Problem Employee, Bad Breath & Gifts

The Early Show: Nationally syndicated advice columnist for the New York Daily News, Harriette Cole and Tom CBS/The Early Show

In the bi-weekly series, "Sticky Situation," The Early Show offers a little help with those awkward situations that come up from time to time.

We're taking questions from viewers and asking advice columnists for some answers. Nationally syndicated advice columnist for the New York Daily News, Harriette Cole, is our guest on Friday.

Here are a few questions for Cole:

Hi, I'm Lindamae Mattox in Mobile, Ala. and I'm an employer. Harriette how do I get a once highly productive employee motivated once again without having to fire him/her?

Cole says, schedule a meeting to talk to the employee and inquire as to the person's well being. Let him/her know that you value the person at your company and that you've noticed a change in work habits. Ask if there's something wrong. Something at work something at home. Usually when a person's work habits change dramatically, there's a problem. If there's something at home, you may be able to support the person through it with outsourcing services--mental health, vacation, etc. If the person is no longer happy at work, you can talk about transitioning out of the job.

"I once had an assistant who started doing poorly," says Cole. "We talked about it and I learned that she no longer liked her job. I recommended that she figure out what she wanted to do next and then make a plan of action to get her there. In the interim, we agreed that she would go back to doing her best at work while helping to find a replacement. I encouraged her to go to night school to develop her skills. Ultimately, she did what she needed to improve her ability to change careers and she also supported me - basically because we communicated respectfully and came to an agreement as to how to move forward."

The second "sticky situation" question is:

I'm wondering what you do if your boss has really bad breath and a bad temper. Should I send him anonymous note?

It's a prickly situation bad breath, especially with a boss, says Cole. Unless you have a close relationship with your boss, you probably shouldn't say anything directly. You may want to bring mints in and put them in a bowl for everyone to use -- including your boss. Keep your distance so that you don't have to breathe in his/her bad breath, she suggests.

If the person is a contemporary, it's a little easier, but not much Cole says. "Then you might offer a mint first. If the breath comes from food, you could jokingly say, 'Did you have garlic for lunch?' or something light. If the bad breath is a sign of a bigger problem, you may want to introduce the idea of how great your dentist is. It all needs to be subtle and at the same time clear," she explains.

Finally, a couple asks the next sticky question:
We have a friend who got married about a year ago and separated before their first anniversary. What is the gift return etiquette policy. Should we get our gift back that we gave them?

Cole says the protocol is that if you're married for less than a year, you should give all gifts back, including money. However, it is rude for a guest to request a gift back. When you give you should give from your heart. It would be unkind to request a gift back, she adds. The bride and groom, however, should understand that gifts are given to couples marrying to support the covenant. If the two break the covenant, their guests should not have to support them. If they neglect to return gifts, later they may discover if they marry again that their friends could be wary of being generous.

About Harriette Cole:

Cole worked for 11 years as a writer/editor at Essence Magazine, splitting her time there between the lifestyle section and fashion section. In 1993 she wrote a book called "Jumping the Broom: The African-American Wedding Planner." In 1999 she wrote a guide to living with grace and integrity called, "How to be."

Harriette writes an advice column in the New York Daily News called "Sense and Sensitivity" which appears three times a week. The column goes into syndication this coming Monday, so she will have a national audience.

In 1995 Harriette formed her own life coaching company called, Profundities, inc.
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