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Colleague and incontinence WWYD?

(53 Posts)
user1481140239 Wed 22-Mar-17 21:40:28

This is a tough one, more of a WWYD really. Have a colleague who has a physical disability and related incontinence. She is very feisty, can be a bit scary, and a real free spirit too. She can be very difficult at work so I feel I have to tread carefully around her, everybody does a bit.
The problem is, she also has poor personal hygiene and smells very strongly of stale urine. This is related to her disability but could easily be managed, (I did a bit of research on it) as I say cleanliness and hygiene is not a priority for her but it definitely is more of a chore for her so I get that. But It is getting to the point where I can't eat my lunch near her (she sits near me) as the smell really gets to me but we don't have anywhere else to sit - everyone eats at their desks - and I had to keep opening the window today even though it was freezing so I could get through my lunch. I Just don't know what to do anymore, I can't say anything can I? I definitely can't say anything to her. We share a line manager who I get on well with but I don't know if I should raise it with her, or even how to begin ? It's so sensitive. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has notices though.
Ps: I am not a princess or one of those people with a who are always wretching over nothing, I have a strong stomach but it really is bad. WWYD?

EmmaC78 Wed 22-Mar-17 21:46:58

I would speak to your line manager. Difficult situation but all you can do is mention it and leave it to the manager to determine the most appropriate way of dealing with it.

ohtheholidays Wed 22-Mar-17 21:47:24

I'd speak to your line manager,if they're managing both of you then that's the person who should really talk to her.

I'm disabled myself and yes doing certain things(quite a few for me now)can be alot harder to do but I'd hate to smell bad and I'd hate it even more if I knew it was affecting someone else so negatively.

ZigZagIntoTheBlue Wed 22-Mar-17 21:48:42

Tricky one but yes I would say raise it with your line manager. You would do that if it was an able bodied person with bad BO so I don't see it as different. Perhaps she could try using a different brand of adult 'nappy' or wet wipes when changing etc I agree it's a tough one though, a very sensitive subject!

user1481140239 Wed 22-Mar-17 21:56:47

Thank you. I didn't realise different brands of pads work differently, I just presumed she was not changing them often enough. She is not the type of person to fork out for that sort of thing though. I'll try and work out an appropriate way of speaking to LM about it.
I'm not actually sure I would bring up BO too, I'm a bit of a scaredy cat with awkward situations! What the hell do you even say to someone with BO?

Singyourheartout Wed 22-Mar-17 22:20:52

I think it is a bit complicated! My mother has a catheter and sometime can smell quite strongly as she get inflection and other things. She can't help it, no matter how thoughly she cleans. She might have a similar situation. But if it's just down to her not not cleaning properly than perhaps raise it quietly with someone, make sure your name won't be mentioned. Could you make an anonymous complaint?

TheRealPooTroll Wed 22-Mar-17 22:27:56

How do you know what her personal hygiene routine is?

lionsleepstonight Wed 22-Mar-17 22:54:28

Had the same thing at our workplace and those who sat near to the person went to HR to complain. They tactfully dealt with it. Don't think it went down too well with the person though.

Mo55chop5 Wed 22-Mar-17 22:56:11

I would find another job. Genuinely

MrsSchadenfreude Wed 22-Mar-17 23:02:02

You need to speak with her line manager and ask her to raise it with your colleague. And not to wuss out and claim she can't smell it. Line manager needs to do this tactfully, but firmly and in private. HR can advise, but ultimately it is for your colleague's LM to do.

TheCakes Wed 22-Mar-17 23:05:53

God, this is why I have no management aspirations. I'd hate to have to deal with this kind of situation.

JaneEyre70 Wed 22-Mar-17 23:27:49

I used to work as a personal carer, and a lot of the time it's not the pad or the catheter, it's the strength of the urine which can be affected by medication, hydration levels, stress and obviously personal hygiene. Also, is she physically able to manage her personal hygiene at work without help? But if it is affecting your work then you need to address it with your line manager. Chances are if you've noticed, then others have too. It's a tough one though as it can almost be an ingrained smell that no amount of washing gets rid of..........

Want2bSupermum Wed 22-Mar-17 23:39:57

Speak to your line manager. You might find her services have been cut and she is suffering as a result. It isn't professional for you to say something but her line manager is in a better position to have that chat.

I have a transgender employee that I manage. I check in with him every 2-3 weeks to make sure he is getting the support he needs. There have been certain issues which have come up and as a manager I think poorly of a employee coming to me with this as a 'problem' affecting them. The employees who come to me with concern for their colleague are thought of more highly.

AbernathysFringe Wed 22-Mar-17 23:40:46

I worked with a children's counsellor once who had a terrible personal hygiene problem, sweat, body odour etc. It was weight related in her case. Nobody said anything, but it was impossible to go into a room after her without airing it out. I often wondered how the children felt being in close confines for their sessions. It should really have been dealt with by management in a private way - making one person uncomfortable by telling them they have a problem is less bad than making the rest of the team uncomfortable having to experience it daily, no?

Draylon Wed 22-Mar-17 23:41:29

I would be inclined to look for another job, too. This won't end well. In yes, in 1:12 replies, you've seen a 'What do YOU know?'- response. It's the 'disability awareness' reponse, the one where you have to put up with it or be accused of being disablist.

Sadly, most managers won't 'manage' personal hygiene issues. So, life being what it is, get another job.

Draylon Wed 22-Mar-17 23:43:34

want2Be So it's all about how they word their issue? 'Concern' is OK, 'Problem' isn't'?

Even though it's the same issue?

Right on.

Want2bSupermum Wed 22-Mar-17 23:55:47

Draylon The OP should word it like this:

Hey Line manager can I have a word please in private.

(Go to a private place and shut the door)

I am sitting next to x and I am concerned about their health because I can sometimes smell urine. I just wanted to raise this with you because with the cuts to social services and NHS care in the news, I am concerned that x is being affected by this.

The smell is pretty bad sometimes and I was wondering if someone could check in with her to make sure she is getting the care she needs.

Say nothing else.

TastyTub Thu 23-Mar-17 00:04:39

It's not really ok you have no area to eat your lunch either to be honest. Would you be better off trying to campaign for a small area to sit in? No one should have to eat at their desk really.
This might be something you could raise with your manager as a possible additional request, and state the reasons kindly.

Goldfishjane Thu 23-Mar-17 00:13:47

Ive never had a job where I had somewhere to eat a packed lunch.

OP is it worth posting on the employment section? YANBU at all but I can see wny you are worried about raising it.

People in my office (tiny sections) will stand outside with smelly hot food so I really feel for you, I couldn't cope with this.

scoobydoo1971 Thu 23-Mar-17 00:35:59

This needs very careful handling because of the Equality Act. The member of staff with the disability could perceive being singled out for a 'word' from the manager as being discriminatory. Her fiesty approach may have come from years of dealing with people who do not understand her disability.

I worked with a manager who had incontinence secondary to advancing multiple sclerosis years ago, and some staff were awful to her concerning the smell and would spray air-freshener when she entered the room. I often wondered how they would feel with the same diagnosis. I think the sensitive approach would be for managers to have a needs assessment meeting with the member of staff to identify if they are supporting her in the workplace, and explore her unmet needs in that time. Perhaps you could ask the manager to move your desk away from hers, and set up an eating area?

Becca19962014 Thu 23-Mar-17 00:55:50

scooby I had people behave like that. And worse - I had people leaving deodrant on my desk addressed to 'smelly' with a note about what it was and how to use it from 'someone who knows'. Since being forced to give up work it's got worse, especially with cuts to disability benefits it can be really hard as a disabled person on their own to afford to maintain 'acceptable' hygiene - I've no idea what the excuse is for the members of the public feeling it necessary to hurl abuse at me is though confused

I was going to ask OP if your worksplace has an occupational health dept? Might be worth manager making a referral. In my case it didn't make much difference - I couldn't afford what was necessary (care is not free) and I was struggling on a day and a half of wages due to disability, out of which I had other disability expenses as well.

It's very poor to eat at your desk - I always refused to do this as it was generally used as an excuse for me to work my lunch hour.

Becca19962014 Thu 23-Mar-17 00:56:31

I hope that makes sense, Im exhausted and really must go to bed!

user1481140239 Thu 23-Mar-17 07:19:40

PooTroll I don't know what her hygiene routine is obviously but she has said before that she doesn't bathe/ shower very often ( probably because it's difficult for her) the issue is I rarely see her go to the bathroom, which is easy enough for her.

user1481140239 Thu 23-Mar-17 07:26:25

And thank you every one else for your feedback and sharing your personal stories. A very close family member of mine who I used to care for is profoundly disabled too so I am aware of the difficulties. Re the colleague- she has no support at home - she is v independent but I thought it was an issue of (not) changing pads which could be easily remedied so supermum it's not just about concern for her health tbh it is about the affect it has on me and others,, as harsh as that sounds, as it really is bad. Somebody pointed out infection etc can make it worse so that could also be adding to it. Food for thought, thank you all.

Trifleorbust Thu 23-Mar-17 07:43:51

Oh god, how awful for everyone, but particularly for this lady, who, I am certain, does everything she can to manage her disability.

The only thing you can do - if you dare - is be direct and raise it with your LM, as it is affecting you at work. HR might also be an option.

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