"If you think business and manners don’t mix, try talking with your mouth full.” - Diane Gottsman, Modern Manners & Etiquette Expert, Author, Media Resource

Dealing With a Coworker Who Wears Strong Perfume

July 27th, 2017 by

Dear Diane,

I work closely with a colleague who wears very strong scented cologne. I go home with a headache every day. People complain about her but no one wants to hurt her feelings. She is friendly and efficient, but her pungent cologne overrides all of her good qualities. What do you suggest?

Katie P.

Strong Scented Perfume

Dear Katie,

If your work environment is compromised, you are not giving your best to the job, client or employer. Don’t suffer in silence. How you respond depends on your comfort level and relationship with your coworker.

Be Honest and Polite

In any tough conversation, it’s best to employ “I” instead of “you” statements. Say something like, “I hope I don’t offend you, but your cologne seems to be causing me to have bad headaches.” Be kind but don’t sugarcoat it. Your goal is to convey the message that her cologne is too strong.

Keep it Private

Speak to her when you are alone. Avoid making it sound as though the entire office has been talking behind her back. Don’t gossip or spread the conversation around your workplace. If another colleague brings it up, shut down any mean-spirited chatter.

Recruit You Supervisor’s Help

If you are uncomfortable broaching the topic, speak to your supervisor and ask for assistance. It does not have to be your duty to handle sensitive office topics. Your supervisor is trained to address difficult situations and will handle it professionally and confidentially.

Read the Policy Book

Some offices have implemented fragrance-free work environments due to employee allergies and sensitivities. Not only are people affected by strong cologne but body odor and smoke. A smoker often carries the smell on his or her clothing and others may be offended by the strong odor. If your employee handbook doesn’t include a section on strong scents, consider suggesting this to management.

Best of luck!


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