How to Deal with a Smelly Co-Worker

Does a stinky co-worker have you fretting that—as Jerry Seinfeld put it—the "O" won't stay with the "B"? Time to handle this delicate dilemma.


Up next in Office Survival Guide (57 videos)

Between crazy bosses and creepy coworkers, it's a wonder you get any work done at all. Here's a little help.


You Will Need

  • A smelly coworker
  • A fan
  • An air freshener
  • And gifts of cologne
  • soap
  • or deodorant
  • A nose clip (optional)


  1. Step 1

    Check yourself

    Take a good whiff of your own pits to make sure you and your coworker don't share a common affliction. Phew just checking. But how embarrassing would that be?

  2. Step 2

    Ask about the smell

    When the two of you are alone, ask, "Do you smell that? What is that?" several times in a casual but concerned tone. If the odor is from poor hygiene, they should get the hint.

  3. Be warned: people with a natural, strong odor become used to their own scent, so they literally won't be able to smell themselves.

  4. Step 3

    Combat the stench

    Clip a mini fan to your desk, use air freshener liberally, and frequently request that a window be left open "to get some fresh air in here."

  5. Step 4

    Enlist a friend

    Invite a friend who doesn't know your co-worker to the office, and instruct them to accuse you of having B.O. After you've made a show of proving that you don't, have the friend lamely offer, "Sorry I guess it's just the office?"

  6. If Stinky is your boss or you're uncomfortable handling this directly, just tell Human Resources—they're paid to do this kind of dirty work.

  7. Step 5

    Give hints

    Use any gift giving opportunity to pass on some cologne. Or pretend to have discovered some new soap or deodorant that they just have to try.

  8. Step 6

    Talk privately

    Find Stinky where you can talk privately. Make eye contact and say in a sympathetic voice, "Maybe you don't realize this, but you have a rather strong body odor."

  9. Tell a white lie: "I mention this only because I once had the same problem, and, while embarrassing, I'm glad it was brought to my attention."

  10. Step 7


    If Stinky begins approaching in a way that suggests your blood is about to be spilled, hightail it out of there—and call Security.

  11. Step 8

    Enlist the boss

    If the problem persists, ask the boss to intervene. Stinky may respond more positively to an authority figure than a peer.

  12. At some places, you can be fired for offensive body odor—most private companies have behavior and dress codes, which body odor might fall under.