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Clare Hudson
Clare Hudson
  • 1 Minute Read
  • 07th June 2011

What to do if your colleague smells?

Perfume1-277x300"Just because you can smell someone doesn't mean they can smell themselves." Dr. Hirsch- report from the National Institutes of Health, 1979

Not only did I dislike maths at school, but my maths teacher also smelt bad, and because I often needed help, she would always be there breathing her stale coffee and cigarette breath over my shoulder. At some point she must have heard many of the unsubtle comments ushered by most of the class because she started to suck on mints and wear the sort of overly strong perfume old made-up ladies wear.

Adults in the workplace are not always as blunt, which is probably a good thing. Imagine walking into work one day and the person next to you starts to make gagging sounds and the people in front start whispering about how much you smell, using hand gestures to make it really obvious. For the thin skinned, this would be enough to make you cry, walk out and never come back. And the company would probably get into trouble for bullying.

So what is the PC way to tell a colleague they smell? Some people might suggest ignoring the situation, but is that really fair for the person who has to sit next to the person that smells? And it’s not exactly going to do them any favours for the future. An obvious solution might be to buy them a gift of some sort of nice smelling ointment. However, unless it’s Christmas, their Birthday or you’re just really good friends, they might be get offended. And they might hate the smell of your present.

Perhaps you could suggest going shopping to somewhere like Lush; then you could try out the different products together and even make up your own, and at the end you have an excuse to buy yourself something, in the hope that your shopping partner also will. Or you could just get a 2 for 1 deal and kindly give the other thing to your colleague.

Alternatively, the most honest solution would be to have a kind, quiet, 1-1 chat with the person. It will probably be embarrassing but at least you know it will effectively resolve the situation and clear the air.