Accused of Body Odor But It’s Not True

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about:

I was recently told that a fellow employee complained I had body odor and tried to cover it up with perfume. I was a smoker and thought maybe I was overdoing it with perfume to hide the smell of cigarettes. But, my manager said no it is BO! This was 3 weeks ago. I was mortified. I don’t look like I stink and I know I don’t. I am, in fact very anal when it comes to showering and personal hygiene. I received 100% on my review in the “Looks professional and clean” category. Yesterday I was approached again that the same employee stated that I stunk! I feel I am being personally attacked. What to do?

Signed, NOT Stinky

Dear NOT Stinky:

I’m sure it was embarrassing to be talked to about body odor. The simple way to find out if the coworker is just trying to get you in trouble is to ask your manager if he or she notices the odor of sweat on your clothes. Or, ask a good friend to sniff in the area of your underarms and let you know if your antiperspirant isn’t working. However, there are also basic guidelines that might help you as well.

First, keep in mind that someone’s appearance has nothing to do with their odor. You were rated high as “Looks clean”. That is different than smelling clean. Also, someone can smell fine for awhile and not so fine for awhile, according to clothing and other situations. So, maybe there is an odor about which you are not aware.
*Showering or bathing must be followed by antiperspirant to stop or reduce sweat production. Deodorant alone may actually make odors worse, especially if it is a strong fragranced deodorant.
*Clothing retains odors that are activated by body heat, so they can’t be checked on the hanger. Dry cleaning can set some odors, so ask your dry cleaner to specially treat underarms on clothes, if there is a problem with the fabric.
*Perfume makes any odor smell worse, not better.If you’ve had problems with a coworker before, it could be that he or she is making up the complaint. But, that is hard complaint to make up if everyone else swears there is no odor. So, ask your manager to tell you honestly what he or she thinks. If she says she notices an odor, at least you’ll know you have a situation that you never realized. If she says you have no such odor, ask her to consider finding out why the coworker lied about it, and directing the coworker to not make a false complaint again.Best wishes to you with this concern. If you have the time, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.