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to want to tell my new colleague...

(22 Posts)
LoveMyOscar Tue 21-Jun-11 18:03:37

All names have been changed so no one can guess where I WORK. My new colleague, Hazel, is wonderful. She is approaching 60, but acts like she's 18. She looks amazing for her mature age, has achieved so much and she and I love going out after work for a drink. I do adore her, but she has an odour problem. Both bodily and orally and the other women in our office are being so f-ing horrible, both behind her back making mean remarks between one another, and also dropping sarky little bit's into the conversation in the office banter. Today at work, every one was busy working, but chattering at the same time, when one colleague, Karen, piped up 'Hazel, I think someone forgot to have a shower this morning, who do you think it could be?' really loudly. Everyone fell about laughing, except for Hazel who looked confused. I shot Karen a dirty look and later I cornered her in the staff room and told her if she had a problem with Hazel, then she should tell her in a sensitive way, alone were none of the other staff could hear or I would be logging the mean comments on behalf of Hazel and presenting them, with Hazel's consent, to HR. Karen just tutted and walked off. I genuinely don't think Hazel knows she has a problem. She looks immaculate the way she dresses, but the smell is there of her body and breath. I would love to tell her in a subtle way that the others are taking the piss and I want to help her, but i'm so crap at this. She is really quite shy too and I know she'll be so embarassed but I want it to be someone like me who tells her because I genuinely care, rather than foghorn Karen or her bunch of bitches. Please help - how can I tell her?

LoveMyOscar Tue 21-Jun-11 18:04:10

Sorry, I don't know why "work" was in capitals!

HazeltheMcWitch Tue 21-Jun-11 18:07:49

You're not talking about ME are you? haha.

THat is just horrid (the situation and your bitchy colleague I mean, not your post).

I'd suggest you speaking to HR about the whole issue. The odour, the mean comments. They have a responsibility to stamp down hard on any workplace bullying - and they also should be able to speak confidentially to Hazel re the odour.

What are your HR like?

minipie Tue 21-Jun-11 18:15:05

How difficult. I do think you should tell her - and soon - but I don't have any brilliant ideas on how to do it nicely sad.

Bear in mind that it may be something she is aware of but can't do anything about.

kitbit Tue 21-Jun-11 18:18:24

If you have an HR dept you should refer it ti them. They are impartial and they are trained for this stuff. They will do it quietly and sensitively perhaps on a pretext so as to disguise that it has been instigated by one of her colleagues.

ajandjjmum Tue 21-Jun-11 18:18:39

My DH's phrase when he had to speak to someone once was 'sometimes you smell less than fresh'. It made a huge difference, as she was clearly not giving herself enough time to shower in the morning, and once she knew people were aware of it, she changed.

Still cringe at the phrase though!

LoveMyOscar Tue 21-Jun-11 18:19:45

Thanks Hazel, Are you in your 60's? Shock! Horror! I'm imagining going into work now and having you confronting me, MsMcWitch! Our HR are part of the problem. They share an office with us and the HR asst in particular has said her fair share of nasty things regarding Hazel. One of them from HR Asst was 'Mmm, someone smells nice in here', Hazel said she had her new perfume on and it may be that, and HR Asst bitch went over to Hazel's corner of the room, sniffed the air and said 'Nah, it's definately not you', then walked over to her desk and whispered loud enough so Karen and the bitches could hear 'It's definately not corned beef pits over there' and everyone started laughing like Hyenas. I think Hazel may have heard that one because she looked so hurt and just put her head down and I believe that she pretended she was doing some work. I feel so desperately helpless that all I can do is shoot dirty looks at whoever is being nasty.

Tabliope Tue 21-Jun-11 18:22:51

Bunch of bitches. Go and speak to the HR manager in confidence. They should be able to handle it sensitively. That HR assistant needs the sack for that.

LoveMyOscar Tue 21-Jun-11 18:27:00

I'll tell you something, Hazel has barely gormed the HR Asst since that, so she must've heard and known something nasty was being said.

Tabliope Tue 21-Jun-11 18:30:13

She sounds lovely. It's bullying. The HR assistant in particular should know better. You must tell HR management.

Toughasoldboots Tue 21-Jun-11 18:34:33

Nasty witches, I can't bear this sort of schoolgirl bullying. You owe it to her to get HR involved. It is not fair for you to do it and it could spoil your friendship.

iwantadogbutarabbitwoulddo Tue 21-Jun-11 18:41:34

She may not be able to smell herself- a lot of people lose this sense as they grow older- poor woman

emsies Tue 21-Jun-11 18:51:09

I'd so want to know if it was me. Its one of my real fears that I wouldn't notice myself not smelling so fresh. (Husband is away during the week, toddlers, I don't always shower first thing.... now I'm beginning to worry).

No idea how to tell her though. Anonymous but polite note? Or is that too childish?!

activate Tue 21-Jun-11 18:53:09

tell her

she may have anosmia

or buy her some nice smellies and deoderant as a welcome to the team and hope she takes the hint

WhoAteMySnickers Tue 21-Jun-11 19:00:58

Not saying they're going about it the right way but I'm surprised Hazel hasn't picked up on what the bitches are going on about and taken the hint. Is she really THAT oblivious?

I think you have to have a word with her and tell her in a really sensitive way. You sound like good friends so I think she might rather hear it from you than anyone else.

northerngirl41 Tue 21-Jun-11 19:05:39

It could well be a medical problem...She might be aware of it and trying to do something about it to no avail.

Is she changing her clothes daily? Is there a problem at home which means her washing isn't done?

If you think it is purely a lack of hygiene, then I'd really offer breath mints in a "I'm having one, would you like one Hazel?" type way and perhaps suggest freshening up before a meeting too ("I always just freshen up in the loos and put a bit of deodorant on. I don't know about you Hazel but I sometimes smell quite a bit midafternoon") or whatever you can slip into conversation in a subtle way.

TheMonster Tue 21-Jun-11 19:07:31

I think it should come from you. How about you say something like 'Hazel, the other day when the others were laughing...' and lead into it that way?

pingu2209 Tue 21-Jun-11 19:20:01

Well I worked in an office about 18 years ago where there was a larger lady in her 20s who smelled 'fishy' and you knew where it was coming from because if you ever used the loo soon after her the smell was very strong in the cubicle.

I am very sorry to say that there was a lot of jokes at her expense and her name, behind her back, was Tuna Chunks. I appreciate this is horrible and I am not proud of the fact I was one of the office girls who called her this.

We asked HR to say something as a department.

If I were you I would speak to HR on the QT saying that there is bullying going on and mention the HR assistant. I would then offer to say something kindly to your colleague.

Take her out to lunch/a drink and say over the table that the office staff have noticed she doesn't smell quite so fresh on occassions.

I honestly think no matter who says it, how it is said, when it is said, the best thing you can do for her is to stand by her side for the month or so after the conversation. Don't discuss it with other staff, just do it.

She will be embarrased, she will feel really awkward afterwards. All you can do is go out of your way to talk with her, offer her tea/coffee, walking into town together or go to lunch/the pub together. Show her by your actions that you are her friend and want to be friends with her. This in itself will support her.

TooManyBrownies Tue 21-Jun-11 19:22:07

Omg do grown women really behave like this? Bunch of bitches. Thought most grew out of this after teenagers. angry

Crosshair Tue 21-Jun-11 19:24:43

If you do tell her, make sure you do it at the end of the day, that way she isnt at work feeling self-conscious about it all day.

SenoritaViva Tue 21-Jun-11 19:27:02

What a horrible story, offices can be foul.

I feel very strongly that the HR Assistant in particular is pulled up on this. Is the HR Manager strong? Can you talk to him/her directly and decide upon a plan? They might think you having a word would be the best thing but I wouldn't let these nasty comments and bullying go unnoticed. They deserve verbal/written warnings IMO.

RosieMapleLeaf Tue 21-Jun-11 19:38:46

Ugh. It's just like the schoolyard all over again. Poor woman.

We once had a similar situation at work, but with no HR department to deal with it. There wasn't any bullying going on, but a lot of talking behind the person's back. And to be honest, it was affecting everyone else at work also, think really strong body odour overlaid with shedloads of perfume. Could barely breathe if this person was near. In the end we nominated the most senior person in our area to take this person for coffee and a 'chat'. I'm sure it was a horrible conversation all round, but things were much more bearable at work after that.

I am particularly disgusted by the behaviour of the HR assistant.

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