Walking in on someone in the office bathroom

Q. I work in a building with several small businesses. The bathrooms are unisex, not separated men’s or ladies’ rooms. I needed to go to the bathroom, and the door to the one on my floor was just slightly ajar (neither closed all the way nor locked so I thought it must be empty.)

So without thinking I walked in. Two steps later I see the male CEO of a different company using the bathroom. He was facing away from me and towards the toilet. I blushed and stammered, “Oh sorry, the door was open.” I left and went to the bathroom on a different floor where despite the door being opened, I knocked and then locked the door and went about my business.

Should I do or say anything to this man? I’m not sure if I should further apologize or if I should tell him to please shut the door in the future. I feel awkward but never expected the open door to have someone inside.

A. T., Catonsville, MD

A. Awkward! But rest assured, you really didn’t do anything “wrong,” although even with the door slightly ajar, a soft knock before entering might have saved you from embarrassment.

We have a common area unisex bathroom in our office building. I have simply made it a habit to gently knock before pushing the door open even if it is slightly ajar. I also look carefully to see if the light is on or off before proceeding as that is a really good indicator if the bathroom is in use. (The light is actually on a timer so the lights shut off even if a user fails to turn them off when exiting the bathroom.)


Sometimes the best course of action is not to exacerbate a situation by calling further attention to it. That is most likely the case here. You really don’t need to seek out the person and potentially cause further embarrassment. You apologized at the time and explained that the door wasn’t shut (his fault not yours.) Telling him to shut the door in the future isn’t necessary, either. He got the message loud and clear when you opened it.

How do I know that? One time I thought I’d locked the unisex bathroom door, but I hadn’t. A person started entering, and I quickly advised them the room was in use. While they should have knocked, my error was not making sure the door was locked in the first place. I can assure you, now every time I use the restroom, I double check that I’ve locked the door.


Your incident is over. Let it rest.

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