The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:
I’m a woman in my 40s, and I have a job related to education. I have two problems with a male colleague who sits next to me.
First is the way he greets colleagues.
In the morning, most of my colleagues greet others in a loud voice when they enter our office.
However, this colleague doesn’t offer a greeting until he reaches his desk, and then in a voice so weak that only I can hear it. It seems as if he is greeting only me, which makes me uncomfortable.
Second is his cologne, which I assume he wears for good grooming.
It smells so strong that it’s distracting. I can’t block the smell even by wearing a mask, so if I sit next to him for a long time, I start to feel sick.
He often drinks herbal tea, too, and I dislike the smell.
I may be selfish, but his behavior annoys me as it happens every day.
Is there a way for me to kindly point out these things to him? How can I tell him in a way that will make him want to change?
W, Shimane Prefecture
Dear Ms. W:
You don’t want to hurt the feelings of a colleague who sits next to you. You are such a gentle person, and your letter shows it.
Under the same circumstances, some people would probably just say to him, “Your cologne is way too strong.” He drinks herbal tea, so you probably understand he may be worried about body odor.
You say he doesn’t greet other people at your office. This is probably because he is shy or lacks confidence.
At a workplace, people generally ask their superiors for advice about colleagues. But if you do this, the colleague will likely further lose confidence in himself. So, why don’t you cooperate with your other colleagues to cope with the matter together?
First, create an atmosphere in which you all can talk openly and casually.
During break time, invite your colleague to join you and some others to drink tea together. Over a cup of tea, you can start with small talk.
It may take some time, but while chatting naturally on a daily basis, I hope you will find a chance to tell him casually about the cologne and his way of greeting others. If you learn he is worried about his body odor, it may be a good idea to say to him: “Don’t worry. You can buy sweat-absorbing sheets, and they work well.”