I work in a growing company with only 1 bathroom for women, and 1 for men. The bathrooms are always occupied and everyone needs to wait from time to time.

My male colleague uses the female bathroom, specifically to 'go number two'. Normally I wouldn't really mind a man using the bathroom, as we all do the same business in there, but the issue is he always leaves the toilet dirty and smelling, even though a toilet brush and spray are provided.

He acts like he 'mistakenly' used the women's bathroom when you run into him. They are clearly labeled. He just says 'oh no, wrong door.'

A note asking people to leave the toilet cleaner has already been put up but this didn't help and I'm not sure of my HR manager knows it's him leaving the mess.

I am not comfortable telling him directly. Should I 'tell on him' to HR?

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    When bathrooms are in small numbers, the problem is not him using another room(if the other one is always full). The problem is him leaving a terrible mess.
    – gazzz0x2z
    Aug 4, 2016 at 14:41
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    This seems to be more about leaving the bathroom dirty than which bathroom he uses. Aug 4, 2016 at 14:56
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    The discussion about gender has been moved to chat. Please take all discussion of gender-segregated bathrooms, gender identity, and which gender is messier there. As a reminder, once we've created a room from a post we can't add comments to it, so further comments on those topics will be deleted. Aug 4, 2016 at 15:12

4 Answers 4


Talk to your boss or manager.

There is a good chance your boss will have an opinion on this. In my office there is almost always a women's bathroom open to use. There is only one woman who uses it. But my boss was adamant that it was not to be used by men and it hasn't been a problem. Hopefully your boss will make a standard. At the very least, I'd imagine he say, if you use that bathroom, clean up after yourself.

If you boss is indifferent but okay with you sending out an email, you could send out a general email as a reminder to "Keep things clean".

It's reasonable to expect a clean bathroom space at work. Don't feel embarrassed asking for that.

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    One doesn't even have to mention the specific person. Just that it happens.
    – Jeff.Clark
    Aug 4, 2016 at 18:49
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    It's also reasonable to expect a bathroom that is free to use. "The bathrooms are always occupied' - this is the real problem here. The company might actually get in a serious problem over this. This is Europe, and workers have pretty good guarantees of basic ergonomic rights.
    – Davor
    Aug 4, 2016 at 21:48
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    Don't send the email - they don't work.
    – tmaj
    Aug 4, 2016 at 23:16
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    Almost always, sending general communication "Can everyone please do X?" when the problem is known to be one person is a very annoying, poor way to address a problem. I suppose it's understandable this time just because it is such a sensitive issue. But I think it's unlikely to solve the problem. It's the equivalent of the sign that is already in the bathroom.
    – user45590
    Aug 5, 2016 at 8:54

The problem isn't that somebody is using the wrong bathroom; the problem is leaving it dirty. If you had unisex bathrooms (meaning there's no "wrong"), or if one of your female colleagues were doing this, you'd still have the cleanliness problem. So focus on that.

This is something to take to your manager or HR. Talking directly to the person (which I know you've said you're not comfortable doing anyway) risks (a) making things more uncomfortable and (b) turning the whole thing into a discussion about gender when, really, your problem is the mess.

The issue you should take to your manager or HR is: somebody often leaves the bathroom messy; we need to fix that.

  • 1
    Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Ronnie W
    Aug 4, 2016 at 21:52
  • I have cleaned up the comments, deleted those already moved to chat and removed the comments that were not relevant to the answer.
    – Jane S
    Aug 5, 2016 at 4:24
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    @JaneS The current chat is complete incoherant, because it refers to discussion that has since been deleted? Can the deleted discussion just live on in chat?
    – Yakk
    Aug 6, 2016 at 18:41

I think you are taking too much into your own hands.

You are working there, and you require adequately clean facilities for your comfort, and the company is failing to provide them.

Go to your manager and complain. "The bathroom is consistently dirty, daily."

If they don't address the issue in a way that resolves the problem - regardless of the cause - then go to HR. "the bathroom is consistently dirty, daily."

They are responsible for providing clean facilities. It's not your job to investigate, provide evidence, or find the root cause. If they choose to do that, that's fine. If they choose to get a cleaning service (or an employee) to check and clean the toilets more frequently, that's fine.

If they don't resolve the problem, then you may be able to file complaints with your local governments about conditions of employment, but unless body fluids and other excrement are placed in areas you are expected to come into direct contact with (ie, outside the bowl), then it's unlikely that you will receive any relief. You may need to find another job, or put up with unpleasant scents and sights wif they pose no actual harm to your body. Perhaps a bathroom scent dispenser may resolve some of your concerns.

Regardless, I'd strongly suggest you drop all concern over who is making the mess, and only concern yourself with how the mess is affecting you, and conveying that concern to the people who are in a position to resolve it.

If you bring up the individual, or the sex of the individual, they may view it as a problem between two employees, or a personal bias on your part against men. This is not what you want them to focus on - at least not if you want them to take action on the messiness left behind.


There is so much wrong with this whole scenario, I hardly know where to start.

Company not providing adequate bathrooms
This is the biggest issue and the rest are being caused by it. The company needs to provide more bathroom space. If the bathrooms are constantly full and people are constantaly having to wait, that means that productivity is being lost. I'm not sure about the Netherlands, but in the US there are laws governing this.

Men using the women's bathroom
This isn't a huge deal if the bathrooms are single occupancy and it only happens occasionally. However, the fact that it is happening all the time is going to cause issues.

Employees being asked to scrub the toilet
This may be normal in the Netherlands, but it would be very odd in the US. I've never once worked at a place where employees were expected to scrub the toilet after they used it. This would be handled at night by the janitorial staff. If this is the norm in the Netherlands, then I would bring it up with your boss or HR.

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    It may not be typical here in the states to bring up, but I personally wouldn't have a problem with the boss mentioning that "if you crap all over the seat or leave your feces plastered on the inside walls of the toilet, you should be an adult and clean up after yourself". After all, that's why a brush and spray are there and not in a janitors closet. I would also not expect that person to leave their own body that dirty after the fact, so why something that everyone else uses? Ironically, he could be using the women's bathroom because the other males in the office are just as bad or worse.
    – coblr
    Aug 4, 2016 at 18:50
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    Most places I've worked don't leave a toilet brush and cleaner in the bathroom.
    – Kevin
    Aug 4, 2016 at 19:24
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    It is indeed the normal thing in the Netherlands to leave a brush in the toilet and all adults (and many kids) are instructed to use it whenever needed. Might be that we use different kinds of toilets from the USA ones, which might require a bit more attention after use.
    – Willeke
    Aug 4, 2016 at 19:59
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    In Europe it is not only normal but expected from the user to scrub the toilet, actually I'm very surprised reading in this answer that it's not seen as normal everywhere (and we're not even talking about third-world countries, but the USA). Maybe there is a cultural difference too, and the co-worker comes from a place where scrubbing the toilet after use is not considered normal?
    – Val
    Aug 4, 2016 at 20:41
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    @reirab : In this case, assuming good faith (however negatively the attitude of the co-worker was described) it might happen that he comes from a place where this wasn't a problem, so he just leaves quickly before the flushing finished, assuming everything is OK but in reality it isn't. In Germany, for example, toilets have a different shape and unlikely to clean themselves automatically. Maybe it's similar in the Netherlands? If that's the case, a way should be found to let the coworker know about it without sounding too offensive.
    – Val
    Aug 4, 2016 at 21:03

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