Q: A woman in my office wears so much perfume that you can still smell it after she passes by. Unfortunately, her cubicle is next to mine, and the constant odor gives me a headache. When I mentioned this to her supervisor, he said no one else had complained. Now I’m debating whether to leave her an anonymous note or go to human resources. What do you think?
A: In my opinion, no one should ever wear perfume to work, because the smell can be extremely irritating to both co-workers and customers. Perfume wearers tend to be oblivious to this problem, however, because people are seldom aware of their own scent.
Anonymous notes are obnoxious, so someone needs to give your overly fragrant colleague some personal feedback. Since her boss won’t cooperate, the remaining choices are you and the HR manager. If you are brave enough to tackle this talk yourself, make it a request, not a criticism.
For example: “Mary, I need to ask you a favor. Perfume gives me a really bad headache, even if the fragrance is pleasant. Since we sit so close to each other, would you mind not wearing it in the office?”
On the other hand, if your colleague is a touchy sort, it might be safer to have the HR manager deliver the message without mentioning your name.