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When Your Cubemate Smells

September 9, 2015

You have a job you like. You’re in the field you want to be in, doing something that interests you, and you’re making a living doing it. The only problem is our coworker-- the one who sits near you in the office. That coworker, well, they smell. Or maybe that coworker talks loudly on the phone all day long. Or maybe that coworker has some other habit that annoys you, distracts you, or takes your mind off the work that you’re there to do. What are you supposed to do about that?

Address any issues personally.  Ellen, a hiring expert from Hospira, says: “The best advice I can offer is to try to work out the issues directly.” Your coworker might not realize that they are bothering you, so the best first step is to talk to them directly. Approach this conversation casually and respectfully, but be clear about what it is that is disrupting your work and what you would like to see happen to remedy the situation.

Adjust your own attitude. While your coworker might bug you or rub you the wrong way, you are still an adult who can keep their emotions in check. Sharon from Mutual of Omaha, says: “As working adults, you learn that there will be someone at the next job you don't care for too. While you can't change others, the only thing you can change is your reaction to them. Try to be the bigger person in these situation and don't engage energy into arguing, etc.” Always act professionally and try to be calm, cool, and collected even when situations are frustrating or stressful. If you need to take a few minutes to step outside or get a drink of water or just breathe deeply before engaging with your coworker, do so. Keep your attitude positive.

Consult a neutral third party. Your manager, boss, or someone from human resources might be able to help you in a situation where one-on-one communication fell short. Ellen offers this advice: “Having a third party intervention will be helpful.  HR has many tools to help employees work through issues or problems.  This often is helpful to resolve employee concerns.”

Tame your tongue. Gossiping or talking at the water cooler about a coworker is never a good idea. Nell from Pitney Bowes says: “Avoid ever talking bad or gossiping about this person. This will create an even more toxic environment.” Even if you are frustrated with someone or some situation, it is important to act professionally and speak respectfully always so that you are doing your part to make your work environment a positive place.

Find common ground. Even if your coworker has a strange habit or a funny smell, they probably still have something in common with you. Nell says: “Try to find a common ground with the person that you dislike, maybe you have different views professionally but you may have a common love for a sports team or hobby. This could help build a foundation to help the working relationship.” Another idea? “Do occasional acts of kindness for this person. This can also be a bridge to a relationship that can go a long way professionally.”

Know that wherever you work, there will be things that aren’t quite perfect. It might be a smelly coworker, a noisy coworker, or just somebody you don’t get along with. Choose to make the most of these situations with a graceful, professional, optimistic attitude and you’ll have a much more enjoyable work experience.

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