How To Tell Your Co-worker Their Breath Stinks

by Saba Software | Posted | Communication

How To Tell Your Co-worker Their Breath Stinks

Nowadays it seems like there's a ‘national day’ to celebrate everything… from enjoying sweet treats on Marzipan Day to listening to the smooth stylings of Kenny G on Saxophone Day; from putting out a nutty treat on Squirrel Appreciation Day to SHOUTING DIGITALLY AT ALL YOUR CO-WORKERS ON CAPS LOCK DAY!

Admittedly, some of these festivities can get a little silly. But one day we can totally get behind is Fresh Breath Day, celebrated annually by toothbrush-lovers everywhere on August 6th. Because come on, no one loves sitting close quarters with that one person who’s just dined on a tuna sandwich with boiled eggs and an onion-garlic puree.

In the spirit of Fresh Breath Day, we wanted to help everyone out there get a minty-fresh smile. But since we deal in performance management, not oral health management, we thought we’d be better at helping you delicately tell that tuna-munching co-worker that their breath reeks. Or in performance management-speak: how to deliver some tough feedback.

Here are six tips to help you have those tough feedback conversations:

Be thoughtful in your delivery

Walking up to someone and telling them their breath smells worse than a fridge full of rotting cauliflower is not only mean, it’s ineffective. If feedback is malicious or inappropriate, it won’t help to improve the behavior.

Be thoughtful in how you deliver your message. If the recipient trusts that you are being sincere and care about them, it is more likely they will listen to your feedback and it will have the desired effect.

Don’t skirt around the issue

When it comes to bad breath, we often think that subtly offering a piece of gum will help the person take a hint. But assuming the recipient will understand the hidden meaning behind your actions dilutes your message and may lead to the behavior recurring in the future. Worse yet, the person could think that you don’t respect them enough to address the issue to their face.

Instead, it’s best to address the issue head on and in a timely fashion. Be clear and specific about your observations and assessments and articulate the behavior you’d like to see going forward. Onions McGee will hear your feedback much clearer if it’s told to them straight up, and they won’t feel disrespected from being hinted at.

Don’t assume you have all the information

It’s important to be conscious that you may not fully understand the background of the issue you are trying to address. For instance, did you know halitosis is a recognized medical symptom that people with certain medical conditions may not have as much control over? Similarly, you shouldn’t assume you have all the information if someone in your office isn’t performing to standard.

The solution? Ask questions to understand what may be behind the poor performance. Perhaps the person is going through some personal issues at home and requires some special accommodations. Or perhaps it’s as simple as them needing more training on a certain skill. You won’t know unless you ask.

Create an action plan - together

Now that you’ve identified the area for improvement, you’ve got to figure out how that improvement is going to happen. This part should be done together. By giving the feedback recipient input into the action plan, you ensure the dialogue is a conversation rather than a lecture. Giving the person agency in how they are going to successfully improve their performance increases both accountability and engagement.

Give feedback often

If the only feedback you ever got from your co-worker was that your breath was rank, you’d be pretty offended, wouldn’t you? But if the same co-worker noticed when you got a new haircut and complimented you on your new shoes, you’d probably be a little less touchy when they suggested a Tic Tac.

The same is true for feedback. Feedback is a gift so give it often, both positive and constructive! A study from the American Behavioral Society shows that the highest performing teams give feedback often and at a ratio of 5.6 positive comments to each negative or constructive one. So to promote high-performance in your team, make ongoing feedback a part of your business rhythm.

Happy Fresh Breath Day!

No one likes to be told they have stinky breath, but in the end most people appreciate that someone cared enough to tell them. Both giving and receiving constructive feedback can be tough, so use these tips and you can both leave these conversations with a smile – a nice, minty-fresh smile! Happy Fresh Breath Day!

This is very bitter-sweet to say, but this will be my last post for the TalentSpace Blog. Thank you to everyone in the amazing Halogen team and to all of of our TalentSpace readers who have let me share some of my thoughts and ideas with you. It's been a blast!

Templates To Make Feedback Easy

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Templates To Make Feedback Easy

Start using these best-practice forms today.


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