I work as a programmer in a small software company (<10 people) for round about 2 years now. I am 25 and in an apprenticeship.

A random ~50 year old guy - let's name him Chris - has been working in the office as an intern for half a year and is annoying me pretty heavily. Chris' background is being a student for the last 3-5 years, but has gained no qualification on paper for it. He had nearly no relevant practical experience for the job when he began.

I think he is highly unacceptable to any company for the following reasons:

The first thing is his impression. He tends to smell very badly. The reason is that he doesn't change his clothes very often. Often (but not always) from Monday to Friday. This led to very disgusting situations where Chris and me were in the server room (which is warm and not very big) on an assigned task.

The second thing is his crudeness. When people speak he tends to interrupt them (he has a loud voice) for very weird jokes every time he sees an opportunity and stops entire conversations with that. You can clearly make out that Chris has a lack of social skills. Some situations that happened are:

  • At end of working day when we left the office and the workers of an adjacent pharmacy left too, he almost shouted bad, childish and most importantly sexual jokes to us in front of them.

  • When getting lunch for our colleagues at a local pizzeria we talked about some quotes of a colleague who is a very picky eater. While we were right in the pizzaria at noon and it was almost empty (only the owners were there at the bar) he just didn't give a f*** and threw some disgusting examples of food failures (hairs on a sandwich) into the conversation. Again he has a very loud voice and I avoid being seen with him anywhere from that time on.

  • In the office: I am an apprentice and I tend to ask frequently when I get stuck or clueless at certain tasks. I speak to the instructor and ask him the questions. Very often Chris joins the conversation and even leaves his place just to watch at his screen when the instructor is showing me things and explanations for specific questions. Many times he interrupted the conversation with either his smell or words.

Last but not least I think Chris is lazy. His place is in the corner of the room and his screen is hidden until you get close. Even tho this makes it easy for him to quickly hide internet browsers, colleagues and me noticed he is browsing in the internet often. We hear his keyboard rarely.

All in all this drives me crazy and certainly makes my workplace less attractive to me. I really enjoy working with everyone else but him in this place and get along with everybody very very nicely. I am by no means in the situation (age-wise and hierarchic) to talk to him about his hygiene problems and social stupidity. This frustrates me very badly. These problems are well known but he still works here. (I think mainly because he is a cheap worker and his one connection to the business)

I am honest: I don't like Chris. He is a friendly person and I get along with him nicely. But neither do I want to destroy his illusions nor do I want to point a finger at him blaming him for his mistakes. But I am so annoyed and angered already that I have trouble staying calm about him.

But this does not make the situation better for anyone.

What do you think I should do to address these problems? How to talk to my boss about these issues with Chris?

Any advice or tip is highly appreciated. Thank you


I noticed the tone of this question after reading it today and recognize that it might sound rude against the person. I just wanna clarify that while I have made clear there are issues, the daily business with him is not as big of a problem as it might sound and we get along nicely most of the time. From my view he is also friendly, helpful and smart. This description is more of a summarization of repeated behaviours which happen too often to be overlooked easily. Anyway I hope you understand that this is not a hate tirade and I am not being rude towards him at work. I favor a harmonic work life and judge starting trouble because of personal problems.

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    Ask your boss how you should handle this situation. There might be things he knows you don't. Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 23:35
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    @CursedMagic Sounds like you are ready to level up on your social skills then. Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 23:48
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    @Mawg I have no information on that. His internship does not seem to expire any time soon. His assigned task is not crucial for the business but is a mid to long term exercise. Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 9:05
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    @CursedMagic , in answer to your question, just be very > specific <. So, it's totally OK to alert your manager "Jan has a body odour problem". But do not say "Jan is annoying." It's totally OK to say "Jan missed the meeting on Monday" but do not say "Jan is always slack." I hope it makes sense. Simply report (if you want to) an actual specific.
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 10:58
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    All these issues sound personal. Have you confronted Chris in any capacity about these issues? Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 14:55

2 Answers 2


When I was training apprentices in Germany and we had interns or new, older, junior-level coworkers, I would always try to get them working with the apprentices.

You need to distinguish between personal and professional here. Obviously it is not nice to work with someone who rarely showers and only owns to shirts. That will make you like them less. But for now, you're not their manager, so you need to get over it. More about this later.

Let's look at his work ethic.

Chris' background is being a student for the recent time (about 3-5 years), but has gained no qualification on paper for it. He had nearly no relevant practical expierience for the job too when he began.

Well, he's an intern. He is there to learn. Uni takes time, and there could be many reasons why he is not done. Sure, he might be slow because he is not as young and fresh as you are, but maybe he is studying part-time because he has dependants. Maybe he is taking care of his sick mother, or he has a child. You don't know that.

Even tho this makes it easy for him to quickly hide internet browsers, colleagues and me noticed he is browsing in the internet often. We hear his keyboard rarely.

I have been a developer for the last 12 years, and most of the time I don't use my keyboard. If I type a lot, that's because I write here, or chat with my co-workers. Coding (or sys-admining) doesn't really sound like writing novels. In fact, I spend most of my time reading things on the internet, reading code or thinking. Thinking often looks like I'm doing nothing. Don't judge if you don't know. And don't go round making accusations. That will work against you, not him.

[He] even leaves his place just to watch at his screen when the instructor is showing me things and explanations for specific questions

That is brilliant! He is interested and wants to learn. Do you want to deny him that? Maybe he is not confident enough to go and ask himself, but he is taking advantage of other opportunities to gain knowledge. You should really not deny him that.

Now let's look at his professional conduct, which is what you really seem to have a problem with.

You were complaining about his smell, hygiene, and his obnoxiousness. I can say with relative certainty that you are not the only person noticing that. Chances are, your manager knows about it, and others have complained about it to the manager. You can do the same.

If you have a one on one with your manager, mention how it makes you feel uncomfortable. That's the only way to go. If enough people complain, your manager will talk to him. For all we know, they might already have, but Chris needs some time to implement changes.

It sounds like Chris is at least a little bit different than most people in the office. He might be slightly on the spectrum. That's not a defect, or a bad thing. He is just different from you. It means that it will be even harder for him to change these things as they would for you. He might be aware that his behaviour is not optimal, but too shy, embarrassed or socially challenged to tell you knows but it's hard for him to change it.

Take this as a learning opportunity. He will not be the last person you encounter in the tech world (or in life, really) that is like this. Treat him with the same respect you want him to treat you.

  • Thank you for this answer. I agree with most of it. The breaking point about it is that while he is being socially awkward he is not too socially challenged/pressured to ask (from what I have seen). He asked questions. He did it pretty often in the beginning and I respect everyone showing interest. That is why I find it disturbing when he joins my questions on completely different topics. But I agree to respect that interest and to respect him in general. He makes it hard tho sometimes. Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 10:46
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    @CursedMagic again, you can't interpret stuff into behaviour. There might b things you don't see. Maybe his contract has fewer hours than yours, and he is simply staying in the office to do his uni work because the IT resources are better, or he has no internet at home, or no private computer. Maybe he is also writing a thesis based on work that you don't know about, and this is actually his job. This is one of the most important lessons to learn for IT: do not make assumptions. It's fine to challenge things, but know your place too.
    – simbabque
    Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 11:27
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    @CursedMagic I'm trying to give a more broad answer. If it's a small shop, ten people only, of course people are tight. Depending on what business it is it's completely fair to assume they hired him because he was cheap, so they keep him around because of that. Maybe they don't care about their employees much. I can't know that. If that's the case, you're sort of the last person to go obviously, because you can't just go to IHK and say "I want a different company please because this guy doesn't shower". That's no one of the six valid reasons to quit unfortunately. ;)
    – simbabque
    Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 12:18
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    @CursedMagic I didn't put the assumption that the company doesn't care into the answer because I believe most companies do actually care. I've seen what I've described in the previous comment happen with friends in their apprenticeships, but I'd say it's not the norm. Anyway, even if it's a small company and people are social and everyone is kept in the loop, they can have agreements you don't know about. I got the impression you're smart and ambitious and one of the people I'd want to keep around after you're done. But it sounds like that's going to your head. My advice, try not to let it. :)
    – simbabque
    Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 12:20
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    Well thank you so much for your advice. I really appreciate it. You are right with this topic going to my head. I will accept this as the answer to my question, because I thought about it and it really helped me order my thoughts in a more differentiated way than before. Also next week I try to speak to my boss about it and update you here. Thanks again and have a nice weekend! :) Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 17:25

"A random ~50 year old guy"

He is not random, he is your coworker. Your first descriptor being his age (and the discriminatory tone of the post) makes me think you are discriminatory based on the age and his level. He has the training to be an intern and it sounds like you are already counting him out due to age.

In order to combat this discrimination in your own behavior try to put yourself in his shoes, how to people (you) treat him and how would that effect your behavior?

"He had nearly no relevant practical expierience for the job too when he began."

Pretty expected they would hire an intern with no experience. Maybe he could use your help in becoming a better coder? This could be a great experience for you as well.

All of your numbered gripes are "I do not like him on a personal level" there is no mention of his abilities, I am not sure about Germany but where I am from sometimes you are expected to work with people you do not like on a personal level.

The point about laziness is really the only one that should be addressed, does he have a mentor that can bring this up with him? Maybe someone that is one level or so above him who brings it up in a conversational tone and lets him know that if he is looking for more work he should speak up.

  • I don't judge his abilities or age but I wanted to point that out, because he is studying IT and is pretty old for an internship IMO. So I would assume some more expierience. That's why I pointed it out. But you are right that it sounds rude. After work today I will look over my question and see if I can clarify this in my question. Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 8:54
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    @CursedMagic You can never be "pretty old" for an internship. A change of career can happen at any age, his happened recently. Your issues with him are personal, not professional, and should be left to a manger to deal with. Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 10:45
  • @JayGould I agree that I took it personal because I felt harassed by his actions sometimes. On the other side I am still being professional and nice when interacting with him. I did build up some degree of anger but am able to avoid showing it and leave it at the office when I go home. Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 11:01
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    @CursedMagic you just said "I don't judge his abilities or age but I wanted to point that out, because he is studying IT and is pretty old for an internship IMO." which is pretty clearly age discrimination.
    – Joe S
    Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 21:29
  • @JoeS I think most people in his age are employed with a fixed contract. From what I have seen people with more expierience in life tend to avoid switching their field of work. That was my thought. So I assume it was a recent decision, because he seems interested and would have more expierience for sure if he had made this decision a while ago. Commented Feb 23, 2019 at 0:42

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