten to flush the toilet at home.

  16. Mike C.*

    I wish just once that the manager types who claim that personality tests “improve communication” would actually prove it. That is, measure what is meant by “communication”, form experimental and control groups and then show that there is a statistically significant difference between the two groups afterwards. I really get tired of this sort of gut level thinking from typical workplaces when humanity has tools in place to actually measure the effects (or lack thereof) of a particular course of action.

    These sorts of tests always turn out to be the “increases wellness and vitality!” supplements of the business world.

    1. Lissa*

      But my instincts tell me that it’s correct! Therefore I don’t need research or science to back me up. Gut feeling!

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      The main way I’ve seen it help (anecdotal, and I’m not a manager) is when it’s used properly (ie f*ck all to do with hiring and all about understanding and appreciating differences and TOTALLY 100% voluntary)… like when we were bought by a bigger company, we used them to help with how different people deal with change differently and work through fears. Also in my department, even without specifics, there is an underlying understanding that people do things differently and still acheive results and that that is OK.

    3. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      I was on a team that took the MBTI and it shut down communication. I was the sole ENFP in a team of ISTJ engineers. After that, whenever I asked questions, they dismissed me, “Ah, you’re and EMFP, you wouldn’t understand.”

      I’ve come to loathe the MBTI since then. Taken it three times for work, different result every time. It’s a mood assessment.

  17. Hannah*

    I once had a roommate who just could NOT flush the toilet. She was incapable. We asked her so many times, please, flush the toilet, and she would get all embarrassed and say I’m so sorry! I don’t know why I can’t do it! But it would always happen again.

    RE: Personality tests. I’m currently going through the interview process with a company, and they sent me not only a personality test, but an IQ test as well. I am viewing it as a red flag. Plus, the IQ test had a couple of slightly offensive questions (mostly related to the correct answer being based on the assumption that the only two kinds of people in this world are Men or Women.) I want to get the job based on my past success in this kind of role, not on the basis that I can find the pattern in a bunch of squares or calculate percentages quickly, or that I like to be the center of attention at parties (I don’t…). Ultimately, I think I won’t take the job even if they do offer it to me (unless the money is really good). The weird tests aren’t the only reason, but they definitely left a bad taste in my mouth.

  18. Orange You Glad*

    After years of battling with HR, my company has finally eliminated personality tests from the interview process! The only reason we got rid of them is because we were purchased by a larger company and all HR policies had to fall in line with theirs.

    I can sort of understand wanting to have a personality test on file for an employee AFTER they’ve been hired to help with potential conflicts down the line or to identify traits that may need to be worked on etc. Our problem is that our HR made it part of the interview process, so before we could even interview someone they’ve already been in the office for an hour and half doing testing with HR. Many people would be worn out or running out of time for the interview by the time my boss and I met with them. Also, without exception, whomever HR liked the best for a position based on these tests was always the person we had at the bottom of our list and vice versa.

    I mostly do hiring for university student co-op positions so I don’t need an in depth multi-hour long interview to choose a short-term student hire.

  19. Em too*

    We had an office flushing problem due to dodgy toilets – some people had the knack, and some did not. Often heard people trying 3 or 4 times and it just not working.

    1. feministbookworm*

      We have one toilet in our office that is very temperamental about flushing. Unfortunately, it appears this toilet also happens to be the one people are most likely to instinctively use because of the layout of the restroom. Many of us have learned to avoid it, but if you forget, you have to wait for someone else to flush another one of the toilet, at which point the dodgy one is temporarily functional again.

  20. yeine*

    Allison, I have a short question, but I would like to send it by email and not voicemail so people I know can’t identify me (I know they listen to the podcast). Am I out of luck?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The easiest thing would be to have a friend read it for you if that’s a possibility! But we can also alter your voice for the show if you want us to (or I can read it myself, although that’s kind of last resort).

  21. YetAnotherNerd42*

    As an aside, nonflushing after #2 was a plot point in an episode of the TV show Better Call Saul a couple of seasons ago. (Season 2 Ep. 7 “Inflatable”) It was part of conman-turned-lawyer Jimmy McGill’s effort to get himself fired from a role at a very prestigious law firm where, as it so turns out, he was a poor fit…but people were willing to extend him near-infinite patience for all kinds of obnoxious behavior. (The “gotcha” was that if he quit, he’d have to pay back a very substantial signing bonus.)

    If there’s been an uptick in these incidents over the last couple of years, I have to wonder if they’re motivated by people imitating the TV show.

  22. Lady Blerd*

    About the non flusher: maybe they’re not holding on the flush handles long enough and just walking away without checking. Public/office bathrooms that have difficult handles are not uncommon. Doesn’t absolve the wayward poopers but it’s something that makes feels me paranoid.

  23. Ann Nonymous*

    For the woman whose company often had to fire people because of outside issues, it sounds like you are ambushing workers, giving them the bum’s rush and rudely expelling them from the premises. Just about any way you could let them go other than how you’re currently doing it would be better. I kind of hate your company.

  24. Sabine the Very Mean*

    I feel like I am always the person who has to stay late or who gets the broken desk or who doesn’t get a Christmas candle like everyone else. It’s weird and I am not at all timid. I give off some sort of pheromone, I guess.

  25. DaisyGJ*

    On the layoffs, I’ve been through the process with my last company and my current company (where I ended up being redeployed) and this is done very differently in the UK and known as “Redundancy”.

    If over 20 people are being made redundant, there is a mandatory consultation period for employees to suggest other ways the company can achieve its aims. After the consultation period, the employees then work out or are paid for their notice period (commonly 1-3 months in my industry) and if they have been with the company over 2 years they will have a redundancy payment.

    The first time I was made redundant, I was only there for 4 months when the decision was reached and then I had to work a month on shutting down the office, getting everything moved out, ensuring cases were closed and files were in order.

    More recently, my current company decided that they didn’t need 2 people doing my former job and so my colleague and I had to reapply for the same job. Instead, I applied for another internal vacancy that I had priority on because my usual job was at risk.

    I think the US practices of walking someone directly out is not fair to employees as it doesn’t give them time to plan for an uncertain future and doesn’t treat employees as adults that can be trusted to do their work and not sabotage the company in their last days working there. I feel much safer working in the UK where I’m not going to abruptly lose my job for any reason and the only reason my employer could have for me not coming to work tomorrow would be gross misconduct.

  26. Lily Rowan*

    Apparently no one else cares about the question of being asked to work late, but I have to share my experience anyway! Years ago, I had a “nine to five” job where everyone stayed until 6, because it was New York, but without fail, my boss would give me some big project at 5:50. I was her go-to person for various reasons, but none of the work was actually urgent. So I just started leaving at 5:45! Because eff that noise. There was literally no reason for me to be there until 7 ever.

    1. TooTiredToThink*

      Yeah, I’m surprised to not see any other comments on it as well. I was first wondering if she was being handed assignments but her manager didn’t expect them until the next day. I know it took me a long time to learn to just ask that. And invariably it was – oh no; tomorrow is fine.

  27. Jennifer Terry*

    I was shocked by the one where they are hiring more people to take on projects then immediately firing them when the client delays payment. It would seem the answer would be obvious. Use contract workers. I’d be pretty irritated if I left a stable job to work there only to get laid off after a few months when the company was well aware that this could happen. What are these people thinking?

  28. Brian in NYC*

    Re: The not flushing – I’ve been an operations guy with the facility staff and cleaners reporting to me. This happens in all kinds of situations. One of the reasons people don’t do it is their obsession with germs – they don’t want to touch the toilet. Honestly some of those people are the messiest people – constructing toilet seat covers out of toilet paper then walking away without botherin to push the toilet paper into the bowl for flushing. Only one solution – automatic flushers.

  29. Doppelgänger*

    I have an alternate answer to why someone is leaving their “large deposits” in the toilet.
    I had a nephew who had a medical issue, which made him not flush after pooping. He had a large colon and his poops were so large that if he immediately flushed, it would flood every time.
    He found out that if he let it stew in the water, the poo would break up enough to flush.
    Maybe that’s not the case here, just a thought.

  30. nnn*

    Another options for the toilet situation is to put a plunger next to the toilet (or one next to each toilet if there are multiple stalls.)

    One reason well-intentioned people might not flush is because they’re afraid of clogging the toilet. If there’s a plunger, they could unclog the toilet, so flushing wouldn’t be a risk.

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