Dear Annie: When hygiene goes by the wayside
Dear Annie: I am a member of a small Midwestern church and in the choir. There are about 10 of us, and we all have a good time together. The problem is the organist and choir director, who has held these positions for nearly 50 years. As she is getting older, she is neglecting to either shower or change her clothes, which I can often smell in our small practice room.
She also is losing her hearing and doesn’t hear us when we ask questions about the music during practice. Thus, she drowns us out when playing on Sunday or when made angry. I believe that our pastor is afraid to say anything to her, and I don’t believe that any other choir members will say anything, either. She can take offense easily. Any suggestions? Sadly, I don’t believe she reads a newspaper, so she won’t see herself here. -- Afraid to Offend
Dear Afraid to Offend: Sometimes, having a direct and honest conversation is the best way not to offend someone in the long run. It may hurt her feelings for a minute, but having other choir members and the pastor talk about her behind her back is much more hurtful. If you decide to be the brave lion out of the group, make sure you come from a loving and caring place and not a judgmental one. Speak with her in private about your concerns. Begin the conversation by asking her whether anything different has been going on in her life before you dive right into the subject matter of the stench. My hunch is that there has been a change in her life. Sometimes depression, loneliness or other forms of mental illness can lead to not bathing and bad hygiene. If that is the case, it is important for her to get help and know she is supported and loved.
Dear Annie: I like my job except for one thing: The office has a toxic gossiping culture. I regularly hear my immediate boss saying unsavory things about many of my co-workers to other members of middle management. The co-workers being gossiped about are people I respect and enjoy working with. These members of middle management know that I can hear the terrible things they’re saying. Though they may be talking in the next room, they’ve often looked over to me to “include” me in the conversation. This has put me in a really awkward position. I have no desire to join in their bad-mouthing. And frankly, I think it’s unprofessional of them to be saying such things in the workplace — especially in earshot of employees who are lower on the totem pole.
Half of me wants to tell my co-workers that their bosses are talking badly about them behind their back. And the other half of me wants to tell these bosses that they should be addressing employees whose performance they’re unsatisfied with. I mean, how are people supposed to improve their performance if they don’t know what they’re doing wrong? I don’t like this culture, and I want no part in it — but I want to keep this job. Help! — Involuntary Confidante
Dear Confidante: You are very wise to ignore the gossiping. There is an old Turkish proverb that states, “Who gossips to you will gossip of you.” You could try to turn the gossip back on the gossipers with a positive thing to say about the person they are speaking about. Also, you should report this to upper management. Gossip is toxic, and I’m sure that if those in upper management knew about what is going on, they would want to put an end to it. Some companies have zero-tolerance gossip policies.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.