Smelly work colleague

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stoo_pid | 11:50 Sat 25th Feb 2006 | Body & Soul
17 Answers

Wondering how ABers would solve the problem of smelly work colleagues. And by smelly, I mean really, really pongs - I'm sitting next to the bloke in question as I write this & it literally smells as though he's just soiled himself!!! (I'm not exaggerating - it really is an unpleasant, overpowering smell...).

He has been spoken to by both our managers on more than one occasion (most days he has very strong BO but it's not uncommon for the poo smell either) but they say there's nothing else they can do as he's not actually doing anything wrong. Obviously no-one wants this guy to feel like he's being picked on but at the same time it is quite horrible having to spend a 12 hour shift breathing in these smells. Any ideas how we could sort this issue out diplomatically?


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Stoo-pid, under working conditions regs, you should be able to work in a safe working enviroment, which includes areas that are well ventilated, ie free from unpleasant smells.

Tho it is a sensitive subject this man needs to be told that it is effecting his work colleagues.

Your managers have a duty to protect employees health whilst at work {1974 health &safety at work act}. and more astounishing they,ve spoken to him on more than one occasion and said he ain't doing anything wrong.

I would tell him to his face {thats my view} and if he & or your managers refuse to address the issue would take further advise ie union etc or all sign a petition and make a formal complaint.

I'd have to have a word with him - tell him directly that he's got a personal hygiene problem and that you find it offensive. I don't think I could spend an entire shift in his company, or would choose to. Much better to tell him straight that it's just not on. Give him a bar of soap while you're telling him, and let him know that if you have to mention it again, he'll be eating it, since he's not using it for anything else.
We had the same problem once with a man at work. I don't think maybe your managers are getting the point over enough. We used to try to hold our breath untill he had gone by but in the end our Manager had to really sit down and have a good talk to him. He was a nice enough chap, but the smell was awfull.

Well said snook.

If someone is continually minging then I just tell them.How many hints do some people need.However I do temper it by saying something along the lines of 'have you been sitting with someone who smokes a pipe cos you smell really stale' no offence to pipe-smokers but you get my drift.This filthy stinking guy who I like and get on with has a beard and I've asked him when the last time he washed it was ie do you wash it when you wash your hair?I ultimately said a couple of weeks ago when I got in the car after the pub quiz.when there was a nasty wiff,'that wasnt me - it was name- cos he is humming and I refuse to take responsibility for that).

He still speaks to me quite the thing and is still minging.O well you can lead a horse to water.....................:)

How about you all clubbing together to buy some soap, an aerosol deodorant, and some body cologne and post it to his home address with a little note saying "Please use this every day. Your work colleagues would really appreciate being able to work in a less smelly environment !!"

Does this guy have a wife? If so, how on earth does she tolerate it Perhaps somebody could summon up the courage to drop her a note and tell her to get her husband sorted out.

Just one thought though. Does this chap have some kind of medical problem none of you know about such as having had a colostomy and having to wear a colostomy bag? If so, he may be struggling and not realise his body odours are noticeable elsewhere, in which case he might be really mortified. Perhaps somebody could take him aside, ask him this personal question and apologise for doing so, but say that the odours are getting really noticeable and you're sure he'd want to do something about them.

If he doesn't have a colostomy problem, and doesn't take the hint, perhaps you all need to confront your manager and say the matter say now gone beyond a joke and you would like him to take positive action within a given deadline.

i would just tell him he stinks and should take more care of his personal hygiene as he is offensive...
Question Author
WendyS, that's a good point about the colostomy bag. Can't believe I hadn't even considered that. Somehow though I doubt that is the case as I would have expected the managers to have been told that & in turn to have explained it to us.

Unsurprisingly he doesn't have a partner (never has to the best of our knowledge). I like the idea of the 'gift' - might be some mileage there. It is really difficult to bring it up without effectively insulting anyone though. Some years ago I was in the same position as my current managers where I had to explain to a member of my staff that their BO had become a bit of an issue. I was as gentle as I could be but the poor woman was absolutely mortified and seemed to have no idea how much she hummed. The problem tho, was while she sorted out her armpits for a bit the smell would keep coming back. I'd keep having a quiet word with her but each time she genuinely seemed surprised & soon started to take offence. Luckily for me she found another job but it's not a situation I ever want to get into again.
I kind of agree with Wendy here- if it's just BO because he can't be bothered to wash that's one thing. If he has a medical problem that's a bit more difficult and depends upon his personality really. I suffer with an embarrassing health problem and hope I don't smell-well no-one's ever mentioned it!- but I'd be absolutely mortified if someone just told me I stank. I see your problem, I can't stand that awful sweaty smell but sometimes there may be more to it.

tell the guy he stinks.

been in your position with a work mate some years ago.

(but i didnt mention it to him !)

the summer was a killer..

do it before you get 12 hours of hell,(the summer) and the possability of picking up his odour on your own clothing.

stoo-pid, how come wendys was the only person that you starred ?.

My other concern is that the same thing happened a few years ago according to you, What did wendy cover that no one else posted {nothing}. Apart from the colostomy bag what i would like to think management might of known by now { see previous post}.

I smell a rat here, and guest what its not your colleague

answer is simple... ask for a transfer.
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Laurence2, I didn't just star WendyS. The reason for 3 stars tho was Wendy was the only one to make me consider his problem might be more than just a lack of soap. Believe me, it's hard enough to tell someone they smell but if it's a medical problem it much, much harder to find a solution.

What do you mean, you smell a rat? Which parts are you struggling to understand? In my previous job as theatre manager I had to tell a member of my staff that she smelled. It was a really horrible experience, for both of us and as I said, not one I wish to repeat - ever. As to the possibility that this problem is due to a colostomy bag - if our management know, why do you suppose they don't tell us whenever anyone complains?

The reason I posted the question was to see if anyone had any sneaky ways of solving the problem without creating an awkward situation. Thanks to everyone who's offered suggestions so far (even if I'm not going to take your advice & tell him straight to his face! :-)

How horrible for you.

But if your colleague does have a colostomy bag or some other medical problem (there are some health problems that make people smell of rotting fish, or other nasties, no matter how clean they are) the bosses are not allowed to tell you.

If he does have a simple hygiene problem it should be fairly obvious - unwashed hair, wearing the same clothes without washing them, dirty finger nails are all clues.

I wish you well - you are obviously a caring sort of person.

stoo_pid this link might be worth a look.

Alternatively you could have a little fun and bet him that he can't say ICED INK ten times really fast!!!! Probably useless, but might raise a laugh for everyone else

Sorry, I'll get my coat ;-)

Question Author
Ethel - thanks for that info. Sounds like we perhaps just need to be a bit more uderstanding in the office.

Steve_Luts - cheers, that link is ideal. (Wish I'd seen that a few years ago!)

Interestingly enough the bloke in question has turned up for work today all scrubbed & polished like he's off to a wedding or something. I'm not sitting next to him so can't vouch for his scent, but it's a start :-)
My advice to you would be to give him a strip wash !!!!!
Question Author

LOL vanquish! Think I'll send a memo to management now :-)

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