Guide to Giving
MEDIA, JOBS & RESOURCES for the COMMON GOOD
Ask Adam  |  Careers

Avoiding Making a Stink in the Office


Monday, 16th July 2018 at 7:00 am
Adam Blanch
Psychologist Adam Blanch offers advice on how to address a colleague with an odour problem.


Monday, 16th July 2018
at 7:00 am
Adam Blanch


1 Comments


FREE SOCIAL
SECTOR NEWS

 Print
Avoiding Making a Stink in the Office
Monday, 16th July 2018 at 7:00 am

Psychologist Adam Blanch offers advice on how to address a colleague with an odour problem.

“Dear Adam, One of the members of my team has an odour problem. Some of the other team members have complained to me. How can I tell the member of staff involved without insulting them?” – Anon

Dear Anon,

Tricky. How to protect your own workspace from being a noxious experience for you and your team, but also not cause humiliation to another person.

The first thing is to become this person’s ally and to take the view that you are helping them, rather than insulting them. If I had this problem, I would hope that someone would tell me, kindly, but let me know so I could do something about it.

The second thing is to do it privately to limit their potential for embarrassment.

The third is to be direct but gentle – saying something like: “Hey, I’m sure you don’t realise this but sometimes you have an odour issue at work and I think you should know”. They will probably thank you, with a very red face.

The fourth thing is to not mention the other people. In this situation, embarrassment is unavoidable, but it can be limited by limiting the number of people who “know” (officially).

Fifthly, follow it up with a compliment or a statement of how much you value them. The fear of being excluded for “smelling bad” is a primal and powerful terror in our species, some psychologists even believe it is the biological source of our shame emotions, which is why toilet humour is so prevalent among young children at the developmental stage where they are acquiring shame-based socialisation (4 to 5 years old). Your colleague will need to be able to reassure their more primitive brain that this does not mean social exclusion.

Lastly (or maybe first), have some type of remedy on hand so that they can immediately address the problem. Saying something like “I have the same problem at times, which is why I keep this deodorant in my desk” and offer it to them (make it a spray, not a roll on, that’s icky).

A problem shared is a problem halved, and a shame shared is a healing balm indeed.

About the author: Adam Blanch is a Melbourne-based psychologist, who supports clients around Australia. He provides support for individuals and group trainings for organisations through Good-Psychology, and a specific service for men’s health and wellbeing through Mentor Psychology. He is also a member of The Xfactor Collective community.

Do you have a question for Adam? Adam Blanch writes for Pro Bono News every fortnight. He will be answering all your people and culture questions. Send your questions to news@probonoaustralia.com.au

Please note the views expressed are the opinion of Adam Blanch and do not necessarily reflect the views of Pro Bono Australia, its staff or contributors.


Adam Blanch  |  @ProBonoNews

Adam Blanch is a Melbourne-based psychologist, who supports clients around Australia.


Got a story to share?

Got a news tip or article idea for Pro Bono News? Or perhaps you would like to write an article and join a growing community of sector leaders sharing their thoughts and analysis with Pro Bono News readers?

Get in touch at news@probonoaustralia.com.au

Get more stories like this

FREE SOCIAL
SECTOR NEWS

One Comment

  • Avatar Bruce Fountain says:

    Hi Adam, thanks for your article on practical ways of tackling a problem that is really very common. I am neither a psychologist nor a manager but while reading the article it occurred to me that, if I were on the receiving end of an awkward conversation like this, it would be less painful if it happened at the end of the working day. That way I wouldn’t have to spend the rest of the day sniffing myself and I could make a hasty exit without having to face my colleagues.

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

How your workplace can be energy-efficient

David Ritter

Thursday, 27th June 2019 at 8:27 am

Mindset hacks for a bigger impact: Tackling ‘starting the workday’

Clare Desira

Tuesday, 30th April 2019 at 5:47 pm

Talking to your co-workers could be the key to a more productive day

Maggie Coggan

Friday, 12th April 2019 at 2:49 pm

The one ring – Global warming in your workplace

David Ritter

Thursday, 4th April 2019 at 9:00 am

POPULAR

Charities take fundraising into their own hands

Maggie Coggan

Tuesday, 18th June 2019 at 8:28 am

Why an AAT ruling could shake-up NDIS funding

Luke Michael

Friday, 14th June 2019 at 4:16 pm

Auditor-general uncovers rising NDIS fraud allegations

Luke Michael

Wednesday, 26th June 2019 at 3:59 pm

Guide to Giving
pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook

Get the social sector's most essential news coverage. Delivered free to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

You have Successfully Subscribed!