When you catch a whiff of your coworkers’ terrible breath, it can be hard to concentrate on what they are saying. As your coworker drones on and on about projects and deadlines, you are plotting an escape route from their garlic breath.
Unfortunately, this is a stinky reality that too many of us experience. It can even stop us from doing our jobs and engaging with coworkers. According to a new UltraDex One Go survey of 2,000 adults, about one in five of us admitted that we “can’t bear” to talk to one coworker because of their bad breath. In fact, the majority of us —63%— said that we have had to turn away from someone during a conversation because of it.
It stinks! Too many of us deal with smelly coworkers at work
Most of us are resigned to suffering in silence when it comes to bad smells. We would not even inform our friends about their smell, let alone our coworkers. Only 15% of respondents said they would tell a friend if they had bad breath.
We recognize that talking about someone’s private smells in a professional environment can be awkward, no matter how diplomatically we word it. If you feel compelled to address a coworker’s bad breath, do not go the passive-aggressive route of leaving breath mints on their desk. Ask a Manager’s Alison Green comforted a reader who had this happened to them, telling them, “Whatever form it takes — anonymous notes, anonymous gifts of soap or breath mints, etc. It’s such a cowardly thing to do. People who do it may think that it’s conveying useful information, but it’s a horrible way to receive the message … and it leaves the recipient having to wonder who’s behind it.”
If you feel comfortable about bringing up a coworker’s bad odor to them, you need to be “clear, concise, and compassionate,” as Halley Bock, former CEO of Fierce Inc. advises. You need to tell them briefly and with compassion in a one-on-one setting. Leaving Tic Tacs on someone’s desk fails on all these counts.