Stinky coworker

I have no choice but to take a sensitive matter into my hands. please if you can give advice or even a prayer, please do. I’ll just copy and paste what I texted my mom about it. thanks for any help, this is new territory for me:

“I’ve got to do something really really hard. my coworker stinks terribly especially after she goes to the bathroom. I was just dealing with it like everyone else does, but they aren’t up close for hours like me… and I’ve become aware that my hair and clothes smell like her poop after work. things have been tense with her at work, I haven’t even gotten to tell you, and we are cool now but I don’t think she would believe I didn’t instigate this if I have a higher-up talk to her about it all of a sudden. so i have to be the one to tell her, because me smelling like her poop crosses the line, and still maintain good relations with her. horrible but I was sent here.”


Well this is a very sensitive issue and I am no stranger to it. I had a similar situation, I had 22 people working for me and one of them was extremely overweight and her body odor was very strong. This person is one of the sweetest people I knew. It got to the point it was too much for everyone and I had to talk to her. I remember it well. I asked her to stay later to speak to her in private as to not humiliate her. We discussed things and found it was a medical issue as well. We did research together and we found an organic product and she discussed this with her doctor. The outcome was what we prayed for and all was fine .This could be something more serious that they have no idea about. I pray that they can get the help they need. These are difficult discussions but we need to have them. I pray for you and them to find a solution. :pray::pray::pray::pray:


thank you SO much for finding my post and chiming in. this person is very overweight as well, and I’d wondered if it’s possibly a medical issue. I also wondered if she just can’t wipe herself well enough. but it’s so bad. maybe there IS something actually wrong. anyway I really really appreciate you letting me know how this turned out for you. helps prepare me. <3


I’m glad you saw my response and yes when they are that overweight it’s hard to clean themselves so that is probably an factor. I just hope that everything works out. Praying for you. :pray::pray::pray::pray:


She could’ve had a procedure that resulted in a bag attached to her body. These do smell.

Or there is something else going on because people don’t usually run around smelling like poop.

You should asked to move your desk. In this case I wouldn’t confront the coworker.

But I must tell you I’m sensitive to smells and perfumes and things and I can’t breathe when I’m in the clinic because the management always allowed people to wear scented products even though it is against the rules. I confronted them (management) on it and I was looked at like the bad guy. I was told while we can’t smell it. When they didn’t do anything about it I talk to the coworker and once again I was made out to be the bad guy they came to me and said that that coworker doesn’t even want to sit next to you anymore… because of what you said. Well good that one came in with strong perfumes all the time I’m glad she moved.

I even wrote to human resources who didn’t do squat about it.

It was to the point I had boxes of baking soda near my desk I had a mini fan and an air purifier and I still couldn’t breathe from the scented products and perfumes.

It’s been a real relief to work virtually during this pandemic. My eyes and lungs are not burning…

Your boss may not even listen to you. But from what you’re describing this person has some thing medically going on and so you should treat it carefully.


thank you, you have excellent advice as well.

my mom suggested I let my supervisor know first, that I want to talk to the girl. I agree with that idea- and from what you’re saying, I’m realizing more how this is better for management to handle if possible. I just don’t want her to keep finding reasons to hate me.

unfortunately we work the front counter together 4 days a week all day long. so we have to share the same workspace completely.

it’s awful that nothing got done for you, especially when scents were against the rules. I can imagine the pain and that would be the same level of unbearable if not worse somehow. since obviously your job is handled fine without having to be in their office, I’m so glad that you gained an escape!!! <3

also I realized after I showered last night that the smell seemed to be more stuck in my nose or face rather than anything else. I didn’t wash my hair or clothes, and they smell fine to me.

I’m going to give some more time a shot and see if a mere quick shower after getting home from work continues to take care of it. I really hate to confront her if I can get away with not worrying about it.

thank you again. everyone’s advice has been extremely helpful.

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That’s a tough one. Yes, smells do get trapped in your nostrils. One thing you could try…a dab of peppermint essential oil under the nostrils or a dab of Vick’s vaporub. I’ve helped someone clean a house that smelled horrible due to a death in the house, and the Vick’s worked like a charm for hours.


They say that the sense of smell has a great memory…


Regardless of what you think may or could happen, you have every right to insist on being moved far enough away from your co-worker that you’ll never have to endure it again.
If it were me, I wouldn’t take it upon myself to approach the co worker because it could backfire by turning into a she said she said scenario of accusations which wouldn’t end well… plus it’s always possible that charges could be brought against you for harassment.
Instead, I firmly recommend going to human resources or if there is none, then go directly to your supervisor. No matter the cause of the smell no one should expect anyone to work under those circumstances.
BTW…supervisors aren’t the only ones with power…they often report to someone higher up including the the owner of a company.
Just don’t be too afraid to stand up for yourself!

I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I can’t help but remember a time when I used to wear perfume to church. It had a lovely, spicy smell, and people complimented me on it from time to time. Then one day, I went into the ladies room and there was a woman there choking and gasping for air. It was because of all the perfume everyone was wearing, not just me. This was a huge church with a thousand-plus members. The poor woman couldn’t breathe. I felt horrible, and I have never worn perfume since.
I’ll be praying for this woman, as I agree with everyone else: it is likely a medical issue. Nobody wants to be overweight and smelling like poop. I suspect this woman is a lost, miserable soul. I’ll also be praying for a solution to this situation.

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I had a similar situation in college with one of my freshman year roommates. She had horrific body odor coming from her armpits. She showered every day, used deodorant, but she still smelled terribly. It got to the point that other people in the dorm were whispering about her behind her back. Friends no longer wanted to come hang out in our room because it smelled so bad.

Finally, my other roommate and I decided that something had to be done. (There were 3 of us roommates.) We talked to our R.A. (Resident Assistant), hoping that a person in “authority” would handle it. But our R.A. suggested that, as her roommates, we were the closest to her at college, and that it would be less humiliating coming from us than coming from someone in authority. So we took a big breath and decided to do it ourselves.

On the day we had planned to confront her, my other roommate bailed – intentionally leaving the entire burden on my shoulders. So I had to do it myself. :frowning: It was horrible and nerve wracking, but eventually I did it. I just asked her, “What brand of deodorant are you using?” (It was some type of budget, cheap brand.) And when she responded, I just politely said, “I don’t think that’s working. I think you need to try something different.” I told her that people could smell her. And then I told her about the difference between products with and without antiperspirant. And she was temporarily mortified and embarrassed. And I think a little bit ashamed. And the room was incredibly tense and awkward. But . . . she immediately went out and bought a different brand and the problem resolved instantly. People were no longer whispering about her behind her back. And she went on to make friends and to have a normal college experience. And today, she has a husband and children and is raising a family – all things that might not ever have happened if she had not gotten control of her hygiene. So at the end of the day, it was good that I told her. Sometimes, you just have to quickly rip off the bandaid. Yes, it hurts, but it has to be done and things are much better in the end.

I think the biggest problem is making sure that you communicate in a way that the person knows you are trying to help them, not belittle them or make fun of them or get them into trouble.

Another example:
Many years ago, my mom had a coworker who smelled like cat urine. This woman was a hoarder of cats, she had way more cats than is normal. And she’d show up to work with a thick layer of cat hair all over her clothing. She smelled as if she kept cat boxes in her closets. She looked as if she’d been leaving her clothes on the floors for the cats to lay all over, then picking up the clothes off the floor in the morning and putting them on for work. And when she got to her desk at work, she’d turn on a little space heater under her desk. Then the hot air would blow and the horrific stench of heated cat urine would fill the whole place.

When she was first hired (while her hygiene was still decent), my mom had agreed to carpool with her, because they lived in the same area and the commute was an hour away. But after the first week of employment, her hygiene seriously declined and the stench in the car was so severe that it triggered my mom’s asthma and she couldn’t breathe – even with the window down and her head pointing out. And my mom’s desk was right next to hers at work and it was triggering her asthma and allergies and she couldn’t breathe.

My mom spent several weeks on high doses of medication, hoping that high doses of medication would help her breathe. It didn’t work. Eventually, my mom just had to do the difficult task of telling her co-worker that the smell of cat was triggering her asthma and her allergies and that she couldn’t breathe. And the lady apologized and came to work clean for about a week. But after that week, she was right back to her old self – stinking like pee and covered in blankets of cat hair. And even knowing my mom couldn’t breathe, her attitude was like, “Too bad, deal with it.” So my mom (who had already stopped commuting with her) had to seek help from Human Resources. And Human Resources did confront the co-worker. And after that, the relationship just soured. The woman was angry and made fun of my mom for not being able to breathe – as if she was making it all up (which she wasn’t). But the smell got a little bit better. Not completely better, but a little bit. And then it was bad again. :frowning: I don’t remember if my mom eventually asked to move desks or not. (This was many years ago.) But eventually, the lady just left that job and my mom was able to breathe again.

So I guess what I learned from these two situations is the same principle that is set forth in Matthew 18:15-17:

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

I know this passage is talking about conflict within the church, but there are nuggets of wisdom for general life as well. When I confronted my roommate privately and discreetly, the situation quickly resolved and the relationship was salvaged. When my mom confronted her co-worker privately and discreetly, the situation was not resolved, and she had to take it up to the next level. At this point of escalation, there is a chance that the relationship cannot be salvaged or normalized. But . . . at the end of the day, you have to breathe and you have to stand up for yourself. If you’ve first confronted the person privately and discreetly, at least you know you’ve done all that you can do to be kind and compassionate and to save them embarrassment. But if they choose not to respect your need to breathe, then they are choosing to disregard you and you know you are within Biblical grounds to seek outside help. If you continue to be friendly and kind and professional, any souring of the relationship rests on their shoulders and is their choice.

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