14 Genuine Tips To Tell A Coworker They Smell – Your Guide

Written By Assma Riaz

Telling a coworker they stink might be a challenging conversation at your workplace.

There can be various reasons for their unpleasant smell.

14 Non-Offensive Tips For How To Tell A Coworker They Smell

Many different ways can help you to tell a coworker they smell. And you can offer some valuable suggestions to help them cope with the issue.

You might not know whether your coworker is aware of his smell or not. So there’s an absolute need to be delicate.

Here are some less offensive ways to let your smelly coworker know that they stink.

1. What If The “Stinky Coworker” Were You:

Getting over your doubts, confronting the stinky person, put yourself in their shoe.

Be Empathetic And Think It Could Have Been You
What If The “Stinky Coworker” Were You

Remember that it could be you with body odor problems. And if it were you, you would have wanted your coworkers to inform you about it.

When you imagine yourself in their place, it will help you have a good conversation.

2. Spot Some Relaxing Corner To Talk To Him:

It’s a sensitive topic and shouldn’t get discussed on the office floor in front of everyone.

You can prepare to discuss this matter by creating a comfortable setup.

Keep Your Coworker Comfortable While Telling Him
Spot Some Relaxing Corner To Talk To Him

For instance, you can invite your coworker for lunch or coffee in a nearby café. It reduces the chances of them getting embarrassed in front of the rest of the team members.

Such a comfortable environment also lets them know that you aren’t making a personal attack.

3. How To Tell A Coworker They Smell – Tell Her How Cute Dimples She Has:

After you both reach the location, try to create an environment as relaxed as possible. Please start with the things you like about them.

Such a conversation will soften the blow and let the person know you aren’t rude.

But be honest when you praise them. If you blurt out everything at once, chances are your coworker would get offended.

Appreciate The Good Things About Your Coworker
How To Tell A Coworker They Smell – Tell Her How Cute Dimples She Has

You need to keep the chit-chat lighter. Then slowly move towards the real topic and tell them you have something to talk about.

Also, mention that the topic you’ve brought to the table is quite sensitive.

4. Let Them Decide Whether They Wanna Know It:

After explaining that you have a sensitive issue to discuss and you are their friend. You need to make them beware that what you’re going to talk about might be offensive.

Give your coworker a choice by saying that it’s up to them if they want to hear it or not.

There are significantly fewer chances that they will say No. So it’s a good way to control their direction by choosing beforehand.

Also, remember to remind them that it’s not a personal attack.

5. Avoid Indulging Into Tittle-Tattle – Honesty Will Save You:

You must be as direct as possible while explaining the issue. For instance, vague comments like “hygiene” will leave them confused.

They might think that you’re pointing towards their lousy breath and asking to brush.

Be Honest To Tell Your Coworker They Smell
Avoid Indulging Into Tittle-Tattle – Honesty Will Save You

For the sake of avoiding confusion, try to be gentle but don’t mix up the words.

For instance, you can say, “You have a disagreeable odor these days.” You don’t need to tell your coworker who brought this issue to your attention.

It will lead them to a dig of embarrassment.

6. Don’t Sound Resentful – Take Respect Into Account:

It’s time for the talk. While you explain the matter, try to downplay the issue a bit. So they feel a little embarrassed.

For instance, mention to them that you know they shower regularly. But you’ve noticed on some occasions that they smell bad.

It might not be the body odor always. Some people have lots of animals or pets, and the smell of animals sticks to their clothes.

However, make sure you don’t directly tell them that they always stink.

7. How To Tell A Coworker They Smell – Go Deeper Into The Issue:

After you have put the issue on the table, ask the person if they know about their odor.

A person who stinks might not be aware of his bad odor because he is probably used to it.

If the coworker admits that the smell is because of a medical condition, thank them for being honest.

How To Tell A Coworker They Smell
How To Tell A Coworker They Smell – Go Deeper Into The Issue

You can ask him, “Are you aware of this problem”? or “Has anyone told you before?”

If they say that it’s due to a medical condition, say thanks for letting you know. Also, mention that you won’t bring up this issue again in the future.

8. Bring Some Solutions To The Table:

When someone at work smells terrible and isn’t aware of it, they probably aren’t aware of how to solve it.

You can offer help by suggesting possible solutions and causes of this issue.

For example, you can suggest they wash their clothes more often. Or ask them to shower frequently to fight their foul odor.

9. Ask If You Guys Are Still Friends:

After finishing what you had to say, remind them that you talked because you are their friend.

Also, it was better for them to hear it from you before anyone else notices it.

Check If Your Coworker Got Offended
Ask If You Guys Are Still Friends

End your conversation by asking them if they got offended. Also, ask if you did the right thing by telling them or not.

It shows that you have their best interests at heart. Confirm and make sure that your relationship with them is not at risk.

10. Take The Problem To Your Boss’s Desk:

After you mentioned the issue, and coworker didn’t take any reasonable steps. You can take this problem to a superior workplace.

Your boss is more authoritative than you. He will probably be successful in correcting the actions of your coworker.

11. How To Tell A Coworker They Smell – Push Them If Needed: 

If the person smelling bad disagrees with you about this issue. You should put a little pressure on them.

If you are in the manager’s position, it can help you more. Insist on the person to come to work with a fresh smell.

How To Tell A Coworker They Smell
How To Tell A Coworker They Smell – Push Them If Needed

Tell them stinky people leave a harmful effect on the business. If they don’t do something about their odor, they’ll ruin their relation with other coworkers.

You can add it up in the company policy that every worker should come to work smelling fresh.

12. Drag Your Desk To Some Other Corner:

You can change the location of your desk if it’s feasible for you. It will help you to minimize the stinky smell around you.

However, if moving is not an option, try to minimize the time spend around your coworker.

Move To A Different Location In Your Office
Drag Your Desk To Some Other Corner

You can also volunteer by taking on different responsibilities. The ones that take you away from your current location.

13. How To Tell A Coworker They Smell – Use Air Fresheners Or Candles

A great way to conceal a foul odor is to use scented candles. You can also try a plug-in air freshener.

It will automatically spray the scent after regular intervals. But make sure not to use these things in front of your coworker as it can offend him.

14. Arrange A Portable Fan:

If you have a fan nearby, turn it towards you. It can help to lessen the bad odor.

A moving fan will circulate the air and dissipate your coworker’s stinky smell.

So you can have relief from your coworker’s smell by setting up a fan.

How To Tell A Coworker They Smell – What To Avoid

While discovering ways to address this issue, we uncovered some bad ways you should avoid.

1. Avoid Leaving Passive-Aggressive Hints

If you think that by leaving small cues, you can tackle the issue, then you’re wrong.

It won’t help if you put a can of deodorant on the coworker’s desk. They won’t magically know what you’re thinking and start using that product.

How To Tell A Coworker They Smell
Leaving Passive-Aggressive Hints

It’s not advisable because the employees hardly understand the purpose. It won’t be funny if they find out the reason behind it.

2. Don’t Be The Messenger.

You might fear when approaching a person that they would think it’s a personal attack.

So you think that it’s better to shift the focus of responsibility towards someone else.

However, it’s not an ideal situation, and it can backfire.

Suppose that coworker finds out from the boss that the rest of the team was talking about them. They might get embarrassed enough to quit the job.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Refuse To Work With Someone Who Smells?

If it’s a matter of only one employee, the company might agree to change the working conditions. But if it’s for multiple employees, you don’t need to gang up against a stinky coworker.

Can You Get Fired For Poor Hygiene?

If you got instructions related to your poor hygiene, and you disregarded them. Also, pretend that your hygiene isn’t affecting any medical conditions. Then yes, your employer can terminate you for not following the instructions.

Is The Body Odor A Disability?

Employment laws don’t categorize body odor as a disability. But some courts mentioned that certain situations of body odor are disability.

How Do You Tell Someone They Have Bad Hygiene?

You need to show some respect. Talk to the person in private where no one is listening or watching you both. Gently tell them that you’ve noticed that they have bad breath or a low body odor.


Discussing someone’s hygiene can be a bit difficult. Because, after all, it’s a personal issue.

Conveying your message without offending anyone is even more difficult.

However, it’s necessary because such situations can negatively impact the workplace.

So you should stay professional while bringing this issue to your knowledge.

Remember that there can be cultural or medical conditions behind it. And you’ve got to respect it!

Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment.

Last Updated on 1 year by Assma Riaz

Assma Riaz

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