Q: How do I approach a co-worker about their nose-picking habit? The conversation is certainly awkward. What’s the best approach?
A: Awkward? Certainly. Necessary? Absolutely. Just remember: The goal is to correct the behavior, not embarrass the person. Shouting across the room, “John, quit picking your nose; it’s disgusting!” isn’t the best solution. Instead, the conversation should be in private and be handled by someone who is a good friend and someone the person trusts; a casual acquaintance won’t be as effective. If no good friend exists at the workplace, then a manager would be the right person. The manager or friend asks to meet at a time and place where no one can overhear them and says words to the effect of, “Jim (or Jane), I want to talk to you about something that is difficult for me to bring up. If the shoe was on the other foot, I would want someone to talk with me. I’m hoping you feel the same way, because I want to alert you to something that is a problem. So here it goes. I’m sure you don’t realize it, but you have a habit of picking your nose that is noticeable. I wanted you to know because I would hate for something like this to detract from who you are and I’m worried it may affect you professionally at a meeting with a client or with senior management.” It isn’t easy to initiate such a sensitive conversation, but it is a kind act, and the truth is we all would appreciate someone letting us know if we were offending others.