Dear Penny,

I can’t take it anymore! Everyday, I come to work cool, calm a collected. I love my job and I am a hard worker. There is just one problem. We work in small cubicles and in close proximity to our coworkers, and my coworker has started wearing ultra strong, unflattering perfume! Penny, how do you tell your coworker their perfume is too strong?

Penny Says:

While I am a fan of being direct, this is a tricky situation. Not only are you coworkers, but clearly you sit closely enough to, shall we say, get a vibe from each other (though, depending on the strength of the cologne, perhaps how far away you sit doesn’t matter!) Personally, I have a really hard time with perfumes of any kind.

With allergy and asthma awareness on the rise, and an increasing number of Americans exhibiting seasonal or traditional allergies, this shouldn’t be so rough. Your best bet to avoid confrontation may be speaking with your human resources representative or your boss and asking that they issue a “no perfume” policy. Many work places already have this policy in place for those of us who are “eau de toilette” sensitive. Your whole office may luck out too; often times these types of policies cover all sorts of allergy-inflaming items like live flowers, candles and certain food products. There is precedence on your side. Large cities like Detroit are enacting these work place rules.

Or, you could get your hands dirty and let your coworker know how you feel. A simple lunchtime heart to heart that may sound something like this might just do the trick:

“Jane, I wanted to talk to you about something that has been affecting me. I apologize, but I am very sensitive to strong smells. Recently, I have noticed that your perfume is strong. I was wondering if you might consider not wearing it to work, or maybe wearing a little less?”

It never hurts to speak openly about your feelings, especially when you spend 40 or more hours a week with your coworkers!

Penny B


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