Q&A: My boss is a “close talker” with bad breath

If you address the halitosis, you’re almost guaranteed it will fix the close talking.

Q: My boss is a “close talker” with bad breath. How do I let him know he’s invading my personal space?

A: It’s a topic sitcoms have touched on (Seinfeld coined the phrase “close talker,” someone who leaves little space when chatting face to face) but it’s certainly not easy to address in the office — especially with your manager.

Margaret Page, an etiquette expert in Vancouver, says if you address the halitosis, you’re almost guaranteed it will fix the close talking — it just depends on your approach, tone and facial expression. “Ask for a private conversation and add that it’s of a personal nature. Then give your boss the facts. Don’t be cruel or accusatory, and don’t use the marshmallow approach, where a person attempts to soften the facts,” she says. Try a to-the-point statement such as, “I know you encourage an open-door policy and with that knowledge in hand, I wanted to share with you privately that you have coffee breath and it is making me uncomfortable. I’m sorry to be the one to bring it to your attention, but I know if it were me, I would want to know.” While you’re at it, don’t be too shy to bring in a bottle of mouthwash and some paper cups for the office restroom.