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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.


  • 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?
  • 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.
  • TIP: Be warned: people with a natural, strong odor become used to their own scent, so they literally won't be able to smell themselves.
  • 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."
  • 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?"
  • TIP: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • TIP: 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."
  • Step 7: Run If Stinky begins approaching in a way that suggests your blood is about to be spilled, hightail it out of there—and call Security.
  • 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.
  • FACT: 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.

You Will Need

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

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