DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work in a business where the door to the men's room is the traditional type of door you would find in a residence. In other words, it has a doorknob that you turn to gain entry, as opposed to a door that you simply push to enter and that automatically closes.
I have a long-running debate with a co-worker who always completely closes the door after using the room. When I see that that door is closed, I assume the restroom is occupied, and therefore suspend my business until I see that the door has been left ajar.
At some point, I am forced to knock on the door. I am hesitant to do this, because if someone is in there, I have just interrupted their privacy.
I have talked with my co-worker until I'm blue in the face, but he will not change his behavior. His argument is that seeing a toilet from the hallway is unsightly, and therefore his action is helping project a cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing public area.
I don't disagree with his logic, but would it hurt to leave the door mostly closed and send the signal that the room is unoccupied? He has agreed to abide by your opinion on this matter.
GENTLE READER: You neglect to mention whether you will also abide by Miss Manners' decision. She asks only because you are both right, and you are both wrong.
Office decorum accepts on faith that the toilet facilities are fully equipped without requiring -- or wanting -- visual confirmation. Perhaps your door is well-behaved enough to remain slightly open without also revealing what lies beyond. In this case, a half-open-door policy is acceptable.
A closed-door policy is also allowed -- if those on the other side understand it and do not, as you fear, jump when they hear the inevitable knock.
A third solution would be a reversible sign on the door like the ones that warn other members of the household whether the dishes in the dishwasher are dirty or clean. This would not be acceptable at home, where it is easier to know who is where.
How much of the office will need to be consulted to agree upon a solution will depend on your office culture -- and how much actual work there is keeping people busy. Miss Manners' only preference is that, if you agree on a reversible sign, you choose one whose message is businesslike.