I can’t get away from my farting, burping coworker

by Ask a Manager on February 13, 2012

I debated over whether or not this was too gross to post, but decided to go for it. So … A reader writes:

I recently aquired a male officemate (I am female) at work. He had surgery on his knee, and is unable to get up the stairs to his own office, so he is temporarily sharing my office. He makes constant bodily noises all day long. The problem is so bad, I have actually started to keep count. In the last 2 weeks, he has averaged 43 farts and 22 burps PER DAY.

I spoke with him about when he thinks he’ll be able to return to his own office, and he’s expecting to be in my office for the next 6 months.

At one point, the smell in my office was so bad it actually made me physically sick. I tried to explain the situation to my boss, and asked if there was anywhere else they can put him. Since there is no other office he can get to without using the stairs, I’m stuck with him. I’ve tried spraying Febreeze, leaving the room, and even asked him to at least say “excuse me” if he is going to do that in front of me. Nothing has worked. How do I explain to my coworker that his bodily noises are making me physically ill?

Eewww.

Can you work out of his old office while he works in yours? Or somewhere else? Figure out where you could move and then talk to your manager.

Say this:  ”I am not able to concentrate on my work while Joe is in my office. At times, I actually feel nauseous because of the odors he produces. I am sympethetic to his situation, but I want to be able to focus on my work and I’m sure you do too. I’ve thought of three possible places I could relocate to while he needs to be down here – X, Y, and Z. Which one of these would work best?”

I am now promptly putting this out of my mind.

You can read an update to this post here.

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{ 121 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous February 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm

fight fire with fire….try and out stink him:) jk. good luck

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Kerry February 13, 2012 at 12:20 pm

I love that she’s tracking the actual numbers.

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Karen February 13, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Wow…I don’t even know what to say. Was this guy raised by wolves?

It’s one thing if a medical condition is causing this, and he was uber-embarrassed and apologetic about it. But if he’s just letting ‘em rip for the fun of it? Disgusting.

OP, how has he responded when you’ve left the room, asked him to say excuse me, etc? You said it ‘didn’t work,’ but I’d be curious to know what his actual response was.

Definitely talk to your boss about this and try to find a better place to work if this doesn’t stop. This is not acceptable.

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A Bug! February 13, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Gross, gross, gross.

At first I was sympathetic both for OP and “Joe”, because some people suffer from medical issues which produce seriously foul results, and such people are often very embarrassed about their condition. However, he’s a pretty rude guy if he can’t even be bothered to say “excuse me.”

AAM’s advice is spot-on. Hopefully there is an alternate workspace available for you (or possibly for him) and management is cooperative with you. If Joe’s office hasn’t permanently acquired any odors it seems like an obvious solution!

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The Other Dawn February 13, 2012 at 1:33 pm

I was thinking that I hope HER office doesn’t acquire a permanent odor that will linger long after he is gone. I definitely think she should move to his office in the meantime so she can concentrate on her work. Maybe leave a stinky fish under his desk on her last day in his office.

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Wilton Businessman February 13, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Boy, that situation really stinks.

I’m here all week, don’t forget to tip your waiters.

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khilde February 13, 2012 at 3:06 pm

{drum & cymbals}

I wish we could insert sound effects onto our comments.

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Esra February 13, 2012 at 8:59 pm

I think this one fits.

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Erica B February 13, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I hope that there is indeed a place for you to move to… When I was having gall bladder problems I was burping more than a normal person, but that has pretty much resolved itself after surgery. Have you talked with his coworkers upstairs to see if they had this problem, and if so what were they able to do to cope or deal with this.

Good Luck!

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ChristineH February 13, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Ewww is right!!!

Alison’s advice is perfect – I cannot believe this guy can’t even say “excuse me”.

OP – If you haven’t done so already, you might just have come right out and let him know that his bodily functions are actually making you feel physically ill. He may not even realize just how much he’s doing it. I would much rather hear it in an honest conversation from my officemate rather than hearing it later on from my manager.

Otherwise, I would definitely consider looking into an alternate workspace if he’s not willing to dial it down.

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Diana February 14, 2012 at 7:38 am

“…if he’s not willing to dial it down.”

Someone who farts 43 times in 8 hours (I’m assuming 8hr workday here, apologies if this is incorrect) is not doing so willingly. “Willing” himself to tone it down is pointless. This must be excruciatingly embarrassing and perhaps he hopes to bring less attention to himself by saying nothing. The alternative being to say “excuse me” 65 times a day (including burps) means he’s interrupting them both every 7 and a half minutes… on average.

The co-worker may have had gastric bypass surgery which can do nasty things to digestion. My brother-in-law had that surgery and is very noxious to be around. We politely ignore it when he comes to visit. He can’t help it and the alternative is to never see him again. He also has gotten so used to it that he doesn’t smell it anymore and this might be the case for the OP’s co-worker. Best solution for the OP is to move to another office (although his may not be better if it also smells).

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Anonymous February 13, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Reading this blog, I am starting to think most workplace issues revolve around (1) body odors (2) personal hygiene and (3) general unfriendliness. I am hoping someone will write in and ask if it is legal for an employer to allow a coworker to fart. That would be awesome.

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Chris February 13, 2012 at 5:17 pm

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA……
I’m dying…that’s hysterical!!!!

Did you know there’s graduate professional degrees for HRM?
No I’m serious. There are.

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Anonymous February 14, 2012 at 11:30 am

I did know that, Chris.

I don’t understand your comment though. Is it funny, serious, or something else.

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JoAnna February 13, 2012 at 1:14 pm

While you’re waiting for HR to respond to your office change request, buy some really strongly-scented air fresheners and stick them around/on his desk. Get a spray can of air freshener and spray in his direction with every fart. Turnabout is fair play.

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Cruella February 13, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Omigosh! He doesn’t even say “excuse me?!”
Does he think you won’t notice?!

I’m for trading offices with him for these next 6 months.

If that’s not a practical solution, I’d try a long term, plug-in style air freshener (though those can be pretty heinous too).

Sorry you are having to endure this.

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Joey February 13, 2012 at 1:18 pm

So you’re sick of his nastiness but you havent been direct with him? Next time he does it why not just say “gross, do you have to do that in front of me?”. And you’re making it sound like saying excuse me would make it bearable.

And what are you tracking it on a spreadsheet or something? Average farts per day? Really?

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The Right Side February 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Exactly.

Frankly, OP makes me thing of Jim from “The Office” – he’s never doing work but always coming up with ways to torture Dwight (funny on tv but NOT funny in an actual office) – at least the farter is getting work done while OP is sitting there taking notes on his bodily functions.

Wonder how she would feel if someone contact the average number of tampons she took from her purse during her period?! Leave the guy alone!

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Avril February 13, 2012 at 2:50 pm

If she was not discreet about the tampons, she would open herself to scrutiny. If someone cannot or will not control their sphincter, they open themselves up (so to speak) to scrutiny as well. Honestly, I can see some quiet burps happen, and perhaps an occasional fart, but this is outrageous. Maybe move him to a trailer in the parking lot?

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kristinyc February 13, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Whoooooa… hold on.

A girl on her period = she may be affected, but her co-workers won’t be subjected to any unpleasant bodily functions.

Guy farting/burping constantly = everyone around suffers.

Totally different.

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Anonymous January 7, 2014 at 9:34 pm

What if he can’t control it?
Sheesh, people just don’t understand until they’ve been in the exact same situation. Imagine if that was you. You’ve just had a surgery, so you can’t even work in your own office. You can’t stop farting/burping (for some unknown reason with an unknown cure), and the situation is worsened still because you have to share an office with someone else (in which you will embarrass yourself), and a girl at that (because girls ‘aren’t supposed to fart’).
Give the guy a break.
@Avril- What the are you talking about? A girl can’t control having a period. This guy supposedly can’t control his ‘body functions’. And how the hell are you supposed to ‘be discreet’ about farting and burping when you can’t even control it? So what you’re saying is, even if you can’t control it, people are still allowed to judge you and make fun of you. Because you’re supposed to ‘hide it’
How RUDE. There are some people out there who don’t know what’s wrong with them and can’t be ‘comfortable’ in public because of this medical ‘problem’.
I swear, people will NEVER understand unless they go through an experience personally themselves. I always try to be understanding of other people no matter what because you never know what they’re going through. I used to think that a friend of mine was weird and disliked being with her because of the things she did (never, and I mean NEVER talking to anyone (she used to be quiet when we met, but never this quiet), never finishing her work on time; in fact, not doing her work at all, wearing the same things all week, and she didn’t have any dreams at all. None. In fact, she wanted to be in the military and die in there because she didn’t know what else to do with herself. She didn’t even like the same things she used to like anymore. A careless, boring, slacker of a person.
The truth?
I found out years later that she had had depression and was going through one of the worst years in her life (she had a traumatic event happen).
And me?
All I did was judge her. Which probably made her feel worse.
Next time, take a step back and look at the bigger picture, people. We’re all human; I know NO ONE would like to constantly fart and embarrass themselves and clear out an entire area.
Be understanding. Look at this from his point of view.

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fposte February 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Sounds like there are two issues here–the actual emanations and the guy’s rudeness about them. The thing is, even if he says “Excuse me” you’re still stuck with the emanations. From the way you describe things, that’s the main problem anyway, so his lack of courtesy is kind of a peripheral matter, especially since this kind of frequency level makes a trip to the bathroom each time unlikely and the sort of disorders that lead to this don’t tend to allow you to control the consequences. So yeah, just move–don’t even bother discussing it with him. If you can’t, I’d add in a fan to possible mitigation and see if your hours could be flexible so you overlap less.

And I admire the geekiness of not just counting events but calculating the average.

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Steve February 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm

This is a difficult situation, but I would also like to ask the OP to look at her part in this. After all we can only really control our own actions. It is clearly an uncomfortable conversation to have, but she has not spoken to her officemate about it. With interpersonal issues like this direct acknowledgment can go a long way toward defusing things. It sounds as if she is operating with some unspoken assumptions here that he does not share. For example, accepting that he can do nothing about it, except perhaps eschew Mexican for lunch, would saying “excuse me” really reduce the odor? So one thing that might have helped would be if he were to be apologetic and understanding the difficult situation she is in. Give him the opportunity to do that. However, once someone has reached the stage of making a daily count of offenses (though it was hilarious) it has clearly reached the point of affecting your work and I doubt if you will be able to overlook the number and frequency of events. So try to get permission to work in a different place, don’t blame your coworker unless he is willfully dismissive of the impact on you and for goodness sakes don’t do anything retaliatory. And until you can move, stop counting and do your best to ignore it.

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ThatHRGirl February 13, 2012 at 2:05 pm

This is one of the few exceptions to the rule when it comes to having direct conversations with your peers. This is what bosses and HR people are for (okay, it’s not ONLY what they’re for, but you get the point). We are trained to have these uncomfortable but necessary conversations.
I like AAM’s advice because it provides a solution without unnecessary conversation – the “offender” likely knows that what he is doing is offensive (perhaps he notices that OP runs out of the room everytime he passes gas) and will know why she is relocating offices, but no one has to actually talk about it.

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Anonymouse February 13, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Agree. This really needs to be handled as discretely as possible or it will become a whirlwind of office gossip, which is beneficial to no one.

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RKT February 14, 2012 at 2:58 pm

What is a confrontational conversation with the guy going to accomplish exactly?

As others have written, judging by the frequency of ‘events’ it’s probably some sort of digestive issue he cannot control and hopes no one notices. Sitting him down and saying ‘stop it’ is unlikely to help.

If there is no other possible office where he can work, she needs to move to a different one. That’s the only solution that makes any sense.

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Jamie February 13, 2012 at 1:41 pm

I am not suggesting this because it would be crass and immature – and totally beneath me to even consider it…but…

If you have an easily tripped gag reflex you could vomit every time he did something gross. Maybe get a supply of those little airplane bags and fake it if you have to.

Although it would make your office look like something out of a Mel Brooks movie, so nevermind.

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Anonymous February 15, 2012 at 3:19 pm

^ ^

This comment made my day. LOL!

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Jamie February 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Oh, and stop counting. The more you focus on it the faster the rage will build. Trust me.

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The Right Side February 13, 2012 at 2:27 pm

This. Wear ear plugs or nose plugs but leave well enough alone. Put yourself in his shoes! He’s just trying to make a living!

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ThomasT February 13, 2012 at 4:54 pm

She already has to smell his burps and farts, and now you want to put her in his SHOES?! Too cruel.

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Anonymouse February 13, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Go to HR first; they are extremely good at handling such issues. Failing that, I think your only constructive solution is to relocate yourself temporarily. Which, I’ll note, I doubt you’re willing to do because you didn’t write in asking for a solution; you wrote in asking how to get him to accept blame. Hint: In life, you never get to both fix a situation *AND* win a power struggle. You get one, or the other. This will resonate with married folks. Time to choose.

My mother, who is in her late 70s, belches with all the graceful subtlety of artillery (in restaurants, etc.), and pretends it’s never happened. If I so much as look shocked, she rails “Sometimes when you get older you can’t feel it about to happen! Stop criticizing me!” She can’t grasp the difference between yelling “Incoming” and saying “Excuse me” for something you can’t help. It’s just completely alien to her. In her eyes, any acknowledgement that it even happened (a look, a laugh, anything) is just pure, mean-spirited criticism. If this gentleman is older, or raised in a certain way, there may be no getting around it.

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Joey February 13, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Why do people think its HRs job to take care of this stuff? Do you think they’ll make him stop? Do you think they’ll say “Marty, can you stop being so farty. Its really bothering Susan.” And finding a place for farty Marty to fart until his heart’s content is not HR’s job (at least not any HR worth a damn). It’s your managers job.

Sorry but I just don’t get how this crap gets dumped on HR all the time.

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Anonymouse February 13, 2012 at 2:35 pm

I’ve never in my life heard of any HR department whose response would be “Don’t dump personnel issues on me, personnel issues do not belong in personnel!”

And of course they won’t say it in such a crass way; it’s why they are professionals trained to handle issues of a sensitive nature far more delicately than the average person, with minimal embarrassment to the offender. Especially as this might veer into a medical issue, it’s essential it also be handled legally.

I’m gobsmacked. What sorts of things does your HR department handle?

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Anonymous February 13, 2012 at 3:05 pm

You obviously work at a different company than I do, because that is exactly what our HR “department” (that is one 1/2 time person) would say.

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Joey February 13, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Sure HR handles stuff like medical accommodations, fmla, eeo related stuff, tc. but the real purpose of HR is to get the highest return on the investment in the workforce so it also handles things like minimizing turnover, maximizing productivity, recruiting, controlling costs, etc.

Every employee annoyance or disagreement no matter how insignificant can be categorized as a personnel issue but valuable HR departments don’t get involved in minor problems a manager should be able to handle unless she needs guidance or assistance.

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Ask a Manager February 13, 2012 at 3:30 pm

What Joey said. Employees should go to their managers with stuff like this, not HR. And actually, the first thing the manager should say is, “Did you talk to Joe directly about this?”

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Anonymouse February 13, 2012 at 4:20 pm

In my job, I am absolutely expected to refer *this* sort of problem (delicate and/or legally risky) to HR. It’s wildly cost-effective, sensible, legally sound, and the least embarrassing option for the offender. I base this also on my direct, successful experience. Hygiene issues (layman’s hygiene, not Herzberg’s) are a different can of worms.

I must also note, in no industry in the world will I ever accept that “doesn’t get involved” equates to “valuable.” By that measure, if HR asked me if I knew any SharePoint Developers, my response should be “Recruiting is your problem, not mine. Valuable people like me don’t get involved in your minor problems.”

This isn’t dumping problems on people, it’s enlisting the help of your knowledgeable colleagues. We all make time to assist one another. Nobody is above or below making the coffee in my office.

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Ask a Manager February 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm

In my experience, HR departments that make this kind of thing their business are the HR departments that also focus on stuff like planning picnics and team-building exercises. Ick. Really valuable HR departments are focused on other stuff, and refer this kind of thing back to managers, which is where it belongs! It’s not a “not my job” thing, but a recognition that it’s more effective for managers to handle their own issues, outside of legal stuff, etc. Just like managers should handle their own hiring too!

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Anonymouse February 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Your shoulds and my shoulds are different, as are everyone’s. Do you allow that there is more than one possible approach to a solution for this problem? I am offering one that effectively worked in practice, not in theory.

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Ask a Manager February 13, 2012 at 5:01 pm

I just can’t get on board with HR doing this stuff instead of managers. It’s more effective for everyone if managers manage their own staff and whatever problems arise therein (with HR available for guidance and coaching if needed, but not actually handling the problem themselves).

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ThatHRGirl February 13, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Let me clarify… I would want someone to come to ME first so that I can have a quick talk with the manager and make sure they will address it appropriately, and then leave it up to the manager to do so.
Example – I once had a pregnant employee whose gag reflex was on overdrive (now that I am in her shoes, I understand much better). She had to keep a trashcan with her at all times and often would have to spit (saliva) into the trashcan when she gagged. This obviously grossed out her coworkers and although I did not need to have the conversation myself, I needed to know that her Manager was going to say all the right things and be legally compliant when he spoke to her about this.

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Joey February 13, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Let me tell you a little secret. A good number of workplace problems can be resolved if people would just talk to one another in a calm and direct manner. You don’t need special training or legal advice to do that.

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Anonymouse February 13, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Quiet You! Where would future episodes of COPS come from?!

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Anonymous February 14, 2012 at 11:45 am

Agreed. As someone who works in HR, if someone came to us with this we would talk to their manager about the issue, but ultimately have the manager have the discussion. Managers often come to us for counsel regarding how to handle things like this, however they always are the one who ultimately handles it.

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JeanNe February 13, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Alison, please advise what the manager in this situation should do when approached by an employee about this. I’m a manager with the exact same situation and have been hesitating to address it because it’s clearly related to a medical issue. I’ve already asked for and received less noise and “excuse me”‘s but the smell is the overwhelming problem for this person’s colleagues and the customers.

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ThatHRGirl February 13, 2012 at 2:12 pm

I’m not Alison, but it looks like you’ve done everything you can do as far as addressing the problem. And since you can’t control the smell (and likely neither can they), the only solution is to deal with it – could you somehow rearrange workspace so the offending employee’s impact on others and their work is minimized. Can he/she sit in a cube away from others… have his/her own office?

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The Right Side February 13, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I agree with HR girl here. Please read my response below. It IS a medical condition and you cannot punish someone for it – no matter what!

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Ask a Manager February 13, 2012 at 3:40 pm

I agree with ThatHRGirl too. If it’s medical in nature, all you can do is try to find ways around it. You can’t order someone to stop doing it.

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Joey February 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm

If you know or have good reason to think its a medical issue you need to find out if its a disability under ADA. If so then you may need to attempt to accommodate. A few ideas:

Private office
An air purifier
Odor absorbing products

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fposte February 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Those would seem to be reasonable things to explore whether it’s a disability under ADA or not.

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JeanNe February 13, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Thanks for the advice. I don’t want to punish the person, but I do want the workplace to be welcoming to customers and tolerable for the workers. Unfortunately, the work area is also the customer area. I’m torn because I know it’s medical, but there are also manners involved. Manners would compel this person to cover the mouth when belching and to go to the bathroom *more often* when passing gas.

I have been advised by HR that the person with a disability must volunteer the information formally before I can request accommodations on their behalf. Of course, I am happy to accommodate as I can, informally. I will investigate putting an air purifier in the area–great idea.

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Ask a Manager February 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Actually, the ADA doesn’t require that they make a formal request. They can be informal about the issue and don’t need to cite the law or anything like that.

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ThatHRGirl February 13, 2012 at 5:52 pm

You’re absolutely correct. Anything that can be construed as a request for accomodation must be treated as a request for accomodation.

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JeanNe February 13, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Wow, thanks Alison and HRGirl. I had an employee verbally and informally report a disability; my HR very firmly told me that until the person put it in writing, preferably with a doctor’s note, I wasn’t to do anything different or even ask questions. If the person did report it formally, then HR would investigate to determine if we could accommodate the disability. Now that I have this information, I feel like I know what to do about the gassy employee situation. I do feel pretty sorry for the person and it’s terribly embarrassing, but this has been really helpful, thanks.

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Ask a Manager February 13, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Wow. Your HR department, which exists in part to keep the company out of legal trouble, could actively get the company in legal trouble. You might want to let someone know that!

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ThatHRGirl February 14, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Yes – even something as simple as “Jeanne, my back hurts today. Can I answer phones today instead of making widgets?” is a request for accomodation and that’s when you’d start the interactive process. The manager would sit down with the associate and – without asking for all the details (actually, I specifically say “you don’t have to tell me the details”), you find out whether it’s a disability under ADA, whether it is a temporary or permanent type of disability, and talk about what kind of accomodations you could come up with. You should be able to involve HR if you are unsure what the next step is, or unclear on how the law works… but your HR department worries me!!

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Anonymous February 13, 2012 at 8:04 pm

You may not feel comfortable with this suggestion, but you could get some “Gas-X” for him. The strips desolve in your mouth.

It might be worth a shot.

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JeanNe February 13, 2012 at 11:36 pm

I definitely could be wrong about this, but I think that giving employees any kind of medication is a dangerous thing to do, legally. Doesn’t it imply that I’m requiring the person to take the medicine, since I’m the manager? Also, what if the person had a bad reaction to the medicine? My HR (though not trustworthy, see above) said I shouldn’t even suggest cough drops for an annoying cougher. Although: I wish the offender would think of taking Gas-X on their own! :/

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ThatHRGirl February 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Your HR department sounds like it’s paranoid about all of the WRONG things and ignorant of all the things about which it NEEDS to be worried. :(

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The gold digger February 13, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Farting is something that usually happens after you get married. If you’re around someone other than your spouse, farting is usually repressed.

http://class-factotum.blogspot.com/2011/06/marriage-301-lecture-553-have-fart-will.html

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The Right Side February 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm

I posted this on AAM’s FB page and I’ll say it here again:

When I was in basic training, the girl two bunks over farted all the time. It was gross. These are tight quarters and at first it was a little funny – anything to break the tension. Then it was just annoying. And finally – we were all pissed. We didn’t beat around the bush either “Hey, *female* – seriously, take it to the bathroom. That is gross. Have some respect.” And everyone (about 44 of us) were on her case. But we all just assumed she was being a twit.

Well, about a week before we graduated, she was at the clinic and never came back. On graduation day, we found out that she had been diagnosed with liver failure and her farting was actually a side effect of that issue. Of course we all felt horrible – and not a one of us ever got to see her again. From there we were all sit to other bases around the nation for training in our respective careers. I still feel bad about it today and honestly, it makes me think twice before ever making anyone feel bad about what can truly be an unavoidable body function.

Just my two cents.

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Ask a Manager February 13, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Yes — Crohn’s Disease is another illness that can cause this type of thing, and they really can’t control it.

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A Bug! February 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm

I feel that this is exactly why OP should be going to HR about it instead of engaging in passive-aggressive tactics. Although OP’s issue is reasonable, her method of addressing it is a bit disrespectful. It’s understandable, because people in general aren’t very good at this sort of thing.

There’s presumably a pretty obvious solution here (an empty desk a couple floors up), so politely requesting a temporary change from HR should hopefully not pose an issue. It’s an arrangement that accommodates both the guy’s temporary disability and the OP’s issue with the smell.

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A Bug! February 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm

I’m sorry, I re-read my post and I think I wasn’t clear: when I say “HR” I essentially mean “higher up” to someone who is in a position to make the necessary arrangements to solve the problem. Basically, OP should not be asking the guy to stop farting, because it’s probably not something over which he can exercise control.

If I thought it would actually help the situation, I’d suggest OP be more direct with respect to the lack of “excuse me,” which does seem pretty rude. However, I think it’s pretty clear that even if the guy acknowledged every single burp and toot it wouldn’t solve the core issue here.

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Anonymous February 13, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Am I the only person who sees this behavior as more about him being a bully (and an @$$) and less about the physical condition?

People will behave exactly as well as you allow them to. Next time he burps, call him on it. “Mike, it’s not only disgusting that you burp so loudly, but it’s rude that you can’t be bothered to excuse yourself.”

Stop tracking it. You’re only making yourself insane. Each and every time he relieves himself without excusing himself, call him on it. Guaranteed by the end of day one, he’ll knock it off. Or at least start behaving like a considerate adult.

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Andrea February 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm

I think there’s been too much emphasis here on whether he is saying “excuse me.” Sure, it’s rude not to do that. And someone with a medical condition or something would probably be embarrassed and would say excuse me (I know I would). So I guess I agree that this could be jerky, maybe bullying behavior.

But regardless of whether he excuses himself, she’s still dealing with the smells that are nauseating and taking her away from work…so that, to me, is the issue.

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Anonymous February 13, 2012 at 3:54 pm

This. Based on the OP’s statistics, her temporary office mate is belching or farting every 7.5 minute (assuming an 8 hour day). That’s a lot of gas; he certainly can’t claim he doesn’t know he’s doing it if he’s doing it that often unless he’s deaf and has no sense of smell. Plus to do so all day long at work? Whether or not he excuses himself, that’s just not normal. The OP needs to call him on it, either by claiming to be concerned about his health or by reminding him that this isn’t a private office.

On the other hand, maybe he’s trying force her out of her office so he can have it to himself. What a vile way to be passive-aggressive!

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Joey February 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Ha! I love it. I hate sharing an office. Maybe I can fart her out of here.

What is up with all of the farting statistics? Does somebody wanna do a trend analysis?

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fposte February 13, 2012 at 4:43 pm

I’m not getting the “call him on it.” He can’t unilaterally decide to move his office; it’s not a voluntary behavior; the frequency is too great for him to leave the office every time. All she can get is a more frequent “Excuse me,” and she’s made it clear that that’s not a solution for her. It’s kind of like calling out one of those chronic coughers on coughing–it’s not like they can stop.

I get that some people could find the guy more likeable if he was mortified about it, but that still wouldn’t fix the OP’s problem.

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Anonymous February 15, 2012 at 12:45 pm

The OP has not clarified whether he can control it or not, so until that time I will assume he can. And if he can’t, he at least needs to have a private conversation with her explaining that he has a medical condition and can’t help it. That, to me, is just being courteous. That’s what I would do if that were me. I would not ever want someone to even think I would be farting and burping all day on purpose. This guy just seems like he doesn’t care and he’s not embarrassed about it, which leads me to believe that he can control it. He just doesn’t want to.

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Anonymous February 15, 2012 at 12:41 pm

That’s exactly what I thought too. He’s just being way too open and rude about it. Not long ago, one of my coworkers had indigestion and she went and got a Coke with the hopes that it would make her burp. It did make her burp, but she tried to burp as quietly as possible. She was embarrassed, but it didn’t bother me at all. But when one of the guys around here walks down the hall and just belches without even trying to make it quieter, then I know he can help it. Sometimes they even go as far to attempt to make it louder because they think it’s funny.

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Anonymous February 15, 2012 at 12:42 pm

My comment above was for Anonymous at 2:51 pm. I thought I hit the reply button under that post. Sorry.

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Anonymous February 13, 2012 at 3:07 pm

I worked with a guy like this (except actually worse) for about 2 years. In addition to gas, he had body odor issues and bad breath. He was married and we all had a sick fascination to meet the woman who would tolerate this behavior. The problem was he was the senior person on the team (and had a gruff personality in general) so nobody would confront him, especially not me being the newest guy on the team. Eventually our manager had to say something to him when other managers complained about him stinking up conference rooms during meetings. We basically knew it was somewhat medical in nature but he was able to stop it immediately by adjusting his diet (and bathing and laundering his clothes more often I assume). Of course, it didn’t last long before he was at it again and our manager didn’t have the guts to confront him a second time but the key point here is that he was able to stop it.

This guy probably needs to change his diet or get some medication but is unwilling to do it, maybe out of embarrassment. That’s where HR can step in and say they want a note from his doctor that there is no reasonable solution before they’re willing to compromise on this issue.

Manager Tools has a good podcast about this subject: http://www.manager-tools.com/2007/06/how-to-handle-yes-body-odor-part-1

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The Other Dawn February 13, 2012 at 3:21 pm

The point about diet is a good one. I’ve always had issues with gas; however, a couple years ago I started a new diet to lose some weight. It was amazing how quickly that particular issue went away. Of course, when I fell off the wagon the problem came back. I went back to eating well and it went away. Now I know that I can have significant control over it by eating properly. Maybe this guy is routinely eating fast food or junk food, or drinking a lot of carbonated drinks, or even eating a lot of raw veggies (those can cause gas, also).

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Anonymous February 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Be sure you use the proper words when discussing the problem.
Nauseous=what makes someone sick. The smells are nauseous.
Nauseated=feeling sick. The smells nauseated me.
A common mistake. I’m not usually one to correct things like this, but…

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Ask a Manager February 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm

I knew someone was going to call me on that when I wrote it, but decided I didn’t care because I am feeling slovenly.

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Cube Ninja February 13, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Frankly, if we’re going to play grammar games:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/nauseous

The word’s use to mean “affected with nausea” is common parlance to that point that the definition of the word now encompasses it. So not only is it strictly not a common mistake, it is in fact an accepted use of the word.

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The girl being stunk out of her own office February 13, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I have directly asked him twice to be more polite and leave the office for a moment if he needs to do this. I asked if it was maybe a side effect of the pain killers. His response was that if it bothered me that much then I could leave. “I’m a guy. Guys fart. Get used to it.” I started keeping count simply because my boss (a guy) thought I was exaggerating the amounts. I have since asked to be transferred to another office or his old office and was told that was possible and to get an air freshener. I’m now spraying febreeze at him after each emanation.

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The girl being stunk out of her own office February 13, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Correction… I was told it was NOT possible to move me to another office. HR seems to think that this is a non-issue. It probably doesn’t help that I’m one of 3 women in a company of 400 employees…

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Ask a Manager February 13, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Gas mask?

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Anonymous February 13, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Yeah, and get one of the real old ones from like WWI or the Cold War era! LOL

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A Bug! February 13, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Well, that really sucks a lot and I’m sorry you’re stuck in that situation with an unsupportive manager. That guy’s responses to you are pretty rude. I’m not sure spraying so much Febreze is a great solution, as personally I find that scented “air fresheners” give me headaches and you might actually end up on the wrong end of a reprimand.

Could you see if maybe you could see your doctor and get some sort of note? I really have no idea if that would work because I do not know if stinky farts goes beyond “strong annoyance” and into “health risk” territory.

But honestly, I know it’s a tough economy but in the face of such treatment from my employers I would be looking for another job.

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fposte February 13, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Can you perch in a non-office space without official sanction? Lounge, stairwell, what have you?

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Anonymous February 13, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Heck, maybe YOU need accommodation now. Get a note from your doctor about being nauseated all the time.

I can’t even imagine having to marinate in someone else’s farts. It sounds appalling.

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The Right Side February 13, 2012 at 6:45 pm

He may not realize he has a medical issue. The girl in my story did not know her liver was failing and that she just had issues – so she learned how to deal with the criticism. This might be his defense tactic.

Although, gotta say, you don’t sound like a joy to work with so this very clearly could be a passive aggressive reaction to your bitterness for him using YOUR office. You can always try the ol’ kill with kindness concept. Buy some Febreeze and start checking out monster.com.

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Karen February 13, 2012 at 7:33 pm

@TheRightSide

You seem to have taken the side of “the farter” in many of your comments, due to your experience with someone who had a similar medical issue – I respect your willingness to not condemn the person without further information. But now the OP has clarified that this person likely does not have a medical issue, and is just being outright rude.

And now you say that the OP is “not a joy to work with?” On what basis do you make that judgement?

When I hear that “the farter” is saying things like “I’m a guy. Guys fart. Get used to it,” I lose all respect and willingness to be understanding. As a matter of fact, his behavior almost sounds like a form of intimidation toward the OP. Even GUYS don’t fart around each other this much.

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Anonymous February 13, 2012 at 7:49 pm

I’m wondering if he does know if he has a medical issue but perhaps is reacting towards her own reactions having to share an office. It might sound far-fetched, but all I know is that people can be weird and are weird.

And no, I’m totally in her court.

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Cube Ninja February 13, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Unless the OP is licensed to practice medicine and has conducted a formal exam of the individual, I’m pretty darn sure that she (and everyone here) is unqualified to speak to whether or not the man has a medical condition.

There are multiple medical conditions which could cause an excess of flatulence, many of which are written off as “that’s just how my body works” by the people who have them. I suffered from acid reflux for the better part of a year before I was formally diagnosed. It’s possible that isn’t the case here, but let’s face it, rude people get sick too.

We also can’t write off the possibility that the co-worker knows he has a medical condition, is embarrassed about it and is reacting in a sub-optimal way to the OP’s approach. It’s also possible that the OP’s approach was sub-optimal as well.

To be honest, I think the level of passive-aggressiveness stated by the OP in this situation is making an uncomfortable situation even worse. If an employee approached me with the level of detailed accounting of every bodily emergence stated in the original post, I would have serious concerns about how much time my employee is wasting throughout the day.

Approaching this from a “count” perspective makes the issue seem completely petty, rather than a serious distraction from the task at hand, which is likely the reason that the manager in this scenario didn’t react in the desired manner. Had this been addressed from the forefront in a delicate manner and leaving the “fluff” out of it, it may have produced a different reaction.

For example: “Hey $manager, X seems to have some issues with bodily emanations and it’s to the point where it’s making me physically ill and unable to concentrate on my work. I tried addressing with him directly and his reaction wasn’t very positive. I know he’s unable to work in his normal office because of the knee injury, so I was wondering if it might be possible for me to switch offices for the time being.”

This is going to go a lot further than “Hey $manager, X farts and burps a lot. I counted an average of 22 burps and 44 farts every day for the last two weeks. When I asked him about it, he was kind of a jerk. I need to switch offices.”

More flies with honey and such.

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Anonymous February 15, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Whether he can help it or not, he has no need to be rude. If he has a medical condition that he is embarrassed about, why can’t he just say “I can’t help it. I’m not doing it on purpose, but I would rather not discuss it.”? No matter how embarrassing he thinks his medical condition is (if he even has one), if it were me I would rather be embarrassed by telling a coworker I am sick than to say nothing and let them assume that I am just rude and ill mannered. IMO, when you share an office with someone else, you need to be respectful and remember that you are not the only one marinating in your stink.

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Anonymous February 15, 2012 at 1:20 pm

@ Cube Ninja ~ The OP did that. Management thought she was exaggerating, so that’s why she actually starting counting them. She wanted to prove her point that she wasn’t just “being sensitive” or “overreacting”, because she is a woman.

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khilde February 14, 2012 at 11:58 am

@Karen – I have to agree with you on losing all semblance of respect and willingness to work with the guy when he said she just needs to get used to it. Now he’s just a punk and I say fair game, barring anything illegal or immoral. I wonder what disgusting habits OP could bust out? Or…what s0rt of “female things” would a “real guy” in this case be grossed out by?
In the end, of course, OP has to take the high road for her own self-respect. But it’s cases like this that I wish I could be just as much of a stinky jerk in return. :)

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Anonymous February 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm

@ khilde ~ One word – tampons. LOL

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Lisa February 14, 2012 at 11:07 am

You might try burning a candle — or several. It’s an age-old technique for covering up gaseous emanations. Also — vinegar and water in a spray bottle will do more to cleanse the air than Febreeze.

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Diana February 15, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Can you ask your manager if he can come to your office at the end of the workday to have a closed-door discussion about your need for an office move? After the coworker has left for the day, of course. He can sit in your coworker’s chair.

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Malissa February 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm

I think a well placed fan would be the best solution. The ideal way to point the fan would be where fresh air comes across your nose and his smells get blown back to him. Also a cup of coffee beans on the desk is a great odor absorber.

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Anonymous February 15, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I would bring in the most horrible, strong perfume that I, myself, could stomach, and spray the office down either before he comes in or when he actually does step out to use the men’s room. Then when he comes back in complaining that it’s giving him a headache or making him sick, simply reply “I’m a woman. Women like perfume.” Admittedly not the most mature way to handle it, but since your management won’t do anything about it and you were basically told to “suck it up”, you have nothing to lose by fighting fire with fire. JMHO.

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IamNOThere February 13, 2012 at 4:49 pm

I have Ulcerative Colitis which appears to be a cousin of Crohn’s Disease and can vouch for the vile odors. Thankfully I sit one row away from my team, so most of the time I am the only one that has to deal with the odor. Believe me when I say this…many times I wish I could crawl away from it.

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The Right Side February 13, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Thanks for speaking up! I know people have to deal with this! I wish more people would make themselves aware versus being so quick to judge or condemn. :)

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Anonymous February 15, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I don’t know about your coworkers, but if you were MY coworker and you came to me and just said something to the effect of “I really am not doing it on purpose”, there is no way I would judge or condemn you, or anyone else in that situation for that matter. There is a big difference between someone being sick and not able to control it and someone who is just obnoxious and rude. If your coworkers are decent people, they would understand too, and you probably would feel less embarrassed.

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Rebecca February 13, 2012 at 8:16 pm

I had a lot of the same issues, although I was able to control the gassiness thank goodness. Once I stopped eating things my body doesn’t like (gluten, dairy), I stopped being bloated, gassy and belchy. Of course, then other things came up like not being able to eat at company sponsored events because I have limited options. Just can’t win sometimes!

I feel for both these people. I wonder if the OP could work at home part of the week until the 6 months are done?

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J.B. February 13, 2012 at 9:10 pm

If the manager is blowing you off then yes, go to HR. Give them the stats, explain that your manager caused you to start keeping them and it would be *really really wonderful* if you could go to that other office for now, thank you SO very much. And suggest that you could get a doctor’s note for your own nausea. That, or take the alternate tack and move, to beg (but not really beg) forgiveness and suggest a doctor’s note for yourself if anyone asks.

And an activated charcoal blanket thrown over his chair might not hurt. Since they actually make them and all.

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Eric February 13, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Sorry about this OP. I’m actually leaving soon so you don’t have to worry about it anymore.

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T February 13, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Eric,
I hope you feel better soon. Surgery recovery can be tedious, and GI issues aren’t fun either. Good luck at your new endeavor. And I know guys arent supposed to be all emotional, but I hope your feelings didnt get bruised.

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Anonymous February 17, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Toot Away was made for you! Get a couple bottles. Keep one on you at all times. It’s Natural+Organic so you can fight nature with nature. Good Luck! TOOTaway.com

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Another Emily February 18, 2012 at 5:01 pm

I think AAM’s solution is brilliant. Is there any reason you can’t use Joe’s office? If you have specialized equipment in your office maybe it could be used.

I feel badly for Joe. He’s not handling the farting issue in the most professional way but I can’t imagine not being mortified about this.

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M-C February 20, 2012 at 10:22 am

I’d consider puking on his desk.. Although I have to say the fantasy of a used tampon in his coffee cup is priceless :-).

First, let’s say clearly here that the problem is not medical, or not merely medical, the real problem is bad behavior. Therefore it is a almost purely management problem. If it was medical, then it should still be handled, with management telling him that he needs to handle it or take more time off, if necessary. And HR is totally appropriate if your manager won’t handle it, just try to let them know he need help in handling it rather than make it a formal complaint against his cowardice.

That said, I’ve had a stinky coworker problem myself.
I asked my own manager to deal with it – I told him that’s why he was paid more than me. It worked, it’s true. The first time the guy did wash, once. The second time I charged in his office and said I was going to puke right there. I said I had to go for a walk to get my stomach quiet, and I expected Stinky out when I got back. He was. They put him in the hallway, there was no other place and nobody else would have him. But -I- didn’t have to smell him any longer. I made them take his chair with him too.

But yes, if your guy’s usual office spot is vacant, I’d definitely move my stuff up there and stay there. Without asking for HR permission or anything, since “it’s temporary”. No matter how inconvenient it might be otherwise, away from your colleagues your printer or your coffee room. Don’t be shy about explaining why when people ask. Bar charts of just a few days performance would be a great thing to wave about :-).

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Raging Dragon August 1, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Good suggestion! Just move your stuff to the empty office.

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Dan June 11, 2012 at 10:25 am

Maybe you can buy one of those HEPA filters? I hear they use them in hospitals to collect dangerous particles from the air, so maybe it will work to collect the poo and burp particles this guy is emitting, cos it can’t be healthy for you to breathe.

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Dan June 11, 2012 at 10:30 am

Also your co-worker may be interested in buying anti-flatulence underwear. This isn’t a joke, I read a while back about underwear they modify using the same techniques as suits to combat chemical warfare (they even make blankets for couples beds). The linen traps and neutralises the gases as they pass through similar to how activated charcoal works. Just a thought, cos he probably dislikes his problem even more than everyone else.

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Visitor September 25, 2012 at 6:17 am

Couldn’t you just open the windows, and if the smell is really heavy, I think a small fan or vent would take everything out…
Or do you work in the basement ??

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Pablo Cervates November 9, 2012 at 2:47 pm

The fact she is keeping score means she secretly enjoys it. Go have Mexican food for lunch and challenge him to a duel…winner keeps the office. She may wish to train a bit first, using pickled eggs and beer for experience.

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Ray Cism March 1, 2013 at 11:12 am

I have a female office mate who has had “barrium surgery a couple a years ago” and therefore has to eat every 2 hours. She eats from 8:31 AM to 10:10AM … constant chewing of nuts, crinkling wrappers and scraping out yogurt cups. Then she starts burping. Loud, nasty burps. Then she announces that she has to use the ladies room BAD and that there’s “someone in there AGAIN”. I feel your pain. This disgusting pig is making my work life a living hell. I figure if my company wants to pay me to try to concentrate in this environment, I’ll do the best I can. I get about 4 hours worth of actual work done a day. The rest is counting burps, going to my happy place in my mind, and adjusting my headphones and desktop fan. Good luck to you, fellow victim.

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Super Nauseated March 8, 2013 at 12:58 am

My manager is the problem. I am in a cubicle farm. He opens the door of his office and the smell permeates. It can easily be smelled thirty feet from his office. Air freshner is not an option. It is not allowed in the facility where I work. I would be written up for using it. Windows do not open in the building, only the doors.

The excessively putrid flatulence may have a medical component, but there is a dietary part, also. He prattles on about new rich recipes, wine and cheese from the previous night’s supper. His “sharing” is absolutely sickening. How does one ask her manager, “is everything okay, you are stinking us out?” I can only cover my nose for so long and leaving my desk is not always an option.

To those of you that make jokes, may you never know.

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Kim April 5, 2013 at 3:04 pm

I sympathize with you. I sit next to a farter who also enjoys broccoli salad on a regular basis and peels hard boiled eggs a few times a week. From the sound of it, your co-worker is not embarrassed by his gaseous emissions and talking to him would only fall on deaf ears. I would definitely ask to move to his office while he is in yours.

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Tytalus April 5, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Any updates on this?

I think this is a case for HR, to be honest. File some kind of grievance or complaint, because that is just intolerable.

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me September 5, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Why should SHE have to move? Why doesn’t the farter move?? I am dealing with this same issue at work now and you would not believe how disgusting it is. Farting, burping, snot slurping, and talks soooooo loud I can not hear who I am speaking with when I am on the phone in my cubicle. I’m sick of it. Put the blame where it belongs, on the HOG PIG FARTER.

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Anonymous September 28, 2013 at 11:57 pm

I have a coworker like this and I am not sure how to bring this up :(

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joe smoe September 30, 2013 at 10:14 pm

My boss is a vegetarian and he constantly burps and farts. It’s getting kind of gross

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Anonymous December 8, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Actually, if he recently had surgery, his body is going to be reacting to all the anesthesia and drugs in his body. In the hospital they listen for “bowel sounds” and encourage gas. It sounds to me as if this man cannot help what is happening to his body, but it’s unfair for management to make him share an office with someone when he’s recuperating. I’m sure he’s embarrassed. It’s hard enough not to be able to walk well enough to make it to his own office, let alone try to hold something in that wants desperately to get out.

He should have been able to switch offices with you. That would have been the most beneficial for both of you… you to get your work done without the ‘unpleasantness’, and him to avoid embarrassment while recuperating.

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Anonymous March 10, 2014 at 11:29 am

You said it missy, good thing your office mate is a male, mine is a girl, and don’t even say excuse me after she burp, she is super weird, and she is making this humming sounds, she creeps me out, and when she is near me, she yawn and I can smell her inside, She is older than me, so they say respect the old people, hahah so that’s the reason why I just it, but it very disgusting and gross..

Over and out. :)

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