Today, I’d like to address a pretty sensitive office issue. It’s something that many people experience, but struggle to address – especially here in Malaysia, where our natural demeanour is reserved and non-confrontational. You see, even if a colleague’s body odour is bad enough to make you consider calling in sick, none of us actually want to offend or upset anyone, as we simply want to work in comfort, which is why it’s a very tricky issue to tackle.
I asked a few of my friends who have dealt with this issue before, and some of them gave pretty interesting ways on how to confront the colleague respectfully, while helping them to maintain a good degree of dignity, so there won’t be any bad blood in the office:
1. Anonymous Message
Put a secret letter on their desk so they won’t know who the message is from. Make sure you use a computer and print it out, instead of writing it on your own, as they might recognise your handwriting.
2. Talk to HR
Honestly, as embarrassing as it is, let the pros handle it. After all, they’ve been trained to handle situations like this.
3. Just yell it out
I accidentally said, “Fuck, something smells like socks,“ to my coworkers aloud, and opened the windows in my office — without realising that it was ONE OF MY COWORKER who reeked so bad, until someone texted to fill me in. Lol, basically just yell, “Someone stinks!”, but not to their faces as you might risk being slapped.
4. Tell them indirectly
Tell your coworker that they look pretty stressed, and that they should take a long shower with bath salts to scrub all the “stress” away, not forgetting to put on some deodorant to keep their pits cooled. Recommend some good hygiene products too while you’re at it.
5. Just say it
Some people might not be able to smell themselves so it would be good for both of your sakes if you could just be direct with the person. Say it nicely like, “Hey you might want to put some deodorant on, I can smell you,” and they’ll be like, “oh sorry thanks”.
6. Make it a company policy to stay fresh
Depending on where you work, have your boss print off your company’s policy on appearance and highlight the hygiene section, and post the notice somewhere the person will see it.
7. Gift baskets
Give them a hygiene set, like a gift basket. But if you think that’s too much, perhaps you can go to your nearest Guardian store, purchase a bundle of deodorants, and give one to them, saying, “Hey I have an extra deodorant, because they had a buy 1 free 1 thing just now. Take one.”
With that said, if you’ve tried everything but your officemate still stinks, you could set up a fan and turn it toward you as it will keep the air circulating and dissipate your coworker’s stink. However, if that doesn’t work too, then you should probably just give up and consider working somewhere else.