Parkland Press

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Respectfully Yours: Perfume triggers coworker’s allergies

Tuesday, February 18, 2020 by JACQUELYN YOUST Special to The Press in Focus

Dear Jacquelyn,

I am sensitive to scents, particularly perfume. The aroma triggers my allergies. I sit close to a coworker whose perfume is overpowering. How do I nicely tell someone her she’s wearing too much perfume?

Dear Reader,

Working in close quarters can sometimes be challenging.

For people who are sensitive to smells, overwhelming perfume can present an unhealthy work environment.

It is possible to survive fragrance sensitivity in the office. Speaking up can be tough, but when you do, it’s important to make it clear that it’s not about disliking a certain scent, but rather it’s about a physical response that you can’t control.

Some perfume-wearers don’t understand that others may have problems with scented products. Your first line of defense could be to research office policy and find out if there is a policy about fragrance.

Some companies have a clause in their employee handbook. If you need intervention, approach your manager or human resource representative to ask for help. It’s possible HR may offer simple solutions to improve your situation.

People often wear the same perfume every day and they are used to the scent. They don’t intentionally realize they are making some people uncomfortable.

If you have a good relationship with your coworker and she is understanding, then be honest. Kindly and apologetically, tell her, “I think your perfume smells really good, but I’m really sensitive to scents and I think I’m reacting to something you’re wearing. I’d appreciate it if you could avoid using that perfume at work.”

Most people are willing to make adjustments to perfume selection while they are at work. It’s entirely possible your coworker is unaware.

When you are dealing with sensory overload, treat your fragrant coworker with the same courtesy you would want from him or her.

Respectfully Yours,


Have a question? Email: Jacquelyn Youst is owner of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol, specializing in etiquette training. She is on the board of directors of the National Civility Foundation.

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