How Clean are Your Bathrooms (and Leadership) in Business and at Work?

My colleague Rowie Taylor, Executive Director of the YWCA of Northeastern New York, spoke eloquently about her leadership career at Schenectady BPW’s Career Development Conference last week.  A small but significant detail stood out in her talk.  “As the leader of the YWCA, I’m responsible for everything in the organization – even ensuring that the bathrooms are clean.”

Her comment triggered a great memory of working with my good friend and colleague, Dale. When I first traveled with Dale on store visits, Dale instructed me to visit the bathroom of our company’s store first.  The tidiness – or chaos – of the bathroom more often than not indicated how well the site manager was doing their job – or not.

Dale’s coaching was reinforced when I interviewed a great Chief HR Officer candidate.  I gave him the nickel tour of the operations building. He shook his head.  “I can see you’re having issues with the Operations Director,” he remarked to me as we walked. I nodded in agreement, even more impressed. “How do you know?” I asked. “I started out in Operations before I moved into HR,” the CHRO candidate replied. “This facility is a mess. A good Operations Leader knows that their building must always be in visitor-ready condition – no exceptions.  A sloppy building is sloppy leadership – as well as a safety issue.”

Since receiving that great coaching, I constantly take note of bathroom conditions wherever my travels take me, both business and down-time.  Sloppy bathrooms in restaurants and health facilities are particularly concerning and indicative of both poor customer and employee care, and frankly – gross.  Upon my return from the sloppy restroom during a recent visit to a local restaurant, I sat down at the table for my lunch meeting and discovered it was covered in sticky goo, too.  Blech.  The service and the food were consistent with the housekeeping – substandard.

And any HR or Operations Leader with any savvy knows that sloppy bathrooms and locker rooms are breeding grounds not only for germs, but also the resentment and low morale that fuels union organizing (for non-union organizations) and grievances and related escalated dissatisfaction (for union operations).

How will you walk the talk of your human capital and customer service leadership as illustrated by the status of your bathrooms (saving your organization time, talent and money), in business and at work?


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