Then Jack Happened : Clean The Bathroom


Question What should I do when no one in my office of somewhat responsible, fairly sanitary co-workers seems to forget how to replenish empty toilet paper rolls? Should I gently remind them with one of those “I’m just so disappointed in you” motherly looks; scream wildly that a pack of wolves would be more thoughtful; or simply toilet paper their desks – thoroughly – one night after work? Oh. The same applies to emptying garbage cans overflowing with paper towels, food containers and tampon wrappers. – Bitchy (though justified) Boss Answer Oh, to manage children. In a former life as a cook, I learned a nice axiom: clean as you go and you save time and effort in the long run. I was being flippant calling your co-workers children, but their attitude of ‘not my problem’ or ‘someone else will take care of it’ is childish and selfish. How to manage? First, we identify whether you are crazy or not. If you are an overly neat person with ridiculous standards, then you’re the problem. The neat freak’s response is: “But I’m keeping it clean, everyone likes things clean, that’s not fair.” Well, slow down Purell breath, because if you are applying your own unreasonable standards to otherwise reasonable people working in a reasonably clean office, your nagging is driving everyone else nuts. That being said, I don’t believe you’re crazy, I am simply required to appear to be even handed for credibility purposes. Overflowing bathroom garbage cans are a disaster. My general problem-solving rule is: go with the course of direct action that is most effective and doesn’t result in a lawsuit. Your ‘motherly looks’ idea might get some results, but it sets a bad precedent. First, it’s a passive response when direct communication is better. You shouldn’t be pleading for people to clean up after themselves. Second, your co-workers are acting entitled, and if you treat them like children then they will act like children. This is also my argument against screaming, because now you’ve replaced shame with fear, and negative inducing emotions won’t foster a positive work environment. Plus, you appear unhinged and dismissible as ‘Ms. RubberGloves.’ So what can you do? Make it their responsibility. If you have already told them several times to clean up, sit them down and explain clearly that every week it is someone’s job to manage the restrooms. Set a schedule (you know, like a ‘chore chart’ in kindergarten). Leave some bags in the trashcans and have TP accessible and encourage them all to manage issues as they arise, but keep one person a week ultimately responsible. Now for consequences. If you are a laid back office, you can try leaving un-removed garbage bags and empty rolls on the seat of the scheduled person, with a note stating: “Your job this week.” This is kind of childish as well, but it gets the point across. The responsibility should be on that person, so hopefully they take ownership and start policing their cohorts. If this isn’t a reasonable course of action and your office is a ‘professional’ environment, then write them up. I don’t know if this is effective, but you must create an actual consequence they respect, or else you aren’t running the show, they are. Remember, either they are ignorant of the fact that they are being selfish, or they believe that cleaning up is beneath them. Neither is reasonable, and you need to be assertive. Or you can simplify it even further: fire the next person that doesn’t take out the garbage, survey the remainders, and grimly say: “Clark didn’t take out the trash, so I did.” Clean bathrooms for months. Poor Clark, now he’s got a lot of problems. He can always write into and we can try and make it go away.