Author Topic: Dealing with a smelly coworker UPDATE  (Read 4119 times)

green daisy

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 107
Dealing with a smelly coworker UPDATE
« on: March 15, 2018, 09:23:27 AM »
I have been at my job for 15 years.  I am currently in school full time and will be making a career change once finished in one year.  I am a dental hygienist in a large practice.  I am in peopleís mouths all day and feel I have a pretty high tolerance for unpleasant odors.  The lab technician (who fabricates crowns, dentures, etc) is an outside contractor and has been in our office for about 7 years.  For the last year, he has been smelling increasingly more like raw garlic.  If I am within 10 feet of him, my nose burns and eyes water.  I can smell when he has arrived for the day even before I have seen him.  A coworker tried to delicately tell him.  He admitted to eating several raw cloves of garlic per day for the health benefits, but did not believe her when she said that the smell was permeating the office.  My operatory is located directly next to his lab, and the smell has become unbearable.  We have several operatories on one side of the office which is where the doctors and most of the hygienists work.  The other side is where his lab is plus a few operatories, mine included.  I am often the only staff member over there.  Patients make a face when I bring them back to seat them but have been too polite to say anything (they probably think I smell).  It is to the point where I now get daily headaches while working and feel nauseous.  Other coworkers say ďI donít know how you stand it.  I feel sick going over there for 2 minutes.Ē  I have brought this to the attention of the doctors and the office manager.  All agree itís a problem except the doctor who owns the practice who claims he canít smell it.  Recently a coworker placed a plug-in air freshener, but the lab tech got rid of it claiming he is allergic to it.  But honestly the air freshener made for a more disgusting smell combo. 

There are no other operatories to work in.  Iíve developed a migraine all three days I worked this week.  I threw up when arriving home last night.  I canít take it anymore.  Would it be completely crazy of me to quit over this?  My husband is supportive of me quitting.  He came to take me to lunch one day and was horrified by the smell.  He smelled it from the waiting room. 

We can afford for me to quit, but wouldnít be able to save much for the next year until I start in my new field.  We have $550k saved, $140k in home equity, and my husbandís business which is worth $250k.  We plan to FIRE in 6 years but I will probably work a bit longer (part-time) for health insurance benefits.  My new job will be in a hospital and they typically offer health insurance even at part time.  We currently save about $55k/year (my salary).  I donít want to take another dental hygiene position if I will be leaving in less than a year.  I would consider taking an entry level position in my new field in order to get my foot in the door at the hospital I want to work in, but no guarantees I would find something.  I can sell on EBay/Amazon for a little extra money, which Iíve done in the past. 

Would it look bad to a potential employer for me to have a gap on my resume if I am in school full time?  Should I just suck it up and deal with the smell for another year? 

There are other aspects of the job that I have been unhappy with (being overbooked so as not to have time to even use the restroom, one of the doctors becoming very short-fused and biting our heads off, etc).  But I can suck it up on these things more than I can on the smell. 
« Last Edit: March 21, 2018, 02:29:03 PM by green daisy »

Roadrunner53

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2445
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2018, 09:36:48 AM »
Can you take more courses to finish up quicker if you quit your job? Seems you have plenty saved and can afford to take some time off. Have you considered temp work as an on call dental hygienist for some other doctors?

You obviously cannot tolerate this garlic dude. Some people just can't tolerate some aromas.

The doctor doesn't want to 'deal' with the issue so he isn't going to be of any help.

Other than wearing a gas mask, I can't see how you can escape this smell.

green daisy

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 107
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2018, 09:44:56 AM »
Thanks, Roadrunner.  I am on the fastest track they offer for my schooling, so I canít finish any sooner.  But yes, I could do temp hygiene work.  Especially with summer vacations coming up. 

Lady SA

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 465
  • Age: 27
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2018, 09:47:30 AM »
I think you should bring this to your boss/the doctor who owns the practice--but instead of focusing on the coworkers smell, tell the doctor that you are developing severe, daily migraines because of the smell and are seriously considering quitting because you cannot work in this environment. Focus on the affect it is having on YOU.

So even if the owner claims he can't smell it and therefore doesn't want to deal with it, presenting him the consequences of him doing nothing may kick him into gear to actually deal with the problem. It is basically an ultimatum: smelly coworker or me. Do nothing and lose a good employee, or deal with the problem and have a happier office. Any owner with two brain cells to rub together will pick the latter.

Your problem isn't really with your smelly coworker (I mean, it is, but stay with me for a second). Your actual problem is an owner/boss who wants to pretend everything is fine and not rock the boat. It is pure avoidance on his part that he does nothing about this even in the face of multiple complaints. The severity of the problem and the fact that the coworker won't change even after this was brought up to him, makes this beyond a minor disagreement between coworkers (that can be resolved between said coworkers). This is something the owner should be dealing with, and he isn't.

Otherwise, if the owner continues to refuse to help even after you tell him the effect it is having on you, you have the FU money to bluntly bring this up to your smelly coworker. Don't dance around it, tell him straight out that his smell is overwhelmingly hideous and gives you daily migraines to the point of throwing up, and he needs to find a different way to get healthy. If it goes sideways, you have the financial cushion to leave, but you honestly have nothing to lose by telling this guy straight up to quit it. It is affecting your health so you need to be assertive about it.

Good luck!

v8rx7guy

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1389
  • Location: Bellingham, WA
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2018, 09:47:43 AM »
Type and anonymous letter and leave it for him.  Have others do the same.  I did this once to a coworker who I am pretty convinced never brushed his teeth in his life.

BuildingmyFIRE

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 94
  • Location: North of the Wall
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2018, 09:50:52 AM »
This sounds like a potential constructive discharge situation.  If the smell is so bad it is making you ill, you are being essentially forced to quit.  I don't know what state you live in, but I would look into that-- it would allow you to quit and still collect unemployment benefits. 

webguy

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 271
  • Age: 34
  • Location: Minnesota
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2018, 10:03:31 AM »
I'd definitely be open and honest with the boss about this. If you're seriously considering quitting due to this then it's definitely worth it to just have a candid discussion about it.  It's not exactly a secret that garlic has a very strong and unpleasant smell for a lot of people, and it's not like you're insulting their personal hygiene.  This is likely affecting the bottom-line of the business too as I'm sure many patients have switched to a different dentist because of it. I know I would never bring it up as a patient, but would never go back to that dentist again.  Be polite but assertive and explain that this is having a very real and negative affect on your work to the point where you're going to be looking for a new job.  Any boss should take this kind of discussion seriously.

green daisy

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 107
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2018, 12:42:41 PM »
I think you should bring this to your boss/the doctor who owns the practice--but instead of focusing on the coworkers smell, tell the doctor that you are developing severe, daily migraines because of the smell and are seriously considering quitting because you cannot work in this environment. Focus on the affect it is having on YOU.

So even if the owner claims he can't smell it and therefore doesn't want to deal with it, presenting him the consequences of him doing nothing may kick him into gear to actually deal with the problem. It is basically an ultimatum: smelly coworker or me. Do nothing and lose a good employee, or deal with the problem and have a happier office. Any owner with two brain cells to rub together will pick the latter.

Your problem isn't really with your smelly coworker (I mean, it is, but stay with me for a second). Your actual problem is an owner/boss who wants to pretend everything is fine and not rock the boat. It is pure avoidance on his part that he does nothing about this even in the face of multiple complaints. The severity of the problem and the fact that the coworker won't change even after this was brought up to him, makes this beyond a minor disagreement between coworkers (that can be resolved between said coworkers). This is something the owner should be dealing with, and he isn't.

Otherwise, if the owner continues to refuse to help even after you tell him the effect it is having on you, you have the FU money to bluntly bring this up to your smelly coworker. Don't dance around it, tell him straight out that his smell is overwhelmingly hideous and gives you daily migraines to the point of throwing up, and he needs to find a different way to get healthy. If it goes sideways, you have the financial cushion to leave, but you honestly have nothing to lose by telling this guy straight up to quit it. It is affecting your health so you need to be assertive about it.

Good luck!

Thank you for all the responses.  I agree that this is the bossís problem.  I also donít believe him that he canít smell it.  I will be leaving in a year regardless.  I havenít told my work that I have been working on a second degree, so none of them know that Iíll be leaving.  I kind of feel bad issuing an ultimatum, having them fix the issue (which possibly means losing the lab tech), and then quitting in a year anyway.  Although I think thatís just me and my people pleasing tendencies.

Iím considering the anonymous note approach. 

Boll weevil

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 40
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2018, 01:18:03 PM »
I'm guessing there aren't that many people who work there, so the anonymous note isn't going to be very anonymous and I think it's just aggravate any ill feelings between you.

If the patients are rolling their eyes or making faces, bring that up to the doctor, or better yet, have them mention it while they're paying or settling other issues as they leave. It's always seemed to me that the receptionist doubles as office manager, so having something said to them may have more effect.

As to the smell, have you had him try stainless steel? At this point, I don't think you have anything to lose.

Roadrunner53

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2445
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2018, 04:08:31 PM »
Many moons ago when I was newly married my Hub and I went to a Singer Sewing Machine store and Hub bought me a brand new sewing machine in a cabinet. It was right after we married and it was so sweet of him at the time. The sales person had GARLIC breath and it was like dragon mouth! HORRIBLE! That was 1973 and we STILL laugh about that! We LOVE garlic but are careful if we go out in public or have to go to the dentist! LOVE it but whoa, it is potent!

DreamFIRE

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1596
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2018, 04:57:11 PM »

I've had a few instances like this at work.  Once, there was a sudden smell like someone crapped in their pants, not just a nasty fart, but worse.  A guy had just left the room, so I figured it was his byproduct.  First I moved about 15 feet away, but that wasn't good enough.  I had to high tail it out of there.  We had a computer tech come on site once, and I had to get out of the room.  I would speak to him from outside of the doorway.  There was another instance where I had gone to someone's office and had to back out of the door to speak to them because of the stench.  Fortunately, those have been rare instances.  I can't imagine having to put up with daily.

Dee

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 747
  • Location: Ottawa, Canada
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2018, 09:00:15 PM »
Somebody above mentioned constructive dismissal and I am wondering, along the same lines, if you might not have worker's compensation claim available? Something at your work is making you sick. Your employer has a responsibility to fix it.

Apple_Tango

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 390
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2018, 09:21:26 PM »
I really have not much to add...except that I never knew how bad fresh garlic smelled until recently. I cut up a few fresh cloves of garlic a while ago, and then for about a week after I was smelling this gross, nauseating smell. Couldnít figure out what it was until I identified it as the garlic smell lingering on my hands.

After several times a day of hand washing and 7 full on showers, the smell remained. My own hands were making me want to throw up- I had to start wearing gloves at all times until the smell wore off. I started to wonder if something had bit me and if I would be craving the taste of human blood soon.

I looked it up, and the  molecules of garlic apparently bind to the molecules of human skin and form some kind of horrible smell that doesnít want to go away. You have my sympathies.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2018, 09:45:48 PM by Apple_Tango »

Abe

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1264
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2018, 09:34:55 PM »
Tell the boss the smell is upsetting his patients and that'll fix the problem. If it drives away business, he/she will address it. Otherwise, your boss is nuts and you should leave anyway.

Missy B

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 195
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2018, 10:54:59 PM »

Your problem isn't really with your smelly coworker (I mean, it is, but stay with me for a second). Your actual problem is an owner/boss who wants to pretend everything is fine and not rock the boat. It is pure avoidance on his part that he does nothing about this even in the face of multiple complaints. The severity of the problem and the fact that the coworker won't change even after this was brought up to him, makes this beyond a minor disagreement between coworkers (that can be resolved between said coworkers). This is something the owner should be dealing with, and he isn't.

Otherwise, if the owner continues to refuse to help even after you tell him the effect it is having on you, you have the FU money to bluntly bring this up to your smelly coworker. Don't dance around it, tell him straight out that his smell is overwhelmingly hideous and gives you daily migraines to the point of throwing up, and he needs to find a different way to get healthy. If it goes sideways, you have the financial cushion to leave, but you honestly have nothing to lose by telling this guy straight up to quit it. It is affecting your health so you need to be assertive about it.

Good luck!
Yeah, this. Listen, if you want results from your employer, you need to recruit the patients. Ask them if they smell the garlic. If they're making a face, you can say, "I find the garlic smell quite unpleasant, myself. We've spoken to Dr. Such and Such, but he can't smell it and thinks we're making it up. It would be really helpful if you would say something to (receptionist/dentist/whoever might pass it on who is not you) about how strong it is and how it affected your visit." He has to hear it from them.

By the way, I think he *can* smell it, he just doesn't want to speak to the tech. Loser!

mustachepungoeshere

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2384
  • Location: Sydney, Oz
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #15 on: March 16, 2018, 03:42:01 AM »
Type and anonymous letter and leave it for him.  Have others do the same.  I did this once to a coworker who I am pretty convinced never brushed his teeth in his life.


Iím considering the anonymous note approach. 

I'm guessing there aren't that many people who work there, so the anonymous note isn't going to be very anonymous and I think it's just aggravate any ill feelings between you.

@Boll weevil is right, a note could make things worse.

Alison at Ask a Manager is strongly against anonymous notes in the workplace.

I realise it's tough when you're the one dealing with it every day, but hopefully these will help.

Donít send anonymous notes at work

How to talk to an employee about body odor



misshathaway

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 390
  • Age: 62
  • Location: Massachusetts
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #16 on: March 16, 2018, 04:58:28 AM »
Oh, such sympathy. Long ago I worked in a business that expanded office space to the basement. No windows that could open, no walls - just cubicles. There was a woman who wore extremely strong musk perfume. A handful of people, including me, could not be in a meeting or the elevator with this woman because it made us nauseous. This was so real for those affected that I wondered if it could be an allergy. Woman was offended when asked to not wear it.

The company was big enough to have a personnel dept. First they told us it was cultural so they could not do anything about it. Then they put her in an enclosed area. Then they let us not go to meetings she was slated to attend. After about 6 months she either quit or was fired.

coynemoney

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 23
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #17 on: March 16, 2018, 09:00:43 AM »
I really have not much to add...except that I never knew how bad fresh garlic smelled until recently. I cut up a few fresh cloves of garlic a while ago, and then for about a week after I was smelling this gross, nauseating smell. Couldnít figure out what it was until I identified it as the garlic smell lingering on my hands.

After several times a day of hand washing and 7 full on showers, the smell remained. My own hands were making me want to throw up- I had to start wearing gloves at all times until the smell wore off. I started to wonder if something had bit me and if I would be craving the taste of human blood soon.

I looked it up, and the  molecules of garlic apparently bind to the molecules of human skin and form some kind of horrible smell that doesnít want to go away. You have my sympathies.

Jeez, I'm cooking with garlic almost daily and now I'm worried I stink. I love the smell of cooking garlic and never eat it raw, but I'm handling it while chopping it up.

Sibley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3651
  • Location: Chicago, IL
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #18 on: March 16, 2018, 09:49:15 AM »
+1 on Ask A Manager - I see mustachepungoeshere included the exact links you need. She's the go to for workplace advice.

green daisy

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 107
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker
« Reply #19 on: March 21, 2018, 02:28:46 PM »
Thank you for all the comments.  By way of update, smelly coworker no longer smells of garlic!  I wonder if heís a secret mustachian and has come across this thread!  Or heís out of garlic and will resume smelling after his next trip to Costco.  But itís been a few days since I have smelled any garlic, and I really hope heís finally gotten the hint!  The coworker who bought the plug in air freshener (that the lab tech got rid of because heís ďallergicĒ) bought a new, organic plug in air freshener.  Lab tech apparently complained to the main doctor about it because the doctor asked coworker if she was aware that the lab tech is allergic to the air freshener.  He let her keep it when she said itís organic. Itís annoying that heíll advocate to us on behalf of the lab tech, yet we have to suck it up with the garlic.  Or maybe he told the lab tech that we have the air freshener because of his garlic smell, and thatís why he doesnít smell anymore.  So I will continue to work there until Iím done with my new degree unless thereís a garlic relapse. 

Just Joe

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3157
Re: Dealing with a smelly coworker UPDATE
« Reply #20 on: March 22, 2018, 06:36:01 AM »
Maybe smelly dude was working in an Italian restaurant as a side gig... Maybe he achieved some financial goal and quit... ;)