‘Scent’sitive Noses: A co-worker who wears too much cologne

Q: I am trying to find a way to ask a man at work politely to not wear so much cologne. There are a couple of work peers who have symptoms including bad headaches, trouble breathing and nausea/weakness when this gentleman arrives at work every day.

A: Whoever is closest to the man could speak to him privately and say something along the lines of “John, I need to be honest with you. While your cologne is very nice, it can be a bit overpowering especially for those of us who have extra sensitive noses. Would you mind wearing a little less? I’d truly appreciate it and hope you understand.” However, this is only a suggestion. Since his cologne is affecting the health of your co-workers, either you or one of them could speak to the gentleman’s supervisor. Of course, there is no guarantee that his supervisor will speak to him.


  1. Vanna Keiler

    I think all the advice about speaking politely and discreetly to a coworker regarding any minor inconvenience invites possibility of escalation, retaliation and further work headache.

    The reality is that an individual who does not consider the comfort or considerations of those around him or her in ANY surroundings will be less tolerant to suggestions to change. When a work-related situation arrives, the only sure-fire solution is to approach the supervisor if it is interfering with your job performance. Anything other scenario puts you in the position of “busy-body”, which translates into “not doing your job”.

  2. Jenna

    It is not your job to tell co-workers how to groom themselves. Confronting him could cause possible animosity. The proper procedure should be to contact a supervisor or Human Resources and tell them that there have been several complaints of the smells in the office. Human Resources or the supervisor should send a blanket email/statement to all employees remind them that since they work in close proximity, they should be mindful that many people are sensitive to scents and smells and to limit the amount of perfumes and sented lotions.

  3. Zak

    I think you should try to handle it among coworkers before bringing a supervisor or HR into the situation. Most people don’t know they are negatively affecting their workmates unless they are informed.

    My advice would be to first ask a male coworker to pass on the message, then if things don’t improve involve your supervisor.

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