Q: My colleague drives me mad by munching food at his desk throughout the day. It's noisy, distracting and smells. I've made jokes of it, but he doesn't seem to get the message and it seems petty to complain to my boss or ask to move. Any advice?
Jeremy Bullmore says: When sensitive issues of this sort arise, it's usually a good idea to try to depersonalise them.
Most office managers would agree that there are sound, general reasons to at least discourage if not prohibit the consumption of food at work stations. Quite apart from the kind of irritation that you're experiencing, crumbs get into keyboards and can also attract mice. Remnants of food can make life unnecessarily difficult for the office cleaners.
So I suggest you have a word with your boss and/or office manager and suggest that a polite note be circulated asking everyone to refrain from eating at their desks, and giving the reasons. If an alternative can be suggested, such as the kitchen area, so much the better.
It may not have an immediate effect on your noisily munching colleague - but at least it would give you, and others, a non-personal basis for raising the subject.
Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at firstname.lastname@example.org. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.