Don’t miss Ask Paul live on Facebook every month where Paul answers your job seeker and career questions. To check out our latest episode, watch here or read below for a summary of questions and answers.
Our latest segment focuses on a common workplace issue: Hey Paul, I have a coworker that stinks. I talk to her every day. She's super nice, but sometimes if she comes too close it's almost unbearable. What's the best way to deal? To start, handling the situation depends on several factors including the type of smell and your relation to the coworker.
Being polite will ensure that you get your message across and keep your working relationship friendly. Something polite and direct like the following may do the work, "You have really good taste in perfume, but it's a little much."
Refrain for making anyone feel bad or embarrassed. Put yourself in the opposite shoes and think about how you'd like someone to approach you on this. That means not in front of an entire room full of people or passive-aggressively leaving deodorant at someone's work station. If you're of equal status as the coworker at the company, get your manager to step in and have the conversation.
For managers, don't pull someone aside in front of other coworkers. Be direct. Lay out what the problem is and a resolution. Then let it go. Don't harp on it or tell other people, "I took care of it. She'll get better." If assistance is required, get HR involved.
If the topic comes up in a peer to peer conversation, make it clear that you will not talk about it. For example, "It's not cool. Let's talk about something else." For managers, if your employees are talking about this person, put an end to it.
People don't want to smell. If you tell them and they know, they'll probably try to do something to change that. Paul recalled a previous situation with an employee who worked through QPS. "[He] was working at one of our client companies. [The] client loved him—really loved him—but was concerned. After about a week, some of his coworkers were like, 'I don't want to work with him.' It almost impacted his job." QPS had a direct call with him. He honestly didn't know.
Don't subtly leave mouthwash or any hygienic gifts at their work station. If possible, pull your coworker aside and let them know with a respectful but clear message. For example, "I noticed bad breath. I've been there, in case you didn't know."
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