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I have a co-worker that seems to have trouble making it to the restroom in time. I'm not 100% certain that he/she is straight up crapping themselves, but whatever it is produces a very strong smell of fecal matter that lingers for 15-45 minutes (my desk is in between his/hers and the restroom) and he/she is in the restroom for around 30 minutes when this happens. The smell is definitely coming from the person and not the bathroom.

Is there anything to be done about this? Obviously, I don't want to smell this 1-2 times a week but I also don't want to embarrass the person by bringing it up. I'm not the only one in the office aware of this but nobody seems to know what to do and to the best of my knowledge nobody has spoken to him/her about it.

  • The person 100% he/she walks right by me on the way there. (thanks for the tags btw this is my first post on workplace) – Sam W Mar 2 '17 at 14:57
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    @Yumaa If someone underwent a colostomy, it can be lifetime. There is nothing you can do about the smell other than keep air freshener at your desk. Get the solid type so as not to be too obvious. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Mar 2 '17 at 15:05
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    It's also possible that they have an incontinence problem and are wearing adult diapers. That would explain both the smell and the time in the bathroom. If so, it's a medical issue, nothing to be done about it. – Loren Pechtel Mar 3 '17 at 2:57
  • Grenade perhaps? – Mister Positive Mar 3 '17 at 18:13
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You need to tread very carefully. I worked with someone who after cancer surgery was left needing to use a bag. It took them a long time to change/empty this and it did leave a strong and lingering smell in the bathroom.

There was very little this person could do while continuing to work. Personally I would (without naming names) raise the issue with an HR/Office Manager and let them decide how to best handle this issue.

You shouldn't try and deal with it yourself unless you don't care about the potential to embarrass or humiliate your colleague.

EDIT

I will edit in a justification for why escalating this to HR can be helpful. A friend of mine continued to wear shoes that basically stank to the office for a number of weeks. Management sent a gentle reminder to all staff about their 'hygiene responsibilities' which he ignored even though he suspected it was about him. They then took him aside and pointedly told him that they'd had complaints about him personally. He was anonymously dealt with (he told me the story) and given a chance to explain his unpleasant odour.

In his case he was told never to wear the shoes again and the matter was closed, however if he'd been suffering from a condition. The manager was willing to do what they could to mitigate the problem for all concerned. It is often easier to emphasise the impact this is having on your work to a third party than you'd feel if you spoke to your colleague directly.

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    +1, overall the best answer with a very good explanation in the edit. I would just add that he may want to get something to keep at his desk to deal with the smell until HR can handle the issue. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Mar 2 '17 at 19:06
  • @RichardU totally agree with what Richard said there also – Dustybin80 Mar 2 '17 at 21:02
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Ignore the smell and move on with life.

If you cannot ignore it, use nose plugs or some soft of scented device. You could attempt to move your desk as Joe suggested in his comment.

Reporting this to HR is another option, although I am not sure what they would do about it.

I definitely would NOT confront them directly about this.

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Disclaimer: As other users have stated, you need to be extremely delicate if you decide this is even worth pursuing.

This answer assumes (based on OP's comments) you only smell this person when they pass your desk and vice-versa. If the entire office smells, then the only options would be a private office and honestly that is usually far less feasible.


As Joe Strazzere and Paparazzi suggested in their comments, moving desks might be an option.

Talk to HR and ask if the employee has a known issue (they might not be at liberty to share this information). If so, ask if you could switch desks or if they could otherwise be allowed to move closer to the restroom to accommodate their condition.

  • I did answer the question. I only referenced the comments to get around concerns of plagiarism because that has been a problem before. – user30031 Mar 2 '17 at 17:23
  • That is a good use for comments, But the answer still does not explain how it will be effective or why this is the option to take? -1 still. (BTW yes if you explain why this solution would be effective I expect I would reverse the vote) I am not trying to spam you with comments I really am wanting to see this bee a good answer, because it is probably a good way to handle the situation. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 2 '17 at 17:29

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