Coworkers Who Don't Wash Their Hands

Watching a coworker walk right past the sink, after having used the facilities, is one of the grossest encounters of office life.  Check out Modern Manners Guy's 3 tips for avoiding a handshake with someone who didn’t wash their hands:

Richie Frieman
3-minute read

A while back, I wrote an article called, Are You Guilty of Bad Bathroom Manners? that stirred up a lot of healthy discussion about the unmannerly bathroom behaviors we encounter.

However, one area that really seemed to stand out was the office bathroom. Go ahead, call me picky or a germaphobe, I’ll gladly take both, because there is nothing worse than watching a coworker leave the bathroom without washing their hands. I don’t care if you’re an intern, a manager, the CEO, or the Queen of England, if you don’t wash your hands – especially when others are watching – you are the grossest person on the planet.

But at some point, you may have to shake hands with Mr. or Ms. My Hands Magically Sanitize Themselves. So check out my top 3 quick and dirty tips for avoiding a germy handshake:

Tip #1: Don’t Make It Personal

As much as you want to remind the adult, the professional, that washing hands after using the bathroom is something every preschooler knows, you can’t. Saying, “Hey Walter, you forgot to wash your hands,” could cause friction and make you look rude, or even like a bully. I know what you're thinking: "They need to hear it! " True, but sadly, the mannerly road is sometimes the one less upfront.

A subtle way to give a reminder that hand-washing is not optional is to cough, or clear your throat while you're at the sink and they're walking by. Maybe they’ll see you and think, “Oh, that’s right, I’m not a caveman. I need to wash my hands.”

Tip #2: The Note

Here’s the deal, Walter knew he didn’t wash his hands on his way out of the bathroom. In fact, Walter probably never washes his hands, and he didn’t plan to after whatever “number” he just did in the office restroom. You tried politely coughing to get his attention, but subtlety is not Walter's strong suit.

So your next move is to leave a note in the bathroom as a reminder for everyone that hand-washing prevents the spread of disease and is polite and hygienic. Place this note on the mirror, over the sink(s), or on the door as a constant reminder. However, don’t add, "Walter, this means you!" underneath. That's not cool.

Tip #3: A Friendly Reminder

As the fall and winter seasons approach, the flu will rear it’s ugly head around every corner of the office and cause a ripple affect of sneezing, coughing, and phlegm. With that, you’ll see many news articles about how to protect yourselves from germs. Our own House Call Doctor has tons of tips and advice on how to prevent the spread of cold and viruses. Why not print out an article and share it with your coworkers in an email as a friendly reminder about the importance of hand-washing.

Do you have a great story about a coworker who didn’t wash their hands? How did you handle it? Post all the comments below.

As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

My new book has a lot more about office life and how to climb to the top without sticking your foot (or hand) in your mouth. Check out Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career. It's available for pre-order now!