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August 2017

THAT AWKWARD QUESTION: How to tell your female boss you need urine mats

Written by Lemay Rogers
Cleanliness and Hygiene

Generally any conversation involving the bathrooms at work is taboo. But sometimes there are problems that need to be discussed; and if you are the unlucky soul that needs to be the bearer of bad news, the angst is compacted if your boss happens to be the opposite sex. How do you get the conversation going? You can’t exactly start with a joke. The best way to approach these uncomfortable situations is to be prepared.

You need to know how to articulate the problem. What your options are. You also need to be able to explain why you have suggested your preferred option. This isn’t always easy, but consider that as much as you want to get the conversation over with, your boss (who is of the opposite sex) probably has no experience in this area and needs a lot of information in order to make a decision. Remember to set up a meeting to discuss this sensitive topic so that you have your boss’ undivided attention.

Today I’d like to pause on a question we’ve received fairly often; “how do you tell your female boss that you need urine mats?”.

First, let’s look at the problem. Generally the need for urine mats is prompted by a bad smell coming from the male bathroom. So where do bad smells come from?

In most cases bad odours are caused by the build up of crystallized uric acid, salts and scale which can cause pipes to become blocked. You may also find that people use the urinal to dispose of foreign matter such as cigarettes and chewing gum, and that hair falls into the waste trap. Not only do foreign objects in the waste traps cause bad odour, if ignored, you might need to get a plumber in to unblock pipes. You would also need to consider the water damage and contamination caused by the overflowing urinals. Not only is this an expensive exercise, blockages and overflows are unhygienic and make a poor impression on customers, staff and visitors

As the next step, we need to consider our options for resolving odour problems. Some of the common fixes include ice, deo-blocks, urinal mats (commonly known as pee mats) and EcoCaps.

Now we need to consider the pros and cons of each:

  • Ice is a cheap option but results in splash back, placing the user at a greater risk of cross contamination. It also melts quickly, making it a very short term solution.
  • Deo-Blocks will mask the smell but combined with the uric acid, deo-blocks can cause more serious blockages. If your colleagues are prone to chest ailments or have asthma you may also want to consider that most deo-blocks contain para dichlorobenzene which is a respiratory irritant that may trigger an asthma attack with a person diagnosed with asthma.
  • Urinal mats are cheap but need to be replaced regularly. You also run the risk of the urinal mat detaching from the urinal which can block your drainpipes.
  • EcoCaps are cost effective and offer less risk as they can’t block your drainpipes. These units are serviced by a hygiene provider and can be combined with a deep clean service and urinal sanitiser to give you a total solution for your urinals.

Now that you have information on solutions as well as some pros and cons you can decide on your preferred urinal solution and set up your meeting with your boss.

I’m sure you are wondering what objections you might face in your meeting, and how to overcome them. Here are a few you can keep on hand.


Why can’t you just use air freshener?


We could use air freshener but it will only mask the problem for a very short period of time, it won’t solve the problem. Because bad odour is caused by buildup as well as foreign matter we need to look at a more permanent solution.


We don’t have any budget for extras, can’t the daily cleaners just throw an antiseptic liquid down the drain.


I understand that budget is always a challenge but the antiseptic liquid will only mask the problem for a short period of time. How do we put a price on our colleague morale and customer image? Besides the cost of a good solution costs less than a good cup of coffee per day.


Can’t we put up signs in the men’s bathroom and ask that the urinal is flushed after use?


This won’t resolve the problem as the scale buildup and bacteria won’t flush away when the urine is flushed away. You also need to consider that South Africa is a water scarce country with a crisis in the Cape, we need to be responsible in choosing a sustainable solution that we don’t swap one problem for another - like a high water bill.

Now it’s time to set up that meeting. Remember to give the request a clear title and description to set a professional tone.

It is important to keep in mind that in most cases your boss wants to support you and ensure that there is good morale in the office. She will probably be grateful to you for bringing the issue to her attention and for providing her with the information and suggestions for a solution to the problem.

Find out more information about urinal hygiene solutions.

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Lemay Rogers

Lemay Rogers

Lémay Rogers is the Marketing Manager for Rentokil Initial. When not contributing to the Initial blog, she is the custodian of all things Marketing for Rentokil Initial South Africa, and supports the Sub-Saharan African businesses. As a frequent traveller AND mother of a toddler, she is all too aware of how easily germs can travel with us, from one location to another and then back to our homes. Follow Lémay on Twitter and LinkedIn for practical advice on good hygiene practices, both at home and in the workplace.

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