How to Deal with a Colleague Who Wears Too Much Perfume

If you thought telling your colleague that he stinks is skiing on risky waters, then you might be in for a surprise. In the corporate world, too much perfume can be a big no-no too for quite a number of people.

The issue seems trivial and might be ridiculously funny to some but it cannot be ignored! For instance, many colleagues have reported they get headaches and feel ill because their colleague is wearing so much perfume.

Is too much perfume bad?

According to Claudia Miller, an associate professor of environmental and occupational medicine at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio, many studies indicate that 15-30% of the masses are more sensitive to fragrances and chemicals. 4% to 6% say that chemical intolerance affects their life and among these, 80% say they feel bothered by exposure to fragrances.

People with a heightened sensitivity to chemicals, including fragrances may report symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, nausea, headaches and shortness of breath. An asthmatic patient might have an adverse reaction to fragrances.

Surprisingly, an office might have no rules in its HR handbook guiding the management what to do if a colleague wears too much perfume.

There are two ways to go about it:

As a manager

As a manager, you could address the company to handle this issue.

In the email, the HR manager could point out that since we are working in close proximity with the colleagues, we should be careful when introducing perfumes, fragrances or other smells in the workplace as many people are sensitive to fragrances and smells.

Courteously ask the employees in the email to limit the amount of perfume they use.

Additionally, this could also go up in your HR handbook or put on the notice board.  You could also impart this during the orientation of a new batch of employees so that they know how to carry themselves best in the workplace, while working with their colleagues, suppliers and customers.

As an HR manager puts it: You know you have put too much perfume/cologne on if you can smell it on yourself.

Many times the employee may not realize earlier that they are over-doing the perfume and hence may not recognize themselves as the source of problem. If this does happen, you might want to talk to the employee in private.

A better idea would be to shoot them an email so as not to embarrass them, in a one-to-one discussion. Most of the times, the mistake is unintentional and the employee will be careful to take the cologne or perfume a notch down.

As an employee

You could talk to your colleague and take it as a performance issue. Courteously tell them you are unable to work since you are more sensitive to certain smells/fragrances. We are sure your colleague will be more than happy to accommodate their co-workers’ concerns.

This article playfully discusses fragrances at work and lists down some fragrances you can work without drawing attention towards you.


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