I have a co-worker that consistently has bad breath. He sits right next to me and I can smell his exhalation constantly throughout the day. It is something that affects me all hours of the day, and short of asking to be moved, which is totally obvious since I work in an open floor plan office, I don’t know what to do about it. Do you have any tips?
Dear Can't Breathe,
Since this is a professional setting, not a friendship, you need to tread even more carefully than you normally would in this delicate situation. I'm sure you know that you absolutely should NOT complain about his breath to anyone else in your office. Talk about undermining his professional credibility!
As far as action items, I'm afraid that it's not your place to take him aside and tell him the truth — I'd leave that approach for people in his life who are closer to him than desk neighbors relationship you currently share. You need to stay subtle.
Offering a mint or gum (as you take a piece for yourself) could just be construed as a nice gesture or, if you do it all the time, could get him thinking about why you keep offering (so he takes some breath-freshening action). It's worth a shot. Depending on your relationship, you might even go so far as to ask him if your breath is okay, but tread very lightly. Be casual. Best case scenario: you both decide to brush after lunch from now on.