ut you CAN tell the manager that an employee smells like an exploding garlic process factory and the stench is driving you away - what do you think the company policy will be on this one? Will the company simply let it go or will the manager have a talk with this employee about - hygiene?…
tly downsized and moved into a smaller office space; I now sit in a cubicle next to one of the engineers. Nice guy, very friendly (and curious about my job, which is annoying), but the real problem is that he has the worst body odor imaginable. No matter what I try, I can’t get away from the smell; it even lingers on my clothes when I go home some days. I’ve talked with my boss about it several times, and she’s had conversations with his boss, but this guy doesn’t seem to get the message. There’s no other space in the office for me to move; what should I do?
Migraine in Maine
Can I just say this for all of the girls in the room? Ewwwwwwwwwwwwww. Sorry guys, I know there are some equally sensitive male noses out there.
It may not help to know this, but Fish4jobs did a survey in the UK last year about bad behaviors in office environments (there’s a great top 10 list to be found here); the number one complaint was poor personal hygiene, and 59% agreed that this was the worst sin an office mate could commit. Now I haven’t seen a similar poll on this side of the pond recently, but I’m going to guess that noses are pretty much the same everywhere. This situation stinks, and no pun intended.
Let’s look at your options. First, note that body odor can be attributed to factors other than poor hygiene. Do you know if that’s the case here? Consider starting with HR to confirm or rule out that possibility; would it change your perspective if you knew this engineer was trying to manage a medical condition? Understanding the truth of the situation is helpful, but at some point you really need to speak directly to him about the problem. You say he is friendly, and friendly people are generally approachable; how about a little direct, respectful conversation about the impact that the situation is having on you? Accommodation goes both ways, and you may get more out of the deal than you expected.
Knowledge is powerful, but it can’t overcome bad smells. Speak your truth – say what you need – respectfully, and give others the chance to do the same. And if that doesn’t help, I’ve been told by people responsible for cadaver removal that Vicks VapoRub, when it strategically fills the entire nose cavity, prevents even the worst smells from making you sick.
In my day job, I’m the Head of Products for Improved Experience, where we help employers use feedback to measure and manage competitive advantage in hiring and retention. Learn more about us here.
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