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Something does not smell good

 9:34 am on Nov 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I write to you today as a very distressed manager. I have a co-worker that for the last month literally smells like a trash can. Everyone has complained about her and frankly I do not blame them. I always thought people were being a little over dramatic but today I had the "pleasure" of sitting down in a strat meeting with this woman. One on One. By the time the meeting was finished I had gagged twice and felt queezy.

I have no idea how to deal with this. The employee has a history that shows her to be quite a sensitive human being so the situation has to be approached with a certain amount of social tact and sensitivity.

My question to you is: Have you experienced something like this? What would you do to get her to go back to her non-smelly ways?



 9:38 am on Nov 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

when i was in the army, we used to drag the person outside and hose them down.


 9:39 am on Nov 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

send her an anonymous email


 10:02 am on Nov 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

@malcolmcroucher: That is a very good idea and so far the best suggestion. Sorry htdawg, as much as I would like to do that I value my job ;-)


 10:15 am on Nov 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

I had a collegue once had to deal with this situation, she sat the woman down and asked her if there were any issues she should be aware of, and gently, but honestly told her the situation.

In that case the woman was being abused at home and was only able to get herself ready once a number of "chores" had been completed, this did not allow her time for personal hygiene. However once she admitted this to someone, she was able to remove herself from that relationship.

Please don't send her an anonymous email, it could be seen as bullying and could get you into trouble in the long run. I think she needs a sympathetic ear mpre then a "slap in the face" and you need to be very aware of that. If your company has some sort of counselling dept you may want to refer it to them, and make sure you talk to HR before you do anything, and if necessary have someone from HR there when you discuss it with her.


 10:40 am on Nov 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

Buy her a bar of soap and a can of deodorant, gift wrap it and leave it on her desk (anonymously). IMHO she is more likely to be lazy than the victim of abuse.


 10:43 am on Nov 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

The point is that you just don't know what could be going on in someones life for that to happen, and anything like "leaving a bar of soap on her desk" could be cause for her to bring harassment charges against the person doing it. surely it's better to deal with it like a rational adult, and take her feelings into account, then behave like a bunch of 15 year old school yard bullies throwing stuff at the local "poor kid"


 11:16 am on Nov 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

Instruct your co-workers to show up without showering the next few days. Then when all people smell the same put a general directive about body hygiene on the notice-board.


 11:18 am on Nov 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

seriously though like others have mentioned she might have a problem be it personal, medical ect.. the best might be to just wait it out and see


 11:51 am on Nov 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the response Yoshimi. You are 100% correct. We are not a large company and currently I fulfill any role of an HR department So i like what you say about sitting them down and seeing if there is anything wrong and gently leading into it.

This sounds like the correct coarse of action.

Thank you,


 2:23 pm on Nov 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

I agree with Yoshimi, sounds like she's going through some serious personal problems. Does she have a history of mental health problems ? Depression etc.
Are there any signs of drug abuse ?

Be very poite but firm with her, warn the other employees not to poke fun at her, its a horrible situ but it needs to be dealt with quickly


 3:53 pm on Nov 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

Is she one of these Hippy/Deadhead types who thinks that body odor is natural and that its good to let your body clense itself naturally? Does she try and cover it up with patchouli?

If so, just walk right up to her and tell to go home and shower and that Jerry Garcia is indeed dead for 13 years now.

<i love the Dead, saw them many times, but cant stand hippy stink, ruined many a good show>


 3:54 pm on Nov 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

Don't forget one other possibility. I had a friend in my younger years that had some hormonal condition (can't remember it's name) and he always reeked. He would get out of a hot shower reeking. There was no cure, but once understood, at least it was bearable for some reason.

Although the condition with your employee is new, it may be something medical that she can't do anything about. You do need to open a dialogue, although I don't know that there's anything that can be done in an office situation other than move her and isolate her, which may not be possible.


 4:14 pm on Nov 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

Nah, don't move her. Just say something, it will seem really awkward until you start talking about it but once the conversation starts you will quickly solve the issue.

Start with this:

"you smell bad, is your shower broken, are you trying to win a bet?" "please do something about it because I find it offensive and I imagine everyone else does too"

Before you know it the problem will be solved. Be forward, say it with a smile and a little humour. Do it today!


 4:22 pm on Nov 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

There is a perfume I've run across that smells like rancid BO on some women, they seem unaware of it, as though it smells fine to them.

My first run in with it was at an upscale eatery, this smell came floating in the room, I could have sworn some homeless bum with horrendous hygiene issues had snuck in when this women wearing about ten grand is jewelery walked by. My wife mentioned a name of a well known perfume that I can't recall and said it reacted with some people's body chemistry in a wild way that they don't notice.

I've run into this several time since, all from well dressed women that smelled exactly the same way, but have avoided creating a scene by letting them know their expensive perfume smells like garbage.



 7:10 pm on Nov 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

There's a disgusting "fragrance" beloved of "rock chicks" and "biker chicks" that makes me retch from 100 metres.

I once worked with someone who smelt very "off", and after a year or two they found they were being eaten away by cancer inside. Once that had been treated the smell also went away. There are also some kidney and liver conditions that can make some people stink rotten.


 7:17 pm on Nov 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

There's a disgusting "fragrance" beloved of "rock chicks" and "biker chicks" that makes me retch from 100 metres.

that would be patchouli


 8:11 pm on Nov 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

*** patchouli ***

Now we know. :-) I never dared ask before -- couldn't get close enough without hurling.

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