Ask Jack: Dental Hijinks, Cold Execs, and Job of the Week

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Last week we covered a specific work-restroom woe. This week, AOL Jobs reader Jim has a follow-up question:

Brushing your teeth and flossing in a shared office men's room, yay or nay? I say it's creepy and intrusive. Swish and spit at home on your time in your own sink.

I've only brushed and flossed at the office when I was heading to a dentist's appointment directly from work -- kind of like cramming for a test. And though I'm not personally bothered by seeing co-workers spitting toothpaste into a shared sink (it seems "clean" to me, except for the occasional blood and popcorn), I'm going to side with the medical community on this one. The American Dental Association only recommends brushing twice a day; that can certainly be addressed before and after work. What about those who insist on brushing after every meal? Not a fantastic idea, especially after acidic foods and drinks, according to the Mayo Clinic. The acids attack your teeth's enamel, and brushing immediately only furthers the process. Drop that bit of trivia on a frequent office brusher -- that you're actually hurting your teeth -- and they may quit the habit. Anyway, it's easier than saying "You are grossing me out, dude."

Another reader wishes to remain anonymous about this scenario:

Whenever I run into an executive from my company (who I used to work under) in the hallways or street or elevator, he'll just ignore me for the most part, as if he doesn't know me at all. I'm fine with this because then I can just ignore him as well! Except sometimes he does acknowledge me and gives me a big smile. And then I just look at him blankly, which is probably not the right thing to do. I would have said this is specific to this individual, but other executives here do it also. What is wrong with these people, and how should I respond as a mere peon?

I've often wondered if, in order to reach certain ranks in a corporate structure, one has to trade in his or her humanity. Sure, I've met execs who were decent, good-hearted, regular people, but an unnerving percentage behave like automatons, and you keep waiting for the faceplate to fall off. In many cases, I think it's due to a mad focus on impressing their own bosses; in other scenarios I think it's to avoid saying anything that could be considered "controversial" or "edgy." So it's easier for them to say nothing at all.

How to respond to the rare acknowledgment? Return the big dumb smile, then raise the stakes by adding a confident nod. For you advanced students, have a conversation topic that you know the exec is interested in: boilerplate stuff like raising kids or "the big game." These meaningless one-topic discussions can go on for years. And if all else fails, you can always "suddenly remember" to check something on your smartphone. It's the all-purpose, avoid-human-interaction tool of the modern world!

Click here for last week's questions

Do you have a work-related question for Jack? Write it in the comments below (better answers to this week's questions are also welcome!) or tweet it @AOLJobs with the hashtag #AskJack.

Jack's Job of the Week

If you really like watching people brush and floss at work, how about a job as a dental assistant? There are 10,144 listings for this position coast-to-coast on AOL Jobs right now! The field is open-wide but your chances will decay if you don't apply soon. And no matter what your career area, you can do an easy search for job openings at AOL Jobs. OK, now... rinse!

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