Each week, Inc. staff writer Nadine Heintz will help you tackle office etiquette problems both big and small.
Coworkers always try to strike up conversations with me in the men's room. I'm a very private person, and I don't like chatting while I'm using the facilities, but I don't want to seem unfriendly. What should I do?
Jason from New York
Unless you plan to fake a handicap like George Costanza, who scored his own private bathroom, there's no surefire way to avoid chit-chat in the office loo. But there are techniques you could try to disourage potty talk. Supply brief responses when coworkers try to strike up a conversation in the stalls. If it's a personal question about, say, how your weekend was, a cordial "fine, thanks" will do. Then, you could always pick up the conversation later on in a more comfortable environment, such as the kitchen or the hallway. Interactions with the boss require a bit more tact: if he asks you, say, how a project is going, enlist a similar strategy: smile, respond briefly, then tell him that you'll stop by his desk in a minute to give him a full report. If you feel comfortable being more direct, simply tell your loquacious coworker that you don't enjoy conversing in the lavatory (don't try that approach with your superiors, though). Eventually, they'll figure out that you want to be left alone. You may not be the most popular person in the office, but at least you'll have your privacy.
Have a dilemma for Nadine? Send her an e-mail and check back here Tuesdays for the answer.