What can I do about an employee’s bad breath?

Dear Aunty B

I know you are used to dealing with weightier issues than this but I have a real problem with one of our team members who has terrible breath. He is also short-sighted, refuses to wear glasses and so stands very close to you when you talk. We are a small software company with about 20 employees so often a group of designers stand around looking at a computer screen and are engulfed in wafts of very unpleasant air. My personal assistant has asked me to bring the subject up with him but I don’t feel that I should.

What do you think?


Simon G,
Port Melbourne



Well Simon, this arrived just as I was sipping my morning latte. Of course you should bring it up (sorry) with Mr Bad Breath. His wife will thank you, his children will adore you and you will be the talk of the water cooler!


As to how, I have called upon Dr Geoffrey Speiser from Breezecare for advice. He also raises the point that bad breath is one of the biggest turnoffs when meeting someone for the first time so if this person is out doing client presentations it makes good business sense to raise the topic immediately.


He advises that you state the problem clearly: don’t use euphemisms or emotive language but be empathetic and address the situation in a private place, away from other employees.


And he says to offer constructive advice. “Many employers make the mistake of simply stating the problem and leaving their employee(s) to deal with it. Recommend that the person sees a dentist who treats bad breath,” he says. “The Australian Breath Clinic can actually treat patients via the internet without the embarrassment of an actual consultation.”


Good advice, but Dr Geoff goes out on a limb here. He advises employers to go beyond the call of duty and suggests that bosses offer to be person’s confidant till the problem is fixed. “Bad breath is rarely detectable by the sufferer themselves so being supportive and offering to alert the person when the problem is resolved will help minimise the embarrassment,” he says.


Gee – gives a new meaning to breath tests.


Thanks Dr Geoff. Any other ideas? Send to Aunty B.


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