Stall tactics: Tips on office bathrooms

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Would you believe not all co-workers are polite about their bathroom habits? (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune / March 13, 2006)

"My answer to that is, if it's a public restroom, it's probably not the best place to carry on a phone conversation, especially if it's with a client," she said. "My advice is, 'Text, yes. Talk, no.'"

Aside from bothering others who are in the restroom, Whitmore pointed out that a person could unwittingly reveal confidential client information: "I think people forget that other people listen."

If you're dealing with a chronic bathroom phone caller, Whitmore suggests bringing it up, without identifying the perpetrator, to a supervisor or during a staff meeting, suggesting a company policy against talking on phones in the restrooms.

Or: "You can always just start flushing away and singing a song, and then maybe they'll get the message."

There are endless co-worker quirks that make bathroom visits uncomfortable: someone who biked to work taking a towel-bath in the sink, and that one person who always strikes up a conversation and keeps you standing in the restroom far longer than a person should stand in a restroom.

Craig Heimbuch, editor-in-chief of, an online magazine aimed at the average-Joe working dad, wrote recently on the subject of office bathroom etiquette for men. His tips included "The Buffer Urinal," "No Eye Contact, No Talking" and "Don't Linger."

"The bathroom can be a very vulnerable situation," Heimbuch said. "It's this weird combination of utility and vulnerability. You just kind of want some space."

He finds that some of the worst moments come from simply having to interact with colleagues in the often-cramped confines of what should be a private place: "For me, there's nothing more awkward than seeing my boss in there. You really don't know what to say, so you do that nervous, eyes-down march."

We've all been there, Craig. And presumably we'll all be there again.

In fact, I think I'm going to go there right now.

I promise I'll leave the seat up. Or should I leave it down?

Maybe I'll just use the bathroom at Starbucks.

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