I have a co-worker with a bit of a odor from the Netherlands. How do I professionally deal with this?

Question by NaLani: I have a co-worker with a bit of a odor from the Netherlands. How do I professionally deal with this?
It is not my position to say anything. I just want to act in a professional manner when it is necessary to be around her. Most important, I want to avoid being rude and or losing my cookies. Any suggestions?

Best answer:

Answer by good gesser
Clothespin on your nose a good start!


But seriously, the person who is in charge would be the best one. I have had to deal with this myself, and it was also a person from outside the US. I just sat them down and explained it as repectfully briefly and honestly as I could and suggested the deodorant I used. Suprisingly he took the information well and followed it.

Good luck

What do you think? Answer below!

  1. kiwifressa says:

    I understand what your saying. I was in a foreign country for 3 months & it smelled of bo everywhere. Wearing perfumes & deodorants was embarassing to them. It’s just a cultural difference. If you are not side by side with her all day then just bite your tongue. There is not really a polite way to say “You stink”

  2. Amy R says:

    Sometimes people do not realize they have an odor issue. If you are in the Netherlands, it would not matter, but if she is here, she needs to know that it can be offensive. Do you know what the odor is? Because it could be her clothing, lack of washing, sweat, some horrible perfume, anything actually. I think it is fair, though, to bring a small handkerchief with you and keep it in your pocket. When you need to be near her and others are not about, simply pull it out and hold it over your nose and mouth. When she asks why you are doing this, tell her that you are afraid that the smell of her perfume is making you ill. If she is not wearing any, she may never admit it at this point but may choose to wash or ask others if her smell is offensive. If she is not wearing any and tells you so – then you can only shrug and say “Then I am not sure what it is, but I only smell it when you are around.” It is imperitive that you act meek and mildly puzzled when you are discussing this – you are not looking for a confrontation but you also do not want your actions to avoid her to impact your work or get her to report badly of you. At the same time, she needs to know how seriously objectionable her odor is, regardless of the source or cause. She might confide in you or even ask advice. I was in a group where two members reeked of rotting meat from not washing their clothing enough – they could not smell it! When they found out, they totally changed their washing habits and they were overjoyed at how much more friendly everyone was! It was life-changing for them – they were very sweet but no one could figure out how to tell them about the smell until one day someone just told them – but this woman is foreign in your case, so be gentle about it and let her realize what is wrong or ask you for details if needed.

  3. xbluelikewaterx says:

    If her odor is really bothering you and distracting you from your work, you should talk to your boss. Explain to them that you don’t want to hurt your coworker’s feelings, but her odor is overwhelming and is distracting you from work. Ask them to please address it with your coworker. It is your boss’s job to handle these situations with professionalism.

  4. nuclearfuel says:

    I’m from the Netherlands and I would certainly make a comment if one of my co-workers smelled less than agreeable. There’s nothing cultural about it, apparently she either just doesn’t care or there must be a flaw in her upbringing. Body odour is just as offensive in the Netherlands as it it is in say, the US or the rest of the north-western hemisphere. Over here, you can buy every kind of deodorant, soap etc. you can possibly think of, and I’m sometimes left with the impression that deodorant commercials are all we get to see on tv. There’s no excuse for her to mark her personal space in this way, even if she worked in a zoo. And I’m pretty sure most Dutchies will agree on this point.

    She’s the one who’s being rude here, so if I were in your place I wouldn’t mind making a tactful remark about ‘failing deodorant’ or something in that vein.

  5. samdugan says:

    One suggestion that may work, I’ve done it…try leaving a deodorant stick on her desk before she comes in tomorrow, it may work.

    Once, when I was 23, I worked for a guy who’s breath was horrible, I put a bottle of Listerine on his desk, and he took the hint, and his breath cleared up. But, about 2-3 mos. later, the company had a layoff, and I was only one from his department who was let go. I’ve often thought he know it was me who left the Listerine on his desk, but he did me a favor because I got a better job.

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