My Boss is a Germ-a-Phobe

111310-jt-daleDear J.T. and Dale: My boss is a complete germ-a-phobe. She buys hand sanitizer for all our desks, shamelessly reminds people to wash their hands and even sent a person out of the room for sneezing in a meeting. She is now badgering us all to get flu shots. She asks everyone each day if they got theirs. I don’t want to get one. Should I lie, or should I tell the truth and deal with her nasty behavior? I honestly believe she would treat me differently if I told her I wasn’t going to get one. — Meg

Dale: First, Meg, I should tell you that you’re asking a guy with a bottle of Purell in his glove box and his travel bag. It’s not that I have a phobia about germs, it’s that I do a lot of public speaking and can’t afford to get the flu or lose my voice. While I don’t badger people around me, I would be GRATEFUL to work for a boss who did. When I was young and immortal, and scoffed at germs and illness; I would get sick two or three times a year. Now, with some precautions, it’s less than once a year.

J.T.: Well, Meg, I doubt Dale has persuaded you; after all, it’s hard to change attitudes on things like health, which is why you aren’t going to change your boss’s opinion. I’d suggest you talk with her privately. Tell her how difficult it is for you to bring it up, but that you have personal reasons for not getting a flu shot and her public inquiry about it makes you uncomfortable.

Dale: At which time, your boss will start to treat you as a potential carrier of diseases. Unfair? Of course. But this isn’t an issue worth alienating your boss over. Get the shot and smile as you do, knowing that anytime you want to work at home all you have to do is call in and say “I might be coming down with something and don’t want to risk giving it to you.” It’s a work-at-home pass to go along with a healthier workplace.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm,, and of the blog, Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with Please visit them at, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2010 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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