It's a delicate office situation

Even thinking about this question makes me gag; that is how bad the situation is with a co-worker who has a terrible body odor problem. He doesn’t seem to be aware of it, but everyone else is. None of us feels comfortable saying anything because we don’t want to embarrass him, but it’s awful. What do we do?

If no one in the office wants to privately tell him that he has a problem, then your manager or department head has to step up and speak to him. It may be that he has a medical or dietary situation that is causing him to emanate a strong odor, which she can say, suggesting that he speak to his doctor. She can add that if she had such a problem she would want someone to tell her, so she hopes he takes her suggestions as positive comments and finds a way to resolve this problem. One or more of you has to ask her to deal with this in case she is unaware of the situation.

We are planning a St. Patrick’s Day party but want it to be an adult party. How do we make it clear that children aren’t invited? Can we write “no children” on the invitation?

No, but you should be sure to request a response from your invited guests, not a “regrets only” reply, so that when they call you can clarify, nicely, that it is adults-only if they indicate that their children are attending with them. Make sure that you make no exceptions, however. It can be hurtful to tell some guests that their children are not invited and then to make exceptions for others. Even if some potential guests say that they can’t find a babysitter, or that their children have never had a babysitter, your answer has to be that you hope they can find one so they can attend because you would miss them if they weren’t there.

I have been separated from my wife for over a year and our divorce is pending. I now have a wonderful relationship with someone else and want to ask her to marry me. Is that okay?

No, you are still married to someone else, so it wouldn’t be appropriate to become engaged to another person until your divorce is final.

One of my clients sent a quite extraordinary note to the head of our company praising the work I had done for her. The president sent me a copy of the note, thanking me, also, and congratulating me for doing such good work. This meant a lot to me. Is it appropriate for me to send a thank you note to the client?

Sure! You can send a handwritten note, or even an email, that expresses your appreciation for her kind words. You can add how much you value your work together, and thank her again for her note to the president.

Questions for Catherine? Send them to