Solving a sensitive issue

Q. What would be the best way to solve this issue: a colleague in the cubicle next to mine passes gas all the time?C. P., San Ramón, CA

You have two choices: live with it or talk to him. Which is best is really up to you. Unfortunately, approaching co-workers about personal issues is difficult, even for a friend. If you aren’t a friend who has his trust and respect, it will be difficult to have a successful conversation, so you may have to talk with someone who is that friend or your manager about how to proceed. If you are that friend, it’s very important not to display an accusatory attitude that implies he’s doing this intentionally to annoy you. Instead, if you talk to him, base your conversation on your concern for him as a person and his success as a colleague. Do it with the goal of improving the situation and, hopefully, building rather than hurting your relationship with him.

In addition, it’s important to recognize that there may be a physiological/medical reason for his flatulence. Obviously, this conversation should take place in a private place and everything discussed should remain completely confidential. “Tom, I’ve got to ask you about something that really is difficult for me to bring up. But I know it’s something that may affect your chances for success. Is everything all right with you because I can’t help but notice how often you pass gas?” Once you’ve broached the subject and asked the question, you can discuss options with him to remedy the situation, whatever the cause.
Q. When at a business event serving a meal, usually on circular tables, and your back is to the podium, is it appropriate to completely turn your chair around to face the speaker or should you only partially turn the chair and strain your neck?T. R., San Diego, CA
A. If the talk is going to be more than a few opening or closing remarks it’s reasonable to turn your chair around. In fact, as a courtesy to the speaker, it’s the appropriate thing to do.

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