Thursday Troubleshooter: How to have the bad breath conversation with a coworker

It's that awkward conversation no one wants to have, but this coworkers coffee/perio breath has got to stop. How can her concerned coworker handle the situation?

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QUESTION: Please help me address this issue. We have a temp hygienist who is helping us during a transition at our office. The problem is her coffee/perio breath. She is a very friendly and helpful person. How do I address this issue? Help!

This is never an easy conversation. Having said that, we need to be sure that we address this situation respectfully and tactfully. Before speaking to her, I recommend that you confirm whether this is happening regularly. If it is, then remember these tips as you prepare to confront her.

1) Pick a private location to speak with her without anyone else around to overhear the conversation.

2) Let her know that you need to speak to her about a sensitive topic, and then request permission to do so.

3) Do not tell her that someone else asked you to speak with her. Remember, this will probably be embarrassing for her. The last thing you want to do is have her think that the entire office is talking about her.

4) Be tactful when addressing the issue, do not attack her. For instance, don't tell her that she has bad breath. Choose instead to address this in a way that expresses concern for her health. "I've noticed that you frequently have halitosis. Perhaps it would be a good idea to let the dentist check you for any areas of concern."

5) Offer to help, and then thank her for allowing you to speak freely. This will help put her at ease.

It's never easy to have these types of conversations. Think about how you would like to be spoken too in this situation and go forward accordingly. If you ultimately do this with compassion and with her best interest at heart, you have done the right thing.

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