Ear piercings and knock out odors should be personal preferences. What if they’re imposed on you in the office? To tell or not to tell a co-worker the truth of his offensiveness? Is it better to suffer assaulting office noise and smell pollution, or face a possible office smack down? — BadWitch
Readers Are Spellbound & Perplexed…
Dear GWBW — My co-worker has bad breath and an extremely loud voice! But I like him and he’s great, but…. —Odorized & Deaf
Dear Odorized & Deaf,
I’m picturing you with a clothes pin on your nose and ear plugs, gritting your teeth in your cube. Not the most productive way to work. You could tell your manager about this, but I get the impression from your quiet and perfumed email that you seek to handle things yourself like an adult. Good for you! After all, it’s your relationship here. When dealing with delicate subjects, keep these in mind: Honesty and truth aren’t the same thing. Don’t use a sledge hammer when a tap on the shoulder will do. Everything in its proper place and time. …In short, appropriately timed gentleness but honesty is the best policy here, as you have to work and co-create with this person. Your results will improve if you can both get back to focusing on the work and not the funky human foibles.
That being said, not everyone Gets It when you try to be honest, and if you’re dealing with a Big Mouth (sometimes this means small ears), better off being truthful. A client asked me to tell a contractor I sent her to wear a bra in their conservative corporate environment. When I plainly brought this (my assumption: common sense!) up to the contractor, she laughed, “But I’m flat-chested and never wear a bra.” So I had to throw my erroneous assumption out the window and amp up the honesty with this truth, “I don’t think this client is too concerned with ruining your clothing lines, your comfort or general sartorial practices – the best practice in her office environment is to batten what you’ve got down and wear a bra at all times, Buttons.” Similarly, you could tell your smelly loud yapper that the mouth is the gateway to one’s health and his bad breath raised your concerned for his wellbeing — and your own — so could he please keep the volume on his newly freshened kisser way down because you have very sensitive ears, thank you very much. Worst case scenario: you tell the guy and he’s still clueless or just doesn’t care…do as much work together online as possible!
Wishing you a Zen rose garden,
Dear Odorized and Deaf,
Telling a co-worker the loud, stinky truth is not going to be easy. The question is: are you doing it for your coworker’s best interest or for your own sensitivities? Why does that matter? Because you’re not the guy with the breath freshening gum in the commercials and people without a script and fat paycheck usually don’t take the news that easy.
You are talking about insulting your coworker. Is that for the greater good or your sensibilities? If it is for your co-workers best interest, then perhaps a holiday gift of assorted mints, peppermint coated chocolate or something of that nature. You can also mention your concern over your breath after coffee or lunch, then grab some gum or a mint. Then offer said mint to co-worker. In this way you focus your co-workers attention on maintaining fresh breath, and lead by example.
As for loudness, you may not be able to change anything, but your attitude about your co-workers loud voice. Your coworker was probably loud when he was hired. Your boss may be able to say something, but if your boss has not said anything, it is not your place to say anything.
In other words, if you think he is great, then these little things should not be enough to change how you feel about him. Your coworker is the person he has always been. Don’t focus on the things that are wrong. You have no control over the other. Accept that everyone has something which is less than stellar in their personality. Focus on the positive.
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