HUMAN RESOURCES / OCT. 29, 2014
version 3, draft 3

How to Deal With a Smelly Co-worker

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You bend over just low enough to stretch your hand under the water cooler’s faucet, pouring yourself some high quality h20. Things have been running pretty smoothly so far at work. The sun’s radiant threads stretch through the main window in front of you, and shedding light within its grasp. A beautiful day. Really, just another day at the office. Another wonderful—wait a minute. What in hell is that smell?

Oh, crap.

There he is, standing right behind you, smiling that clueless smile of his as he unnerves everyone around him.

Bob and his sweat-streaming armpits. Great, you think. Day ruined.

Or is it? Check out some of these basic guidelines on how to deal with a stinky, smelly, “I want to rip off my nose you’re so overwhelmingly putrid”, co-worker.

I. Inconspicuous Team Effort

Your colleague’s odor has gotten to the point of being a real problem. And you’ve decided it’s time to do something about it. Someone should absolutely do something about it. Someone…as long as it’s not just you. So come together with your work-team, designate a diplomat (preferably someone quick on their feet and verbally suave) to gently and politely approach this “master of foul odors”.

Ideally, you want to get the message across to him (or her) in such a way that he/she doesn’t feel like this is just a group effort to embarrass the poor fella’ in front of everyone. Hence, you send in your best diplomat. There’s still a serious risk that the offender will take offense, be shocked, or curtly disagree that his or her body smells worse than a graveyard. .

But you never know, it might just turn out that the person was completely unaware, will think about and process this new bit of information, and then proceed to, you know… shower. Maybe even throw in some deodorant. And a mint for good flippin’ measure.

It’s not always a successful tactic. But at least you’re not going into it alone. 

II. Incognito Effort

Maybe you’ve tried assembling a group to approach this person, but no one dared to embark on that dangerous epic journey. So you’ve decided to go at it… by yourself.

But that doesn’t mean you need to self-incriminate. Go about this….anonymously. Heck the beauty of the person not knowing, is that it grants you the freedom to tell the offender exactly what you think of them. Revel in all the politically incorrect glory, taking no prisoners.

Another option is to alert the odor-challenged employee anonymously, which allows you to be less diplomatic in a Post-It note kind of way. This approach is a total wimp out, however, because we can all appreciate being told directly instead of anonymously when we’re the cause of a problem.

III. Seek Out HR

When all else fails, reach out to the people in charge of helping… people. Who knows? You might discover that there’s a strict no-foul odor policies that don’t allow your offender to go on in his/her odorous state. Some people simply need the occasional reminder that they need to act like human beings and shower—at least occasionally. Maybe the fear of being written up will cause this person to reconsider their hygienic tendencies. Or lack thereof.

 That’s all folks.

Don’t sweat someone else’s stinky sweat.

You have an effective blueprint to clean things up a bit.

That rhymes I know… That might’ve been accidental.

 

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