May 12, 2010
Shop talk in the workplace WC? No thanks!
Earlier this week, the Globe and Mail published a hilarious story about employees who've seen more of their boss and co-workers than they'd like at the gym.
[Photo courtesy of avlxyz]
As the article discusses, for those who work out at or near the office, the gym locker room can be a minefield of naked colleagues. Take the co-worker who refuses to don a stitch of clothing until she's done blow drying her hair. Or the boss who corners you for a quick bit of shop talk, despite the fact that she's in the buff.
I've never worked anywhere that offered me a gym membership, so I can't say I've been, uh, exposed to such experiences. But when it comes to professional interactions, I can think of none more awkward -- except maybe being ambushed in the WC by a blissfully boundary-free colleague who wants to talk shop among the stalls.
I hate workplace restrooms enough as it is. There's simply too much business taking place in 'em I'd rather not know about. So the last thing I want is to get held up at the sink by someone who's itching to discuss TPS reports, or worse, to be asked how my project's going while I'm holed up in one of the stalls.
Fortunately, the Globe and Mail's suggestions for dodging locker room encounters with unclad colleagues apply equally well to evading restroom users who enjoy chatting things up while their pants are down. To avoid these potentially embarrassing interactions:
Avoid peak hours. Everyone takes a bathroom break pre- or post-lunch. If possible, try to time yours for lower-traffic points in the day.
Duck and cover. If you see a cubicle mate or supervisor headed to the same loo as you, wait a few minutes if you can, or find another. Whenever possible, try to do your business on another floor or in a department where you don't know anyone.
Answer quickly -- then get the heck out of there. If you do fall prey to a bit of restroom banter, keep your answers short and sweet. With any luck, your colleague will take the hint and drop the small talk. Better yet, why not tell those Chatty Cathys, "How about we discuss it later?"
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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