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Your Office Coach

The bad breath dilemma: Confront, evade or suffer in silence?

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Q: “My co-worker, ‘Carly,’ has very bad breath. If she comes into my office for even a few minutes, the odor is still there after she leaves. This is really bothering me, but I don't know how to tell her about it.” Gagging

A: Hygiene issues are among the most difficult topics to discuss because they are so intensely personal. Even if Carly is aware of the problem, bringing it up would be awkward and might cause her to avoid you in the future.

Instead of raising this delicate issue yourself, consider asking your boss for help. Because managers are responsible for providing feedback, Carly may be less offended if the message comes via that route. Here's one way that your boss might begin this uncomfortable conversation:

“Carly, I need to talk with you about a sensitive matter that is somewhat difficult to discuss. However, as your manager, I feel obligated to mention it. I've noticed that at times there is a rather unusual odor on your breath. This sometimes indicates a medical problem, so I wanted to see if you were aware of it.”

After that, your manager should encourage Carly to consult her doctor or dentist for advice. That will put the problem in the hands of medical professionals, which is certainly where it belongs.

Have a problem with a co-worker? Before you complain, read these tips: The Best Way to Complain about Co-workers.

© Marie G. McIntyre, All rights reserved.

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