The Pitfalls of Pooing at Work


We’ve all been there. It’s your first day at a new job.

Once you’ve gotten over realising you’re never going to remember the names of the one-hundred-and-one colleagues you’ve just been introduced to, you’ve made the first tea round (one decaf soya milk coffee coming up!), and you’ve sussed the photocopier (why oh why is every one different, and why are we still photocopying?!), a new anxiety sets in…what do you do if you need a poo (all together now) “in an English office workplace”?

To poo or not to poo? That is the question.

There does seem to be an age-old, yet unspoken, taboo — or should that be tapoo (oh yes, get set for the poo puns) — about joining a new workforce and shitting the place up.

We feel we need to settle in first, get our feet under the table. “I’ll give it a week before I brave it,” we all say to ourselves.

And a week is a perfectly reasonable amount of time to negotiate the now-a-consequence-of-not-pooing-at-work flatulence — to cope with the crippling stomach cramps and learn to disguise the bum rumbles for hunger pangs (“Ooh, I mustn’t have eaten enough at lunch”).

A week is also a sufficient amount of time to strike a deal with our bowels that they, for now, are restricted to predefined movements; that is, at home/the gym/the pub/wherever we can peacefully poo. But, this first week in a new job is also the crucial time for sussing out our colleagues — a little personality profiling coupled with taking note of their “movements”, all with the aim of deducing who is full of shit.

And by the end of these first five torturous days, you’ve probably worked out your timings and, most importantly, located the optimum poo loo. We all have a favourite, there’s good and logical reason for this — it’s usually the disabled one on the fifth floor.

Now, I’m hoping that even before you’ve gotten to this point, and joined the company, that you’ve done your research.

Take note: as well as a firm handshake and some impressive prepared questions (wiggles tie, raises eyebrow), be prepared to arrive five — hell, ten — minutes early to use the facilities.

Trust me, it is perfectly reasonable to refuse a job offer on the state of the crapper. Similarly, I think it is perfectly acceptable to remain in a job because you can’t sacrifice your current comfort station.

Toilet perks are not to be taken for granted nor given up on a whim.

Forget the pension, the private healthcare, the free fruit (and they totally know what they’re doing with all that free fibrous fruit), it’s all about the single, solo, isolated and alone toilet — and if there’s more than one and they’re gendered, even better!

I know it’s terribly modern to have unisex toilets. But, speaking as a woman, (speaking as a woman speaking about poo — heaven forbid! The tie analogy above threw you, right?) I do not want to be met with the aftermath of Geoff from accounts’ Thursday night curry.

But what if you haven’t managed to read this article in time? You disregarded your current toilet situation in a flight of fancy — like a fart in the wind — for this exciting new role, you didn’t do your research, and instead on your first day in your new job you’re met with horror of all horrors the dreaded line of stalls, and no alternative fifth floor option. I wouldn’t wish this scenario on my worst enemy. This is some Room 101 shit right here.

Then there’s the dunny off the kitchen scenario — the kitchen! If you can hear the familiar beep of the microwave or chink of a teaspoon against china, your colleagues can hear the plop plops.

Or there’s the walk of shame — otherwise known as the lav located across an open plan office scenario. Everyone knows where you’re going, what you’re doing and, believe me, they’re all taking note of how long you’ve been in there.

And once you’ve finished your perfectly normal business, you need to make the long walk back, straight-faced, perhaps whistling a little or humming (why do we do that?!), sit in your seat, tap the keyboard and pretend like nothing has happened. If there is any kindness in the world, this particular visit would have been a swift evacuation and a ghostie, so not only would your stay have been short but you wouldn’t have left a trace.

Now for a reality check. Everybody poos.

I know you know this already.

And yes, perhaps in the wake of the likes of Gillian McKeith (I hate myself for this reference but you tell me another TV personality synonymous with poo?!), not to mention increased awareness of food intolerances — lactose, gluten, dairy, wheat, blah blah — perhaps we’re all embracing a more open and honest approach to our bowel movements or lack thereof.

We’re getting more comfortable in our colleagues’ company — we do spend more time with them than our own families after all — and indeed, we can all name a colleague who errs more towards the overshare. But, the embarrassment of pooing persists, just like that very last nugget that no amount of straining will dislodge.

And there is one workplace poo taboo that trumps all others…

We’ve all seen a renegade poo and thought to ourselves “where did that come from?”

You know the type: the log beside the loo, the shit in the shower, the crap on the carpet, the dump on Debra’s desk (ref. The Lonely Island, “Like a boss”, 2009).

Where did it come from? How did it get there? Is it human?

Yes my friend, it is human.
And it was my friend who works in HR and who out of respect for her anonymity we’ll call Jane, enlightened me on this very subject. What you have witnessed is literally a dirty protest.

In times of change/high-stress/turmoil, when employees get upset/frustrated/disgruntled they revert to the more primeval forms of expression and start slinging shit at their employers. Needless to say, they’re usually a long-standing employee. They’ve definitely gotten over the new-job-pooing-at-work anxiety.

(Second opportunity to) Take note (and I’m looking at you CEOs): Got a poo problem in your workplace? Start improving your working environment and I’m not just talking about doing away with the unisex water closets or relocating the lavvy — although perhaps Debra’s desk under the cover of darkness is a more tempting alternative to that bloody line of stalls!

The pitfalls of pooing at work appear to be plentiful, but not necessarily insurmountable — a little consideration while plumbing in the pooper is all that is needed.

I’ve given you my musings, my thoughts, my anxieties and yes, it is only fitting that I have done so while seated on the loo.

If you have read this while taking a dump on your first day in a new job, I salute you. But I’m going to have to pinch this off now.

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