Social Etiquette and Good Manners/Boss's eating habits


Hi Cynthia,

My boss often has me sit at her desk and type while she dictates, and then leans over my shoulder to read what I've typed. It is a very small office.

Here is my issue: She eats often. Not only is she a loud eater (slurping, sucking, swallowing, crunching) but she talks with her mouth full, and her food usually has an unpleasant odor. She also has become addicted to peppermint candies which she, when not eating, constantly sucks/crunches on. Over the last several months, I've become very sensitive to these noises/smells. I get a little nauseated when she's doing this, and I'm so annoyed I think I'm going to burst.

Is there a proper and/or sensitive way to bring this up with my boss, or should I figure out some coping skills to deal with it? My boss is pleasant, but I'm concerned this will hurt her feelings or offend her. And like I said, it's a very small office so tension and hurt feelings are palpable.

Thank you,

Dear Leigh:

Your dilemma is not unusual. The best way to deal with your boss's annoying habits it to make it about you, not her.  If you criticize her habits and etiquette, you will cause her to defend herself and that won't be pleasant.  I suggest that in private during an informal lunch or coffee that you initiate you should bring up the subject.  In my mind, if you could ask her to join you for lunch - your treat, to talk about how you can contribute more to the success of the company and plan some new goals, this would allow for a situation when you could bring up how you could work better in the office if her eating was done away from you.  You could explain the physical reaction you get and the distraction her eating causes you.  Ask her if there is a better way for you to handle it. Explain it is your sensitive stomach and/sensibilities that are distracting you.

Keep the conversation self-deprecating and light and you will most likely get less annoying workplace.  

Social Etiquette and Good Manners

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Cynthia W. Lett


Proper manners with friends,family,colleagues,neighbors and everyone else you know.


I have been an etiquette expert teaching and consulting on the subject worldwide since 1983. I started and serve as the Executive Director of the International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals and am considered a leader in the field of etiquette and protocol training and execution. I edited "Etiquette for Dummies" and have recently written "Lett's Talk - Everyday Etiquette Dilemmas and What to Do about Them". My book, "That's So Annoying:An Etiquette Expert on the World's Most Irritating Habits And What To Do About Them" was published in 2009 and is available wherever books are sold. I taught the Business Protocol class to Master's level students at the George Washington University, Washington, DC for seven years I served as Chief of Protocol for MCI Telecommunications for three years.

International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals, ASTD, PCMA, National Speakers Association

I have been quoted over 700 times in the past 5 years worldwide. Publications include Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, NY Times, Washington Business Journal, USA Today, Associated Press, London Times, Newsweek Japan edition, Newsweek US edition and many many more.

I am a Certified Etiquette Professional (CEP) and Certified Protocol Professional (CPP) earned by examination through ISPEP. I have a Master's degree in hospitality law and undergrad degrees in Restaurant & Hotel Management and Public Relations/Interpersonal Communications from Purdue University.

Awards and Honors
Who's Who Worldwide,Who's Who of American Women, Distinguished Darden Professor (Purdue University).

Past/Present Clients
World Bank, United Nations,US Dept. of State, US. Dept. of the Army, Pentagon, Barclays Global Investors,Accenture,Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, The White House, Dept. of State, AT&T,Bank of America,American Association of Clinical Pharmacies,Ritz Carlton Hotels, Hilton Hotels, Marriott Hotels,Starwood Hotels,and many more.

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