By Andreea Ciulac
Chicago Tribune

Q: You sit next to a co-worker whose heavy perfume or cologne makes you feel ill. How should you address this issue without creating conflict?

If it’s a close colleague with a great sense of humor, then in a private setting laugh and say, “Went a little heavy with your cologne this morning.”

That should get your point across. Your colleague might even come back with a story of how he or she dropped the open bottle of scent on his or her shirt when walking out the door and was already late, so didn’t stop to change.

It gets trickier if you don’t know the person well.

People have different levels of sensitivity to scent. While it seems to you that he or she has overdone it, your co-worker may think it’s just fine. I wouldn’t mention it the first time it happens, but if it is a pattern and it bothers you, then speak up.

Try this with a smile, “I like the cologne you wear, but maybe you could go a little lighter tomorrow.”
If this approach doesn’t work, you may need to take the issue to your manager or to human resources.
— Barbara Mitchell, co-author of “The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook: A Quick and Handy Resource for Any Manager, Team Leader, HR Professional, Or Anyone Who Wants to Resolve Disputes and Increase Productivity”

Hold your discussion in private, and be direct.

Don’t sugarcoat the issue or use subtle hints, or your co-worker might miss the point. If you had lettuce in your teeth, you’d want to know. But, you might not get it if someone asked you if you had a salad for lunch instead of just telling you there was lettuce stuck in your teeth.

The reason some people use a heavy cologne is because they’ve been using it for 20 years and are wary of experimenting with new scents. Suggest that your co-worker try fragrances more appropriate for an office environment. One tip: Fragrances that have the name “Aqua” or “Blue” tend to be on the lighter side. — Rachel ten Brink, fragrance expert and co-founder of Scentbird, a perfume subscription service

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