The Three E's

Etiquette, Ethics and Empathy in the Workplace (and in Life)


Jeanne Nelson

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Warmest wishes for a lovely holiday season
however you celebrate.










I'll be back after the holidays
when I'll be blogging from my new website!

Until then,




Agree to Disagree Agreeably

"Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress."
~ Mahatma Gandhi


There have been a number of reports over the past two years of political disagreements, especially over the 2016 presidential election, driving a wedge between friends and family members. A radio interview of a father and son revealed their divide. An on-air TV interview highlighted the long-term alienation of a mother and daughter over politics. A poll taken a few months after the election revealed serious rifts between married couples as well as between parents and their offspring; on the other hand, the poll illustrated how friendships have sprung up among those who are like-minded politically.

Becoming estranged from one's family, breaking up a marriage or ending a friendship over politics is an unhappy -- but avoidable -- outcome. If an argument over politics surfaces deep-seeded problems to be resolved, that's one thing; but if the cause of the rift is due solely to arguing over politics the parties involved should strive to fix it. And they can do so by arguing more, not less! Take a look at this article that features a video of three sets of parents and their children discussing their political views. 

Disagreement in America is good. We should celebrate our First Amendment rights by discussing, debating and arguing the issues and policies, but doing so with respect for each other's opinions, even if emotionally we want to bite someone's nose! Violence -- verbal or physical -- never solved anything for the better. By discussing and debating we can advance our positions on issues while at the same time learning from others. Most importantly, we should try to discover why those with differing positions feel the way they do about a variety of issues. It's just such discussions and lively debates that can bring about understanding, if not total agreement. 

As an etiquette consultant and trainer, I advise my clients and students to avoid discussing politics or religion at work, over a business meal (including interview lunches) or at social functions. The exceptions include situations in which you are among like-minded individuals or at a function where the express purpose is to discuss politics or religious matters. In one's private life, it's fine to discuss both topics provided you keep in mind etiquette, empathy and ethics in doing so. 

When I was a twenty-something I was passionate about a particular presidential candidate, and was a super volunteer for his campaign. I was sure that my mother also supported him because we were members of the same political party. It wasn't until after the election that my mom came clean about her voting for -- if not entirely supporting the positions of -- the opposing candidate, who won the election. I was devastated, and pretty upset with her. But after I calmed down we talked about it and I discovered her reasons, which helped illuminate for me her thinking on a number of issues involved in that particular election. Over the years we discussed many other issues, some we agreed on and some we didn't. At no time did we become estranged over politics, although we had some lively discussions! 

My daughter and I generally agree on politics and social issues, but there are times when we do not see eye-to-eye completely on topics about which we each feel passionately. I am grateful, therefore, that we make an effort to respect each other's opinions and actually enjoy our (ahem) conversations. To be clear, we have had some serious disagreements, but we've always ended on a positive note -- if not immediately, then eventually. I have learned a lot from listening to and discussing my daughter's perspectives on issues, and believe she has benefitted from hearing my views. Certainly the difference in our generations plays a role in some disagreements, but we've always been able to bridge that gap by listening to each other.

One thing that is deeply disturbing about our current environment is the level of vitriol. On social media, especially, there is an overwhelming number of personal attacks and name-calling. That type of behavior has no place in a productive discussion or debate among reasonable people, whether they know each other well or not at all. Getting heated up over an issue is fine; getting heated at someone is not. We should treat each other with consideration, understanding, and again, respect. Just think of how much further along we could get in fixing the world if we were kinder to and more patient with each other. 

To that end, here is my formula for disagreeing agreeably about politics: 

  • Listen - Listen to others' points of view respectfully, and try to understand their underlying reasons.
  • Research - Do a deep dive to understand an issue thoroughly, without prejudice. It's also essential to differentiate between "fake news" and news that is accurate and responsible.
  • Compromise - Explore areas on which you can agree in order to establish empathy and camaraderie. 
  • Persuade - Try to convince others that your point of view has validity and seek to open their minds.  
  • Accept - If you and your sparring opponent, whoever that is, cannot agree on everything -- or anything for that matter -- accept and respect that you are taking different positions and move on without rancor. Let others know that you respect their positions even though you disagree with them, and that you hope they will respect yours in return. Then find areas in which you do agree -- puppies, popcorn, Dan Stevens, Frances McDormand, and so forth.

So if current political and social issues are placing a wedge between you and your friends or family, consider making the first move toward resolution and peace, especially as the holiday season is upon us. We should continue to fight for what we believe, but let's not fight with our loved ones to the point of alienating them. Remember that wise saying of Confucius: “The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.” There should be room in any disagreement for a little bending. 

Until next time,



The Importance Of Building Relationships

“You can make more friends in two months
by becoming interested in other people
than you can in two years
by trying to get other people interested in you.”
~ Dale Carnegie, Author of How to Win Friends and Influence People 

There's an old saying that there's safety in numbers. Well, there's also success in numbers. Various studies by multiple sources over the years have concluded that anywhere from 50 to 85 percent percent of jobs are found through networking. This means that building relationships early and continuing to do so throughout one's career is crucial to professional success. In order to be productive in networking, students as well as seasoned professionals need to attain a level of sophistication in both online and face-to-face networking. 

This is a valuable concept for college seniors to grasp, as they set off on the paths to their dream jobs and careers.

Your Professional Network  

Students already have many contacts in their networks, including: 

  • Family members and relatives
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Community residents and leaders
  • School contacts
  • Work contacts
  • Volunteer acquaintances

The key to success is to continue to build that network and nurture contacts by keeping in touch with them, treating them like valued individuals, and establishing good relationships with them.

Who Are a College Student's Contacts?

As a college student, think about keeping track of your relationships by organizing them in a database or spreadsheet -- someplace safe and easily accessible. Networks are usually sorted into three tiers: 

  • Tier One comprises your top contacts, that is, those with whom you have established solid relationships and are in touch with currently and regularly. These are the people who likely can make an impact on your career and may be able to help you land that first job.
  • Tier Two consists of those people with whom you have established good, potentially lifelong relationships and who can be very helpful to you over the course of your career, but with whom you are not in constant contact.
  • Tier Three contains those with whom you have become acquainted and might possibly want to contact in the future. 

It's wise to remember that by definition networks are not one-way streets; the words "intersect" and "interconnect" are used to describe a network. Thus, while people in your ever-expanding universe might be helpful to you at various stages of your career you should expect to reciprocate as well as take the first step to provide assistance to a contact when the occasion arises. That's the give-and-take nature of a professional network. You might not be even-steven with each individual in your network, but over time and overall the network succeeds in supporting and advancing its members. 

So who are those college contacts that every senior should be adding to his or her network for current and future reference? Here's a suggested partial list to explore and increase: 

  • Roommates, classmates, campus mates
  • Professors (and even teachers from high school and lower grades)
  • College Advisors (academic, club, etc.)
  • Club/Team Members
  • Resident Assistants
  • Coaches
  • Mentor(s)
  • Career Counselor(s) (Career Services Center
  • Internship Managers/Supervisors/Staff Members
  • People at Networking Events

Relationships that are made before and during the college years can last throughout one's career and lifetime, and be of immeasurable support when conducting a job search, landing a client, climbing the corporate ladder, securing a membership (industry association, country club, political organization, etc.), buying a house, relocating to another city or country and even helping your children when they come along!

Relationships are invaluable; treat them as such.

Until next time,



The Casting Couch and What To Do About It (Finally)


The casting couch? There's only one of us
who ever made it to stardom without it,
and that was Bette Davis.
~ Attributed to Claudette Colbert in 1935

  "I'll never be that girl."
Rosanna Arquette
 The New York Times, October 10, 2017


Another powerful businessman in the entertainment industry has toppled from his pedestal in disgrace over accusations of sexual misconduct from a plethora of women in the entertainment industry, some very well known and powerful in their own rights. Harvey Weinstein joins the parade of entertainment moguls who have been accused of long-term sexual harassment of and/or assaults on women. Former Fox News titans Bill O'Reilly and the now-deceased Roger Ailes lost their high-flying jobs earlier this year over similar charges, and were followed out the door by Fox Co-President Bill Shine, who it was felt did not do enough to stop the harassment. We've also watched the long-playing saga of Bill Cosby being accused of and prosecuted for sexual harassment and assault; his trial ended in a mistrial but apparently another one has been scheduled to begin next spring. And now The New York Times reports that two more highly-placed men are facing sexual misconduct allegations; one is an Oscar-nominated screenwriter.  

Click to read more ...


Reaching Out to Fellow Americans In Their Hour of Need

The eye of a hurricane, Courtesy of Pexels

Puerto Ricans and U.S. Virgin Islanders
are American Citizens


Many years ago when I was a twenty-something, in a discussion with a Puerto Rican coworker I learned that residents of Puerto Rico are American citizens. Surely this fact was included in my education, but it obviously did not take hold. As I was politically active and thought I knew everything, I was chagrined and concerned over this lapse. But after this discussion, I never forgot it, nor that residents who were born in the U.S. territories of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands are also U.S. citizens. 

This is a complicated subject, however, evidenced by the lawsuit of Tuaua v. United States, in which an American Samoan sued the United States on the basis that residents of American Samoa are also U.S. citizens and entitled to the full benefits of citizenship (they are not presently considered to be U.S. citizens).

Moreover, an important restriction to note is that while American citizens in U.S. territories can vote in U.S. Presidential primary elections, they cannot vote in the General Presidential Election because the territories have no representation in the Electoral College.    

The tragedy of not understanding the citizen status of certain territories is especially significant today in light of the horrific damage inflicted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria upon the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, not to mention the recent threat by North Korea against Guam.

Roughly half of all Americans are unaware that residents of these islands are American citizens by birth. A recent survey conducted by Morning Consult showed that higher percentages of Americans who are older or college-educated are aware of this important fact more so than Americans who are younger or non-college-educated. It is crucial to the survival of the peoples of these important U.S. territories that all Americans understand the nature of their citizenship because when they do their empathy increases and they are more likely to pressure their elected representatives to vote for increases in aid to these islands. 

Beyond any misunderstanding about citizenship status, mainland Americans should have empathy because of the long and close relationship with these beloved islands through more than a century of tourism. 

And speaking of empathy -- which is what the Three E's is about -- we are again reminded how crucial it is that in our modern era we Americans take it upon ourselves to read as much as we can, discuss issues frequently and dig deep to learn the facts so that we can make informed decisions that affect our own survival and wellbeing as well as that of others.

My empathy for the people of Puerto Rico in particular stems from several sources: 

(1) A former co-worker with whom I worked closely for many years and of whom I am very fond is married to a wonderful man who hails from Puerto Rico. While the couple has pursued their respective careers in New York City, they recently relocated to Puerto Rico to be close to family and I was very worried about them. Fortunately, they, their family members and home survived the devastation, but they still face challenges and most of the island remains in dire straits.

(2) I was alarmed by the slower response of the U.S. to the damage suffered by Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands than was shown to U.S. mainland areas that were hit by hurricanes recently, as well as the lack of understanding by Americans of the citizenship status of the people who lived on these islands.   

(3) Finally, I realized that many children in the United States, including those who were born in Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands whose families have immigrated to the U.S., do not know that people from those territories are U.S. citizens. A piece in Newsday really hit home, in which the author relates an encounter with a Puerto Rican high school student in Chicago who did not appear to know that she was a U.S. citizen. 

I believe that the U.S. government and all Americans should be citizens of the world and reach out to other countries when they need our help. But if we are to put "America first," that concept should include all Americans, including those natives of U.S. offshore territories who are recognized as U.S. citizens. 

Americans are generally an empathetic and generous people and there are many relief efforts underway to help our fellow Americans who are victims of Hurricane Harvey and Irma in Texas, Louisiana and Florida. For those who wish also to help the victims of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands there are many organizations whose efforts you can support, and you likely have your favorites as well. Here are a few links to those that I have found to be helpful: USAIDHispanic Federation and USVI Recovery. As with anything, however, you should conduct your own good research.

There is no stronger show of empathy than when people stand together to help each other.

Until next time, 



Note to my readers: I'm happy to be back blogging on The Three E's, and starting with today's entry will publish on alternate Tuesdays. Please let me know in the "comments" section if there are any subjects in particular that you would like to see addressed in this space. And don't forget that I welcome your comments on any of my entries; I want to know what you're thinking and if you have different viewpoints.

I am also updating my website and hope to have it ready soon!

Thank you for sticking with my blog, and see you in two weeks!



Readers, Please Take Note


Dear Subscribers and Readers,


Although I am not yet back from my summer hiatus, I am compelled to post the notice below from Bonnie Low-Kramen. No doubt you are familiar with Bonnie, who is the author of Be the Ultimate Assistant: A Celebrity Assistant's Secrets to Success and ultimate trainer of everything to do with executive assistants, and you also may know that Vickie Evans is the world's leading Microsoft trainer. Together Bonnie and Vickie travel the world to offer their premiere training programs.

Right now, however, Vickie is battling breast cancer and to help her in her fight Lucy Brazier of Executive Secretary Magazine has organized a blowout Webathon Weekend on September 22-24 with some of the top trainers in the world. This offer presents two extraordinary opportunities for you: One, to obtain first-rate professional development training at a phenomenal price and, two, to help out a fellow professional in the most meaningful way possible. 

Thank you for taking a minute to check this out. My regular blog entries will resume soon!

Until next time, 



Dear Jeanne,   

Everybody needs some extra help sometime in our life. This is one of those times.
Vickie Evans Bonnie Low Kramen

Vickie Evans, my dear friend and technology trainer extraordinaire, is fighting aggressive but curable Stage 2 breast cancer. Vickie has been on chemo since May and her surgery will be in a few weeks. Her road is not an easy one and I know many of you have seen this or experienced it yourself so you "get" it.
The assistant community has rallied to help Vickie and with Lucy Brazier's leadership, have designed a Webathon Weekend September 22-24! What this means is that 50 of the top trainers in the world are presenting their best content for this ground-breaking event.
The cost is only $49 for the weekend pass and 100% of the proceeds go to Vickie. No one is taking a fee. Everyone is pitching in to do what they can do. I am very grateful to Lucy, all the speakers, and the technicians from all corners of the world who are volunteering and to everyone who is registering. It's going to be a mind-blowing weekend. 

This training is not only for assistants but for anyone who works with humans and for anyone who touches a computer or online device. The topics will be both hard skills and soft skills, plus lots of inspiration. I will be talking about Why Women Need to Help Other Women which is something both Vickie and I care deeply about.
I hope that you will share this information with your colleagues, family, friends and students. Seriously, this content could be life-changing and will be totally worth your time and money.
Here is a small sampling of the speakers and topics. Check them out online. These people are the best in their field and are from all over the world. Be ready for some surprises too!

Laura Schwartz | Mentoring & Leadership
Rhonda Scharf | From Admin to VA

Monica Seeley | Taking Control of your Inbox

Melissa Esquibel | Managing Projects with Outlook & Excel

Richard Arnott | Running Effective Meetings
For full details and the speaker line up, please go to: If you want to donate one or more Webathon places, please contact Matthew Want for details.

None of us are guaranteed tomorrow and life can change in a heartbeat. Vickie has 3 tumors and felt nothing. The doctor found them in a routine mammogram and follow-up MRI. If you are due for a check-up, please make your appointment today.
Thank you for reading and sharing this note. I welcome your thoughts, compassion, and involvement.
To your good health, 

Other Ways to Help Vickie 
Thank you
Share details about this Webathon everywhere that you can: via email, social media, newsletters, word of mouth etc. Every additional person who attends will make a difference! And they will learn plenty too!
  1. Make a donation HERE. (Vickie receives all proceeds minus the PayPal fees.)
  2. Purchase one of Vickie's books on AMAZON.
  3. Purchase Vickie's e-book.
  4. If you have Vickie's book, please consider writing a review on AMAZON.
  5. Join the RedCape Academy.
  6. Purchase Vickie's On-Demand Class to train your teams.
  7. Encourage companies to hire Vickie to do a webinar from her home in Texas.
  8. Encourage everyone you know to get checked. Early detection is our best defense. #GETSCREENED
Find out more...
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Ultimate Assistant Training & Consulting Inc., 250 Coconut Palm Pkwy, Ponte Vedra, FL 32081
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See You in Autumn

I'm taking a break from The Three E's for a few months
to work on my novel and revamp my website.
Enjoy the rest of spring and all of summer
and I'll see you back here in autumn!


 Until then,






A Sense of Humor is Good For Your Health and Good For Business

Do the best you can, and don't take life too serious."
 ~ Will Rogers


Will Rogers (1879-1935) was considered one of the wisest men of his time and one of the greatest wits. He once said, "I never met a man I didn't like." That might seem like a bit of a stretch for most humans, but a twist on that statement might be the advice many parents have given to their children: Always try to find something good in everyone you meet." The same could be said of every situation: try to find the silver lining even in the darkest of clouds. Because being positive not only places you in a healthy frame of mind, the bonus is it's one of the top qualities employers seek in a job candidate. 

Think about the people you like to be around the most. Are they smart, upbeat, friendly and helpful? Do they have a sharp wit, great sense of humor, a strong code of ethics and a positive outlook? Do they tend to be more thoughtful and unpretentious, and demonstrate understanding and empathy toward others? Do they smile easily and often?

It Starts With a Smile

I've written about your smile being your most powerful secret weapon, and it's true. Smiling at others can improve your day and make others feel better about themselves and about you. Smiling, as well as laughing, is good for your health and good for business

Smiling helps you to bond with others, get your point across and make people feel good when they are around you. If you also see the humor in situations -- if you make people laugh and forget their worries --you can more easily exercise your influence and authority. You've broken the ice and spread warmth and joy.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Smiling can also lead to laughter, and both are healing. We all need a bit of comic relief now and then from the stress of life. For many years, people relieved stress by reading the "Laughter is the Best Medicine," section of the Reader's Digest, and now there is a collection available to relive that enjoyment and have some laughs.

And a true story of how one man decided that laughter could save his very life is the experience of Norman Cousins, legendary journalist and publisher who became better known for laughing in the face of death. In 1964, Mr. Cousins was told by his doctor that he had a rare disease and only months to live. Not a quitter by nature, he decided to take matters into his own hands; working with another doctor he combined massive doses of Vitamin C with laughter, watching endless funny TV shows and movies, especially Marx Brothers films. Amazingly, he wound up extending his life for another 26 years! Of course, it could be that Mr. Cousins would have recovered in any case because misdiagnoses and inaccurate prognoses are not unheard of. But it is still an extraordinary story that is documented in his book, Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived By The Patient.

Satirical comedy is so popular because it makes us laugh at everyday problems, chases our fears away and gives our anger a constructive outlet. How many times have we've laughed at the humor and satire of Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, John Stewart and friends and Saturday Night Live?  

But...Just What Does Having a Sense of Humor Mean?

Having a sense of humor is not exactly the same as being a funny, witty person. It simply means that you are able to see the humor in many situations, that you have a light side that can balance out tense moments. People with strong senses of humor also tend to take themselves less seriously and can be philosophical about problems they encounter. 

It's important to note, however, that one's sense of humor must be called upon in an appropriate manner. That's where emotional intelligence comes in; humor must be used with great sensitivity, kindness and empathy -- and good timing. It's essential to understand thoroughly the situation and the people involved, and feel confident in making a humorous observation. Sometimes people stumble when they misread a situation and make what they think is a humorous comment only to have it fall flat because it's inappropriate, offensive or even cruel. So while a sense of humor can go a long way in solidifying professional reputations and relationships, using it improperly can result in the opposite.   

When Not to Laugh -- and When We Just Can't Help It

There are times when we laugh precisely when we're not supposed to. You know the feeling, when a laugh insists on bubbling up and escaping your lips, and the harder you try the more impossible it becomes to suppress it? I've experienced that kind of laugh a few times like that myself, and they comprised some of the weirdest moments. There's one from my youth that I'll never forget. I was a child in church and the pastor we had at the time was one of those fire and brimstone sorts. For some reason -- probably because we were late -- my mother and one of my friends and I wound up sitting in the first pew right under the pulpit. As the pastor was getting up a strong head of steam my friend caught my eye and we were done for. Our faces screwed up to try to keep from laughing, but soon our shoulders were shaking, tears were streaming down our faces and our noses were running, but not a sound came out of us. My mother glanced over at us and was about to reprimand us when suddenly her face contorted as she tried not to laugh at us. We all had to remove ourselves and sit out the rest of the service in the vestibule. 

So...just for laughs...let's take a look at a few vintage scenes in which some comedians were not supposed to laugh but couldn't help themselves, and stroll down memory lane with the brilliant Mary Tyler Moore when she, as Mary Richards, attends the funeral service of Chuckles the Clown:

Tim Conway - in a Carol Burnett Show skit with Harvey Korman, who cannot contain himself.

SNL at Disneyland - with the SNL cast and guests having some difficulty getting through it.

Mary Tyler Moore - who has trouble keeping a straight face at the funeral service for Chuckles the Clown.

And if you're looking for summer reading that will prompt anywhere from chuckles to flat out hysterics, try these:

For J.K. Rowling fans:

Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them (not the screenplay, but the textbook that is required reading for Hogwarts first-year students), by Newt Scamander, and Quidditch Through The Ages, by Kennilworthy Whisp (I laughed my way through both delightful books.)

For light mystery fans:

Janet Evanovich - The Stephanie Plum Series (start at the beginning)

Dorothy Cannell - The Ellie Haskell Series (again, start at the beginning)

Donald Westlake - The John Dortmunder Series

Why Do We Laugh?

We laugh for so many different reasons. Sometimes the way someone speaks or a particular situation will prompt an amusing memory, or a private joke will pass silently between two people at an inopportune moment. Other times we might laugh because we are nervous or scared. And have you ever seen one person in a group start laughing, prompting others to laugh helplessly even though they have no idea what is so funny?

We all have the capacity to laugh; it's part of our human makeup from the time we are infants. Therefore, despite all the tension and worries with which we must cope, keep your sense of humor and remember what Will Rogers said, and you can get through most anything.

Until next time,



Workplace Restroom Etiquette and Best Practices

Men who consistently leave the toilet seat up secretly want
women to get up to go to the bathroom
in the middle of the night and fall in.
~ Rita Rudner


For many years one of the hats I wore at my financial services company was that of disaster recovery liaison; during the September 11 attacks I helped employees get to safety and managers to provide business continuity for customers, and later I was trained in the planning and implementation of a corporate disaster plan to prepare for the 2009 flu pandemic. That latter experience combined with my current role as business etiquette consultant and trainer has taught me that practicing good hygiene and showing consideration of others is simply another form of teamwork

So to help ensure that employees remain healthy, productive and pleasant to be around, I offer the following 10 restroom etiquette and best practices that are expected of professionals in the workplace:

1. Keep your restroom(s) clean, orderly and welcoming - Most companies employ a housekeeping staff to keep restrooms clean, tidy and sanitary. But staff members can do their part to keep restrooms shipshape for themselves, clients and other guests by disposing of trash in the appropriate receptacles, cleaning up messes in the stalls and around the sinks (regardless of who made them) and leaving such facilities in as good of or better condition than they were found. 

2. Don't use the loo as a meeting room - Some might remember those scenes from one of my all time favorite TV shows from the 1980s, Cagney and Lacey, in which Christine and Mary Beth held private and very dramatic meetings in the women's room away from their male coworkers. (I confess to having engaged in such meetings with my boss in another life.) But these two lone female detectives usually had the room all to themselves, so the key is don't discuss any private business or personal matters if others are in the room; it's not safe or considerate. Likewise check email and texts if necessary, but refrain from talking on your cellphone.  

3. Be aware and considerate of others - Open doors and enter restrooms carefully so you don't bump into someone coming out. Speak in a modulated tone and keep in mind that the loo should be a kind of sanctuary. There is nothing more disconcerting to someone sitting in a stall when a group of people enter talking loudly, laughing and even screaming. Before entering a stall check if you can see feet, tap on the door and push it open slowly just in case. Include additional courtesy flushes if necessary. Avoid spraying pungent air freshener or perfume. And for heaven's sake don't bring food into the restroom. 

4. Use the disposable seat cover properly -- or not at all. Disposable seat covers seem like a great idea, if only they would come out of the dispenser one at a time and without being torn to shreds and stay put on the toilet seat. Some authorities don't think they are necessary, but if you are among those who feel more comfortable using the covers, go here for a lesson in proper usage that professional organizer Amada LeBlanc tried to give to Steve Harvey.

5. Practice proper flushing & toilet seat etiquette - Whether it's a matter of forgetfulness or a bad habit, it's rude for men to leave the lid up if they are sharing the space with one or more women in a small workplace. It's a fact that closing the lid will help reduce what is called "aerosolization" of the "matter" that is in the toilet at the time of the flushing and which sprays over everything in the area, including people, toilet paper, handbags and briefcases, the floor and even the sinks, paper towel dispenser and / or hand dryers. (This is a great reason to shower and wash your hair each evening!) More immediately, you can assume that the toilet seat and toilet paper have matter on them from the last flushing, so wiping down the seat with a cleaning wipe and disposing of the first several toilet paper squares are good practices. In addition, wiping off your shoes frequently as well as your handbags and attaches can cut down significantly on the many kinds of germs and microbes we pick up during the course of the day. Try not to place your handbags and briefcases on the bathroom floor, wipe them frequently and keep them off of desks, tables, counters, etc.

6. Wash your hands properly - According to a recent study, Americans need to step up their hand washing routines. Washing your hands after using the restroom -- and that includes touching anything and everything -- is essential to stopping the spread of germs that make you and other people sick with cold and flu viruses, Salmonella and E. coli. Doing your part helps reduce the suffering caused by these illnesses and helps your company's bottom line by keeping people on the job instead of home recovering (although if you do become ill stay home until you feel better or are no longer contagious). Wash your hands properly with soap (plain will do) and water (cold, warm or hot all work well) for at least 15-20 seconds -- kids learn this good habit by singing Happy Birthday or the Alphabet Song while washing. Refrain from touching the faucet with your bare hands after washing or you'll just get those germs right back; instead use a paper towel, if available, to turn off the water or use a cleaning or hand wipe on the faucet before you begin. For more details on these best practices, go here. In a pinch -- there is no soap, for example -- use a hand sanitizer until you can wash your hands.  

7. Dry your hands properly - Dry your hands thoroughly; you don't want to meet someone after you've just left the restroom and offer a wet hand to shake! Avoid using those high speed dryers that sound like B-52s taking off if at all possible and stick to retractable cloth or paper towels. Finally, don't touch the doorknob or door on your way out; use a paper towel or facial tissue and protect your clean, dry hands.

8. Use toilet tissue properly and politely - If you use the last of the tissue, replace it if possible or stick a note on the door that there is none. Check before you settle in a stall that there is toilet tissue available. Be helpful if someone else becomes stuck in a stall with no tissue and pass some through if you are next door or in the main part of the restroom.

9. Protect the restroom combination and keys - Many companies install combination locks on the doors of restrooms to protect their employees. New employees, clients and guests should be able to use the facilities, but exercise caution in providing those combinations and keys to strangers while remaining cognizant of OSHA rules. In high traffic areas you might want to change the combinations and locks periodically.

10. Display polite signage - When users of workplace restrooms do not practice proper etiquette and consideration toward those with whom they share the space, putting up signs that remind everyone to do so might be in order. Just ensure that the signs themselves are polite and considerate; it's great to be witty and humorous but refrain from lecturing, vulgar or insulting signage that sabotages efforts to improve behaviors. 

Visiting the restroom should be a refreshing, rejuvenating and tranquil experience, and we should all do our part to make it so for ourselves and others. What other improvements can and should be made?

Until next time,




The Line to the Women's Room - From Then To Now



 Throughout modern history women who ventured out into public
 have run the risk of having to hold it in, either because there
were no facilities or not enough facilities for women,
creating endless lines.


Some years ago at my company's annual employee bash, I was waiting with my colleagues and other guests in a very, very long line to the women's room at an upscale midtown Manhattan hotel, following lunch and before heading to the theatre. Not only were some women physically uncomfortable but curtain time was drawing near. We glumly watched the smooth and efficient egress at the men's room, which had no line. Suddenly one woman had had enough and led a surge to the men's room, which appeared to have been vacant for several minutes. The invasion created quite a commotion and was a heady feeling, especially as it was accompanied by thunderous applause from the women standing in the line that was a block long. Even a number of the men were laughing. But why should women be driven to such desperation? 

Another time while actually at the theatre with my elderly mother we headed for the restroom at the intermission only to be confronted with the usual endless line of women and young girls. It was one thing to miss the curtain for the second act but my mom really couldn't wait so long to use the facilities. I felt her distress and my panic rising and took her to the front of the line and asked politely if my mother could jump the queue. Fortunately, no one minded in the least. Again, the men's room had no line.

The First Ladies Rooms

Prior to the 18th century, there were few if any public toilets in Europe or the U.S. But that changed with the Industrial Revolution (c. 1760-1840) and the rise of cities. At first only public urinals for men were available in some places. Ladies, however, who were already confined in tight organ-crunching corsets, were expected to comport themselves with restraint and decency and hold it in when they ventured out, spending only enough time away from home in public to make necessary purchases. As well, women during the Regency, Victorian and Edwardian eras were far too modest to take care of such bodily functions away from the privacy of their homes, or occasionally in the private homes they visited. 

However, economic considerations prompted the introduction of ladies' "retiring rooms" in the department stores that were cropping up in order to encourage upper class women to browse, shop and visit with each other in their stores for hours. It wouldn't have been polite to suggest that women might have to do anything in such rooms other than rest from shopping, thus to this day a room with one or more public toilets is still referred to as a "rest room" or "restroom." Of course, privileged ladies of that era also had the "luxury" of specially designed portable chamber pots in their carriages when traveling, but they obviously couldn't and wouldn't have hauled these around with them while shopping.

The first designed restrooms for both women and men were on display at London's Great Exhibition in 1851. But establishing public lavatories for women was challenging because first they had to overcome social pressures and discrimination that demanded that women's bodies and their needs must not be mentioned -- or even hinted at -- in public, because that was indecent. So despite the excitement over these new rooms they were slow to catch on. The issue was escalated as a result of the Ladies Sanitary Association stepping beyond its issuing pamphlets on cleanliness and launching a serious campaign geared toward women's health, which included providing public women's rooms.

Ladies Rooms in the Workplace

During the 19th century when women began leaving their homes, farms and rural America and heading for workplaces in the emerging cities, separate lavatories for women were installed to protect their privacy and virtue. Such structures were not as luxurious as the department store restrooms; after all, working women in factories, mills and even offices were not usually part of the upper class, nor were they spending money. Thus, employers provided the minimum required, if that.  

As the decades, eras and centuries wore on, women's rooms became more commonplace. However, as men still overpopulated most workplaces, accommodations for women remained inadequate in some quarters, especially for women in the non-privileged classes. As the 20th century progressed women experienced what seemed to be equality as more workplaces provided a ladies' room for every men's room. But the fact was women needed more restrooms than men did because they used them more. Wherever women are they usually have more things to deal with when they visit the loo; I don't have to list them all, you know what they are. And if a woman is pregnant or an IBD, well forget about it. Some workplaces where there are more women than men still have a ratio of one to one for each gender. These situations caused long lines to the ladies' rooms to be the rule rather than the exception.

Even the United States Congress and the Supreme Court were caught off guard without enough women's rooms to accommodate newly elected female officials and appointed justices. (Well, who knew?)

Of course, in the world of men and women working together, there is sometimes another phenomenon, such as the one Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg describes in her book, Lean In: Women, Work And The Will To Lead, upon meeting with partners of a private equity firm: "Being the sole woman has resulted in some awkward yet revealing situations...I turned to the senior partner and asked where the women's restroom was. He stared blankly. My question had completely stumped him. I asked, 'How long have you been in this office?' And he said, 'One year.' 'Am I the only woman to have pitched a deal here in an entire year?' 'I think so,' he said, adding, 'or maybe you're the only one who had to use the bathroom.'" 

And who was not moved by the scenes in the biopic of Margot Lee Shetterly's non-fiction book, Hidden Figures, of actress Taraji P. Henson, portraying mathematical genius Katherine Johnson, running a half-mile across the NASA campus from her workroom to use the only "colored" bathroom? That apparently is a fictionalized version of what really happened; Ms. Johnson reportedly decided to take a chance and use the "white" bathroom -- illegally. 

The Rise of the Family Restroom

Away from the workplace, in addition to having tended to their own needs women often have had babies and children to care for as well. Even when both parents have been out with the kids, it generally has been assumed that mom would be in charge of changing diapers and taking the tots to the women's room with her. The installation of baby changing tables in women's rooms but not men's rooms reinforced that assumption and added to those long lines.

But steps have been taken in recent years to alleviate the lines. Around the turn of this century the "family restroom" began cropping up in airports and malls. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, the family restroom falls under the code for unisex bathrooms, but generally most offer additional amenities such as a changing table, dressing area and extra toilets and sinks to accommodate children. 

And while over the past decade or so baby changing tables began appearing in some men's rooms, there still is an overall dearth of them. So last October President Obama signed into law the bipartisan BABIES Act, which mandates that all public buildings must install changing tables in men's rooms if there are changing tables in corresponding women's rooms. I believe this has resulted from an understanding and acknowledgement of women's needs and their growing demands for equity in child rearing, but also from the philosophy that a number of Gen X and Y men have that they should be taking on more responsibility for their children. Add to that the growing number of families headed by same sex parents and single dads and it's just plain common sense that men have accommodations to change diapers and take care of tots while out and about.

More Women's Rooms on the Way?

As someone who has been through Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan hundreds of times I was extremely pleased when in 2008 the men's room and women's room in the Station Master's Office were converted into one restroom -- for women! That was an unexpected treat -- and relief -- for the many women who have year in and year out stood in the long snaking line, especially during rush hours while, as usual, men walked in and out without having to wait in line for one New York minute. If there ever was a line to that men's room it was such a rare occurrence that one was tempted to mark it with a plate mounted on the wall that said, "This will commemorate the line to the men's room that formed on March 10, 1994."

And just a few years earlier New York City's mayor and City Council made a giant leap for womankind and passed legislation requiring new arenas, theaters and nightclubs that fall under the law to have a female-to-male restroom facilities ratio of two to one! Truly, I never thought I'd see that! Such decisions give us hope that more companies and organizations will get with the program and provide a two-to-one ratio restroom plan -- either with new construction or conversions of existing restrooms. We need to reduce or eliminate those unacceptable women's room lines before we get any deeper into this century.

Until next time,