My junior colleague doesn’t seem to care about his body odor

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a male office worker in my 30s. My junior colleague, who is in his second year with the company and works in the same office, has a strong body odor that makes me unable to concentrate on my work.

It smells like a high school club room with a mixture of sebum and sweat. He wears the same clothes two days in a row and his shoes have holes in them, but he doesn’t seem to care about such things.

When I asked him about his personal life, he replied, “In the first place, I don’t take a bath every day.” I advised him to bathe daily, but there was no improvement.

My senior colleague, who felt the same way, decided to warn him to take care of his smell, but seemed concerned that it might be perceived as power or sexual harassment.

In an indirect way, my senior colleague asked him, “How many clothes do you have?” or said, “Maybe you could change your laundry detergent.” Such suggestions, however, seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

He has a good personality and is positive about his work. I want to take good care of him, but I just can’t accept his smell. Is there any way to improve the situation without hurting him or causing power or sexual harassment?

G, Chiba Prefecture

Dear Mr. G:

This really is a difficult issue. For the time being, you may talk to a specialized department related to human resources and ask them to equip your office room with deodorizers and air purifiers.

Anyway, you wrote that your junior colleague has a good personality and a positive attitude toward work, and you want to take care of him. I find it strange that such a person does not care at all how much embarrassment he causes to people around him.

It is difficult to notice one’s own smell. However, he should have realized it by now, given that you have advised him to take a bath every day, and senior staff have made some suggestions to him, even if only in an indirect way.

Maybe he is a bit insensitive, or maybe he has not really grown out of the student spirit.

Recently, the phrase “read the room” is often taken up in a negative way. But it really is important to be sensitive to what people around you are thinking and feeling.

If he wants to achieve success in his work in the future, he will not be able to do so well without becoming considerate of others. If you care about him, I suggest that you sit and talk with him about the issue from the angle of “for the sake of his future.” I think he will accept it if he is a positive person.

Yoko Sanuki, lawyer