This week, I had an employee come to me and complain about other employees not washing their hands after using the bathroom. They wanted me to put up signs telling people they need to wash their hands before returning to work. Needless to say, I do NOT work at a McDonald’s. My (rhetorical) question is this: does putting up a sign telling people to do something or not do something actually work?? If so, I need to rethink our whole office communication plan. It might save me a whole lot of time and trouble.
First question for the person who asked this question: How do you know that people aren’t washing their hands? Are you hanging out in the bathroom? Really? Because I believe that studies show that even avowed non-washers wash their hands when someone else is in the bathroom.
My second question is why would anyone think that someone who is brazen enough to walk out of a public restroom, observed by a co-worker, and still not wash their hands would see a sign “reminding” them to wash their hands and go, “Oh! I’m supposed to wash my hands after piddling? I had no idea! Thank you place of work for telling me this. I shall now wash my hands.”
Not gonna happen. Not even close.
I will say, though that there is a time and a place for passive aggressive notes. And that place is here, and nowhere else. Otherwise, if you won’t say it to their faces, leaving notes won’t help. (I was strongly tempted to leave a “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie, wipe the seatie” sign when someone in my office used to hover and then not wipe up after herself. I mean, honestly, are you that delicate that you can’t clean up after yourself but expect the rest of the world to do it? Actually what I would have liked to do is put a sign saying, “I don’t know who you are, but if we find out, you’re going down.” I didn’t. You shouldn’t either. But, geesh, people, have some consideration for others!)
I would be willing to bet (if I were a gambling woman, which I’m not), that the complainer has other problems that need to be addressed. People don’t come to HR over this unless there is an underlying issue. Sure, they may say, “Sue in accounts payable doesn’t wash her hands!” while they are chatting, with people giving furtive glances at Sue and wondering about the bacteria colonies on her keyboard, but they don’t come to HR about it. This is someone who is frustrated over something else and needs a little control in her life. (I just switched from gender neutral into female, because I’ll also bet this is a woman. I don’t think men care about this and if they did and saw other men not washing their hands they’d say, “Dude, you didn’t wash your hands” instead of coming to HR.)
So, no. I don’t think a sign will solve any problems. I think the problem isn’t handwashing. I think it’s something else.