I recently started a new job and share an office with a colleague who has some disruptive habits. While he is a friendly and helpful individual, there are two specific behaviors that are affecting my work environment:

  1. He frequently passes gas loudly, which is not only audible but also quite odorous.
  2. His sneezing is unexpectedly loud and occurs very suddenly, often startling me.

These incidents happen multiple times throughout the day. I have previously addressed the issue of loud sneezing with him, to which he apologized, but there hasn't been any change in his behavior.

I am considering the option of requesting a change in my office space, but I understand that I need a solid rationale for such a request. What would be the best way to approach this situation? Should I have another conversation with my colleague or take this matter to HR? Any advice on how to handle this delicately yet effectively would be greatly appreciated.

  • 2
    This sort of thing has been asked and answered many times before (and I know that isn't all of them). But I don't know which is the best dupe of this question.
    – Peter M
    Dec 19, 2023 at 16:25
  • 1
    @PeterM FWIW site search for first word shows 8 questions and search for another word shows 19 questions
    – gnat
    Dec 19, 2023 at 18:40
  • Thanks @gnat when I searched nothing came up and I was surprised to see I am the only one dealing with this issue in the universe!
    – AleX_
    Dec 19, 2023 at 19:50
  • @PeterM yup straight away I remembered posting one of these and it so happens to be the first one you mentioned. =) OP: there is light at the end of the tunnel, one of you will eventually leave (what helped me was him leaving the team)
    – solarflare
    Dec 19, 2023 at 22:21
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    After doing a thorough literature review on all fart questions on SO, I think this is the best duplicate for this: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/621/…
    – AleX_
    Dec 20, 2023 at 15:49

4 Answers 4

  1. Passing gas may be a medical issue, it may be bad manners, you may never know which.

  2. I lived with a very loud sneezer for over three years. Nothing I said ever had any effect on the volume of their sneezes. "Oh sorry" or "Lol I can't help it!" were common retorts to my repeated requests to tone it down a bit, but they never changed. We're talking nearly yelling the "AH CHOO" part of every sneeze. It was ridiculous and annoying but they never stopped, so I doubt your office mate will either.

Ultimately the only reasonable solution to your situation would be a seat change. You can have a quiet conversation with HR about why, "Sitting next to Jim is pretty disruptive to me personally. I don't want you to try to get him to change, just move me to another corner of the office please."

This should be pretty straightforward and trust me when I say, HR has heard much worse. You probably aren't even the first person to complain about this issue if Mr. Farts has been there a while.

Edit: I will add that a more direct route would be to move yourself without first seeking permission.

This relies on your understanding of the company culture, as some places are very specific about "this is your desk". I have worked for companies where I was shown a place to sit at first, then it became clear to me that nobody cared about it beyond that so I just moved myself into a better spot a few weeks in.

  • 8
    I'm one of these loud sneezers and it's not something we just do for fun. My whole life I've tried to do it quietly, but as for anyone who sneezes, it just comes suddently and out of our control and so are the sound.
    – CrazyFrog
    Dec 19, 2023 at 16:24
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    @CrazyFrog - Same; It’s not intentional, and uncomfortable trying to make it less awkward. The passing has bit, that’s avoidable, that’s probably intentional (if it’s caused by a medical problem they are aware of it and can leave the room)
    – Donald
    Dec 19, 2023 at 16:43
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    @pizoelectric the reason changing desk was not my first option was that there are no vacant desks or offices around here anymore. I spoke with my boss who I have a good relationship with and asked him if I can move (did not say why) and he was ok with it and said they will seat me in a set of new cubicles that they are putting together for some new hires!
    – AleX_
    Dec 19, 2023 at 18:05
  • @pizoelectric reading through your answer gave me some example sentences to discuss the reason politely if I was asked why
    – AleX_
    Dec 19, 2023 at 18:06
  • @CrazyFrog I used to be one of those loud sneezers! I started doing it for fun when I was in my twenties and then I could not go back!!, but during covid and work from home my wife made me change my behavior! I kind of got embarrassed when I saw how my neighbors from two houses over reacts when I sneeze in the balcony!
    – AleX_
    Dec 19, 2023 at 18:09

Contact HR via email (so that you have a record of the interaction) and state the problem as plainly and politely as possible without trying to force any particular solution (especially not one that requires change for your coworker). "Hi, I work in XYZ office on the Nth floor and one of my coworkers has very frequent loud, sudden sneezes and very odorous farts. It is starting to disrupt my ability to focus on my work. Can we talk about this and try to come up with a plan for me so that I can work at full focus again? Thank you!".

It will be up to HR on what to do. If you are not the first person to make this complaint then it is likely HR will try to speak with the employee and move them somewhere more isolated or tell them to see a doctor about the issue. In the US, sneezing and farting is not a protected group, so unless you're in a union then it's not impossible for the person to even be terminated. If you are the first person to complain, it's more likely you will be moved away from the person.


He frequently passes gas loudly, which is not only audible but also quite odorous.

What would be the best way to approach this situation?

Coughing loudly and saying something like "Ugh, dude! Really? Can't you take that outside?" might work.


The sneezing might have to do with pollutants in the air (dust, pollen). This could be addressed with an appropriately sized HEPA air purifier or similar.

As for the farting - well, he's polluting your air. Such an act is technically a battery ( because it is an intrusion in what could be reasonably called "personal space". HR. It's no different than certain idiots deliberately coughing on people during the pandemic, and many of those people went to jail. Farting is not illegal, but people have been fired from jobs from refusing to excuse themselves to the restroom.



  • Reports of legal prosecution of farting all boil down to scenarios where a person has their face forcibly sat upon during the fart. Escalating to use "battery" for such an indirect action is incorrect, as it would permit me to claim legal compensation (jail time or monetary damages) for you having previously breathed my air. The law is not a tool for social niceties, etiquette is. Unfortunately etiquette is also seen as voluntary these days.
    – Edwin Buck
    Dec 21, 2023 at 15:08

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