Dear Annie: This is an indelicate subject, so anyone prone to queasiness might not want to read. I work in a small closed-in department of three people. My co-worker “Anna,” who has worked there for a number of years, often passes gas and subsequently sprays a scented “air freshener.” The smell of all this is overwhelming and chokes me, and the chemical in the canisters stings my nasal passages. I constantly have to go outside the department to get a breath of air. Please tell me I have some say here. Management does not seem to be concerned with this matter. Fans do not help. What can I do to have her take this outside? By the way, this is not a medical condition for her; it’s the food she eats (and Beano is not the answer).
— Pinching My Nose
Dear Pinching: This takes “toxic workplace” to another level. You said that management “does not seem to be concerned,” but have you actually tried talking to a manager about it? If you haven’t, now’s the time. If you have, now’s the time to bring it up again. Emphasize the severity of the problem, and note some of the ways it disrupts the work environment and thus the workflow. Deep breathing helps bring mental clarity and productivity, so it’s not great for business if you have to step outside every time you want to take a deep breath. It’s also damaging to department morale and harmony, as there’s most likely a lot of resentment hanging in the air.
Yes, it will be an awkward conversation. But until you make clear to management why it should be the company’s concern, don’t hold your breath waiting to see a change in the office.
Dear Annie: As a divorce attorney, I was concerned about the letter from “Tired of the Yo-Yo,” whose husband wants to get divorced but live like a married couple. Please tell “Tired of the Yo-Yo” to see a competent divorce attorney before she signs any divorce papers, changes any bank accounts or gives up possession of or the titles to any family assets (such as houses and cars). Marriage creates many rights that people take for granted or don’t even know they have — e.g., the right to visit someone who is hospitalized with a serious illness. And divorce can impact your rights with respect to pension benefits, health insurance coverage, spousal inheritance, Social Security, etc. There are even a few people who are sneaky enough to pretend they still love their partner just long enough to wheedle the partner into a favorable divorce settlement.
The “yo-yo” may be stringing her along for a reason, or he may simply not know what his wife would be losing by divorcing him. But “Tired” needs to investigate her legal position a little further before she makes any final decisions.
— Divorce Attorney
Dear Divorce Attorney: I’m always grateful to hear from experts. I’m printing your letter for the benefit of “Tired of the Yo-Yo” and anyone else who’s facing emotional confusion from a partner during a divorce. Thanks for writing.