Fragrances in the Workplace

Question:

We currently have an issue in the workplace. Our policy states to refrain from perfume and strong scented lotions. Someone in our department is wearing very profound smelling fabric softener. The employer states that since “fabric softener wear” is not specifically listed in the policy, she can continue to wear this even though individuals have voiced some concern over this.

Signed,

Policy Bypass


Answer:

Dear Policy Bypass:

Congratulation is in order for those who were sensitive and sensible enough to make a fragrance free policy for your workplace. Now you and some of your coworkers have raised your noses in the air and challenged the individual who defiantly argues her fabric softener doesn’t fall under that policy. So what is next? I think you know the answer to that question. You, whose noses much dislike the fragrance or stink, must pinch your noses and bite your tongues or must make your voices heard. Politely of course, but firmly.

You have a supervisor charged with the workspace and that includes the air. Right? You have a policy that provides a rule that covers what should be done when that air is polluted. Right? You have the overarching rule of civility. Right? So with these “rights” in mind, make your concerns heard and acknowledged. First, politely and kindly reaffirm your displeasure to your supervisor. Second, if and when you again find that coworker comes to work with that troublesome odor, reiterate your concern to your supervisor. Kindly explain that such odors have been ruled out of bounds because they cause headaches and allergic reactions. Ask again that that employee come to work free of that softener. You can’t take a photograph of odors. You can’t measure it as you can noise. In most workplaces, there are no perfume measuring instruments, but your noses are those instruments. If after several efforts, the problem persists and you, who are offended, can ask in writing that your supervisor to take the matter up the ladder; that it be investigated. That will work! Search our Archives concerning perfumes. You will find many such questions answered. Those answers speak to persistence in the matter of making policy and in your case of implementing policy. For example, look at a Q&A in where no policy existed http://workplacedoctors.com/wpdocs/qdetail.asp?id=1643 Will you keep us posted on what you do and how this problem is resolved? Working together with hands, heads (and that includes noses), and hearts takes and makes big WEGOS. In short, you can and should have a fresh smelling place in which to work.

William Gorden