Question: One of my employees goes to the bathroom all the time. I could swear that "Helen" is in the restroom more than she's at her desk. A reliable source told me Helen is taking laxatives to lose weight. This is beginning to affect her work, so do you think I should confront her about it?
Answer: If your company is large enough to be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, check with human resources to see whether Helen has declared herself to have a disabling condition. If so, the company may be expected to accommodate her needs. But if not, then you need to have a talk about her job performance, not her bathroom habits.
For example: "Helen, I've noticed that you're spending a lot of time away from your desk. This is hurting your productivity and making it difficult for people to find you. Obviously, we all need to take an occasional break, but I do expect you to be at your desk most of the time."
If the rumor about laxatives is correct, perhaps this reprimand will motivate Helen to stop that harmful practice. But if she attributes the problem to a medical issue, seek legal advice before taking further action.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach. Get free coaching tips at yourofficecoach.com.