I’ve seen several letters on your site about bad-smelling co-workers, but never one where it is the boss who smells. My supervisor’s breath is awful. It is so bad that it nearly knocks you over. It is especially bad because he stands pretty close when he is talking to you. Don’t tell me to just tell him about the smell – there is no way that I can do that. What can I do instead?
Don’t tell him he has bad breath. Tell him you want some professional distance. Five feet ought to do it.
— Evil Skippy
I also once had a boss with awful breath. She also was the type who could not handle constructive criticism or any other challenging feedback. Everyone was afraid of her and no one wanted to be the bearer of bad news. Someone once sent her an anonymous letter about her breath. In response, the boss spent hours trying to figure out who was “betraying her” and confronting people about who authored the letter. I finally started keeping a tin of Altoids handly and, when she approached me, I took one for myself and offered some to her. I did not mention breath and kept it as casual as possible. Even when she declined a mint, the Altoid in my own mouth minimized the impact of the boss’s bad breath.
Is there really no one in the department who is not brave enough to talk to the boss? Some people have a natural flair for being direct without being insulting. If the breath is as bad as you claim, your co-workers must have noticed it and I can’t imagine you have not talked about it. Instead of just talking, figure out how to tell the boss about the problem. Draw straws for the job, go to the boss as a group or talk privately with someone in Human Resources for advice. Your only other option is a gas mask.
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