About Dear Abel and Sofi: This Alignable column gives our small business owners an outlet to anonymously share the kinds of frustrations, fears and private struggles few people express openly. Father-daughter duo Abel and Sofi co-author the column, bringing diverse perspectives to both professional and personal problems. A serial entrepreneur and counselor, Abel, 65, is known for his empathy and his uncanny understanding of many issues. Co-owner of a salon, Sofi, 28, has a younger, more candid approach to life’s challenges. Beyond appearing on Alignable’s Q&A Forum, now this column in syndicated in outlets including the Focus Newspaper in NC and The Yankee Xpress in MA. To submit your anonymous questions to Abel and Sofi, please click here.
Dear Abel and Sofi,
I have a very uncomfortable topic to bring up that’s been bugging me for a long time. I work in a small business with MANY fitness enthusiasts, but it’s not a gym. It’s a regular office. And we have a bunch of people who, in nice weather, ride bikes miles and miles to work.
Hey, I’m happy they’re fit and trim and trying to be healthy. But what’s not healthy is the nausea I get when I’m sitting next to them. God help me, some days I actually feel faint. I mean as a woman I know my nose is more sensitive, so the stench hits me harder. But I didn’t sign up to work as a locker room attendant.
Some people may think this is a silly thing to complain about, but sometimes the odors are so bad, I find it hard to concentrate on my job. These people STINK TO HIGH HEAVEN.
Is there a PC way for me to handle this? Do I leave some deodorant on a few desks with anonymous notes? Do I send funny memes about B.O. to everyone so the stinkers get the hint? Or do I just spend even more time working from home? It’s not even super hot outside yet, and this stinky situation is bound to get even worse. HELLLPPPP!
Sincerely, Hot & Bothered By B.O.
Dear Hot & Bothered,
This problem is more prevalent in businesses than you know, especially for those of you with superior olfactory senses.
On the positive side, despite your degree of discomfort, you’re still trying to take the high road – by asking for advice. On the negative side, you can’t just be working from home all the time as you’ll probably miss too much and could run the risk of being out of sight, out of mind.
If your company has an HR person or someone else who handles personnel matters, it’s time to bring this up in a very professional way to her or him. Ask for advice on how to best handle the situation, and that’s a great way to get the HR person to say, “You’re not the first one to bring that up. Let me take care of it.”
I would avoid all of the stunts that you suggested (maybe in jest, maybe not)! Those could be seen as juvenile by people who don’t understand your plight. In a small business, someone would figure out that you did those things, and it all could backfire on you, which would be ridiculous.
That said, one time when I was working in an office where people regularly ate foods full of all kinds of scents – vinegar, curry, strong cheeses – I plugged in an air freshener or two before anyone got into the office and let them run all the time. And maybe having one of those personal fans at your desk pushing bad scents away would be a good idea, as well.
Good luck with all of it and let us know how it turns out.
Dear Hot & Bothered,
GURL, I hear you! As women, we’re the first ones to notice when something or someone SMELLS FUNKY.
Problem is, sometimes that person is so used to their own body odor, they don’t even notice it anymore. That’s why, as Dad said, it’s best to very professionally bring it up to someone at your workplace who has authority and can nicely address it. And in the meantime, I like the personal fan and the scented plug-in ideas, too.
To show you that you’re far from alone, at my salon, I have some customers who have bad breath almost all of the time. I always offer them water, tea and/or a strong mint before I color their hair. I just have to do it, for their sake and mine. I can’t conduct business in a friendly manner with people who have breath that smells like the bottom of a birdcage. It’s not fair to them or me.
And I have the sweaty hot yoga ladies who rush in after their sessions, too. I try to make those appointments as brief as possible and sit them near a slightly open window. In your case, maybe there are some windows you can open in the office to take the sting out of the stink.
Finally, I have to tell you about a boss I had right out of school. He had a private office and when you’d catch him at a bad moment, the whole office smelled as if he was passing gas for hours. I had to discuss something with him once and was forced to make that convo very short, as my eyes were literally beginning to water.
So I feel your pain, more often than I’d like. Hoping you at least got a laugh out of our stories, along with a couple of solid tips to solve this nagging problem.
Good luck! Sofi
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