Work insults cause worry

Amy answers questions about apologizing to a colleague, dealing with sick co-workers, and...

Amy answers questions about apologizing to a colleague, dealing with sick co-workers, and interoffice romance. (Fotolia)

Amy Dickinson, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:49 PM ET

DEAR READERS: Your questions and dilemmas never take a holiday, but occasionally I must. This year I'm spending a week pursuing a rigorous summertime schedule of mini-golf, water slides and go-kart racing. This week's "best of" columns come from deep within the Ask Amy vault. Like a soft-serve twisty cone, dilemmas sometimes beg for a second helping.

DEAR AMY: I recently had a business meeting with a noticeably overweight person. He was going to pull a file from a different office and get back with me. I then said this: "Sounds great, just get back to me after you waddle up to ..." I was not sure if I was using "waddle" in an offhand way or whether it was an unconscious reference to how he walked.

I felt terrible, so I followed a friend's advice and sent him a brief card apologizing for my comments and that I had not meant to draw attention to his weight.

Another friend said I should not have sent the card, as it just drew attention to a slip-up that was best forgotten and would not have changed the incident or the embarrassment it caused.

So who is correct? -- Flummoxed

DEAR FLUM: I don't know if there is any "correct" way to gracefully pull your foot out of your mouth, but I know what most people do -- they do nothing and then just avoid the victim for the next 40 years or so. So good for you for trying to clean this up.

But now I'm worried that you're tempted to apologize for your apology. Please don't. You've done enough.

DEAR AMY: I have been trying to shake a cold for weeks. I have co-workers who have been fighting the same thing I've been fighting. I'm sure we're simply giving it back and forth to each other.

But what do you do when a co-worker is constantly coughing in your face without covering his/her mouth? Our desks face each other, and we are face-to-face for hours each day.

I find it impolite, but there's truly no way to say something without sounding like a jerk.

I realize that sometimes you still have to come into the office when you're sick. But can't people who are coughing cover their mouths for the sake of the rest of us? -- Mr. Sniffles

DEAR SNIFFLES: Disease-spreading aside, I find the worst part of this problem is the fact that you don't seem to think your colleague is adult enough to be able to handle a simple request from you. Even if he isn't adult enough, you need to proceed as if he is. Short of installing a sneeze guard over your cubby or wearing a surgical mask, what if you spoke to or e-mailed your officemate: "I can tell you're so sick, but now I'm afraid I'm getting it. Could you do me a favour and make sure to cover your mouth whenever you sneeze or cough?"

This news might be best delivered along with a box of tissues. (February 2004)

DEAR AMY: I'm 22 years old and I need your opinion. I have a 50-year-old co-worker, and I think she has a crush on me. Trust me, I look at this woman as if she were my grandma. I am a very friendly individual and get along with everyone.

She asked me for my cell number to get in contact with me to go to church with her. Now she just calls me to see what I'm doing.

How do I tell her that I'm not interested in her without endangering our friendship? -- Wondering

DEAR WONDERING: I know this doesn't sound particularly aboveboard, but I think you should avoid her calls outside the office completely.

When you're at the office, just be your friendly and professional self, but don't encourage her toward a relationship outside the office in any way. If she asks you to do something after work and you don't want to do it, a polite "thanks for the invitation, but I spend most of my free time with my buds from college" should discourage her.

I do hope this settles down for you both, because a genuine friendship between you could be very cool for everyone involved.


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