How To Tell Your Boss She/He Wears Too Much Perfume? {The 5th Sense in the News}

 Smells funny


For people who follow the fragranced world news, it has become more and more apparent that public-display-of-perfume-affection has become a commonplace issue these days, especially so it seems in North America. This is an interesting paradox as one would expect more epidemic reports from places endowed with a hot and humid climate in which scents can expand even more. As it is, the action appears to take place mostly in countries known for their cold climates.

And here is a particular case that you may have experienced: your manager's fragrance habits make you feel ill, but you do not know how to make your point get across to her or him. Here is a detailed piece of practical advice from Peter Post, of etiquette-book fame,.....

Q. How do I tell my boss that I get an instant headache from her perfume (and that I can smell it 15 minutes later even after she leaves the room)? I have made general comments that I am sensitive to perfumes and that they give people headaches, but she's not picking up on the hint.

Here is part of the answer,

"Your conversation could start like this: "Thank you for agreeing to meet with me. I have to tell you how difficult it is for me to bring up this subject, but if the tables were turned, I hope you would be confident in our relationship and be willing to talk to me. It's a topic that I think is important for you and your success and frankly, for the success of the business as well. What I want to talk to you about is scents, in particular scents at the office. What doesn't bother one person can affect another very strongly, even causing, headaches, rashes, and other physical reactions. Are you aware of how strong the scent of your perfume is in the office?"

Read more in the Boston Globe... 

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6 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. I do not think it is a good idea to tell a boss that their fragrance is too much. Unless you really have an allergic reaction to it, in which case I think it should be mentioned to the HR department in a general "perfumes in the workplace" way. If it was a colleague or subordinate, maybe. I worked with a woman who had terrible body odor, even from several cubicles away it was awful. I think HR finally spoke to her about it. Still, if it was me and my perfume, I would maybe use less, but I have a right to wear what I want.

  2. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Not to be too cranky, but i have suddenly come across a run of people who have bizarre (and seemingly life-threatening) dislikes, allergies, sensitivities and feelings. We can no longer have peanut butter cookies or sandwiches at one of my client's because someone claimed to have an allergy. Another woman claims she is allergic to fingernail polish and wants all polishes banned. She hasn't won yet, but the same workplace has banned flower deliveries, fish or broccoli heated in the microwave, and no perfumes. I think some workers have problems setting boundaries and use allergies and illnesses to get their way. I think a lot of this (and please, I'm not talking about people with legitimate allergies), is a control issue from people who are angry and feel helpless. So they control their environment through passive aggressive manipulation. It's easier than learning how to deal with difficult situations.

  4. Well, yes, something seems to be going on. Since there is quite a bit of reporting in the traditional media on this topic, it also probably helps people feel more at ease expressing their olfactory woes.

    I read recently a theory - a very casual one - about how Americans in general might have more issues with perfume-wearing due to stress. Although unscientifically supported by the author, it struck me, because I never heard so many comments about perfumes turning terrible on people's skins as in the US. Do you have some ideas about this?

  5. Here are my thoughts on perfumes turning terrible on more US skins than elsewhere:
    1. We seem to have an endless phobia of bacteria and disease. So when the "fresh" top notes blow off and the sultry bottom notes appear, we think it's "turning," because it doesn't smell like bathroom cleaner.
    2. We love our stress, because it validates our importance. If our life is not stressful, we create stress. It also causes us to legitimize our horrible diets that interfere with perfume.
    3. This is the hard one, but one I've been researching for a while. We live in a culture that promotes fear. Our politics is based on fear, our retail advertising is largely based on fear (or sex, but it's generally slanted toward a lack of it, which causes fear). Bosses control workers through fear--money or job loss--parents are in constant fear for their children--of remote possibilities, like being snatched by perfect strangers--until we fill our days with fear, because we are familiar with it. Meanwhile, adrenaline is pumping through our bodies. That has to destroy perfumes. And because we are always right, and the world revolves around "me," it has to be the perfume's fault.

  6. These are really interesting thoughts. You should develop them.


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