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How do I politely tell a co-worker that they smell?

After my co-worker's shift is over, I have to take over and sit in her chair. She is very overweight and I dont know if that has to do with the problem, but she smells really bad. She stinks up the chair really bad and I've tried spraying it down with Febreeze and that doesnt work. I've also asked my boss if we can get our own chairs issued to us and she says no, that it would be too expensive. She hangs out a little bit after her shift is over and I keep having to come up with excuses to not sit down. Then when she leaves, I go around the office and hunt for a new chair. And it's not just the chair, it's her. She smells like really bad body odor and its ALL THE TIME!


Asked by Anonymous at 9:18 AM on Jan. 18, 2009 in Money & Work

This question is closed.
Answers (20)
  • Too funny, b/c just this week we began having this problem in our office with a brand new employee. I had to sit with my boss (who is a man) and let him know that this womans odor was so offensive that it was literally wafting thru the entire office. Each time someone walked by her, the air brought the stinch all the way back to my desk. It was nauseauting. This was not under arm odor, instead more like a sour-clothes-sweaty-fanny-smoky-humm...can't think of any more adjectives, but trust me it was HORRIBLE. I came home with the same question. I asked my boss to ask her to be sure and shower before she comes back into the office. We'll see. I'll check back here to see if anyone gives a good answer. It needs to be polite. And I'm wondering if it should come from a female boss instead of our male boss.

    Answer by lifeasinoit at 10:45 AM on Jan. 18, 2009

  • That is a problem. I used to have a coworker who smelled, and everyone in the building knew it and as far as I knew nobody ever talked to him about it, or if they did, he didn't care. You could be a nice person and show up with some deodorant and offer it saying that she is such a nice person and you really didn't want to embarrass her but that....etc. As she is getting ready to leave, of course. Could you bring a towel to sit on in the chair? You could say that the towel provides cushioning that you need. Is her odor more hygiene related? This would be even trickier than underarm odor. Then all you can do that I can think of (and be sure both of these are in a very private place so no coworkers overhear) do her the kindness of telling her. Keep it caring, keep it quick.

    Answer by Bmat at 9:24 AM on Jan. 18, 2009

  • When she is just hanging around after her shift, I would get some lotion or body spray out of my purse and ask her has she tried that.. Tell her that you found it and you JUST love it and want to tell everybody about it.. Maybe she'll get the hint.. Good luck..

    Answer by honeys_sugamama at 9:26 AM on Jan. 18, 2009

  • It's probably too late to do this as a christmas gift, but what about a nice inexpensive bath set? shower gel, body spray, a loofah? maybe give it to her as a birthday gift or something, let her know that you tried this stuff and loved it so much that you just had to share it with your coworker. Or get the lavender scented stuff, tell her how spraying it on before you came to work helped relieve job stress.

    Answer by plylerjones at 9:28 AM on Jan. 18, 2009

  • Two helpful websites:

    Answer by jspy72 at 9:30 AM on Jan. 18, 2009

  • I wouldn't say anything but to your boss and let him/her handle it.


    Answer by Christine0813 at 9:31 AM on Jan. 18, 2009

  • This really is tricky, I always chicken out of these situations generally but obviously since you have to sit in the chair you'd rather not. And I think your response depends upon whether it is a whole body hygeine problem or whether it is just a new deoderant she needs, if it is just the new deoderant problem then maybe buy her some for an upcoming event such as a birthday. Or if it is hygeine problem, which may be affecting everyone at your work maybe talk to your boss seriously about her sorting it out since it could affect other's work.. It's a long shot though. Good Luck with this.

    Answer by HNK11 at 9:32 AM on Jan. 18, 2009

  • Is her odor more hygiene related? This would be even trickier than underarm odor.


    It's not underarm odor.. its like odor from "downstairs". It's really bad.


    Answer by Anonymous at 9:33 AM on Jan. 18, 2009

  • It's not underarm odor.. its like odor from "downstairs". It's really bad.


    Try the gift basket approach - maybe some Massengill? I am being serious.


    Answer by jspy72 at 9:37 AM on Jan. 18, 2009

  • Overweight people's thighs rub together and usually that causes them to smell. Just take her out for dinner and tell her.

    Answer by Anonymous at 9:37 AM on Jan. 18, 2009