How to Deal with a Smelly Co-Worker

How to Deal with a Smelly Co-Worker

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Does a stinky co-worker have you fretting that—as Jerry Seinfeld put it—the “O” won’t stay with the “B”? Time to handle this delicate dilemma.

Step 1: Check yourself
Take a good whiff of your own pits to make sure you and your coworker don’t share a common affliction. Phew just checking. But how embarrassing would that be?

Step 2: Ask about the smell
When the two of you are alone, ask, “Do you smell that? What is that?” several times in a casual but concerned tone. If the odor is from poor hygiene, they should get the hint.

Be warned: people with a natural, strong odor become used to their own scent, so they literally won’t be able to smell themselves.

Step 3: Combat the stench
Clip a mini fan to your desk, use air freshener liberally, and frequently request that a window be left open “to get some fresh air in here.”

Step 4: Enlist a friend
Invite a friend who doesn’t know your co-worker to the office, and instruct them to accuse you of having B.O. After you’ve made a show of proving that you don’t, have the friend lamely offer, “Sorry I guess it’s just the office?”

If Stinky is your boss or you’re uncomfortable handling this directly, just tell Human Resources—they’re paid to do this kind of dirty work.

Step 5: Give hints
Use any gift giving opportunity to pass on some cologne. Or pretend to have discovered some new soap or deodorant that they just have to try.

Step 6: Talk privately
Find Stinky where you can talk privately. Make eye contact and say in a sympathetic voice, “Maybe you don’t realize this, but you have a rather strong body odor.”

Tell a white lie: “I mention this only because I once had the same problem, and, while embarrassing, I’m glad it was brought to my attention.”

Step 7: Run
If Stinky begins approaching in a way that suggests your blood is about to be spilled, hightail it out of there—and call Security.

Step 8: Enlist the boss
If the problem persists, ask the boss to intervene. Stinky may respond more positively to an authority figure than a peer.

Did You Know?
At some places, you can be fired for offensive body odor—most private companies have behavior and dress codes, which body odor might fall under.

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