employee’s long bathroom breaks are tying up our bathroom

A reader writes:

We own and operate a retail hardware store that has been in business for 35 years. We employ 8-10 staff and operate in a little under 6,000 square feet.

One employee who has been with us for over five years. He is vital to our small operation. However, he routinely takes extended bathroom breaks. We have one bathroom downstairs that we all use, including customers. It is the only place for us to wash our hands on the ground level of our building. We also have two full bathrooms and a full kitchen upstairs. These are kept clean and operable at all times.

We have advised all of our staff that for extended bathroom breaks we would prefer that they use the upstairs bathroom. We as owners also sometimes use the upstairs facilities.

In the last year, this employee has routinely been in the locked bathroom on the ground level of our store for more than 20 minutes. Once for 30 minutes. We have asked that all staff alert management or other staff if they are having “bathroom issues” and use one of the upstairs bathrooms. This employee refuses to comply and today used the downstairs bathroom for 24 minutes!

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • How to reject an internal candidate
  • My employees won’t talk to each other and are having meltdowns
  • Is it strange if a company doesn’t involve HR in the hiring process?
  • My boss wants me to wait to tell people I’m resigning

{ 240 comments… read them below }

  1. Seashells*

    My child has IBS and sometimes when they have to go, they have to go right then. They would not be able to make it to an upstairs bathroom. They are on meds and it helps to manage the condition, but sometimes they have a flare-up and getting to the bathroom is urgent.

    If the employee does not have a medical condition that requires him to get to the nearest bathroom pronto, perhaps you should pull him aside and be very explicit that he needs to use the upstairs bathroom. It seems you have just “advised” management to pass this along and sometimes it just needs to be said clearly.

    1. Tired of Covid-and People*

      The employee is not a child and certainly could have disclosed a medical need to OP. Instead, they decided to disregard instructions without and discussion whatsoever. Not cool.

      Can customers use the second floor bathrooms? Is there an elevator? If not, that could be a problem for both employees and customers alike, but at least it is a potential, if not perfect, solution in the event a medical condition is revealed.

      1. chewingle*

        This isn’t an issue only children face—the fact that Seashells is referring to their child is probably because that is their exposure to IBS. I also have IBS and it is very similar. My medication actually made it worse and I needed to work from home while I adjusted to it. There were times I know I would not have made it to my office’s bathroom and was grateful for the flexibility my manager granted me.

      2. Just Another Zebra*

        IBS is one of a hundred conditions that might cause this, and an employee has zero obligation to disclose a medical condition. There’s a ton of medications that can also cause upset stomach, or the person could have an undiagnosed allergy. It took me years to realize that I was allergic to the combination of pineapple and wheat. Independently, I can handle them fine. Eating them in the same 12 hours leads to some less than desirable consequences. I was 25 before I figured that out.

        1. EmbracesTrees*

          Ow, no Hawaiian pizzas — bummer. (And to any of you irrational haters out there: not listening lalala! =)

        2. JSPA*

          When you need a medical accommodation, you do (in fact) need to disclose the fact that there’s “a” medical reason (and provide a note from a doctor, stating the need for accommodations, if requested).

          The diagnosis and details do not need to be disclosed. Though of course, the specifics of the accommodation may hint at the general situation.

          That said, plenty of people do learn to develop greater awareness of their biological needs over time, or find a method or treatment that adds up to a cure.

          As a child, I didn’t recognize that a faint sweatiness or certain gurgles preceded, by some minutes, the overpowering need to go. I had not learned which internal muscles to relax, nor how to breathe, to win myself a little extra time. I had not come to recognize the relative timing of certain foods going in, and the associated desperate rush on the other end. I had not figured out that while neither cool drinks (of themselves) nor hot soups (of themselves) were necessarily a problem, that salty hot liquid followed by slugging down a cold drink, was courting disaster. I certainly had not learned that I could intentionally combine those two things (or slug down an iced coffee) if I knew I’d have 15 minutes to spare and easy toilet access, to forestall having the cramps and the mad dash hit me at a less opportune time. I did not have the awareness to notice which too-common foods made my skin itch, as well as triggering digestive disorder. (Nor would I have had the self-control to not eat those actual allergens.) Finally (because they did not yet exist?) I did not have access to the enzyme pills that have essentially cured the entire problem (so long as I avoid a very manageable list of foods).

          Not being able to find an accommodation (during field work) besides “fling off my shorts and shoes before crouching in a ditch in distress, while trying not to foul my socks” was a significant part of the impetus I needed to stop defining the problem as “not all that abnormal,” and put my efforts into managing and then fixing it. (I do still carry wet wipes, many plastic bags, spare shoes and a couple of pairs of spare socks as well as spare underwear in the car. Just in case.)

          Please note: I’m quite aware I speak only for myself, and not for people who have [fill in other digestive / bowel disorders] and/or [whatever higher or lower level of bodily self-awareness or denial makes this feel foreign to your experience]. For many bowel issues, enzymes don’t work, and taking them is entirely beside the point. But if people therefore feel the urge to tell me that I’m mistaken about my own experiences and what worked for me…can we please not?

      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        When I was going through menopause I had a lot of surprises and accidents with my period, it was just so unpredictable. Some days it was ‘a bloody massacre down there’ and it took a lot of supplies and time to take care of the aftermath.

        There is no way I would ‘disclose’ that medical condition to my male boss. If he had a problem with my time in the bathroom, he learned to live with it.

        1. Katrinka*

          If you need an accommodation due to a medical issue, you do need to let your employer know. You do not have to provide any details, or even tell them what the condition is, but you do need to let them know that the reason why you are asking for the accommodation is related to a medical condition. They are required by law to accommodate medical conditions, but the employee is required to tell them and to provide a doctor’s note if the employer requests one. The doctor’s note doesn’t need to say what the medical condition is either, just that there is one and what accommodations you need.

      4. Rose*

        Please think about this a little harder before you start spouting this stuff. If you actually have a medical condition where you have explosive, extremely urgent diarrhea, are you going to want to share that with your boss? So they can imagine exactly what you’re doing in there (since they’re already timing it to the minute!)? There’s really no way to share this information/why you can’t walk one more minute to a different bathroom without admitting that you’re an adult at decent risk of crapping in your pants.

        1. Seashells*

          Excuse me? IBS has more symptoms than explosive, extremely urgent diarrhea. Yes, it can be urgent to the point that you can’t walk one more minute up a set of stairs. If you have a LEGITIMATE medical condition it can be embarrassing to disclose to your employer, but it would be a lot more embarrassing to try to run up some stairs and not make it to bathroom. You don’t have to be explicit and intentionally gross. Most of the time, just saying I have a medical condition that requires me to go to the nearest restroom is fine and people “get it”.

          Also, they have never spoken directly to the employee. Per their letter “We have advised all of our staff that for extended bathroom breaks we would prefer that they use the upstairs bathroom” and “We have asked that all staff alert management or other staff if they are having “bathroom issues” and use one of the upstairs bathrooms”. Perhaps the employee is one of those clueless people who doesn’t get that he is the one who is the message is directed at, so instead of timing his restroom breaks, they should just directly tell him to go upstairs.

          Humans have bodies that don’t always function perfectly. If yours does, great. Not everyone is that fortunate.

          1. Rose*

            1) Didn’t say it didn’t! I’m quite aware. Also we have no idea if this person has IBS or not; its not really relevant.
            2) Obviously it can be too urgent to be able to find a further away bathroom; that was the entire point of my comment.
            3) You don’t have to be explicate in your language but your boss is either going to know what you mean, which is kind of uncomfortable when you have the kind of boss who is actively monitoring your bathroom breaks and timing them to the minute, or going to not get it keep pushing you use the other bathroom. Many people won’t be comfortable disclosing a medical issue to that kind of boss, and they shouldn’t be forced to.
            4) Whether they spoke directly to the employee isn’t relevant; they shouldn’t be policing the time another adult spends in the bathroom and they shouldn’t be putting an employee in a very uncomfortable position of having to needlessly disclose medical information.
            5)Very unclear where you get form my comment that I’ve never had any health issues; the whole reason I commented on Tired of Covid-and People*’s comment is because I have been essentially forced to disclose private medical information and it’s messed up. I’m not sure what’s with the sanctimonious no-one-knows-my-IBS-pain tone.

        2. Aggretsuko*

          Yeah, this is exactly why you can’t police how long someone goes to the toilet.

          Really, do you want them to shit their pants in public and still have to stay at work like that?

        3. Oogie*

          Allison has advised on this blog not to disclose disabilities (if applicable) until you need to due to possible discrimination. I wouldn’t disclose in this situation unless it was brought to me one on one and the boss asked me directly (you know, like an adult) about why I was in the bathroom for so long. Otherwise if they’re just hinting around with soft, indirect language I wouldn’t disclose my disability at that point (if the person using the bathroom a lot has a disability). I wouldn’t stick my neck out at that point especially to someone who’s timing bathroom usage….ick.

        4. ARB*

          No, I would not WANT to tell my boss. But I found, when I started a new job shortly after my Celiac diagnosis, that letting my boss know I have a condition that sometimes causes gastrointestinal challenge and I have to run to the bathroom made things easier.

          I had a very understanding boss, so that helped, and we are both women. If I had needed to discuss this with a male boss, it might have been uncomfortable, but necessary. I would likely just have given a Dr’s note to my boss and a copy to HR and let that be that.

          I am very fortunate that I work for a company that understands and it never been an issue. Nine years after diagnosis and starting at this job, everyone knows I have Celiac, they know I don’t eat gluten. It’s not a problem, everyone is fine with it. They all know I do my best to manage my condition but sometimes I get a hold of gluten and I have to step aside quickly and I might be a bit in the bathroom.

          Of course, it’s not a daily thing and I don’t use it as time to catch up on Instagram or Facebook. I think that’s what the LW is thinking might be happening, and if he used a different bathroom would not be bothered by it.

      5. Elle by the sea*

        IBD is even more horrible than IBS. Being locked in the toilet unexpectedly for 20-30 minutes multiple times a day is common. People don’t tend to disclose it to their managers and coworkers because they feel embarrassed or are met with disbelief. Many people with IBD faced extreme hostility and bullying from their colleagues and managers in the past because it’s not a condition that is visible. So people just go into hiding because they don’t want to deal with hostility, disbelief, trivialisation of their condition or stupid, insensitive advice from people who know nothing about this illness.

        1. Seashells*

          Exactly. Bodies do not always work they way that they are suppose to. Accommodations are made for all kinds of conditions. IBS/IBD/IBS-C are legitimate medical issues that may need accommodations.

          1. board certified medical professional*

            Irritable bowel (IBS/IBS-C, etc) is an uncomfortable and very inconvenient and upsetting condition. It is not life-threatening, but certainly can be life-altering for many people.

            Inflammatory Bowe Disease (IBD) is a group of potentially life-threatening immune gut disorders that includes Chron’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

            These groups of diseases really shouldn’t be lumped other than that they both can lead to an emergent need for the nearest bathroom and also a prolonged stay in said bathroom.

            I personally have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS/IBS-C/IBS-D) and would never put what I go through on the level of what people with Chron’s or UC have to put up with and worry about.

            1. Seashells*

              My mistake in lumping them all together. The dismissive language that Rose used “Please think about this a little harder before you start spouting this stuff” made me type and hit submit before cooling off. I’ve heard my child in the bathroom in tears while having a flare up. Once we had to stop by the roadway because they were having a bad IBS day and they spent several minutes vomiting because they needed to go to the restroom but there were not accommodations nearby and there was not enough “cover” so they do what they needed to. Rose may not have family that has a bowel issue or have a bowel issue herself, but they are absolutely legitimate medical conditions that are often uncomfortable/embarrassing to disclose but they should be treated as seriously as any other condition that requires an accommodation.

            2. Elle by the sea*

              Exactly- they are not in the same bucket but all might involve spending half of your day in and out of the toilet.

        2. Ya*

          But they are actually obligated to disclose to their employer as part of the process of finding accomodations…

          If the manager gets tougher and tells them to go upstairs and they won’t, and if at that point they don’t disclose a medical need, they are not protected by the ADA and it’s something they can be fired for.

          It’s embarrassing for the employee but employers are allowed to require their employees to use certain bathrooms until and unless using a different one becomes part of a recognised accomodation.

          1. Joan Rivers*

            An adult can anticipate that boss needs to know why adult is disobeying a request and spending unusual amounts of time in bathroom.

            An adult can be proactive about saying it’s a medical thing. No specifics. “Being treated” is nice to add.

          2. Elle by the sea*

            No-one is obligated to do so. Although you can claim disability for IBD, many people choose not to and never disclose it.

      6. Seashells*

        My child is 27. They were diagnosed with IBS at 18. They had to tell their employer about their condition because they had to try several medications until they found one that worked, otherwise their employer would be confused as to why they just dropped what they were doing to speed walk to the nearest restroom.

  2. Firecat*

    As a newly diagnosed IBS member, I can tell you sometimes it’s a “now is already too late situation” and stairs would not happen for me. Sometimes I think I am just going to pee and as I go it turns into a 15 minute session – so using the downstairs may not even be deliberate.

    I think at work a lot of people assume it’s people goofing off on their phone but if you can assume its needed, especially since he is great all around, then that may help reframe it more positively.

    1. Oogie*

      Same with diverticulitis/diverticulosis. Sometimes you couldn’t make up the stairs in time. Especially if you’ve already had to hold it because you have a customer.

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        See my prior comment. OP is not dealing with a child and OP also doesn’t sound unreasonable or unapproachable. There could be any number of reasons why the employee hasn’t gone upstairs, but unless they communicate, they will just look insubordinate.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Let’s have a little compassion here — I don’t think a lot of people would relish telling even the most understanding boss that they have a condition that makes it difficult to get to the bathroom in time.

          1. Ms Jackie*

            but you dont have to disclose your medical condition – just that you need accommodations.

            I am getting a surgery in the next 6 months. Since it is of a sensitive nature (WLS) I didnt want to disclose to my boss (male) right away. I have a bunch of dr appts to go to. All i said was i am having a surgery in the next 6 to 9 months with lots of dr appts before hand. This is my plan to handle it. The most he pried was that he hoped i was okay and if he can help in anyway.

            I could see the conversation going “hey boss – i have a medical condition that requires instant access to the restroom. I will need accommodation to the downstairs bathroom” Slightly awkward? yes, but not invasive

          2. JSPA*

            If there are stairs, the condition doesn’t even have to be bowel-related, though. It could be a bad achilles tendon, or sciatica, a weather knee, a pinched nerve…anything that makes it slow and painful to go up the stairs, and thus incompatible with plain old urgency. Urinary incontinence can also be incompatible with doing stairs. So can constipation.

            I get it, anything that combines the concept of “bathroom” and “issues” can be fraught; but not out of proportion to other work conversations. “I need to leave early every tuesday” can also be fraught, in it’s own way.

        2. Sam.*

          And Alison’s advice gives him the opportunity to say if there is a reason (without going into details), and if there’s not a reason, it gives OP the opportunity to tell him directly to use the upstairs bathroom whenever possible. It sounds like they’ve been pretty soft in their instructions (“advised,” “would prefer”) and that they’ve been trying to address one person’s behavior with all-staff directions. As we’ve seen many times on AAM, that approach is rarely effective. I don’t think he can be judged insubordinate until OP has done their due diligence.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      I don’t think there’s any suggestion in the letter that they think he’s goofing. Just that it’s problematic to occupy the one and only customer-facing bathroom for extended periods. If he can’t make it up the stairs he can’t make it upstairs, and they’d need to accommodate that. But if he ever can, they want him to, so that if a customer in the store is having a “now is already too late” situation, that bathroom is potentially available to them.
      I think this might even be part of why they used the “prefer” language – even though I agree it’s too soft for what they meant. They should have framed it as “unless it’s so urgent you can’t make it upstairs, all employees should use the upstairs bathrooms”. I don’t think they’re timing him for the hell of it. At least it doesn’t read that way to me. It seems like the timing is coming out of situations where someone else was waiting.

  3. BSS*

    Eight people sharing one restroom? This is not a problem with your employee, it’s a problem with your building.

      1. Chilipepper*

        Bathrooms upstairs that customers cannot use. maybe two small bathrooms would be better if space allows.

        1. MassMatt*

          The place has 3 bathrooms, the downstairs 1 of which is available to customers and is in high demand due to employees there using it also. IMO unless the employee has a medical reason for not using the upstairs bathroom it’s rude to tie up the one in high demand.

          Recommending adding a fourth bathroom seems very off-base. Adding a bathroom can cost a fortune, and presumably this is a business, not a pay-toilet facility. 4 bathrooms for 8-10 people seems pretty nuts, that’s basically a bathroom for every 2 people!

    1. PT*

      This doesn’t sound too off for most commercial buildings I have been in, especially smaller ones.

      1. boop the first*

        Agreed… I was the only woman in a restaurant kitchen so I was sharing one tiny toilet closet with at least five men with poor aim, if you get me. It’s really not that inconvenient timing-wise.

    2. dustycrown*

      I worked in an office with 38 people, all women except 3, and there was one men’s restroom and one women’s restroom. No kidding.

      1. Momma Bear*

        If they are gendered bathrooms make them all unisex so no one is waiting for a specific restroom.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Assuming local codes allow. My suburb (other nearby suburbs too) has a bathroom code that requires separate bathroom facilities for men and women, much to the chagrin of a few newer (last couple of years) small bars that have two single-person restrooms. The state only recently updated the code to confirm that single-occupancy restrooms absolutely can all be unisex and thus no need for male/female separate restrooms.

      2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        I worked at a place with 23 people and a single toilet in a tiny bathroom.

        The toilet was directly next to the door. Which opened to the breakroom.

        It was also the pumping room.

    3. Natalie*

      Not particularly? The single bathroom would be perfectly compliant with OSHA standards and most building codes. And as noted, they actually have 3.

    4. cncx*

      yeah, especially if the employee has emergencies and it is the only customer bathroom- there needs to be another bathroom downstairs if the employee can’t make it upstairs.

      also i’m wondering, again, not armchair diagnosing, is there a difference in soundproofing or ventilation in the upstairs or downstairs bathrooms. i had bad ibs in college and at work i specifically chose a set of bathrooms due to those criteria.

    5. Glitsy Gus*

      Per OSHA for up to 20 people you only need one restroom. Granted, they actually have 3, not one, but 2 are upstairs. Adding a new bathroom into an older retail space (the building was built at least 35 years ago) would be an enormous undertaking and really expensive. I don’t think that is the practical solution.

  4. Daffy Duck*

    Timing how long someone is in the bathroom is…creepy. Really, really, creepy.
    You can definitely ask them to use the upstairs bathrooms (fix any issues if they have a hard time accessing the upstairs bathrooms) so the downstairs one is available for customers. You can work out job coverage if it is a necessary part of their job, but monitoring bathroom use is not something adults should do.

    1. Daffy Duck*

      For clarity: “Fix any issues” means giving them an office closer to the bathroom or repairing a sticky door, not expecting a medical condition to resolve.

        1. Yorick*

          But there could be sticky doors or whatever, so we don’t need to nitpick people’s answers.

        2. Daffy Duck*

          This doesn’t necessarily mean he is working the counter. He could be doing bookkeeping, ordering, or any of the many other office tasks small businesses need. “Vital to our operation” could mean a cashier the whole town loves, but my first thought was more of an office manager. Regardless, it doesn’t change the advice to make life easier for your employees when you can.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I don’t think it’s the timing or time employee spends in bathroom so much as the fact there is only ONE toilet on that floor and it is also for customers of the store to use. Thereby, it comes off as being always occupied. So the ask was, hey, can you please use the upstairs (employee only) one and they won’t for some reason.

      1. Artemesia*

        The downstairs bathroom should be off limits to employees since this is an issue. If the bathroom hog MUST have access, he needs to assert the need.

        1. Eye*

          Yes!! So many people on here are completely disregarding what is actually required under ADA/employment law because “but talking about poops is embarrassing :(” as if the only way to sort this out is to have a detailed medical discussion.

          Like… He hadn’t requested an accommodation, therefore it’s reasonable to require him to use the upstairs bathroom exclusively.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            I don’t think it’s so much “poop is embarrassing” as it is “hey, a reason the guy is always using *that* bathroom is a medical one, so maybe use your words to kindly discuss with him before getting your own knickers in a knot.”

        2. Glitsy Gus*

          Yeah, that would be my thought too. You need to tell employees to always use the upstairs for anything other than hand washing, rather than suggesting it.

          If this person needs accommodation, they can ask for it at that point, but overall that seems like the easiest solution. As the owners I would actually make a point of going upstairs whenever possible myself as well, so it really is a “this is best for the business so we are all doing it,” change rather than an “underlings need to climb the stairs” kind of thing.

    3. D3*

      That was my first thought. The *exact* times are just….so, so creepy. I find myself wondering if someone is standing outside with a stopwatch, or if they’re reviewing camera footage, or what. But there is no answer that isn’t creepy as hell.

        1. KHB*

          My thoughts too. It’s not like they’re timing him just for the heck of it – it’s a work-related problem, and they’re quantifying it.

          If the letter hadn’t included any specific numbers – if it had just said “Fergus keeps spending too long in the downstairs bathroom” – I’m sure we’d have people commenting to say “What’s too long? Is it really too long? You don’t know, do you?”

            1. fhqwhgads*

              Yeah, that’s how I took it. Customer waits patiently, and then goes to management or some other employee and complains “I’ve been waiting 30 minutes and someone is still in there!” Doesn’t at all need to involve creepy-stopwatching. Have that happen multiple times a week, heck might even be happening daily…leads to exactly this sort of letter.

            2. Glitsy Gus*

              That was my thought. It isn’t that the boss it outside with a timer, it’s that customers keep coming up to them saying the toilet is occupied for up to 30 minutes at a stretch. I would definitely notice if that was happening, even if I wasn’t trying to keep track. I could be wrong, but that is how I read it since this wouldn’t be nearly as much of an issue for them if the customers didn’t need the space.

        2. GreenDoor*

          There’s a shop I love that is in an older building with only one restroom. Stand anywhere near it and you’ll hear customers complaining to the clerk at the station nearby about how long they’ve been waiting to use it.
          So the number of minutes could also be coming from customers. Don’t we all time how long we’ve been standing in a checkout line that or drive through line that isn’t moving?

      1. sunny-dee*

        Not necessarily. My first thought is orientation (the downstairs bathroom is near the office, so it’s incredibly easy, or even unavoidable, to notice when someone goes in). Or, they could want to check if it’s actually an issue – it could seem like it’s a really long time but it’s really only 4 minutes or it’s once a month or something, and the perception is wrong.

      2. OtterB*

        My interpretation was that they started with an impression that the employee was keeping the bathroom tied up “too long” and then checked that impression against some actual data, which doesn’t seem out of the question to me.

      3. Tirv*

        Perhaps the timing of the bathroom use has come about after months or a year of people saying ” holy cow Fergus always seems to be in the bathroom ” . We had 2 bathrooms for a 10 person office and one guy who’d take his newspaper into the bathroom and monopolize it for 30 to 45 minutes at a time. He apparently had no bowel issues, he called it his quiet time and claimed he wasn’t in there all that long. Hence people started to track him to point out that yes, his quiet time was overly long.

    4. Coco*

      Not sure what metrics you would use to track this though without some tracking of how long a person occupies the restroom.

      Is it the number of customers who complain?
      The number of customers who knock on the bathroom door and find it occupied?
      The number of times an employee can’t access the bathroom?

      It sounds like a real problem for the business to have a public bathroom unavailable to the public and without some data or numbers, readers may be asking ‘is this really a problem?’ , ‘what is the frequency?’, etc.

      1. Grapey*

        If I were a customer and found it occupied, I’d honestly assume it was just another customer in there. I’d never consider complaining to a store about their single bathroom being unavailable.

        Though I can also understand the POV of working there and seeing it regularly unavailable for customers/hand washing.

          1. Grapey*

            I was a front end supervisor at a grocery store for over a decade – I certainly handled my share of complaints, none about bathrooms, and is why I very rarely bring problems to retail staff to begin with.

        1. Yorick*

          If I really needed to go and waited 20 minutes for the bathroom to be available and saw an employee come out, I’d probably just assume he needed to go and quietly wish he had been a little quicker. But I can see someone complain about that.

    5. BethRA*

      Standing around literally timing someone? Yes, that’s creepy. But if you have a relatively small group of people, it’s not hard to notice when one person is spending significant amounts of time using a limited resource. If customers are regularly having to be turned away from the public-access restroom, people are going to notice.

  5. Elastigirl*

    The HR question reminds me when I was fresh out of college. I had been offered a position at a research center at a University that I accepted. Then they called me back and told me they had to go through HR. HR offered me a lower salary and I had to come in to take some computer literacy tests before I could get a formal offer. The whole thing was a pain, but I really wanted that job.

  6. Wintermute*

    Is it me or was anyone else expecting a WAY WAY bigger number than 24 minutes when they said the outrageously long time the employee was supposedly using the bathroom for?

    24 minutes is totally normal, reasonable and expectable. If it was 45 minutes then that would be a little different, even then it would be borderline for bathroom policing an employee and opening up that huge can of worms.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      24 minutes isn’t unreasonable… but if a store customer is waiting to use the restroom 24 minutes is like an eternity. Especially if there seems to be another employee-only toilet upstairs.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Yeah, it gets a lot trickier when one bathroom is open to the public use. Then you’ve got the optics of being the store that gets complaints that customers can never use the bathroom when they need to.

        Honestly not sure about this one. I have to use the disabled loo here and there’s only one and it’s on the ground floor. I work on the 3rd floor. There’s no room to fit a disabled toilet on any other floor so it causes problems, but like this situation it’s one I cannot think of a reasonable solution to.

        1. CRM*

          I agree that it gets trickier when the bathroom is open to public use, but I’d argue that it would be more of a problem if the business was a restaurant or a bar, i.e. a place that people will be consuming food/drink and will likely need to use the bathroom. I think the expectation as a customer should be a different in a small retail hardware store. I’ve been to many small retail businesses where, if asked about a bathroom, they respond with something like “no, we obviously don’t have a public bathroom, we’re a thrift store!”.

          1. meyer lemon*

            Yeah, I wonder how much of this is driven by customer complaints and how much of it is just a general sense that the employee shouldn’t be in there. I wouldn’t necessarily expect a hardware store to have a public washroom. Maybe they’re required to have one, but I can’t imagine it would be in very high demand.

            1. KHB*

              Depending on what exactly they do (e.g., some hardware stores offer bicycle-repair services), I can see expecting them to have a public hand-washing facility, at least.

            2. LifeBeforeCorona*

              Being a hardware store I can see the necessity of frequent hand washing because it is a hardware store and employees are more likely to get their hands dirty. It may be employees who need to do a quick hand wash before serving a customer that are leading the complaints about the washroom being occupied.

              1. Trombones Geants*

                Adding additional handwashing station is not nearly as expensive as adding an additional bathroom. Perhaps this is something that the store needs to consider.

          2. Batgirl*

            If there’s a visible and publicly available facility, then customers might actually be choosing the store over others for that very reason. My relatives who have IBS/small children/drink fluids sometimes base their retail choices on this.

          3. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Fair point. Got to admit it’s been so long since I’ve been outside long enough to worry about finding a toilet in public.

      2. Smithy*

        I do think that a lot of times customers are looking for a public toilet, it’s often with more urgency. Either the urgency of using the toilet, or the urgency of not looking to wait 20 minutes in the hardware store just to use the toilet.

        Clock watching someone on the toilet is never a good look at work, but I could see cases of someone being able to mark time by seeing customers knock on the door/etc.

    2. KHB*

      It still might be causing problems to have the bathroom unavailable to others for that amount of time, though. They’re not saying he’s wrong to spend that long in the bathroom – just that if he’s going to, he should go upstairs if possible.

      Although this raises the point about what different people see as a “normal” amount of time to spend in the bathroom. If OP is dropping hints about how to handle “extended bathroom breaks,” and this employee doesn’t see 24 minutes as an “extended” amount of time, he might not realize that this is about him. Just another reason why sending an all-staff memo when you really want to talk to one specific person doesn’t always work.

      1. KHB*

        Also: Out of all the 8-10 employees of the store, it’s just this one guy who’s tying up the bathroom long enough to be worth mentioning. So without getting into what’s “normal” or “reasonable,” it seems safe to say that 24 minutes is an above-average amount of time to spend on a bathroom break.

        1. Just Another Zebra*

          Unless this guy has a medical condition he doesn’t want to disclose. I get that it’s annoying, but maybe I’m missing why they can’t just send customers upstairs?

          1. Grace Poole*

            There very well could be security reasons to not send customers upstairs, especially if it’s in a private staff area.

          2. jojo*

            Probably because upstairs is where records are kept. Private information. Stuff that could be used for identity theft. And if it is storage it probably is only half finished. Plus staff private break area. Do you want customers walking into your break room while you are eating lunch?

    3. Heidi*

      I suspect if we were to time how long each customer spends in a retail bathroom over the course of a given day, the average would be less than 24 minutes. A lot of people don’t want to linger in public restrooms. At the same time, if someone needs to use the restroom for longer, there’s nothing wrong with that.

    4. James*

      That was what I was thinking. Agreed that it would annoy the customers–maybe a blanket policy that outside of emergencies employees are to use the upstairs bathrooms should be instituted. But a 24 minute bathroom break is not unreasonable in and of itself.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I think a single 24-minute bathroom break every now and then is not unreasonable in and of itself, but if every time one particular individual needs a bathroom break it is always between 20 and 30 minutes (which it sounds like is the case in this letter0, and if that person has multiple bathroom breaks a day (which again, alone is not unreasonable) the combination adds up to something less than reasonable given the other circumstances.

    5. sunny-dee*

      This is something about norms. I would view 24 minutes as insanely long; when I was pregnant, I was in the bathroom for 10 minutes, and my husband started texting me to ask if I was okay. Even for big business, it’s generally like 2-3 minutes. There’s additional time of course for walking to and from, washing hands, and (if I’m in the office) adjusting my clothes and checking my lipstick.

        1. onco fonco*

          Not necessarily, I think. Never underestimate the variety of people’s internal workings.

          1. Firecat*

            Yup. One of my joys post gallbladder surgry is what I refer to as the restart loop. I go and think I’m done. Wipe then start again. Wipe then it starts again…. And that’s how 30 minute bathroom breaks happen.

          2. James*

            Very much this! Diet, genetics, etc play a huge role in this. Not to get into details, but my wife has recently started cooking differently (she loves to cook and is experimenting with new recipes), which occasionally throws me a gastrointestinal curveball. 2-3 minutes is not sufficient. We’re omnivores with a tremendously diverse diet; the amazing thing isn’t that there’s variation, it’s that there’s any groupings whatever!

            Everyone will be a bit different here. The call of nature occurs differently in everyone, and has different consequences. And frankly if someone was timing me I’d be more concerned about that than the inherent variability of the human digestive system.

      1. michelenyc*

        Thank you for saying this. I also was saying to myself 24 minutes in the restroom is a very long time. I would also ask or be thinking I hope they are okay. I do have friends with IBS and other tummy issues; I also ask them if they are okay when they are in the restroom for an extended period of time. I have a friend with IBS that will actually say I need to go home now. She would rather spend that time in her own bathroom. I know this is not something that would come into play in the workplace.

        1. Maggie*

          Honestly yeah if someone is in the bathroom OVER 15 minutes I would be checking to see if they’re ok. Like I would feel bad for not checking on them at that point. What if they had fainted or something! I’ve also never in 20 years of working encountered someone who used the bathroom for 24 minutes when they weren’t ill, so I’m sure they’re out there but its definitely not common

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        So glad it’s not just me. I don’t have digestive issues or anything, and for me an extended bathroom visit is like maybe 5-7 minutes, so I was like “24 minutes is normal? What the heck is wrong with my innards then?”

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          I grew up in an 8 kids 2 adult home and we learned very early that no one got a long leisurely bathroom break.

        2. Filosofickle*

          It’s helpful for me to remember that normal and common are not the same. In my experience it’s not *common* to spend 24 minutes in a bathroom regularly. However, 24 minutes is within a *normal* range for human bodies.

      3. Rayray*

        Agreed. Even when I’ve been sick- like coming out of both ends sick – 24 minutes is a long time to be in the bathroom.

      4. JustEm*

        For me, 24 minutes would be an unbelievably long time in the bathroom… I doubt I’ve ever spent more than 10 minutes, and even that is very rare. I am currently pregnant and have IBS, so not like I’ve never dealt with diarrhea or constipation.

      5. asgard*

        Same here. 24 minutes is nearly an entire lunch break in retail! When I worked retail, an 8 hour day got me one 30 minute “lunch” break and two 15 minute breaks.

        Also, if someone is going to be gone that long for a bathroom break it impacts coverage, it prohibits other form using the bathroom and not just because the downstairs one is occupied but because they may be the only staff on the floor, and it’s obviously impacting customers ability to use the rest room.

    6. Person from the Resume*

      I think the exact number to the minute is creepy, but if I’m standing outside a public (kind of public) single bathroom waiting for it, that’s far too long.

    7. Filosofickle*

      A value of this community for me is I have learned how much people’s bodies, minds, and expectations vary. Based on my life and what I’ve observed at work and home, 24 minutes sounds incredibly long! That hasn’t been my experience and obviously that’s very fortunate.

      I’ve been fascinated by the bathroom topics here! I understand that extensive bathroom trips can be reasonable and necessary. But I’m honestly not sure how you manage time for an hourly/shift worker who might need multiple half-hour breaks a day. How is that counted against work time? Do you punch out? Is this like an accommodation and part of your 8 hours? I’m not arguing with the need, just curious about the logistics! (Salary / non-hourly work I understand. That’s easy.)

      1. Ashley*

        Yes! When you are hourly and have someone with IBS/IBS like problems how do you handle extended regular bathroom breaks?

        1. Malarkey01*

          I think AAM skews more to office jobs and jobs where things aren’t as regimented. In college I managed hospitality shift workers and learned a lot about the legal ins and outs of reasonable accommodation. Some of this could have changed as laws evolve, but we were in a situation where someone needed to cover the desk and entrance in the overnight hours. There was another worker also on duty but that person was patrolling grounds, handling property pick up and maintenance, etc so the desk person did need to be relatively present as you could have a call on hold for a quick 3 minute bathroom break but can’t have the desk empty for 10 minutes when someone is banging on the locked lobby door. The backup person could be called to the desk was for the times you needed a little extra time or during the “lunch” break. We had one employee that needed about 40 minutes every other hour or so, and there was no way to make a reasonable accommodation to have the one coverage person away from the desk almost 30% of their shift. His medical need was deemed incompatible with the position.

          In most shift jobs I’ve had through the years (fast food, retail stores, movie theaters, and hotels…I had a fun varied high school/college path) a very quick 2-4 minute break they let you run to the bathroom, more than that you have to start clocking out or they send you home sick if it’s more than once a shift. One of the things that makes those jobs so hard and deserving of a livable minimum wage.

          1. James*

            Some of the folks I’m thinking of that take long bathroom breaks are construction. They don’t exactly have an ideal diet, and you get a pretty wide variety of people. Some have medical issues, some are wasting time/avoiding work, we do our best but sometimes you get a drug user (some can have gastrointestinal side effects), etc. It’s not as regimented, so a long bathroom break isn’t a huge issue. As long as you’re a had worker otherwise you get ribbed about it, but then you’ll get ribbed about something regardless.

            Sure, if you’re taking half-hour bathroom breaks multiple times a shift that can be a problem. If you’re doing it once a shift, at roughly the same time every day (and believe me, this quickly becomes known), folks just plan around it. And obviously sometimes you simply can’t take that sort of a break.

        2. MissBaudelaire*

          I typically work hourly work. My last job we did have someone with documented IBS. The answer was–she was allowed to go to restroom and take the time she needed. The facility had decided to operate us on a skeleton crew, and so when someone had to cover her, it ended up putting us behind. It led to a lot of people resenting that worker. It wasn’t her fault though, and honestly, the problem could have been solved with adequate staffing. But I suppose that’s another issue.

          Same job also decided to take away our water bottles, but then refuse to let us leave our stations to go to the water fountain if you didn’t bring a doctor’s note, though. So maybe it was just a bad place to work.

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            Announcer’s voice: It was a bad place to work.

            That is not normal. It IS normal to require that water be in spill-proof bottles/containers, in my experience, but “No water at all” is treating the employees like naughty children.

            I’m always a big advocate of dropping the rope when stuff like this happens. Skeleton crew? Well, if you get behind you get behind and I’m not going to “go the extra mile” unless it’s an occasional thing.

      2. Kelaine*

        There are actually common genetic differences explaining why some people have guts that are “fast moving” or “slow moving” – reasons that have nothing to do with what you eat or your general health, etc. I have been at conferences where gastroenterologists discuss these differences, which are commonly known among them. It is super bizarre that the general public insists on judging each other by length of bathroom times.

    8. Student Affairs Sally*

      My husband regularly takes that long in the bathroom and has no medical issues (that we know of). I thought it was utterly bizarre when we first started living together but I’ve gotten used to it. We will certainly never live in a home with less than 1.5 baths, though.

    9. Myrin*

      Okay, reading this thread makes me feel like I either live in a different dimension or like I’m missing something – I would never in my life call an almost half-hour bathroom break “totally normal, reasonable, and expectable”. Like. We are talking regular bathroom breaks, right, not someone who has medical issues (or even just a case of indigestion) or might need to take longer to get to and fro or to disrobe or similar?
      Because I think the longest I’ve ever been on a regular bathroom break was something like 10 or 15 minutes and the norm is maybe IDK three minutes or so?
      And certainly I’m not the be-all-end-all of all things but even just thinking back to every environment I’ve ever been in, 24 minutes on the regular for a routine bathroom visit would never have been even remotely reasonable or something to be expected.

      1. meyer lemon*

        It seemed long to me too, but I think this discrepancy underscores the point that it’s not an effective policy to monitor washroom break length or to give employees vague warnings about “extended use.” If the problem is wanting to keep the downstairs washroom free, then just deal with that directly.

      2. Glomarization, Esq.*

        Any place I’ve ever worked would have considered 24 minutes too long for a coffee or cigarette break, never mind a trip to the bathroom.

        1. Rayray*

          Yeah, typical break times everywhere I have ever worked are two paid 15 minute breaks and one unpaid 30 minute meal break for a standard day being in office a total of 8.5 hours. 24 minutes is nearly that entire lunch break.

      3. Quill*

        Not to put too specific a point on it, but after a lot of question #2 on here over the years, I’ve become aware that even for people with no intestinally specific health problems, the length of a bathroom break can be highly variable depending on factors like how long you’ve been holding it, your diet, and other abdominal complications that may come from other organs, including a uterus if you’ve got one.

        1. Sometimes I Use the Far Bathroom for 10 Minutes Because I don't Get A Daily Break*

          And, in my husband’s case, what you are doing on your phone in there. I have at home timed him at 50 minutes. He has been fired twice for excessive time off phones and from a different, non-call-center job, for excessive breaks. He has ADHD and is completely, 100%, to the point where it is a disability, time-blind (he also won’t do anything to mitigate it, which is a big issue, but the underlying problem is not his fault). I know we all like to jump to, maybe this guy has IBS or whatever. Maybe, though, he is truly unaware of how long he is in there.

          (before anyone jumps on me, I also have ADHD and a certain degree of time-blindness, but I have alarms set on my phone for ANYTHING, calendar app that has loud alerts, online schedule tools, I use Google tasks…. there are ways to mitigate it. Husband chooses not to.)

      4. Well this is embarrassing*

        Agreed! I think the longest I’ve been was 14 minutes (I’m on phones, and we have to go into an unplanned break, so I knew to the second) and that was because I developed a dairy intolerance in adulthood.

        If 24 minutes is your normal, you need to see a doctor.

    10. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I’ve worked in a lot of different places over a few decades (retail, receptionist, medical office, amusement park, academic office, lawyering), and I gotta say that I have never, ever worked someplace where a half-hour bathroom break for someone who wasn’t ill or had some other issue would have been considered “totally normal, reasonable and expectable.”

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        This. If you are gone over 15 minutes, people start wondering if you are ill.

    11. Lucy P*

      24 minutes may be a long time if customers are waiting to use the restroom. If customers leave without finishing a purchase because they “had to go”, then the frustration becomes understandable.
      At old office, we had 2 restrooms to be shared between 10 men, one upstairs and one down. The one down was also the customer restroom.
      We had someone in the office with diverticulitis (sp?) who would spend a lot of time in the upstairs restroom, to the point where they left their novels in there to read as needed. This would put a strain on the 9 other guys who in theory had one restroom to share among them. Plus, if one of the 9 was in that restroom, the customer ended up having to use the women’s restroom.

    12. twocents*

      “Routinely” spending the equivalent of a lunch hour in the bathroom is a long time. Every place I’ve worked at has been really flexible with bathroom breaks, and I still can’t think of a place where that would have gone unnoticed and shrugged off as okay.

    13. Tired of Covid-and People*

      Everyone has different definitions of what constitutes reasonable bathroom time. Twenty-four minutes is almost half an hour and I would argue that’s a long time to tie up the customer bathroom, but you can’t time bathroom breaks and people do what they got to do. In any case, if employee can go upstairs, they should do as OP has requested and take as long as they want. OP isn’t complaining about the time, but that the bathroom is unavailable. OP gets points for that since there have been letters about employers that do time bathroom breaks.

  7. Salt & Vinegar Chips*

    Tell all of your employees that they need to all use the upstairs bathroom, that downstairs is only for customers. When you get the funds get a sink put in on the first floor to use for hand washing so it is not taking up bathroom space. I’ve worked in retail shops where one bathroom was for staff and another for customers.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      The extra sink is a good idea, especially if it’s most notable that others can’t wash their hands, not that they can’t relieve themselves. I worked in a retail store many years ago that had a pets department with a sink by the fish tanks. I used that sink ALL the time because it was so much closer than the restrooms. It may not resolve the issue of customers not being able to use the facility, but I bet the hand washing is a big issue as well!

      1. Momma Bear*

        I’ve visited places where the toilets were all self-contained rooms and the sinks were in the middle for anyone’s use. If the big issue is a sink, that’s a potentially easy fix!

      2. Brownie*

        In a hardware store surrounded by oils & grease, paints, chemicals, and sharp metal edges that could cut someone? An always-accessible sink is going to be a benefit for customers and employees, not a downside. The OP’s letter actually made me wonder if the situation was noticed because there was repeatedly no sink available to clean up a mess or injury without having to haul water down from or send customers to the second floor.

  8. Binderry*

    “We have asked that all staff alert management or other staff if they are having “bathroom issues”…”

    Please don’t ask people to do this. It really shouldn’t be anyone’s business if they are having “bathroom issues.” You can ask that they notify management if they need an extended break if coverage is needed, etc., but asking them to alert management to “bathroom issues” specifically seems overstepping.

    1. BSS*

      Apparently, for some people, multiple half-hour bathroom visits is normal, everyday routine. Maybe this employee doesn’t realize their usage pattern rises to the level of “bathroom issue”.

      1. kt*

        And this is something tangential I wanted to bring up. No way 24 minutes is “normal”, and everyone I know who thinks 24 minutes on the pot is normal (not, like, doing makeup etc or avoiding work by reading, ah, advice websites…) has turned out to have intestinal problems. I don’t know everyone in the world, obviously, but I do know several guys who always took a really long time and one has constipation problems related to dietary allergies, one ended up having Crohn’s and getting a big chunk of his intestine removed, etc… These guys really thought their intestinal distress was just normal. The first ended up getting tipped off because his sisters discovered their food allergies first and he tried an elimination diet (heheh) that had unexpectedly great side effects! The second found out when he ended up in the hospital with emergency surgery and nearly died, almost leaving behind a wife and young children.

        Please, if pooping takes you a very long time, or is messy, or otherwise is anything but easy and you don’t already have a medical explanation for it, talk to a doctor/nurse! Normal pooping should not be difficult or painful, and there may be something you can do to improve the situation.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Tom Segura, a comedian has a very funny routine about this. His wife thought that he needed medical intervention, he thought he was normal.

          1. Kt*

            Life is a varied tapestry :) for a few people this probably is normal, but there are some folks out there who could benefit from checking if things could be different!

        2. PeanutButter*

          In addition, urination that takes a long time or if you’re not able to empty your bladder in one go (especially for people with prostate glands) is a big flag to get checked out ASAP. Urinary retention symptoms are some of the earliest signs of bladder and prostate cancer, but they’re often overlooked because people think it’s normal or not a big deal.

    2. onco fonco*

      Yeah, I cringed at that. I don’t think I could bring myself, even in the MOST veiled terms, to tell my boss I thought my oncoming poop was going to be a particularly gnarly one. I just couldn’t do it.

      1. GreenDoor*

        Who can necessarily predict how long their bathroom visit will take? “Tell us ahead of time” seems like a really odd requirement. I mean what do you do if you’re wrong? “Whew, Team! That took a lot less time than I though it would!”??

    3. I'm just here for the cats*

      As someone whose old employer made us sign in and out to use the bathroom so we were’nt “stealing from the company” by taking long bathroom breaks, PLEASE DO NOT MAKE YOUR EMPLOYEES TELL YOU IF THEY NEED TO USE THE BATHROOM!

  9. 2legit*

    Regarding turndown for internal candidates… Please, please, please DO NOT tell your hard working internal candidate that the chosen one was “just better” followed up by a promise to offer training/development/etc… That you don’t follow through with! It leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth and really damages the working experience when often it is obvious why the other person got picked… I would even go so far as to say that it might be better to ask if they even want feedback in the first place because if it is something that can’t be changed it is of no help.

  10. Hemingway*

    Just have all employees use the upstairs bathroom? Downstairs can be for handwashing and customers only.

    1. Chilipepper*

      Yes, and if the employee who is using it for 30 minutes at a time has a medical reason for using the downstairs, they can let HR or the manager know.

    2. Just Another Zebra*

      Just as a head’s up, this doesn’t comply with ADA standards. One bathroom must be on the ground floor, with requirements for how high the sink can be mounted and specs for the toilets.

      1. Yorick*

        Maybe they can make the upstairs bathroom available for customers? Not by having large signs directing them there, but maybe by posting a small sign by the downstairs bathroom. Something like “there are additional toilets upstairs to the left.”

      2. Malarkey01*

        But there is an ADA compliant bathroom on the ground floor so they meet the public building standard.
        Asking employees to use a different bathroom doesn’t run afoul of ADA as they don’t have enough employees to qualify.

  11. MissBaudelaire*

    I suffered hyperemesis with both of my pregnancies. There were many times there was no heckin’ way I was going to make it upstairs to vomit in the appropriate toilet. I know it was aggravating for everyone, but no one more than me, as I was expelling the contents of my body for probably the fifth time that day.

    And yes, sometimes it took me awhile. There was nothing I could do. I was done when I was done. There was also the clean up involved so someone else didn’t have to take care of my mess if needed, then washing my hands and face and trying not to look like Death’s second cousin come to call.

    I get the aggravation. It probably isn’t just stubbornness or horsing around, though.

    1. Cheluzal*

      OK but this man does not have hyperemesis.

      I have IBS and I can tell you I’d be using the upstairs bathroom 100% because I know what could happen at any moment and I would be mortified doing that downstairs knowing people could be waiting.
      And I’m a teacher who can’t just walk out of class anytime I want! That’s why I take Imodium but go to the bathroom with stalls, not the single one

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have another sort of vomiting/digestion/urinary issue.

        I am super glad that you’ve found a treatment that is working for you re: the Immodium. That may not be an option for everyone else. I believe a few people here mentioned that racing upstairs isn’t an option for them, even with treatment, flare ups happen.

        I think the problem is the assumption that the employee is being a jerk about it, rather than the fact that he might just be doing the best he can. Maybe he’s working on treatments for one of those issues that may or may not be working out. I know with my ailment I tried a whole laundry list of medications, and none of them helped. It wasn’t as simple as popping a pill.

        Should that employee try their best to use the employee bathrooms. Yeah, sure. I know I tried my best not to take up the restrooms that clients might be in. It just wasn’t always, or even typically, an option.

        1. Tired of Covid-and People*

          If the employee is doing the best they can, they should tell OP. Nobody can read their mind.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        A trans man can still have a uterus, and all the problems that come with it from menstrual cramps to pregnancy.

    2. Tired of Covid-and People*

      I’m sure nobody would have a problem understanding your situation (sorry you went through all that, I had regular pregnancy nausea and it was bad enough).

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        You would be surprised the amount of people that were sure I was going into the bathroom just to goof off. The loud vomiting noises were, according to them, dramatic.

        “Can’t they give you something for that?” Why yes! They can! And did! And it didn’t work. No potions or pills or tablets or anything else. It was just something I had to deal with. I tend to be very empathetic regarding bathroom problems and not prying about it.

    3. Sal*

      Solidarity. I went on the Kim Kardashian-approved morning sickness rx after a particularly notable morning wherein I had to power-walk from my cube farm three times before noon to go barf, all while I was trying to hide my pregnancy. Love the United States, man.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        My second pregnancy I didn’t want to say anything about it. I told my direct supervisor and she spent a lot of time fending off people and telling them to mind their own business about why I was in the toilet.

    4. Analyst Editor*

      Yeah but that lasted at most untilt he baby was born, so by definition a self-limiting problem, and also wouldn’t require you to be in there 30 mins at a time…. If that was the obvious problem LW would have mentioned it and approached it differently than what was presented.

  12. Mr. Cajun2core*

    Regarding turning down the internal candidate. If you want the internal candidate to have *any* motivation after you turn them down, make sure that you give *very* specific reasons for not hiring them and why the other person was better. Getting turned down for an internal job which you are qualified for is very demeaning when you are an internal candidate.

    This just happened to me about a month ago. Both another employee and myself were internal candidates and neither one of us was hired. I met with our boss and asked for feedback. Our boss gave logical reasons (though I disagree with her premise) as to why she hired an internal candidate instead of one of us. In addition she promised to expand my training. While that took some of the sting out of it, it still stung very hard.

    When you turn down an internal candidate, you pretty much tell the internal candidate that hard work and dedication don’t count for very much. You pretty much destroy motivation. Some of it can be saved by giving very explicit and detailed reasons for hiring the other person and for helping out the person/people who did not get the job.

    I am waiting to see if they come through with the promise for training.

    1. 2legit*

      And if they don’t like they did to me… but double your workload… and then wonder why you seem so moody…. it does really make you feel demeaned, devalued, and it makes you BEC… but ” all of you are rockstars”… better to find out sooner than later, right?

    2. A penguin!*

      I’m sorry you didn’t get the position you wanted, but I’m not sure why you think it’s demeaning. Being qualified is a lower bar than being the best available, and hiring managers should be striving for the latter. I’ve had to reject internal staff for new roles before, and it’s yet to cause noticeable drop in motivation. Once they see who did get the role, they usually in fact agree with the choice.

      I’m obviously not privy to the specifics of your case, which may indicate the overall rejection was demeaning, but the simple act of being rejected shouldn’t be.

      1. Forrest*

        I have also just been turned down for a promotion after a fairly long and drawn out process, and whilst I think it was handled as fairly and impersonally and respectfully as it could have been, it is still humiliating. I know it’s not intended to be; I know that one of us had to be turned down; I know everyone has setbacks; but still, I put tons of effort into an application and a presentation and preparing for an interview and everyone on our team knows who went forward and when the answer is, “thanks but no thanks”, that’s humiliating! It’s not the intention of it, it just IS.

        I’m sure there are some people who can treat the whole process entirely dispassionately, but there’s lots of us can’t; I put tons and tons of work into this and it *is* humiliating and it *does* make me feel like I was just kidding myself. It doesn’t have to have been objectively designed to be humiliating or demeaning to feel that way!

      2. Mr. Cajun2core*

        A Penguin – First thank you.

        Second, maybe I am taking it to personally. However, you have someone who is a known quality (I was not turned down because of that) but I put in a ton of work into the job and department and I took on extra duties in the interim to help out while they found a replacement for the person who left, and I have years of institutional knowledge and none of that was taken into consideration. My and my co-workers institutional knowledge was ignored and discarded as unimportant. I did find that demeaning.

    3. Chilipepper*

      I was turned down for an internal role recently. I really wondered if there was a message there for me about how (little) they value me. But then I realized that many staff have been turned down for roles. Some were clearly not qualified. Many met the lower bar of “qualified” but were not “best available” (as A penguin! pointed out). So I realized they did not pick someone else “at me.” They just picked the best available. I think it is great that they offered training (and even better if they come through). That is not offered to use at this employer.

      1. Mr. Cajun2core*

        Chilipepper – You are a better person than I am. While I do agree that the person they hired is qualified, it some ways more than me but in other ways not nearly as much as me. Further, I am having to train this person on how to do their job. I should not be having to train a person on how to do a job I could have done.

      2. haloolah*

        I’ve been turned down as an internal candidate a few times, and one of the things that helped me deal with rejection early on in my career was that a few of my senior colleagues came to me and shared their own experiences applying for an not being selected to lead departments or other administrative roles. As a newer hire, I wouldn’t have known that history or that we had a culture of expecting people to put themselves forward for higher-level positions and then supporting people if they weren’t selected. It made being “passed over” not feel so bad. Over the past 15 years, I have been promoted two levels above where I started (higher ed doesn’t have many levels on the faculty side), so I was ultimately successful and my supportive colleagues are part of the reason why.

    4. I should really pick a name*

      “When you turn down an internal candidate, you pretty much tell the internal candidate that hard work and dedication don’t count for very much”

      I disagree pretty strongly with this.
      Turning down an internal candidate is demoralizing, but not demeaning.
      Hard work and dedication count for something, but if the candidate lacks certain skills for a position, they aren’t enough. It’s totally reasonable to consider these factors, and still go with an external candidate.

      1. MassMatt*

        I agree–and there’s an assumption there that only the internal candidate is hardworking or dedicated?

        “Demeaning” and words to the effect of “destroying all motivation” seem far too personal re: not getting an internal job, IMO.

        The worst thing would be no following up w/ the internal candidate at all, or only sending a generic form letter–and I’ve had that happen, it sucked. THAT was pretty demeaning.

        1. Mr. Cajun2core*

          Well, I just go turned down for *another* INTERNAL job. For the first one, it was little more than a form letter. For the second one, it was a form letter.

      2. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Very often, qualifications have nothing to do with it. Reasons for selecting an external candidate are political and personal. Happened to me.

      3. WantonSeedStitch*

        Agreed. I’ve interviewed internal candidates for a position, and while I knew those people to be hard-working and dedicated, it was clear to me that they lacked any experience with or aptitude for some of the primary requirements of the job–ones that were less “trainable” things than other aspects. External candidates had a good handle on those things, and while they weren’t as familiar with our systems and structure and so on, all of that is much easier to train on. So we went with them. In at least one case, I even offered to help coach the person on improving some of the skills they were lacking, and to work with their manager to help find them experiences that would help give them a better background for this kind of role. They never took me up on it.

        1. Mr. Cajun2core*

          Similar reasons were given to me. However, in my case, I believe it was the exact opposite. I am confident that I could have learned the aspects of the job I didn’t know faster than the person who they hired could learn the aspects of the job she didn’t know.

    5. Rusty Shackelford*

      When you turn down an internal candidate, you pretty much tell the internal candidate that hard work and dedication don’t count for very much. You pretty much destroy motivation.

      I disagree. And if you *never* turn down an internal candidate, you tell your entire staff that longevity matters more than skills or experience.

      1. Forrest*

        I’ve just been on the receiving end of this, and I think it helps to make a distinction between how it *feels* and what might be objectively true. I think it was a fair process and the successful candidates were stronger in the interview and had more visible achievements which were more in line with what this particular process was looking for. But it still *feels* shit, and it is making me question both why the things that I have achieved count for less in this process, *and* look at the things I haven’t been able to achieve because they weren’t supported. That’s the stuff that’s really making me question whether I am in the right job.

        It’s still very, very raw at this point, after having invested a huge amount of time and energy in the process. I can’t tell yet what is sour grapes and what is a real mismatch between the kind of work I value and the kind of work this employer values, and whether or not I want to stay here.

        Your employee has probably invested a lot in this process, especially if it was multi-stage, and is probably still processing her disappointment and how she feels about it. She might well feel that her dedication and hard work don’t count for anything, and even if that’s not objectively true, it’s ok for her to feel like that! Expect her to be a little less motivated whilst she processes it and sets new goals for herself and gets back in the game; accept that she might think she’s been passed over unfairly or overlooked or that the process didn’t value the right things; unless she’s actively disrupting other people’s work or meetings, it’s ok to let her feel hard done by and figure out what she wants to do next.

        1. Canary*

          Yup. This is 100% a relationship issue. If the employee has good working relationships with the people around them, feels like management and HR are invested in their professional and personal success, and feels like they are being treated respectfully, being passed over for an external candidate may sting but it shouldn’t do long-term damage. If, however, the employee doesn’t have good existing relationships or they feel like HR and their management isn’t respectful or equally invested in their success, they’re probably going to decide that the company isn’t a healthy place to be and start looking for opportunities elsewhere. This is one of those things where (global) you need to tailor your approach to the person; there’s no one-size-fits-all answer (or universal employee response).

          Though whatever you do, don’t do what my former employer did: Not say anything at all. I found out they went with the external candidate when I met the person in the breakroom on their first day.

    6. Joan Rivers*

      I was promoted into my Q&A columnist boss’s job when he retired — because I read all the letters and sent them out, only occasionally needing to ask him for advice. So it wasn’t secretarial, it was judgment. I even edited some.

      Then secretaries to editors got upset and wanted “promotions” too, but they weren’t going to become editors so it was just jealousy.
      And admitting the assistant, whose actual job title was clerical, did all that wouldn’t have been good optics to admit or talk about, when it was the most popular column there for 30 years.

      Got a small raise but no assistant to do the work for me. And they de-emphasized the column name that used to be “Mr. So and So” because all of a sudden it seemed wrong that it would have to be “Ms. So and So.” This was LONG ago.

  13. HailRobonia*

    For not hiring internal candidates, I wonder how often the decision is really “if we promote X, then we will need to replace them with another search… it’s easier to just hire a new person.”

    1. AnonPi*

      I’ve heard that seriously discussed where I work. Nothing like overhearing you may not be chosen for a position because it’s inconvenient to replace you.

    2. MissBaudelaire*

      Have heard that discussed at a place of employment. Also have heard it pointed out “But they’re so good at their job and a new person just wouldn’t be the same.”

  14. Ash*

    In the United States, I don’t think telling just one employee they can’t use a specific bathroom will fly. That’s literally enforcing separate accommodations. I think the owners have to make the ground floor bathroom customers only.

    1. nonegiven*

      Then what if the employee in question has to go home to shower and change as a result?

      1. Ash*

        Probably the best solution would be to build a second restroom on the ground floor. But my point is, I disagree with AAM’s advice to just tell this one employee to use a different restroom. This seems like a direct violation of a constitutional right to treat all employees equally when it comes to public accommodations. I’m picturing how on earth this would work at my workplace, and I know employees would raise hell if it seemed like someone was being treated differently than someone else.

        1. MassMatt*

          Hard pushback on the idea of having FOUR bathrooms for 8-10 people+ customers. I’ve never been somewhere with that proportion of bathrooms, and I’m amazed that so many people thing 3 bathrooms for 8-10 people is inadequate. Bathrooms cost money to build and operate (in my area, water bills are expensive), and take away from floor space used to make money. People seem to think this business should be all about bathrooms. No, it’s a retail store trying to make money, during an epidemic where this is extremely difficult. The notion that the business should pay an additional $40,000 or whatever for a fourth bathroom seems ridiculous.

          If this employee really cannot go upstairs to use a bathroom, and denial of a bathroom on the same floor is that big of an issue, maybe working retail is not a good fit for him. Ditto if he needs this much bathroom time regularly.

          1. Ash*

            Yes I agree, adults that have such challenging GI issues that they can’t make it upstairs without crapping their pants are definitely few and far between (and also should probably be wearing diapers in case of accidents). But allowing for that possibility, it would be great if a second ground floor bathroom could be built, also because in my experience customers are the ones who take up the most amount of time in bathrooms. AAM commenters are usually far more accommodating of idiosyncratic circumstances in an effort to give people the benefit of the doubt, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

          2. I'm just here for the cats*

            WOW!!! That is realy harsh and just wrong. You can’t descriminate because someone has some type of GI issue. He’s been a great employee and worked there for 5 years. And if his problem is related to something that is covered by ADA then you REALLY cant discriminate.

            If they need a bathroom downstairs for just handwashing they can build in an extra sink for that purpose. And there are some stores that do not have restooms for customers use. So they can always say that it is not available.

            1. Yorick*

              We don’t actually know that he has some type of GI issue. He might just linger in the bathroom. And we CERTAINLY don’t know that he has a GI issue that makes going to the upstairs bathroom impossible or even difficult. We just know that he’s not going up there. With the information we have, it’s just as likely that he’s lazy about stairs.

          3. Just Another Zebra*

            I’m commenting this a ton on this post, but this suggestion violates ADA bathroom guidelines. You cannot deny anyone access to a ground-floor restroom, if it is the only restroom on that floor.

        2. Tired of Covid-and People*

          All employees should use the upstairs bathroom if they anticipate occupying it for a longer time. Discrimination is a reach here.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      But they’re actually telling *all* employees to use the upstairs bathrooms, not just this one person.

      1. Ash*

        No, they have told the employees that they *prefer* that they use the upstairs restroom. AAM is advising the owners to *require* the *one* employee to use the upstairs restroom. My point is, you can’t make use of one restroom a requirement for only one employee. It’s textbook discrimination, at least in the United States. All it will take is for the long bathroom user to witness one employee still using the ground floor restroom to realize they are being treated differently than the other staff members.

        1. Natalie*

          With 8 to 10 employees, they’re not subject to federal civil rights laws, including the ADA, so absent a stricter state law they probably actually *can* tell just this employee to use the upstairs bathroom.

        2. KHB*

          Even if the ADA did apply, is taking a long time in the bathroom a disability (absent an underlying condition like IBS)? It’s certainly not a protected class. There’s no law in the US that says you can’t ever treat different employees differently – just that you can’t treat them differently for a specific set of reasons.

          1. Ash*

            I wasn’t talking about the ADA necessarily, but let’s say this person was of a minority race, religion, or ethnicity. It would look mighty suspect if only they were required not to use a specific bathroom.

            1. Black Horse Dancing*

              Small company as was pointed out. They don’t fall under those laws. Honestly, OP should simply require employees use the upstairs bathrooms.

        3. LizABit*

          Woah! Alison didn’t say that only this *one* employee has to use the upstairs bathroom; she suggested guidance that the bathroom needs to be available to customers and that, barring anything that makes getting to the upstairs bathrooms difficult, he needs to use those bathrooms. This sounds like guidance that should be applied across the board with any employee in the future.

        4. Rusty Shackelford*

          The policy for employees to use the upstairs restroom, especially for anything beyond a very short break, already exists. Alison is suggesting they remind the one employee who isn’t following that policy. I don’t see how asking him to use the same bathroom everyone else uses is discrimination.

        5. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Whoa, holy misreading of my answer! My response specifically says that if something health-related is in play, they need to accommodate that.

        6. Seashells*

          That is what is sticking with me. Instead of hinting around or suggesting, they (a manager) could just pull this guy to the side and speak directly to him.

    1. Chilipepper*

      I thought you meant #2 was the reason (yes, I am a 12 year old boy in disguise).

  15. Hiring Mgr*

    I know this isn’t really the point, but couldn’t the customers just use the upstairs bathroom also?

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      There could be security reasons, staff may have their purses, wallets, phones upstairs. Also, it may be the storage for extra stock. For liability reasons, you really don’t want customers in non-store areas.

    2. Elsajeni*

      Definitely depends on the layout of the building. Given that the letter says there are two “full bathrooms” and a kitchen up there, it sounds like the upstairs might be more of a living space — if it’s the owners’ apartment, or even if it’s just a very well-appointed employee break area and storage space, they’re not going to want customers wandering around up there.

  16. Common Sense*

    I’ve noticed quite a few commenters on this bathroom topic post and others in the past positing that 20-25 minute bathroom breaks are completely normal and should never be questioned. Most people take 2-3 (at least) bathroom breaks a day. That would be an hour total spent (straining? I dunno) in the bathroom in one workday. I understand that if someone has a condition like Crohns or IBS that lengthy or frequent bathroom trips are unavoidable. But if that is the case, that is one occasion that you should be telling your manager about your condition and being accommodated by getting longer breaks. FFS.

    If you can’t defecate without straining for 20 minutes, please see a doctor and / or eat more fiber.

    1. Momma Bear*

      While there are a lot of reasons this employee might need that long, I also agree that it’s concerning that he needs that long all the time. The options seem to be tell everyone to use the upstairs restroom, tell this employee to use the restroom, and get another bathroom installed. OR if there are two downstairs restrooms, make them unisex.

      There are jobs where breaks this long would simply not be feasible. Sounds to me like OP started tracking when it became an ongoing problem, and the problem is the location and duration.

    2. Forrest*

      I don’t have any problems with lack of fibre or IBS/GI issues, just ordinary person-who-has-given-birth-issues, and 2-3 toilet breaks of 5 minutes and one of 20 minutes would be normal for me three weeks out of four! I don’t think “a” 20 min break once a day is particularly unusual for a healthy adult.

  17. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – I don’t understand why Carol was in the original meeting with Jane, at all. You had a credible report that Jane had been rude to a customer. That’s really all you needed to deal with Jane.

    That said, Carol sounds like a train wreck – she clearly doesn’t know how to deal with staff discipline (as shown by her approach of being really harsh with Jane), and she isn’t behaving professionally towards Jane even now. I’m not surprised that Jane doesn’t want anything to do with her, although of course that’s unprofessional on Jane’s part.

    Both of them need to get a grip.

    1. Momma Bear*

      My spouse was a manager and once had someone behave irrationally and turned out she was undergoing chemo. I’m not saying that’s the problem here, but there might be more to it.

      I also wonder if the Carrie really wanted the Jane to feel awful because she took it personally b/c it was her friend? If so, that’s a problem because she took out her personal feelings on her employee. It is one thing to be reprimanded. It is another to be berated. OP simply said, “It was bad” which I suspect is a huge understatement.

      I think Carrie needs some conflict management help/training and Jane needs to talk to her manager again. Not clear here what behavior Jane is exhibiting – is it that she walks away or that she just doesn’t talk but takes direction? They don’t have to chit chat, but they do need to convey information. I would decide on the minimum I needed from them and make that clear to both of them. But I’d also be watching to see if any of this persists and whose behavior was a one-off and whose isn’t.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        Yup, I think the issue why carrie got so upset was because it was her friend

    2. Chilipepper*

      I wondered why too but I think Carrie is the manager of Jane and that is why she was in the meeting.

    3. Totally not me*

      So… I have a mental health disorder that makes it difficult to control my emotions, even at work when I absolutely know I need to be professional. I have been the person crying to my boss, or at my desk, or whatever, though I always at least tried to hold it in or go somewhere private to cool off.
      I mention this because even with an (untreated/undiagnosed at the time) mental health disorder, the only time I would go further than a quavery voice and stifled tears into full blown sobbing is when I was already completely burnt out, beaten down, frustrated, and miserable with my job.
      This leads me to two points:
      1: it is entirely possible that OP3 is male and sees “quavery voice and stifled tears” as “sobbing” because Women. Are. So. Emotional.
      2: there is probably a lot more going on below the surface and these two women are likely quite miserable and stressed either with work or with life (aren’t we all).
      I would advise OP3 to check in on the work related part of that and see if there is more going on that they can address.

  18. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

    You have three bathrooms. This is an easy fix.

    Ground level bathroom is the main bathroom:
    If the downstairs bathroom is occupied, direct customers and employees to use the upstairs bathroom. Problem solved.

    Ground level bathroom is the accessible bathroom:
    To promote accessibility, encourage employees to use the upstairs bathrooms as often as possible. Understand they might need to use the accessible bathroom sometimes or a lot and don’t police this. Put an accessible sign on the ground level bathroom, and add signage to make the location of the upstairs bathrooms more obvious. Problem solved.

    1. Anon Mouse*

      No, problem not solved? There could be genuine reasons, as outlined above, for why customers can’t go upstairs including security issues, whether that be company security or just “this is where our staff store their things” security.

      1. EchoGirl*

        Yeah, barring further information from the OP, I would assume that that the current bathroom scheme (downstairs=public, upstairs=employees only) is the way it has to be, for the simple reason that the “let the customers use the upstairs bathrooms” solution is too obvious; if OP hasn’t implemented this already, then either a. it’s not a solution that can be implemented in OP’s circumstances, or b. OP somehow failed to think of a potential solution so obvious that even random internet strangers with only a few hundred words worth of knowledge of the situation thought of it. I think A is far more likely than B here.

    2. Natalie*

      The upstairs also has a kitchen so it sounds like an employee break room type of set up. There’s no way having customers routinely in the break room doesn’t end up causing problems.

  19. Anon Mouse*

    No, problem not solved? There could be genuine reasons, as outlined above, for why customers can’t go upstairs including security issues, whether that be company security or just “this is where our staff store their things” security.

  20. AnonPi*

    Please for the love of everything, if you are rejecting an internal candidate do them the courtesy of telling them in person. Particularly one that works in your division. Outside your division or even work site I could understand more an email, though a phone call would be better. And it would be good to offer training/professional development to help your employee so they can move up later on, but don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep.

    I applied for a job early last year and the decision was made just as covid was happening and we were being sent home to work. I figured I probably hadn’t gotten it because so much time had past, I figured if I had I would have been told they’re working on an offer at least. The last week on site I asked my manager if a decision had been made, and they admitted they’d hoped to not run into me and just email me later because they didn’t want things to be awkward. I had thought that was the icing on the cake until I found out later the reason I didn’t get this job was the manager hired a coworkers friend who didn’t even meet the qualifications they were looking for.

    1. Rejected Too*

      I 100% agree with this. I was rejected from an internal position one time via a snail mail form letter to my home address. My name was even misspelled on the letter, which made the whole thing sting just a bit more.

      1. Among the rejected*

        I once applied, not exactly for a job, but to work on a particular project at my large company. This project was internal-only, but there was an application process to get onto it, and not only did that process consume the applicant’s time and effort, but you had to have multiple internal references who had to write actual letters of recommendation for you. I thought my application was very strong.

        How did I get notified that I was rejected? I found out when the people who did get picked were announced at a large team meeting. NO BUENO.

  21. KHB*

    On hiring the external candidate over the internal one: There’s an interesting juxtaposition between this letter and this morning’s letter about “Bob,” the employee who interviewed like a dream and then turned into a nightmare. If your external hire turns out to be a Bob, your internal candidate is probably going to notice. And if you tell your internal candidate, “We hired Bob because he does X, Y, and Z better than you do,” and then Bob’s skills at X, Y, and Z turn out to be a sham, that’s especially going to put you into a pickle. I’m not sure how best to handle it if that happens, but be aware that it’s possible.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      That’s pretty far out there, but that thought occurred to me too. In that case, it’s best just to be honest with your entire team and say that sometimes hiring mistakes happen.

      1. KHB*

        Maybe “sham” is too strong a word. But an interview is necessarily an imperfect measure of how someone will be as an employee, and some people are just a lot better at promoting themselves than they are at seemingly anything else. You do the best you can, but if you have three solid candidates that all seem capable of doing the job, how confident can you ever be that any one of them is the “best”?

        Normally, that doesn’t matter so much, because the two candidates you don’t hire go on with their lives and you go on with yours. But when one of them is an internal candidate who’s going to see every day how the person you hired turned out, that’s a different situation.

    2. jp in the heartland*

      True. Generally speaking, you know what you are getting with an internal candidate. If it’s close, I always try to lean toward the internal candidate.

  22. Bob*

    Some people do use bathroom breaks to get out of doing work. An extra long “break”.
    That said we don’t know if that is the case here and making unfound accusations damages morale.

    Talk to the employee about it. If its a medical condition that is reasonable, if they are just using this to skirt work that is not. That said its no always easy for people to talk about their medical conditions.

    Tread carefully but do bear in mind this could be very legitimate or it could be the employee playing hookie.

  23. Bob*

    I like how Alison suggests handling the internal job candidate rejection, instead of a simple rejection she suggests how to build the employee up for their own professional development for the next opportunity. This helps in several ways, it softens the blow and gives them incentive to up their skills.
    The employer gets a better employee, the employee gains skills and the employee instead of feeling rejected has a path forward and upwards in the future.

  24. Bear*

    Why are people so obsessed with how long bathroom breaks are? Like some other commenters, I’ve got IBD issues and spent a whole year in a major flare up, taking many unfortunately long bathroom breaks, tying up 1 of the 2 bathrooms for a building with at least 30 people in it. I was miserable and embarrassed. But if I couldn’t take those breaks, I would have had to quit my job. If it’s a major problem because other people can’t access the downstairs toilet, the letter writer needs to explicitly tell the employee to use the upstairs one at all times, so they can plan for it. Otherwise, leave it alone! Most people don’t enjoy hanging out in a bathroom for 20-30 minutes at a time. Also, timing the person for exactly 24 minutes?! Come on. Please chill and have some compassion.

    1. Bob*

      Its one of those bad apples ruining it for everyone else.
      Because people have abused this its on many people’s radar.
      There is an old adage, responsible people don’t need rules, but in the real world there are so many irresponsible people that figuring out who is responsible and who is using tricks to get out of working becomes an issue.

  25. staceyizme*

    For the LW who is the Big Boss and newly dealing with his team: I don’t get the need for two managers to be in on a single “this was bad and it must not happen again” conversation. Since the complaint came through a backchannel, why not address it somewhat in that way? Either it was egregious enough to warrant real correction, in which case the fact that a friendship was involved is key (for at least the appearance of fairness) and you’d have addressed it yourself. Or, it wasn’t that egregious and it could have been dealt with as a simple reprimand. If you want to lower the anxiety or drama on your team, look for places and spaces where it’s likely to occur and manage to that, proactively. For the record, “I tried to gently shut it down” is an inadequate response to a tantrum, even on the part of a manager. Next time, interrupt, finish the correction, then address the unprofessional response. Otherwise, you, as management, lose the professional high ground required to address an issue because the cure is worse than the disease. (The correction is perhaps more afoul of norms than perhaps the original maltreatment of a client was.)

  26. Cancer Survivor*

    While being treated for colon cancer, radiation therapy did a number on my tissue in that region. When I need a toilet, I need it pretty much immediately. Climbing stairs is not a good option. In fact walking anything but a short distance is horrible. The impact of every footfall makes the need to defecate even more urgent.

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