A Breath of Not So Fresh Air.

Hi Liz,

I have a coworker who is a very nice lady in her 40’s. When I first started my job she was assigned to help train me and she did an excellent job. She never made me feel silly if I forgot something and she was always patient in explaining. The problem is, since day 1, I have smelled an odor coming from her. It’s not always a strong odor but it is, definitely, a persistent one. We share the same office space and, even when she is not there, the odor always is. I have pinpointed that the smell is coming from her chair and I’ve tried spraying it with a fabric freshener but the outcome is never a positive one. I even switched her chair to one from another office but, after a couple of days, the smell came back.

How do I approach her about this smell? It’s becoming too much to deal with but I also do not want to hurt her feelings.


My opinion:

It may be time to get your HR manager or supervisor involved. Have him or her be the deliverer of bad news, so to speak. Even though you mean well, your actions may create a hostile work environment that will make it nearly impossible to function in.

It may seem unlikely to you, but sometimes people are not aware that they have an offensive odor coming from their body. Sometimes, they may know that they have something going on but they don’t think it’s strong enough to catch the nose of anyone else in the immediate area. Maybe this particular coworker is having a medical issue that she may need to follow up with a doctor. Maybe she just needs to be coached on how to properly clean her body and her clothing. Whatever the issue leave it in the hands of your manager or supervisor. Don’t run the risk of saying the wrong thing even if it’s with the right intention. It’s not always well received.

That’s just my opinion.


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