Subordinate Passes Gas!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about employee who passes gas:

I supervise many employees. One specific employee passes gas on a daily basis. Yesterday it was so horrible that another subordinate grabbed a gas mask in order to allow her to continue with her production work. The odor filled the entire back half of the building even with a fan blowing.

As supervisor, I discreetly pulled the person to the side where no one could observe or overheard the conversation. I told him I did not want to hurt his feelings or embarrass him, but if he has to do this to please stop what he is doing long enough to step outside or go to the restroom in order not to offend his co-workers. I have discovered this individual went to human resources to complain about me. The head of our human resources did not know how to deal with this issue. So, he took the problem to the Vice President who stated he has walked in the production area where this individual works when he often does this and it STINKS! I had to say something before one of his co-workers became ugly to the point of hurting or embarrassing him. Can you advise?

Signed, Wondering

Dear Wondering:

You did exactly the right thing and this employee should have been stopped a long time ago. When you write about this or discuss it at work, keep the focus on how the employee’s behavior harms effective work: Other employees are distracted, time is wasted while employees complain or try to avoid the area and do things like getting gas masks. It is rude, offensive, grossly repellant and unnecessary. As you say, the person could step outside or go into the bathroom–and most likely to reduce the problem by not eating the things that cause those problems.Now that you’ve told him he is creating a problem, don’t give up, keep at it.

If HR doesn’t know what to do, tell them to seek on-line assistance from a place such as or from a legal source. It will be crucial for you to have the support of HR for anything you want to do next.My suggestion is that the next time it happens, call him aside and tell him that he is interfering with work and that his problem with gas is HIS problem…not the problem of every other employee.

Tell him you’re writing a letter to HR this time and they will be in contact with him. But make sure HR will support you and back you up, if you tell him that. He may need to see a doctor, change his diet, take medication, use the bathroom more often or exercise more after eating. But it’s his responsibility to do what it takes. Don’t let him put you on the defensive about it. I’m glad it sounds as though your boss has verified what you say. Now, don’t let the employee get by with that even one more time if you’re aware of offensive odors.Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, 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.