The Courtesy Flush and Other Things I’ve learned in the Office

Please allow me to (for forgive me for) being crass. 

I’m sure most people have read Robert Fulghum’s “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” at least in part. I think we need to have a grown up version that encompasses more than just those incredibly basic people skills and social niceties.

For those of you who haven’t read “All I need to know…” the list includes such things as:

  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Play fair.
  • Share everything.
  • Live a balanced life.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.

Basic words of true wisdom.

One of the basics Robert included in his list was “Flush.” Ummmm… ya. Seems easy, right? Not so much sometimes.

I want to create a list of “All the Things I Need to Function Well in Society, I’ve Learned in the Office (by watching other people and thinking, “Holy Crap!”).” Let’s start with the flushing thing.

  • There is such thing as a “courtesy flush.” As adults, we all know about bodily functions (and some appreciate bodily humor more than others), but we don’t need to bring those to the forefront in the office. I’m sorry that you are having issues, we all do at some point, but flush if you know you have gas and someone else is in the room. That little flush shows that you acknowledge me in a stall next door and we can both pretend that you’re not doing that a few feet away from me. I may be in a meeting with you in an hour or two and I don’t need to know you that personally. (I think this mostly applies to women, but I’ve heard stories from men, too.)
  • We all need underwear that fit. Your body does not exist to me from the neck down, but tight underwear and pantilines can really ruin an outfit. I am not one to really pay attention to what other people are wearing, but even I can’t stop staring when your underwear cut your ass in half.
  • Keep your cleavage to a minimum. I have big breasts and some days, with some of my clothing, I distract myself. But I really try to keep them covered at work. I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to show off their ta-tas in the office. If you’re going out for the evening, show off those beautiful breasts all you want, but please not in the office.
  • Invest in good t-shirts. Men sweat more than women and hairy chests do show through dress shirts. A good t-shirt will help avoid seeing your chest hair and man cleavage. Thank you.
  • Always carry breath mints. I don’t know about you, but some days, my mouth tastes like something died. It could be my stomach, it could be the food I just ate or it could be the occasional cup of coffee. Last thing any of us want to deal with are having our eyebrows melt off from our colleagues’ bad breath. Don’t be known as the person with halitosis. Pop a breath mint before any meeting or stopping by someone’s cube. They will secretly thank you for the minty fresh air.
  • Be considerate of other people. This can encompass all sorts of things from being a loud talker to being the person who stops by and never leaves when you’re trying to get work done.
  • Your personal phone calls should be kept to a minimum at your desk. I have kids, but I do my best to not talk with them during the day because I don’t want everyone to hear the craziness that exists in my life outside of work. I respect that other people are nearby and may be focusing, so I try not to disrupt.
  • Observe adequate personal space. One of my worst work memories was when a boss of mine would continually invade my personal space. I finally lost it and told him to get away from me. One of the many less than professional moments I’ve had. But, he needed to understand that I have space issues. I think most people need a respectful distance from their colleagues.
  • NEVER touch someone personally. A pat on the arm or maybe even a quick forearm grasp is okay when you know that person well. But, don’t ever put your finger in a colleague’s cleavage. It’s happened to me and I still twitch. She liked my “big ta-tas” apparently. Refer back to the adequate personal space note.
  • Walk gingerly. Now, maybe I’m getting really picky here, but at one job we’d joke about how it was like JurassicPark when particular people walked by (you know, the ripples in the water). There really is no reason to stomp your feet as you walk.
  • Be pleasant. This one goes to something I learned when my kids were in preschool and I repeat it often – We don’t have to be friends, but we have to be friendly. Don’t be that miserable, scowling person that people avoid. Smile. Make eye contact. Just be pleasant. After all, we do have to see each other five days a week.
  • Don’t drive a bus over people. In the business environment, sometimes we have to lay things out on the table and colleagues can be hit with shrapnel. However, if you continually throw people under the bus, then back that bus up and continue to ride over people, your reputation precede you and no one will want to be associated with you. Be fair. (Isn’t that what Robert said?)
  • Be responsible. Aren’t we all adults who are here to earn a living and contribute? If you make a mistake, find a solution, but fess up. Don’t allow things to fall apart because you made a mistake. We all make mistakes. We’re all human. Above all – take responsibility for things that are your responsibility and don’t allow someone else to take the fall for you or have to cover up for you.
  • Keep an open mind. Just because you feel a certain way, don’t assume that everyone in your group/on your team feels the same. Be open to learning. Don’t shoot people down when brainstorming – sharing ideas is simply to grow, no one is wrong. We all have different perspectives and can all grow with one another’s help.
  • Don’t talk with food in your mouth. Yes, lunch meetings are the inevitable situation where you may have something in your mouth when you need to talk. However, in most other situations, this is completely avoidable. Just take a breath, finish chewing, swallow and then share your thoughts.
  • Be upfront and honest. Now, this is not to say that you need to say EVERYTHING that is on your mind, but you also should be upfront with people and not the one who carries a set of knives around to backstab everyone. If something bothers you about someone on a personal level, don’t share it at the office. We all have to work together. Just be nice.
  • Be aware of your body odor. I’ve worked with people whose pores are still spewing out alcohol from the previous evening. Please, just bathe adequately and use body spray of some sort if you need to. If your deodorant isn’t working, please invest in a new one. On the flip side, please don’t pour a bottle of fragrance over you every morning.

I will admit I’ve had some truly horrific and unprofessional (but hilarious) moments. I’m not perfect, nor am I a “fast tracker” racing my way to the top. I’ve had too much fun some days and have been completely inappropriate other days, but we all need to co-exist. Hopefully these few items are some good food for thought.

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6 thoughts on “The Courtesy Flush and Other Things I’ve learned in the Office

  1. I can’t believe that a colleague stuck her finger between your tatas (love that word by the way!!) – on what planet could that possibly be acceptable behaviour!

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