Guest Post: The Stink on Workplace Bathrooms | HR Fishbowl

I’ve gotten to know Alicia Jones through good old fashioned Trench HR networking. She is an enthusiastic HR professional with over 10 years of HR generalist experience working for small to mid-sized companies. Currently, Alicia is working for a small biotech firm and pursuing her bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership. She’s active in our Trench HR LinkedIn group and is great at bringing the real life perspective to the party. I love that about her. She shares some of that today. Something so simple, but something oh so true. Something that I quite frankly have never really reflected on, but man does it make sense! Check it out and after you do, check Alicia out on (@AliciaJJones), LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Recently, I have been researching the concept of the psychological contract – what we expect from our employers as an employee.  My list of expectations contained the usual suspects: open communications, fair treatment, and opportunity to learn and grow.  But it also included something that surprised even me: reasonable bathrooms. Yep.

I have a theory.  There is something so basic and universal about an office bathroom that I believe it’s condition is a telling statement (if not one of the best) on how an organization (really) views its workforce.  Yes, in my experience there seems to be a connection between how well the bathroom is maintained and how well employees are treated. I’m not talking about fancy art, music, lotions, scented candles and bidets. But they need to be in working order, well-lit, heated, and – above all else – clean. Sufficient, not luxurious. They must demonstrate a reasonable standard of care.  And if they don’t. Well, just think about it: an untended bathroom is tantamount to an untended employee…management just doesn’t care.

A decrepit bathroom might not only be a reflection of management’s own decrepitude, but also of the employee’s satisfaction and sense of engagement with the company.  If the bathrooms are a disaster and consistently a topic for HR – I believe it demonstrates an employee’s disrespect for their colleagues, peers, certainly management, and generally the company at large. To me, this is a huge symptom of something far more systemic to the culture.  Employees making a mess in the bathroom is a passive aggressive way for them to voice their opinions.

So as you look for opportunities to gauge employee sentiment, start with the bathrooms. And if they’re a mess, take it as a sign something just isn’t right. Look for ways to listen more – to solicit and then actually respond to their input. This is an important part of that physiological contract. Give them a more productive (and healthier) way to express themselves and truly feel heard and all that porcelain just might actually sparkle.

Image Credit: ~dgies (via Compfight)

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