How Do You Tell a Co-Worker that They Stink?


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An image of a skunk

In Freshen Up

It’s one thing when someone’s fresh air compromising smell permeates through a subway car, or at an Aerobic Extreme Cardio Zumba Bootcamp Kickboxing class. Perhaps it is even, to some degree, expected that such a thing might happen there. But is these cases, it is just something to grin – or rather smell – and bear for a time period of generally an hour or less. Then it is on to something else, in an environment where you can come up for air!

But what happens when that ‘97 degree July summer afternoon post tennis match locker room’ aroma sustains itself throughout the office workplace? Or within the car that is the everyday car pool venue? Or inside the hot restaurant kitchen where you make tasty little sweet and savory creations? Or permeating the hotel room that is your co-habitat with your work team?

Just like our eyes can pinpoint the epicenter of a surrounding action, or our ears can identify the source of the clunking sound in the building – our sense of smell can quickly hone in on exactly where the olfactory negativity is emanating from. It is unfortunate that sometimes it is coming directly from Charlie or Maiya, who regrettably had the same career choice as you!

How to End the Pollution in the Work Place

Here are the three choices:

#1 Live with the smell, taking dozens of breaks to seek breathable air, while trying to remember a time from the distant past where the inviting and inspiring smell of your morning coffee was not overpowered by a flavorful re-creation of the Dallas Cowboy’s locker room. Accept and forgive during the day, and in the evening and night scream uncontrollably and complain to anyone who will continually listen.

#2 Get up from your workstation, stride over to the alleged perpetrator (or air permeate-or), and hold them down while you relentlessly coat them from head to toes with antiperspirant.

#3 Kindly, give them a verbal dose of reality.

Though I would really prefer to do number two – it would be so satisfying – I am leaning towards recommending number three instead!

Choosing the Right Words

Remember – no matter how uncomfortable this conversation will be, it is for the best to be honest.

So here’s the script:

YOU: “Hey, Charlie (or Maiya) – can I talk to you for a minute? Did you have a good weekend and all? You know, I think you’re really great and everything, but there is something as a co-worker and friend that I really should tell you. This is awkward and I am a bit uncomfortable to bring this up, but I gotta tell you that sometimes you kinda smell a little bad! I mean maybe it’s just me, but I am just giving you a head’s up because I care about you. I’m am thinking you might not be aware of it and I want to help you in any way I can.

CHARLIE or MAIYA: Really? I had no idea! Is it that bad? OMG, guess I gotta do something. Any suggestions?

YOU: Well, I am certainly not an expert on personal hygiene, but I would suggest – as a friend – to try new soap and deodorant and be sure to use it every day.

CHARLIE or MAIYA: Wow – I can’t thank you enough! You are really a true friend!

…and since Soft Whisper is so incredibly inexpensive, you can easily afford to give your workplace pal a year’s supply for just a few bucks.

PS: Sincere apologies to anyone named Charlie or Maiya!