Dear Mary

Dear Mary: how do I confront a work colleague who has bad BO?

22 August 2020

9:00 AM

22 August 2020

9:00 AM

Q. My son is having his 30th birthday next weekend and has invited 50 friends to a garden party. We thought it would have been okay to host a party by now, but government guidelines say it is illegal to have more than 30 people. How does he reduce the numbers? One way to do it might be to have a live Zoom chat and pick the names out of a hat. That would also give my son the opportunity not to put a name in if a friend has a partner he doesn’t get on with. Would this work?
— Name and address withheld

A. Even if one undesirable guest were dropped by this method, it would also likely result in the removal of many understudies
(i.e. the partners of best friends but not the best friends themselves), which would spoil the event. Taking caterers, guest insecurities and sleeping arrangements into consideration, it would be better to roll the whole party over to the same date next year.


Q. A close friend has become engaged to a man I have found it difficult to bond with. This is because when you are talking to him, one to one, he has a habit of looking into your face with a questioning gaze after you have finished whatever it is you have to say. I suspect this must be his way of trying to communicate his sincere interest in me, but I find it unnerving and do not enjoy conversations with him. There are bound to be many of these chats in the future, so what do you recommend?
— Name and address withheld

A. Get into a habit of your own. Why not practise the yoga circular head-roll exercise during these longueurs? It will mean you can shut off eye contact for legitimate reasons and with any luck he will become dizzy if he continues his optical interrogation and will suspend it.

Q. After a long search, we have found a suitable candidate to join our small business in which we employ 20 locals. Professionally he does not disappoint. However, he has serious body odour. We all work between three large rooms and even with social distancing you cannot get away from the smell. Every member of my staff is telling me I must say something. I cannot think how to do this tactfully. What do you advise?
— Name and address withheld

A. Send an email to your workforce with the name of each member of staff shown in the ‘to’ box so that no one need feel persecuted or singled out. In the subject box write ‘new hygiene diktat’. Announce that new rules on workplace hygiene have decreed that, in addition to established Covid hand-washing protocols, staff are now required to take showers and wear newly laundered clothes before entering the workspace. Since your entire workforce except the offender will know you have been forced to address the problem in this way, none of them will take the email personally.

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