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Flossing at your desk

Q: One of my co-workers is engaged to a dentist. She is constantly sharing her tips on good dental care, everything from new types of floss to what brands of electric toothbrushes are the best to buy. She will even bring in coupons for us to use in case we want to buy a new electric toothbrush! My teeth are important but I don’t need daily tips. Finally, I must share her worst habit. Flossing at her desk. Who does this? Who wants to see those gross used strings all over the place? I think it is a biohazard. I avoid even touching her desk or her phone.

A: Many, many years ago I received a similar complaint when I was in an HR role at a financial services firm. An employee complained about a co-worker’s constant nail clipping while sitting at his desk. The nails and the clipping sound drove others around him nuts.

We all spend a lot of time working. However, hygiene issues should be addressed privately. If your co-worker wants to floss at work, it should be handled in the restroom not at her desk. No one should have to see or touch used dental floss in the workplace (unless you work in a dentist’s office).

It sounds like your colleague is very enamored by her fiancé’s profession. Perhaps this is the reason why she finds dental care to be such a hot conversation topic. However, even the most interesting topics have a shelf life. If you give a few subtle clues, this may dissuade her from sharing her dental tips. “Thanks for the dental tips. I think I will leave that to my dentist. I need to get back to work.” Or, “You should floss in the restroom in front of the mirror. I need a mirror to floss myself.” Incidentally, Mr. Nail Clipper never heard subtle clues. Instead, his manager had to ask him to stop.

by Pattie Hunt Sinacole

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