someone keeps farting in important client meetings

A reader writes:

I work in upper-middle management at a large business and entertainment events company and recently we got back to regular face-to-face client meetings. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been having some intense and lengthy meetings in our office with a potential local client, which could really take our company to the next level if it works out. However, a rather awkward problem has arisen.

During these meetings, which tend to last all afternoon, someone breaks wind, silently, usually more than once. The odor is, frankly, overwhelming, yet there is not much in the way of any clear reaction from anyone in the room. I have noticed some people very, very discreetly eye each other suspiciously. But it’s quite a formal and stiff atmosphere, with several very serious and no-nonsense senior executives present from both sides, so it appears if people are just doing their best to ignore this rude interruption. During one of the wind-breaking incidents, a junior member of staff sat with her elbow on the table and put her hand over her hand and mouth trying to make it look like she was just resting her head, while another junior member looked uncomfortable but kept her head down and stared at her notepad. On another occasion I noticed one of the clients frowning and looking out of the corner of their eye, but frankly I dare not catch anyone’s eye, so I always quickly avert my gaze to avoid any awkwardness or, god forbid, suspicion.

Everything at our company is business-like and relations are generally good. I know everyone reasonably well on our side, so I had assumed the culprit was from the would-be client’s team. But imagine my horror when, after the clients had left our last meeting leaving our team to continue the discussion among ourselves, the silent boardroom farter struck again! I was incredulous — there were three senior male executives in the room and two junior female members of staff who were not always present at other meetings. So I am fairly certain the culprit is a senior management figure at our firm.

I’m completely at a loss as to how to deal with this. I’m quite ambitious and have invested a lot of energy into making this project happen. So I can’t believe that a senior company member is behaving in such a rude manner and potentially jeopardizing it by acting so unprofessionally towards potential partners. The potential clients cannot have possibly failed to notice the smell, and I can only assume they are simply being polite and professional by ignoring it. However, I am just afraid that there are limits to anyone’s tolerance and that sooner rather than later they will decided one way or another to end their interest in working with us.

This is just such a strange problem. How on earth can voice my concerns to my superiors?

The good news is, you really don’t need to do anything about this.

These meetings include executives who are senior to you. If one of them is concerned and wants to figure out a way to address this, they can attempt to do so.

But there’s a pretty good chance that nothing that can be done.

I am amused by the idea of someone constantly farting in an important business meeting just because they’re rude or anti-social or don’t care about being professional, but it’s more likely that if it’s happening this often it’s because they can’t control it.

A number of medical conditions can cause that to happen with some frequency. It’s not a particularly pleasant thing to be around, but if someone is dealing with a medical condition, you just have to carry on. I realize that having it happen in client meetings is not great, but you can’t order someone to stop being gassy if they can’t help it. (If it’s really out of control, there might be a conversation about having them call into the meeting instead … but again, there are people senior to you in these meetings, so you can happily leave this to them to navigate. There are times when “above my pay grade” is a comforting mantra.)

Meanwhile, though, you could put an air purifier in the room and see if that helps.

{ 639 comments… read them below }

  1. Belle*

    You also mentioned it was in the afternoon. If it is right after lunch, it could be even harder for someone to control.

    I love the air purifier option since it sounds like this room is used often for meetings and would help overall air quality.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I was thinking this too. Can the meetings be held in the mornings to potentially avoid this issue?

      1. Joan Rivers*

        Air purifier, etc., sounds smart and w/Covid, makes sense.

        I worked in a newsroom where the science / medical reporter used to make very LOUD noises. You’d all be concentrating and then hear him.

        1. JRR*

          It’s actually a little concerning that a group of people is gathering in a room without plenty of air filtration/ventilation.

            1. JRR*

              I assume they are, which is why it’s only a little concerning and not a lot concerning.

              But it would probably be a good idea to improve indoor ventilation to help prevent other airborne viruses.

          1. Self Employed*

            +1000

            You’d think that if there’s adequate ventilation for COVID safety, the flatulence odors would disperse rapidly.

    2. Alianora*

      Right, the fact that it’s all afternoon would make it difficult for someone to hold it in that long. Maybe some breaks could be scheduled in, and you could see if that solves the problem? You don’t have to say, “get your farts out now,” but a chance to stretch your legs and get water is always appreciated in long meetings.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        “Get your farts out now” just needs to be highlighted here. (The people who can’t stand “bio break” will especially love this.)

              1. TheAG*

                LOL!!! I feel like this would actually be considered hilarious and fly really well where I work (which is SUPER informal and we really use a lot of humor to relieve what could be stupidly stressful if we didn’t).

        1. nonbinary writer*

          omg yes — I despise the term “bio break” (feels so dehumanizing! we aren’t machines in need of servicing!) and would much rather it be called a “fart break.”

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            In its original context as a gamer term, it feels more winky (as in, “my stupid biology is making me take an unwanted break from this riveting game!”). But in the workplace it does feel more like, darn these defective workerbots and their physical needs!

          2. All the words*

            This is just to maybe make you feel better about the use of “bio-break”. It started with gamers who needed to step away from their keyboard occasionally. The term was a reminder that we are NOT machines, but organic beings with real life needs and obligations. Biological/actual life > Game time.

            Well, that, and it’s a little more polite than saying “I need a pee break right now.”

            1. Two Dog Night*

              I dunno… I think the term “bio break” might be older than that. I first heard it working as a programmer in the late ’80s and was told bio was short for “bodily input/output”–still geeky, and not my favorite phrase ever, but I’m pretty sure it preceded multi-player games.

              1. All the words*

                You’re probably right, and I’m sure there was a lot of cross-over in those populations.

            2. raktajino*

              “Bio break” has always reminded me of when I worked in a science museum and we referred to bodily fluid clean up as “protein spills.” Just a way to not have to say “someone peed in the walk-through kidney” over the radio. Plus, because it’s a science museum, we always had to take the slightly more nerdy route.

                1. UKDancer*

                  I mean I would never have thought of peeing in a walk through kidney but now you say it there’s a certain logic to it!

                2. aunttora*

                  Note to self: don’t visit the “super colon” walkthrough exhibit, the next time it comes to my company’s facilities.

              1. Em*

                I feel like peeing in the kidney shows a good understanding of the museum content, though. They might be gross, but they’re paying attention!

                1. Artemesia*

                  And it creates the multidimensional ambience you strive for with a giant walk through kidney — why keep it to 3 senses when you can add olfactory?

              2. Completely anon for this one!*

                I worked at Sesame Place in college, a theme park/water park geared towards young kids based on the TV show. During training, we were taught radio code words for different incidents – Code Big Bird for pee, Code Snuffy for poop, Code Elmo for blood, and Code Zoe for vomit. I personally encountered a Code Big Bird and a Code Zoe during my time there.

              3. Keymaster of Gozer*

                The thankfully incredibly rare times a lab worker’s bodily emissions occurred in the virology lab we called it ‘unexpected proteins’.

                (Very rare. By the time you got to a job in the labs you’ve had practice at holding things in for hours. Farts aren’t an issue when you’re masked up all day and the extraction fans are going full tilt)

              4. TardyTardis*

                Once you’ve been in a four hour meeting with no breaks and lots of coffee…(shudder).

            3. nonbinary writer*

              As a gamer, no, this does not make me feel better lol. I mean, I prefer it to gamers peeing in their empty red bull containers but gaming as a culture has a weeeeird relationship to the body overall that I’m not excited to port to the mainstream.

            4. Amethystmoon*

              Yeah, that is where I first heard the term myself. I’m a former WoW-player and it was especially said on raid nights, and usually right after we’d wiped and our toons had to run back from the graveyard, and then go and make armor repairs.

          3. MCL*

            I like “Let’s give everyone a 10 minute break to get a drink of water and stretch their legs.”

          4. Koalafied*

            One of my leadership uses the term “comfort break,” which I like, especially in the era of endless video calls, because sometimes the comfort I need is just to turn my camera off for 10 minutes or cuddle with my dog.

            1. UKDancer*

              We tend to use comfort break in my company and I like that. It covers a multitude of sins.

              1. Anthony J Crowley*

                Comfort break is one million times better than what I sometimes hear in work: wees and teas. JUST. NO.

                1. UKDancer*

                  Yeesh “wees and teas” is awful so fake coy and wince inducing. I mean that’s what I do in a comfort break but it doesn’t mean I would ever want it put like that

            2. Jake*

              Oh, I do not love “comfort break.” I don’t know why, but it sounds… uncomfortably sexual to me. Like I’ve encountered “comfort” as an adjective in a lot of places describing sex work. “comfort women” etc. Don’t love it at all.

              1. No Longer Looking*

                Which just proves the point that someone will always be offended regardless of the thoughtfulness of the replacement word or phrase, and at least half the time they will have a reasonable reason for the offense that the rest of us hadn’t considered.

          5. anonymouse*

            It’s one of those things that either, it’s part of your lexicon or not. Like you get it or you don’t.
            I don’t.
            First time I heard it was this year. From a peer in my gen X cohort. I was, well, to illustrate: I was like, what. OK.
            And I’m sure there are people who want to stab their ears and eyes reading “was like” instead of “thought” but here we are.

            TL; DR: I don’t like it, won’t use it but admit I have my own equally polarizing language quirk

          6. SoloKid*

            As a biologist, I think we kind of are! I do like to say “I need to fill what’s empty and empty what’s full” myself.

          7. Nayo*

            Interesting! I see it as a lighthearted way of saying “I need to go to the bathroom,” but I’ve only ever used/seen it used while gaming. I don’t know how I’d feel if I had first encountered it in a professional context. I didn’t even know it was used outside of gaming.

          8. C*

            I usually use the term ‘comfort break’. Covers all the necessary functions, stretching out, getting a tea etc.

        2. Who doesn't need kittens anyway?*

          I thought I was the only one who is driven nuts that saying I need to use the bathroom is somehow offensive online. I use bio break but it’s with grudging resentment even after 20 years. Childish.

      2. A Poster Has No Name*

        I was just going to suggest breaks. I work in an Agile environment, and sometimes planning sessions get long, but breaks every hour are standard and really should be encouraged.

        It may not change much, if the person really can’t control it, but at least it gives you a chance to air out the room periodically.

      3. Lacey*

        This is an excellent suggestion. I don’t have a problem with farts, but I need a regular bathroom break somewhat more frequently than the average person and many houred meetings with no break are torture.

        1. Distracted Librarian*

          This. And also, as someone who recently had to deal with a blood clot, let me say that sitting too long is not healthy. Breaks during long meetings are good for all of us, not just Sir Farts-a-Lot.

        2. TheAG*

          Yes. 2 nine-plus pound babies can do that to a person lol. I work in a predominately male environment and have gotten to the point where I just stand up in a meeting and say “sorry but I need a break” and walk out (then usually the person running it says yup we should all take a break). I’ve had multiple people thank me for doing that because they were dying but too worried to say anything. I don’t think people are trying to be cruel, we just all have different “schedules”. :)

      4. Paloma Pigeon*

        I think pre-scheduling in 5 minute breaks at the :55 of the hour encourages good habits all around: going to the bathroom, stretching your legs, making sure to rehydrate with water, or, check your email if you must. It takes stigma away from individuals who might need to visit the restroom hourly due to other issues. I would discretely suggest that to senior management as a way to ensure everyone is ‘refreshed’ during intense long strategy sessions.

      5. Selena*

        That’s a good idea.
        I need to fart a lot and hourly breaks help immensely. They also help everyone to recharge during a long meeting, and they provide a natural end-point for the meeting (‘1 more break, than another hour, and then we are done, everyone agree?’)

      6. Mrs. Hawiggins*

        Oh man, a 5 or 10 minute fart break would be appreciated by even those who typically don’t have a control/digestive issue, because lunch meetings invariable are going to involve someone’s bright (but delicious) idea of a burrito bar…

        I have been in meetings like this, and it turned out the person doing it – yes we found out – was just that incredibly self unaware and rude. And no doubt as we start to return to offices some people are going to forget you just can’t just fire at random anymore.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah. But like Alison said, some people have medical issues that make it difficult to impossible to hold it in. I think they’ve handled things pretty neatly so far, even if the LW feels embarrassed by it. But getting an air purifier for the conference room and taking short breaks during long meetings sounds prudent in any case.

          1. BubbleTea*

            I was in my mid to late teens when I found out that some people could hold it in. (I was in my late teens to early twenties when I found out I was lactose intolerant… the latter knowledge meant I became one of the former people!)

      7. PJ*

        At one of my jobs nearly every employee would leave for about 5 minutes about an hour after lunch. (I worked later and took a different lunch.)

        I asked my coworker one day and she said, “Oh, that’s our Fart Walk. Everyone does a lap around the mezzanine and….well, enough said.”

        #GetYourFartsOutNow

    3. calonkat*

      Air purifier is the best solution I think, it’s fairly discrete and can be explained as overall air quality (which people are more conscious of since COVID), or generally to alleviate allergies.

      1. SushiRoll*

        my husband got us an air purifier for the bedroom years ago because i have allergies and sneeze often. hilariously, it gets louder when it needs to ‘purify’ more so if you do happen to….pass gas….in the room it really kicks off and makes a lot of noise. we call it the fart detector now.

        1. calonkat*

          hmm, the one I have in the office and turn on when there are strong perfume smells or generally during the fall allergy season doesn’t do that (and open cubicles, so there are “issues” at times). Must be a model specific issue.

          1. Persephone Mongoose*

            I accidentally read your comment as “during the fart allergy season” and was wondering what time of year it occurred and that I was relieved not to have experienced it!

        2. Captain Raymond Holt*

          Ours has a light that turns red when it has some work to do – including when someone farts!

          1. Clorinda*

            Feature, not bug, for sure!
            Now I know what to get my husband for our anniversary.

        3. Lightning*

          We have one that does that too, and I chuckle every time. Apparently farts never stop being funny…

        4. Koalafied*

          I have a similar model and it often revs up when I’m using marijuana – I have a patient license so it’s legit, but it always makes me chuckle a little. In an odd way it reminds me of a beloved cat who’s no longer with me and who would leave the room every time I smoked, but not before pausing to give me a withering stare on his way out. He was such a judgy little cat and the air purifier has taken up his legacy.

        5. Filosofickle*

          I’m obsessed with trying to figure out what set mine off — and I have 3 different ones that all react to different things. The one in the living room def turns red for farts and after a shower but isn’t concerned about much anything else including cooking or wildfire smoke. The newest (and much better) one in the dining room is very interested in cooking smoke/smells and, well, I don’t know what else. It’ll go full jet-engine sometimes when absolutely nothing obvious has happened! My little bedroom one I’m not sure does anything, because pretty much nothing automatically kicks it into higher gear.

        6. somanyquestions*

          Mine does the same! Fart in the room & soon it will kick into high gear.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            Mine too and it’s right next to my desk at home… I feel oddly accomplished when I manage to make its little light turn red.

    4. anon for this*

      Seriously. Air purifier, a fan, open a window, anything at all to improve ventilation, plus breaks.

      I’m frankly astonished by the idea that this is some deliberate mysterious rudeness, rather than a natural process that may not be controllable. Not everyone can hold it in forever, yeesh.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I was thinking a fan too. It’s getting a lot warmer (here, at least), and lots of bodies in a conference room tends to make them warmer. Maybe a small fan across the room from the door, and prop the door open? It might not look super posh executive, but I bet meeting attendees will just be grateful the problem is going to go away without anyone having to comment.

      2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        I agree! This would be a good time to remember that everyone has a human body, that human bodies aren’t always controllable and that includes YOU! Chill, folks, tell the young employees to learn to take it in stride and not to react in any way visible to others, and concentrate on more important issues.

      3. Nobby Nobbs*

        For three hours! I wouldn’t expect someone who was good at holding in farts to manage it for a three hour meeting if they had one in the tubes, so to speak. Especially after lunch!

        1. Chinook*

          The three hours caught my eye to. That is too long to ask anyone to without some type of bio/comfort break and not expect their be some biological repercussions.

          I still remember the fight I had to put up at a women’s conference for a break every hour to get up and stretch our legs. The other ladies (who also happened to be old enough to all be post-menopausal) wanted to be done an hour earlier by skipping all breaks (except lunch) that day but I ended up indelicately pointing out that they should know better then asking women of child bearing years to sit for 3 hours straight without a bathroom break because there are certain things that we cannot hold in and feminine hygiene products can only hold so much.

          It is also the only reason I like working with smokers – guaranteed breaks during meetings.

      4. Filosofickle*

        I’ll admit that until reading this site, I would never have known farts weren’t something people could control at least most of the time. Truly I had no idea the range of bathroom / body stuff other people go through! In my 48 years I’ve never lived with anyone who had noticeable difficult digestive/bathroom issues so I just missed that. I can hold it almost all the time and figured others could too.

      5. Sharrbe*

        Agree, a couple of discreet rotating tower fans set on a low settings would do a world of good.

    5. Aerin*

      For a while I was eating a Fiber One bar for breakfast every morning, and I was Gaseous Clay at 3pm like clockwork. It took me a while to draw the connection. So if the culprit is the person’s breakfast rather than their lunch, moving these meetings to the morning would still be helpful.

      1. TheAG*

        It took me 3 months to figure out that if the protein bars I was eating contained sugar alcohols (maltitol particularly) was going to cause extreme pain and gas that could only be relieved in a way that wouldn’t be appreciated by co-workers. So I feel your pain.

  2. Lynx*

    I understand this is probably not controllable but this would really frustrate me. I get nauseous really easily and this would be an absolute nightmare.

    I am not sure what I would do but I wouldn’t be able to just ignore this and keep going very easily.

    Godspeed OP.

    1. MusicWithRocksIn*

      Back when I was pregnant and had the super nose, there is a good chance this would have made me gag/ and or vomit. Strong smells were an absolute no go. I don’t miss that.

      1. Thanks for the reminder*

        Oh! This reminds me of something that happened to my sister. She was on a video conference with two employees in the room but the client/audience could only see her. At the start of the meeting her female employee said ‘I’m queasy but I’ll make it.’ She was pregnant too. They start the meeting and about 15 minutes in male coworker farts with no warning and there is a cloud in the room. Pregnant employee promptly stands up and launches onto the table and runs out. Male coworker just sits there with there, completely embarrassed but not moving.
        My sister kept the meeting going for another 20+ minutes with her eyes watering and vomit on the table. I told her later that’s when you have ‘technical difficulties’ and unplug WIFI and kill the meeting but you know, 20/20 hindsight!

    2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      It would be a good reason to keep wearing masks – preferably with charcoal filters.

    3. Anon for Today*

      I have IBS and get really gassy too. Thing is, I just excuse myself in meetings to use the restroom, even if it’s just a toot (although, I’ve learned to NEVER trust a fart when you have IBS). It’s pretty darn rude to cut one in a closed room, I don’t care how biological it is (unless of course you truly cannot help it).

      1. Anon for Today*

        I should say, I do think it’s unfortunate that people have a medical condition that may not allow them to control it, but in much of my experience, the person can control it they’re just being boorish.

      2. pcake*

        Anon for Today, I luckily don’t work in an office, but I also have IBS, and sometimes I would have to leave the room every 2 to 5 minutes. While it would help with the smell, I don’t think many people in meetings would be happy with someone walking out and back into a meeting 10 to 15 times in a hour, either.

        1. Pascall*

          That’s probably one of the cases where you’d want to ask for accommodations in the workplace so that everyone understood you needed to get up and leave occasionally due to a medical condition.

          I had accommodations for college back in the day for something similar. My IBS was untreated and sometimes I would just have to get up and leave class so I could go handle a gut attack. Lots of times I didn’t return for the rest of class. It was understood by all of my professors once I went through the official channels and was able to provide them the proof of a needed accommodation. They didn’t need details.

          Not every workplace is great about accommodations, but if you go the “legal” route of making sure everything you’re asking for can be backed up by ADA, then it’s absolutely helpful. I’m on meds now and no longer need accommodations, but if I did, I’d absolutely make sure my workplace knew about it.

  3. nom de plume*

    I would go for the low-tech, simple, direct solution: crack open a window at the beginning of the meeting.

    1. Lily Rose*

      That was my first thought but it may not be a possible solution if the meeting room is on a high floor (the windows may not even be able to open) or is an inner room.

    2. Forrest*

      Yes— there’s more and more evidence that good air circulation is absolutely key to reducing Covid transmission, and frankly I’d be uncomfortable in any meeting room where someone breaking wind is a problem because it means the air is way too still. If the meeting rooms you usually use don’t have air purifiers, good filtered ventilation or windows that open, I would ask for a better room for covid-safety reasons.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah. Getting a portable air purifier would be my go-to solution for this. Covid isn’t the only virus that it helps prevent spreading, either.

    3. Eden*

      I promise I’m genuinely curious, not trying to “not everyone can eat sandwiches” – how common is it to have meeting rooms with windows that open? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a meeting room that both had a window and that window could be opened in the places I’ve worked.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Most conference rooms I’ve been in are in the middle of the floor with no outside windows.
        And I’ve only worked in multi-story office building with windows that were not open-able.

        1. allathian*

          All meeting rooms at my office, with the exception of the executive boardroom where I’ve attended a meeting once or twice during my nearly 15 years at this office, are in the middle of the floor with no windows. The building was built in the early 1980s and the vast majority of us sit in 2-4 person offices. There are structural walls that mean it’s not easy or even possible to make more open spaces.

          Our windows can be opened, but just a crack, 3 inches or so. You need a specific kind of screwdriver to open it fully and I think only our window cleaners have those (quadruple glazing in two double-glazed “sheets”).

          Our collective agreement means that government employees aren’t allowed to work for more than 4 hours a day in a windowless room, although it seems like conference rooms are exempt from this ruling. We have an extensive archive and when our librarians are taking inventory and triaging old documents to be either scanned or destroyed, they can’t work in the windowless archive for more than 4 hours a day.

      2. JustaTech*

        None of the windows in my building open (for energy efficiency, I think). We have labs in the building, so we’ve got a huge air handling system, so that might also be part of the non-opening windows – an open window might mess up the balance of the air handlers.

      3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Hm, I would guess that most high-rises office buildings don’t have any (or many) operable windows. But most single-story office parks, educational facilities, standalone buildings, “Dunder-Mifflin”-esque offices almost certainly would. I work for a college and we have a meeting room in the basement of an admin building where we have to open the window at the start of every meeting because the room smells like sweaty feet ALL THE TIME.

        But based on OP’s description of the formality in these meetings, I’d guess sleek office building and non-operable windows.

        1. Happy*

          The windows didn’t open at Dunder Mifflin. Remember the chair being thrown at one?

      4. I can never decide on a lasting name*

        That varies from country to country. I am soooo happy that in my country, we primarily open windows to air out a room whether in May or January. But then, we air babies in strollers in January, too.

      5. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I’ve never worked in a building where any windows weren’t openable, nor where meeting rooms didn’t have external windows. Office bathrooms have always had proper external windows with additional vents.

        But I’ve also never worked in a huge high rise. I have no doubt the building regulations would be different there.

        1. DataGirl*

          I’m pretty sure none of the windows in my building open, and all of the meeting rooms are internal with no windows.

          1. NoviceManagerGuy*

            I worked in an office on the 43rd floor with an enormous conference room with floor-to-ceiling windows, which didn’t open of course. The view was fantastic but it was easy to get distracted with ships/trains/helicopters during boring meetings.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          When I worked in London the building had no openable windows (except in the stairwell), an air con system that could only cope with humans OR computers but not both, and the meeting rooms were glass enclosures inside the office.

          Actually had a heat exhaustion induced seizure there once. In November.

      6. TheAG*

        We don’t have any higher than 12 story buildings on my campus (so not a high-rise issue) but none of the windows in any of the conference rooms on campus that I have been in (~80 acres on campus) have windows that open.
        The buildings were build between the 1880s and the ’60s. Some are external to the buildings, some internal.

    4. MusicWithRocksIn*

      Strangely, at every office I ever worked the conference rooms were in the center of the building so there weren’t any windows that could be opened.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        And also to eliminate the possibility of someone looking in the window (maybe with the aid of a telescope or drone) and grabbing company secrets.

        Plus you get more room for desks near windows.

        1. Blushingflower*

          Also interior conference rooms are less likely to be disrupted by street noises. Nothing like having to pause your meeting because a siren is racing down the road just outside the conference room.

      2. DataGirl*

        Same. Cube farms around the outside with meeting rooms in the center- the rooms have zero windows.

      3. AcademiaNut*

        I think that’s to minimize the number of people who get stuck in desks with no natural light. It also makes darkening the room for presentations easier, and to minimize street noise when headphones aren’t an option.

    5. Beth*

      Yes, this! Or add another form of ventilation and air quality control if the conference room doesn’t have windows (I’ve been in plenty that are internal rooms, with no exterior wall to put windows on). Setting up an air purifier, or leaving the door open (if the building setup is such that this isn’t a noise/privacy issue), might go a long way.

    6. Jessica Fletcher*

      This could cause its own set of issues, like introducing noises that can’t be controlled, messing with the temperature, and letting BEES or other potential allergens in (this one has happened to me! It was the worst!)

      Hopefully a well placed air purifier solves it!

    7. Junior Assistant Peon*

      The architects always say “don’t worry, the HVAC system will take care of everything, the windows don’t need to be openable.” They’re often wrong about that!

  4. bunniferous*

    I know people who have medical issues who absolutely cannot control farts. The fact that this occurs in all the meetings leads me to believe this is someone who indeed has a medical issue. Air purifier is the way to go.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I agree with the air purifier suggestion. A lot of businesses are adding air cleaners to shared spaces (conference rooms, kitchens, etc) in response to COVID-19 anyway, so I doubt internal staff or external clients would think anything of it.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      Yeah, the last time I knew someone who had regular, uncontrollable farts, she was dying of cancer. So I’d try compassion here.

    3. Mayflower*

      I have an air purifier. And an 11-year old who farts. In my opinion, an air purifier is a good idea in general but it won’t solve the farting problem, just make it more obvious. When the air purifier detects a fart, usually a few looong seconds after it happened, it changes the air quality indicator from blue to red and starts making a LOT of noise to clean the air. It’s like a loudspeaker announcement that someone farted. And it takes a long time to clear the air, pretty much as long as it takes for the smell to dissipate anyway.

      1. bunniferous*

        See, this is the content I come here for. You learn something new every day!

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Aaaaaand that’s the laugh I needed. A loudspeaker announcement!

      3. Bee*

        You could try checking the user manual; that sounds like an Automatic responsive setting but there is probably a way to manually set it to simply run constantly on low or medium.

      4. Self Employed*

        I would not recommend leaving the air purifier on auto-detect if it’s going to go into jet blast mode like that. Get a quieter one (Alen is highly rated) and set it to the highest speed that isn’t intrusively noisy. (Alen also has models that have options for decorator front panels that could match the conference room furniture, though that option costs more than plain white plastic.)

        The conference room needs MOAR AIR CHANGES for COVID safety, though. Just because vaccinated people can hang out together now doesn’t mean it’s perfectly safe to be cooped up for three hours in a poorly-ventilated fishbowl with people who have a 5% chance of susceptibility to COVID.

        1. MsSolo (UK)*

          Also, that’s 5% to the original version – it’s a higher risk for the more recent variants (depending on the vaccine, 12-40% for B.1.617.2.). There’s evidence that the resistance continues to increase, just over a longer time period, and they still show significant impact on serious disease, but it’s still absolutely worth making sure spaces are well ventilated.

          1. NoviceManagerGuy*

            COVID aside, nobody wants a cold or flu either, so I hope ventilation improvements are here to stay.

  5. facepalm*

    Just here to say, as someone with a lot of junk in the trunk, that I envy anyone who can sneak out a silent toot in the office, or any setting :D

          1. Harvey JobGetter*

            The three dangers of the corroborate board room, lightening pneumatic chairs, the flame email spurt, and POUSes!

    1. ATX*

      Same facepalm, same. My toots sound like an orchestra. Tuba farts, the husband calls it :P

      1. basically gods*

        That’s awfully musical! I always sound a bit like a motorcycle at a green light.

      2. facepalm*

        Yes! It’s like a trumpet! Brings a new meaning to “beans, beans, the musical fruit. . . “

    2. Thistledown*

      I’m kind of impressed that this person has managed so many farts in a row without noise.

  6. The Original K.*

    I would put forth that not only can you not do anything about this, OP, you should not. The person farting knows they’re farting, and I’m not sure you can tell someone not to fart. I suppose you could ask them to step outside if they feel it coming, but even then, I think it’s just one of those things that happens that you have to pretend to ignore. In that situation, if I felt like I couldn’t control my reaction to the farting or if the smell was so bad I couldn’t deal with it, I would excuse myself and step outside.

    Also, the culture as you describe it (“formal and stiff atmosphere”) doesn’t sound like it lends itself well to people commenting on bodily functions, so I would just let it go. It may feel like it, but whoever is passing gas almost certainly isn’t doing it out of spite.

    1. Nonprofit Lifer*

      Nobody’s farting in meetings on purpose.

      You say the environment is “formal,” and fortunately formal manners provide the solution: you don’t acknowledge that it ever happened. Miss Manners has written on the topic If anything you should reprimand staff who are discretely looking around for the “culprit” as that’s both unprofessional and juvenile.

      Now, that said, you could try a few more mitigation measures other than an air freshener. Try scheduling meetings at a different time of day, maybe in the morning. Schedule frequent breaks that are long enough for someone to go to the bathroom discretely (and it can take a while to fully empty your bowel if you have a medical condition, so you need at least 5 min.) Move to a bigger conference room with better air circulation.

      1. More anon today*

        Yeah, I also thought that’s what Miss Manners said. Yet my younger relatives are being taught to say “excuse me” as you would for a burp. Now I’m wondering if I don’t say anything, are they just thinking I’m an… old fart?

        But I can’t imagine having the culprit say excuse me would be the answer in LW’s situation. Surely it would only be more disruptive. I don’t think I’d say anything if I burped in such a meeting either.

        1. Previously Mortified Preteen*

          Ugh my parents taught me how say “excuse me” to farts as a little kid and it was an embarrassing learning curve to get a little older and realize you were supposed to ignore them/hold them in. Bad parenting, don’t do this!

          1. CircleBack*

            It’s tough to navigate as kids because when you’re home with family, saying “excuse me” probably is the right way to go. (Especially when kids are young enough that they think fart and burp sounds are funny). When I’m sitting on the couch with my significant other, you better believe we’ll acknowledge a fart with at least an apology, if not a friendly joke.
            There are lots of manner rules that are different when with family or close friends versus work, and I think farts fall in that category.

            1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

              My household says “bless you” in response to any miscellaneous bodily noise, not just sneezes. Epic noises sometimes get a “Well spoken!”

          2. wittyrepartee*

            Oh, I was taught that you said excuse me, but also that you should avoid farting in public. My sister got sent to the bathroom for too many farts at the dinner table once.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I think this letter is absolutely ridiculous. It seems like the LW either doesn’t fart or her farts don’t stink.

      This is not great, but someone farting discretely in a meeting is not doing it maliciously and the polite thing for everyone to do is to pretend it didn’t happen. They are doing it because they have to pass gas. I suppose that if they had enough warning they could ask for a break to go to the restroom. But other than that what do you want them to do?

      IDK I really don’t give farts much thought at all, but I don’t think I have a ton of warning that it’s coming.

      1. High Score!*

        I don’t think OP is being rediculous or petty at all. I have a sensitive sense of smell and this would make me nauseous. I would suggest holding meetings outside when possible.

        1. chocolate lover*

          I get that the smell can be a challenge, I’m sensitive to some myself (though more artificial ones), but I do think it’s ridiculous to think that the person farting is doing it on purpose/to be rude.

        2. WellRed*

          Not sure client meetings outside is very practical. Especially if they are lengthy.

      2. KHB*

        Everyone farts, obviously. But not everyone is regularly stinking up a whole room multiple times every afternoon. When someone is, it’s not ridiculous to think that’s noteworthy enough to want to seek out advice on how to handle it.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Sure, but it’s ridiculous to accuse that person of being rude and unprofessional over something they may not be able to control.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          How does OP even know it’s one person? Maybe it’s multiple people.

          1. Self Employed*

            Good point. Especially if everyone eats the same catered food (or Fiber One bars are free in the lunchroom) it could be several people having the same reaction to same/similar food with “prebiotic” features.

      3. Smithy*

        I deeply sympathize with this letter because while farts certainly do happen…..for the OP, I also deeply understand that there’s likely no way this isn’t impacting these meetings. If this company is taking bids from multiple vendors, who wants to be considered the “smelly one”?

        I do think that the OP would benefit from looking into air purifiers, whether there are any available conference rooms in their space that has open windows, building in multiple breaks to the agenda etc. But I also get the breaking point of working so hard to woo an external entity with more power than you and feeling like you’re getting tripped up by something superficial.

  7. Good Wolf*

    I’m honestly baffled by the idea that this is “rude” behavior. Sure, if someone were making a huge production of it, or looking happily satisfied or something whenever they let one rip, I guess that’s not the best manners, but farts happen! And for many people, medical condition or no, they’re not really controllable! The fact that you can’t tell who the “culprit” is is actually proof that they’re doing it relatively discreetly, which is in all likelihood the best they can do. I know if I were the one responsible for the smell, I would be absolutely mortified and would be very grateful for everyone pretending it didn’t happen. The air purifier sounds like a nice plan, but I’d try really hard to get the “rude” framing out of your head; that just seems extremely unfair!

    1. triss merigold*

      Agreed, I’ve never understood how farting is rude. It’s not as if people are trying to (except in that one horrific letter about the sexist guy who was trying to get rid of his officemate). Holding ’em in is just not an option in many scenarios.

      1. Nayo*

        Unrelated, but I am replaying The Witcher 3 and it delighted me to see your name! :D

        And yeah, I don’t see it as rude, just as an unfortunate situation all around. It’s undoubtedly physically uncomfortable for the person farting, and definitely unpleasant for everyone else who has to smell it. Perhaps OP just hasn’t ever dealt with excessive gas and doesn’t understand how urgent and unpleasant it feels when you’re holding in that much, and thinks the secret farter could just hold it in and is choosing not to.

      2. Barbara Eyiuche*

        Sadly, I have met certain groups of people who thought farts and burps were hysterically funny, and would fart and burp as loudly as possible, often informally competing with one another. I was raised to just ignore such things, and to attempt to not burp and fart in the presence of others, so being around these people was mortifying for me. They were definitely rude; they also tended to be crude and sexist as well.

      3. wittyrepartee*

        The general idea is that they’re not pleasant to be around and you should try to fart or burp in private, and I was taught to excuse myself when it happened around friends or family. However, since it’s often involuntary, it’s also polite to aggressively ignore when it happens to people in public.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, if we were talking about a middle-school class, then maybe “rude” could be a possibility. But in this case, I seriously doubt that this is a case of a senior board member crop-dusting the clients and the rest of the board for fun; as opposed to a medical condition the person can’t control. I like the idea of extra afternoon breaks.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        “a senior board member crop-dusting the clients and the rest of the board for fun”

        There is a lot of gold in these comments today.

        1. Mack*

          I’m just surprised I can’t find “this too shall pass” somewhere in these comments!

      2. Lana Kane*

        I’m not ready to rule out the possibility that this person is senior enough to think everyone should just smell their farts. lol

      3. Emilia Bedelia*

        Not to be pedantic about farting, but this situation is kind of the opposite of the colloquial usage of “crop dusting”, ie farting and walking away. OP should take comfort in the fact that whoever dealt it is also smelling it just like everyone else.

    3. MistOrMister*

      I thought calling it rude was odd as well. There are certainly times when passing gas could be considered rude, but mostly that seems to depen on how the person does it. This person is being as discreet as possible. I suppose they could loudly excuse themselves after any instance, but that seems like it would be worse, to me.

      Given that this is happening in long meetings that are taking goodness knows how many hours, why not have a break or two? Then maybe the culprit can let one rip in the privacy of the bathroom and save the nostrils of the people in the meetings.

      1. Rake*

        As a person who suffers from frequent and painful gas, I get about 10 seconds of warning that I’m going to fart, and if I move at all (like to get to a bathroom or stand near a window) I either lose all warning and it rips immediately or I ‘scare’ it back in where it festers for another 15-30 painful minutes then comes back stronger. It causes me physical pain, and emotional distress. This LW is my nightmare.

        1. Exhausted Trope*

          Yup, Rake, right there with you! I have IBS and farts come with the territory. Some days just getting out of my chair sets them off. I usually cannot control it. Wish I could!

        2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          I’ve had too many surgeries that involved shoving my guts around and then putting them back. One result is an instant need to fart when I stand up if I’ve been sitting a while. There is no way to control it; any attempt to tighten the muscles would just amplify the sound like a tuba or any other horn.

      2. Pickled Limes*

        The problem is that this is a regularly occurring meeting, with good odds that the person doing the farting is a high level contributor to said meeting. If that person were to get up and excuse themself two or three times at every meeting, that’s way more noticeable and the client is much more likely to believe the company isn’t taking their business seriously.

      3. JB*

        How many people is that actually possible for, on a regular basis? I understand some other people in the comments also claim they can ‘hold in’ farts for an extended period of time but it honestly sounds as silly as saying ‘it’s polite to excuse yourself, if possible, before vomiting’.

    4. nonbinary writer*

      I am firmly in the camp that your body functioning the way it should (expelling gas that accumulates while digesting food) is never rude! People who says it’s rude always strike me as “my sensory comfort is more important than your bodily needs.”

      1. High Score!*

        As someone with a sensitive sense of smell, this is not just about comfort. Strong smells, especially pungent farts can invoke vomiting if I can’t escape. I can’t help it and if the farter didn’t excuse themselves, I’d have to.

        1. nonbinary writer*

          Life is a constant balancing act between people’s often disparate needs. In this situation, either you or the farter is going to have to leave. In a situation where neither person can help it, that sucks, but no one is being rude or malicious. No one is farting AT you.

        2. Daisy-dog*

          I’m sorry for what you have to experience with having a sensitive nose. That is definitely difficult to manage. I would guess that having gas is probably way more common though. So I would recommend that in a post-pandemic world, try to be prepared for post-lunch or closed-door meetings. We are less accustomed to containing this (because it can be quite uncomfortable). Hopefully your workplace does not require meetings that are several hours long without breaks.

      2. ThatGirl*

        OK, but there’s a time and a place for these things. Peeing is completely natural, but nobody does that in the middle of meetings. Not every fart, burp or cough can be contained, but it’s considered polite to try to contain them as much as possible, and if you suddenly had to throw up, wouldn’t you try to make it to a restroom?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think most people here are arguing that you should just let it rip if you have a choice. The issue is that people can’t always control it (see: many medical conditions).

          1. ThatGirl*

            I agree! But my main point was, I think many bodily functions can be *seen* as rude, especially if the person doing whatever it is is making no effort to mitigate things or if they’re done repeatedly. Like, if I cough once or twice into my elbow nobody will mind; if I have a whole coughing fit all over the place and don’t excuse myself to get it together and sip some water, that’s potentially rude.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              But there is no indication that the person isn’t making an effort to mitigate things, or that it’s being done repeatedly within the same meeting (we don’t even know if it’s the same person each time!)

              1. secretariat of flatulence*

                That’s true, there might be a roster of responsibilities. One week you chair the meeting, next week you do the minutes, and the following week…

        2. nonbinary writer*

          I think that a gaseous substance that dissipates in a matter of minutes is in a completely different category from a liquid or solid that would need to be cleaned up! I too try to excuse myself before farting, but I don’t find someone not doing/not being able to do that as rude.

        3. Just Another Zebra*

          As someone who (mortifyingly) threw up in the trash can at her desk while pregnant, trying to make it anywhere would have just been… messy. The fact that this didn’t happen once, but is a consistent problem, seems to suggest there’s a more substantial issue than rudeness. The polite thing is to ignore it and adjust.

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            Yeah, I’ve been there and trying to book it would have been way worse for me than just vomiting into the nearest receptacle (a sink in my case).

            The polite thing is to ignore it. Is it gross? Eh, I guess. Uncomfortable more than anything. If you’re very sensitive to smells, I recommend putting some Carmex under your nose before a meeting. Better than nothing.

            Or gift out those fart pads that go in your underwear for Christmas. (Don’t really, I’m sure that’s a boundary not to be crossed).

        4. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          But the poor farter would just bring attention to himself doing that, and probably wouldn’t make it to the door before expelling gas. This would a dreadful situation, much worse than the current one!

      3. Julia*

        Sensory comfort is also a bodily need; tolerating a foul odor can be just as uncomfortable as holding in a fart. Both people have legitimate issues.

        Also it would be nice if farting were never rude, but alas that’s not the society we live in. Here in this society, there’s a reason people hold in farts on the first date. “Rude” is by definition about social convention, so you can’t just decide on your own that something isn’t rude.

        1. is no joke*

          I don’t think people hold in farts on dates because it’s rude, they do it because they are worried about being embarrassed. Different people have different perceptions of what is comfortable/normal vs rude. And as someone who is on the side of the spectrum where holding in a fart is often impossible and excusing myself for every fart might mean I’m gone for half the meeting and would likely not be able to hold it in long enough to do so successfully – I kind of don’t care all that much if someone thinks it’s rude. 85% of the time, farts are silent and smell-free. The other 15% of the time is mortifying because I don’t want to be the cause of someone else’s discomfort, or to be judged by others for something I have very little control over – but ultimately I do my best to mitigate and move on. And if someone else thinks that’s rude? I sort of feel like that’s their problem. If it smells bad enough that someone has to remove themselves from the room, that’s super unfortunate for everyone involved but not anyone’s FAULT.

          1. CircleBack*

            Plus on a first date, you can influence where it takes place, so if you have a medical condition that leads to smells, you could try to find an outdoor or well-ventilated place, or set up circumstances to minimize the effects (e.g. lots of walking, easy to walk away, etc).
            It sounds like business meetings in this organization will take place in a closed conference room with multiple people, and them’s the breaks. You can’t apply the same rules from one area of life to the other, even if you find farting rude/embarrassing.

      4. Anon for Today*

        I have IBS, and I agree that farting isn’t inherently rude, but I would be mortified if I farted in a meeting because mine just reek to high holy hell. Unless this person truly cannot control it, they should probably try mitigating it with medication or just excusing themselves.

        1. Self Employed*

          I had a coworker who just smelled like that all the time. I don’t know if she had an ostomy bag or what, but I figured it was medical and not my business–something to ignore to avoid embarrassing her. She was very pleasant and competent so a good coworker overall and I wouldn’t have wanted to hurt her feelings.

    5. El l*

      Agree, and two thoughts in addition:

      1. Someday, LW, it may be you who crop dusts. Act today accordingly.
      2. This is paradoxically MORE likely to happen in the stiff and formal atmosphere described by LW. In a less formal milieu, whoever “they” is would just discreetly sneak out of the room for a minute – but here their best option of a set of bad ones is to just let it rip. It’s even possible that the culprit might get the added bonus of undercutting the hierarchical atmosphere (including if they’re senior!).

    6. Phony Genius*

      Some of the idea of the rudeness may come from a rather famous movie line in which a French man was delivering (silly) insults which included “I fart in your general direction!” The implication being that if he farts anywhere near you, he’s insulting you.

      I have been in the situation where my body was overproducing flatus (scientific term). It took time, but we eventually found the cause and found how to reduce it, though it can’t be completely cured.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        I grew up in the 50s and 60s, and OMG ANY bodily function mention was considered practically a hanging offense. I remember being at a relative’s house when I was little and peeing on myself outside because it WAS NOT DONE to mention awful words like “bathroom” – so I was TERRIFIED to ask where theirs was. I was wearing black shorts and figured it wouldn’t show. And I found a puddle so I could pretend I’d accidentally sat in it. My Mom’s rules were probably on the extreme end, since she was a bit of a Hyacinth Bucket.

      2. Forty Years in the Hole*

        +1 for the Monty Python Holy Grail shoutout.
        Years ago hubs and I were visiting NYC. Just crushed an enormous pastrami on rye, ‘kraut, fries & full garlic sour pickle. Fast forward two hours and we’re in the back corner of a tiny shop, and he lets fly a nuke-from-orbit hellstorm that Chaucer’s Absolom would be proud of. The proprietor and customers did NOT politely ignore…got quite the lesson in Yiddish that day. And then in the hotel elevator…oy!
        Pro tip: Vick’s Vapour Rub is your friend in “close” quarters; dab discretely below nostrils just before the meeting

        1. Quiet Liberal*

          Yes! I was just going to say this. Vick’s or Mentholatum under each nostril helps a ton.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I have to give applause for the Chaucer reference :)

          Additionally, we used to use menthol in the labs under the nose while in training, you get used to the stench of formaldehyde pretty quickly though, but having activated charcoal odour neutralisers around works better (and didn’t trigger my migraines. I hate menthol)

    7. NotThatLucinda*

      I agree. I don’t think anyone is doing this on purpose, and I have very little patience for adults who can’t just politely ignore this kind of thing. Even as a non-farter in this meeting, this kind of side-eyeing between colleagues would make me think less of everyone doing it. I would think of the colleagues doing it as immature. Just ignore it and go about your day. Don’t be rude, yourself, by making a big deal of it. Certainly don’t try to pinpoint and address the person who is farting — that would be mortifying to your colleague.

      Maybe I’m being overly harsh — I just feel really strongly that people should be polite in the igface of faux-pas, and the polite thing to do is ignore it.

      1. Data Analyst*

        I agree – the fixation in the letter on finding out WHO did it, who is making possibly suspicious faces, and the thought that someone else farting in a meeting could have a negative impact on their career development, all read as immature and a little mean-spirited.

    8. Sharrbe*

      She’s probably thinking back to grade school days. When certain kids would make a big deal of farting on purpose.

    9. H.Regalis*

      Yeah, same. I’m rolling my eyes at the OP’s pearl-clutching description of it. My money’s on a medical issue, and while it might deeply offend some people, human bodies sometimes make weird sounds and are stinky. I really, really doubt whoever’s farting all the time is doing it to be a mischievous little imp. They probably feel like crap and are desperately hoping they don’t get caught.

  8. PeanutButter*

    When Smell-O-Vision finally gets invented I’m going to have a hard time in Zoom meetings, because my cat who likes sleeping beneath the webcam really elevates “silent but deadly” to a new level. At least with his snoring I can use my boom mic to avoid the buzz-snort.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      My tiny dog’s farts are literally the worst thing I’ve ever smelled. Like a dead body got dredged from the river and then set on fire. She is ALSO a sleep farter and likes to snooze and fart in my lap, so I’m a captive audience.

      1. Debbie*

        I have a 12 pounder who can make your eyes water. I think their small size concentrates them.

        1. Rainy*

          My dachshund isn’t super farty thank goodness (though he has a real weakness for cheese, and if he manages to get some the gas is *spectacular*) but when he is he really really is. We say that he has 30% more room for farts than the average dog.

    2. Phony Genius*

      Check with your vet. Their food may be irritating their digestive systems, requiring a change to something more benign. (That goes for dog owners, too.)

      1. PeanutButter*

        He’s diabetic, it’s insulin farts. Like clockwork, 2-4 hours after his shot. Since I got him on a better insulin (the shelter had him on Novolin N which is very harsh for cats) they have gone down significantly. They’re actually a pretty good indicator for me that I need to do a glucose curve and adjust his dose if they show up outside of that window. XD

        1. Megabeth*

          Today I learned about insulin farts – my vet said nothing about this when my cat was diagnosed! My cat’s death farts can peel the paint from the walls. We know that she can’t help it, but good grannies, that’s a lot of stink for a 9 pound cat.

          1. PeanutButter*

            I’ve seen a lot of speculation about why some people/animals get a big uptick in flatulence with insulin, but the one that makes the most sense to me is that basically the bacteria in the gut are getting fluctuating levels of carbohydrates as the insulin takes full effect and then wears off over 8 hours, which causes them to release different byproducts of metabolism, some of which can cause extra gas build up.

      2. PeanutButter*

        Oh and he also has no teeth so he swallows a lot of air when eating, no matter how much water I add.

        1. Leems*

          There’s another one out there! My Mycroft is another toothless diabetic kitty, with the added joy of a bit of heart disease.

          1. PeanutButter*

            Sugar kitty solidarity! I adopted my guy + his brother at the beginning of April. Something I’ve learned in the last two months has definitely been that sometimes you just have to accept the unfortunate side-effects of taking care of another ailment when you have a special-needs pet. Yes, the insulin/low-carb food toots are room-clearing, and after starting him on B12 his urine is pretty piquant as well…but his activity level and playfulness are head and shoulders above where it was when I first brought him home. I thought I was going to get a senior cat to provide a year or two of cushy retirement for. But he’s perking up so much I’m thinking the timeline is going to be longer if he keeps going like this!

      3. CommanderBanana*

        She’s otherwise got a great tummy – super regular, normal poos, etc. – just a stinky farter. Her big sister is a loud but not smelly farter, she’s a silent but deadly farter. And she gets VERY offended if you call her Stinky Butt.

    3. Delta Delta*

      I have a cat whose farts were so bad I once called my husband in from another room specifically so he could smell it. We’ve since changed the kitty food and that seems to have helped.

      1. PeanutButter*

        He’s diabetic, so we’re pretty locked into very low carb food – in his case, chicken and liver Friskies pate keep his glucose level the most stable. I can deal with stinky insulin poots bc it’s so obvious he is feel much better since getting him off the stuff the shelter sent with him.

    4. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      Our dog was sleeping under the covers while Hubby napped one day. Hubby released one of his more loud and lethal explosions, then I heard a muffled “Wwwuuuggghhh” sound from under the covers and the little dog came staggering out, looking like something had hit him on the head. The death glare look he gave Hubby was priceless.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I am thinking of the time my by then elderly dog scared herself with a sudden round of fire. She leaped up so fast she hit her head on the underside of the coffee table, and then glared at my mother like it was her fault. Or maybe it was because Mom was laughing so hard.

      2. allathian*

        OMG! It’s funny to think that dogs can find some smells unpleasant, given the kind of stuff they love sniffing at.

        I hope you don’t share a duvet…

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I swear the husband unit and the cat engage in a nightly contest of ‘who can get Keymaster to gag’.

      4. MissBaudelaire*

        I used to have a dog that was part Beagle. He liked to lay with you if you laid on your side and bent your knees, so he could lay in the crook of your knees? It was cute. Well one day, my Mom farted while he was laying with her. He lifted his head up, looked at her straight in the eye, then flopped over like he had died.

  9. Rainy*

    Other ideas for mitigating the smell–find a scented lip balm and apply it before the meetings. Wear a mask. Take a cup of strongly scented tea with you and sip when the flatulence becomes overwhelming. Maybe the company could spring for those charcoal seat cushions for the conference room!

    In general I think that Alison is right–this is likely to be, not a choice, but a medical condition and so fairly uncontrollable.

          1. John Smith*

            Same! This happened in one of our meetings. The culprit, a burly Yorkshire lad with the grace and dignity of an alleycat on heat (and generally all round one of the nicest people I’ve ever met) simply but his hand up to interrupt the meeting and said “Sorry boys and girls, I’ve let one rip and it’s a baddun!” then proceeded to open the doors and windows while wafting his meeting papers to try disperse the smell. In the next meeting, the first thing he did on arrival was to place a can of air freshener on the table, saying “just in case!”. He did also buy us all some lovely cakes as well to apologise.

            1. Hills to Die on*

              “with the grace and dignity of an alleycat on heat (and generally all round one of the nicest people I’ve ever met)”: I would swear I know him except for the Yorkshire part. lol.

              1. anon*

                Hah. I live and work in Yorkshire. I can absolutely imagine this happening, and it’s making me snicker!

                1. Watching the Detectives*

                  Was the lad’s name Dickon, by any chance? And did he make friends wi’ all th’ animals on th’ moor????

      1. Forty Years in the Hole*

        Absolutely Vick’s! Or any menthol balm. Used it during military has hit training.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Dunno if you have things like Fisherman’s Friend in the US (very strong aniseed lozenges) but having one of those in your gob in the labs worked better than the menthol. Alternatively eat wasabi.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Face masks to the rescue! I like it. And I think I have tried the Vicks thing in meetings before. (Or at least came prepared with the Vicks.)

    2. Jedi Sentinel Bird*

      In the past ,working in retail, I had to deal with customers who smelled so terrible either from BO or from flatulence. Some of those people were so bad that the smell would linger once they left the area. What greatly helped me was to have a Ricola. All I could smell was peppermint. It didn’t take all the way the smell but it helped to minimize it. It might help you to just have a regular peppermint or something that will help you focus away from the flatulence. My condolences to you.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I worked in the health and beauty section of a retail store. It was a nightmare when people would come in and “test” every scent of Axe body spray on the shelf. You would walk down that aisle after and nearly get knocked of your feet by the cloud of odor. It was awful and would give me the worst headache. I occasionally had the smelly person ask for help…but that Axe was the WORST!

        1. Artemesia*

          I was walking about 15 feet behind a couple of teen boys the other day and I could smell their Axe from there. I am so glad that during the days I taught high school this stuff had not been invented.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            But the other option with teen boys, in my experience at least, is pungent BO. It’s really a no win.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              BO is nasty….but Axe triggers my migraines, so I’ll take the nasty BO and bring up the subject of soap & foot/pit powder.

            2. SnappinTerrapin*

              When I worked in a middle school, that wasn’t an “either/or;” it was “and.”

      2. RosyGlasses*

        This is similar to when dental assistants or hygienists suck on an altoid when working on particularly smelly or abscessed teeth!

    3. PeanutButter*

      There are also various menthol-ated chapstick type things available now, so you don’t even have to be obvious about the Vick’s specifically.

      1. Terry*

        I’ve definitely rescued myself from some office lunchmeat smells by popping a mentholyptus lozenge.

    4. cat lady*

      I never knew charcoal seat cushions were a thing, but that is GENIUS! Some combination of taking more breaks and getting an air purifier seems to be best practice for a number of reasons, but the charcoal seat cushions as a third line of defense would definitely ensure no more smells!

    5. Dusting My Own Crops*

      Those charcoal seat cushions are a LIFESAVER! I suffer from IBS and have to fart very often, so I have one on my office chair. Considering how inexpensive they are, it makes sense to have them for everyone if there is an issue.

      1. cat lady*

        I feel like they should just be standard issue with all office chairs from now on!

      2. Anon for Today*

        There’s also “Subtle Butt” which is underwear with a charcoal pad in the but.

    6. kristinyc*

      Hand sanitizer (some of them smell…very much like vodka, or maybe get one with a nicer scent) and face masks! Which… I hope are part of these meetings anyway.

      But also like – the idea that someone can control this is wild to me. Even if it’s not a serious medical condition. It’s just… how bodies work. My two year old farts all the time, and he finally learned the word “toot” to announce it to us.

    7. Soph*

      When I worked in the Veterinary field, I had a coworker who was very sensitive to smells and would chew Big Red gum (often while wearing a mask as well) to drown out odors. Gum is probably not a great option in a formal meeting, but cinnamon Altoids or tea may work just as well.

      1. Self Employed*

        Sugar-free gum could be the cause of the farts, if they’re sweetened with sorbitol etc. that we can’t metabolize but gut bacteria can.

    8. pancakes*

      A nice, smokey cup of lapsang souchong for the letter writer to hold and sip slowly is just the thing for these meetings.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I got banned from drinking that at work :(

        (To be fair, you could smell my tea a mile off. I drink Yunnan province tea now which is still a smoky taste but the smell doesn’t seem to carry as far. Expensive stuff though. I love being in tech but having people around who root through cabling for a living can result in body odours)

  10. Speaks to Dragonflies*

    I’m sorry, but this made me bust a gut laughing. I know it’s serious, but dangit. Could you maybe get one of those plug in air freshener/ filter things that plug into a power outlet? Would it even help? Is it so odiferous that if you had cinnamon and pine scented fresheners, it’d smell like they crapped Christmas?

      1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

        If you mean the kind you spray into the bowl, like poo-pore, I think they only work on what goes in the bowl.Kinda like shields on the Enterprise,only reversed. Keeps things in instead of out.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      Layering on scents that could be problematic for some people (e.g. triggering migraines) doesn’t seem like it’s likely to be very helpful here. Better ventilation would be a great option, but much harder to implement.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Exactly. Adding more odor to the room isn’t a great solution. Air filtration is a much better suggestion!

      2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Amen on the migraines, and some of us are allergic to scented products as well. Spraying a lot of scented stuff in a room with me (or someone like me) in it can result in some pretty intense sneezing.

        You could be solving the smell problem but creating another kind of disruption at the same time, lol!

    2. Bye Academia*

      Please, no. Adding an artificial scent on top of an already-foul odor will just make things worse. Anyone who gets nauseated easily or is prone to headaches will be even more miserable.

      Go for an odor eliminator first, like some kind of air purifier or ozone device.

        1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

          Gotta throw in some good ol’ hydrogen sulfide for good measure. Just be sure there aren’t any open flames or sparks.

          1. SarahKay*

            And now I’m remembering the letter about the guy in the bathroom that didn’t just light a match to dispel the smell; he lit a whole wad of paper towels and came out of the bathroom on a waft of smoke and ashes!

        2. I Laugh At Inappropriate Times*

          I picked up some orange scented air freshener for the office, thinking it would be a refreshing change. Now, the office just often smells like…..shitrus.

      1. Lacey*

        Yes. I’ve had some very flatulent coworkers in the past. It only happened in the restroom, but we only had two restrooms. Every one in my office seemed to believe than the answer was heavy amounts of scented spray, which always brought me to the verge of vomiting.

        1. Smelly partner*

          My loving fiance sometimes has stomach issues that end up making our bathroom smell horrible. When we first moved in together, he would spray SO MUCH air freshener that it would make me gag. I had to explain that it just layered on top of the smell and made it worse, and that he should just run the fan and ventilate it instead. I am so thankful that he doesn’t do that anymore.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            I know exactly when someone has used the men’s restroom for a #2 because I can smell the Febreeze spray they keep in there waft down the hallway and into my office. It gives me a headache :( I bought an air filter for my office just because of that, and it does help.

          2. Chinook*

            Poopoori is your friend, then. Speak of Dragonflies is right – when put in the bowl first, it shields the smell from leaving the water. Unfortunately, any smells emitted before it hits the water still stay free.

        2. DarthVelma*

          My mother’s response to that kind of thing “It smells like someone shitted a pine tree in here.”

    3. Been There*

      My mother likes to refer to my clean linen scented bathroom spray affectionately as “someone pooing a dryer sheet”. They don’t often help and sometimes make things worse!

    4. lemon meringue*

      I want to see the LW bring a book of matches to each meeting. Every time an offence occurs, she can silently strike a match and hold it aloft until it burns itself out. When the matchbook is done, the meeting ends.

    5. Self Employed*

      Please don’t use air fresheners. They trigger migraines and asthma attacks for those of us who get them, and are unhealthy in general. Particularly in an enclosed area.

    6. Spice for this*

      Very serious especially in the type of serious meeting and yet very funny. I like all the ideas on how to combat the smelly problem.

  11. Womanaroundtown*

    I just want to add, that someone farting should in no way interfere with your ambitions, but should you try to police it, your actions could be the interference you seem to be concerned about. Most reasonable adults understand that medical issues can cause unpleasant side effects and will deal it as they have been doing – politely ignoring. If your organization is otherwise doing good work, it would be an absurd response for a client to cut ties over an issue like this one. Let it go – this doesn’t concern you at all.

    1. Free Meerkats*

      I guarantee if you try to police this, you will forever be known as the Fart Police. Even after you leave, tales of the Fart Police Woman will persist in company lore and legend.

      I just gave some history on a previous job (I left there 35 years ago) to the current head of the program and she commented on some of the people who had legendary status there, including someone who left there before I did; No one in that office was there when it all happened, yet the legend lives on. Be a legend for good reasons, not bad.

      1. Your Friend from Chicago*

        The Dream Police, they live inside of my head
        The Fart Police, they live in the other end

      2. onco fonco*

        Yes! We’ve had at least one letter here about a coworker trying to hunt down the office pooper, and the problem person in that situation was not the pooper.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Dying here, people – the Frozen song has major potential for a fart-themed parody, though…

  12. DCompliance*

    OP sounds as though someone is intentionally doing this. I know a lot of people were raised to think that passing is gas is rude, but it truly may be a medical condition which I think is more often the case compared to rudeness.

    1. BadApple*

      Honestly, I think OP is just anxious about their big meetings / project. It’ll work out OP, people have been farting since the dawn of time…

  13. Rey*

    You say that these meetings let all afternoon. Is it possible that someone with a medical condition who can typically use the bathroom whenever they have this problem just doesn’t feel comfortable excusing themselves in hour 3 of such an important meeting? When we had a multi-hour meeting and I was aware of someone who was pregnant but didn’t want to make her the center of attention, we just added a 5 minute break to the meeting agenda. And of course, other attendees were also able to feel more comfortable with a scheduled break.

    1. IndustriousLabRat*

      I love the idea of a Facilities Break every hour. And the farter will probably welcome it as well. I mean, this is a good idea even WITHOUT the tooting issue.

      It might also be better to hold these meetings before lunch- but if I were the LW, I’d wait for someone else to suggest that, for the reasons already mentioned in Alison’s reply, and by the commenters.

      1. cat lady*

        and breaks can also be for tea/coffee, blowing your nose, stretching your legs, sneaking in a few emails, etc– the benefits are manifold!

    2. TPS reporter*

      Exactly what I was thinking. It’s pretty torturous to sit for 3 hours for many reasons, I’m sure that breaks could liven up the proceedings and make for a fresher experience.

    3. Yes Yes Yes*

      We call them “bio breaks” and they can be for anything from stretching your legs to grabbing some water.

      1. Princess Pretty Pants*

        Yep, I have a coworker who calls them that and when I schedule our interviews (usually a half day of panels for interviewees) I always schedule in a bio break. Without them scheduled they do not happen.

        And it could also help freshen up the room which with the pandemic I think some would welcome, an air purifier or other air circulator with a filter added too… and hopefully that will help this issue.

        But thank you for the laugh, I literally cried laughing and needed it… Folks today have gone all goat rodeo here!

    4. theletter*

      +1

      My first reaction to this was “clearly, not enough breaks built into the agenda.” Meetings shouldn’t go longer than 45 minutes without at least a 5 minute stop.

  14. Sara without an H*

    they are simply being polite and professional by ignoring it.

    And that’s what you should do, too, OP. Just ignore it. As Alison says, it isn’t your problem.

  15. Nobby Nobbs*

    See if you can find a better-ventilated meeting room, for “COVID compliance,” I guess? Otherwise I’m at a loss. Seconding Alison’s assumption that they aren’t doing it on purpose. Gas happens.

  16. Lilac*

    My best solution here is a few “we’ll take a break now” situations. If it’s one of the junior people, they may not feel comfortable leaving the room for a restroom visit.

    1. RVA Cat*

      This. Everyone would appreciate having breaks!
      Also have an air purifier in the room.

  17. Silent but violent*

    Sounds like you think that they are being intentionally rude, trying to disrespect you or the project or the client or something. I have been known to accidently aerosolize the bedroom with noxious, silent farts and not even know it was me! They are likely not trying to be rude.

    1. Catalin*

      >and not even know it was me!

      Um, how many people are in that bedroom with you?
      I’m hoping it’s because you have four dogs, a hamster and a ferret in there with you…

  18. Payroll Lady*

    I do have a condition that causes this to happen, without warning, and sometimes loud as well as smelly. It’s very embarrassing and I’ve been lucky not to be in meetings when it’s bad. If I have an inkling this is going to happen then I ask to call in – my boss (owner) knows the issues, so if I’m asking, she grants permission! I don’t know if this possible your type of meetings and I would have no idea how to have it brought up, especially with Senior mgmt not addressing it… good luck! Sorry I don’t have any help for you but I understand both sides of this one!

  19. BRR*

    I think it’s helpful to remember LW that they’re not farting at you. As in, their passing gas isn’t being done to undermine your work or the client relationship. And when you’re saying they’re acting unprofessionally, there’s not really a way to control the smell. This isn’t the same as someone flossing or clipping their nails in a meeting.

    1. Chickiepunk*

      ” they’re not farting at you” Right?! Is farting on command even a thing?

        1. Campfire Raccoon*

          As the oldest sister, I take offence to this. I can weaponize just about any bodily function.

        2. Chinook*

          Or anyone on a high protein diet like my husband (who has weaponized it at our animals).

  20. Hills to Die on*

    Ultimate passive-aggressive moves you could try:
    1. Make a show of gagging and retching?
    2. Demand that the eater of the magical fruit immediately stand up and leave the meeting?
    3. Turn on a very loud box fan and give everyone dirty looks while waving it around the room?
    4. Buy (and expense!) beano and gas-x for everyone, pass around the conference room in decorative basket?

    1. Hills to Die on*

      6. Get a canary in one of those round-top cages. Bring to meeting and announce loudly that if the bird dies, the meeting is over. Glare at participants so that they know you mean business.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Do I even have to read anymore comments after this one? I don’t think anything can top the canary. OP, if you do it, please get a video. (also don’t actually do it)

      2. Jess*

        7. Leave brochures for charcoal lined underwear in the restrooms? (yes they are real, they sell them on Amazon)

      3. DaisyQueen*

        Hills to Die on, you’re my new best friend and worst enemy. I was trying not to laugh too loud but my shaking shoulders and tears streaming from my eyes betrayed me. Then I had to answer the phone trying to sound professional. The picture in my head of someone standing next to a canary cage frowning at everyone just sent me over the edge!

      4. Keymaster of Gozer*

        You ever wanna work in IT in the (UK) gimme a call. I love your mind.

    2. Hills to Die on*

      5. Suggest calisthenics to begin every meeting and include clenching butt cheeks to strengthen muscles needed to hold that methane goodness in.

      1. No Tribble At All*

        No, No, most stretching and calisthenics will make things worse! There’s a reason Downward Dog is known as the “breaking wind” yoga pose!

        … you could have the mandatory yoga right before the meeting, so everyone can get all their gases out.

        1. JSPA*

          There was an Almodovar film where one person suffers from social and romantic anxiety due to intestinal gas, until taught to do three quick squats, followed by something that’s sort of a cross between downward dog and scrubbing the floor position, before heading out the door. This is socially transformative, and even as the movie becomes more madcap and people dash around, there are pauses in the action for a very quick, “squat-squat-squat butt-up.” Which film, I couldn’t tell you, and google’s not telling me. It was the era of “women on the verge of a nervous breakdown,” “law of desire” and “tie me up, tie me down.” Almodovar is not work-appropriate, so you can’t have a film festival to spread the idea.

          But they do make activated charcoal press-ins for underwear. If one knew which boss it was, and if one had access to drop a discrete package at their desk without being noticed, perhaps it would help?

          1. allathian*

            Hardly, given that it’s such a formal environment. Even in a less formal environment, I guess it wouldn’t fly unless you were on really good terms with the boss in question. In this case, they don’t even know who the culprit is, and maybe that’s just as well…

    3. irene adler*

      One can light a match or two to cover the smell. Or hand out packets of matches to all attendees.

      Course that might bring on another set of issues.

    4. MissCoco*

      I’m voting for the decorative basket of gas medications! You can add in little scent-minimizers like vapo-rub, mint chapstick, or mini-bottles of febreeze to encourage the gassy to feel comfortable partaking of your wares.

      What about those fancy activated-charcoal underpants that promise to minimize the smell of farts?
      Pass those out at the end of a day and say underwear requirements have been added to the dress code from here on out.

      For a really classy touch maybe some car air-freshener earrings?

      1. Funny Cide*

        I like the idea of a little decorative basket being modeled after the baskets of menstrual products you see in restrooms sometimes – usually labeled as “help yourself” or sometimes with a cheeky little poem but always typed in Comic Sams and cut out with those weird scallop-y craft scissors everyone had in the 90s/early 2000s

  21. Susie Q*

    They aren’t passing gas to be rude. The vast majority of people can not help it. And getting so hung up on flatulence is very immature to me.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      Amen to this. I have never heard someone calling an ordinary digestive function “rude” before, so this letter had me pretty confused. I mean, if someone’s stomach growled, would that be considered “rude”? Passing gas is a thing that happens, usually with little to no warning — if you are a person who can control it or time it or get up and leave a room before it happens, bully for you — but I agree with Susie Q that for most people it isn’t something that people can control.

      1. Jennifer*

        Really? I know there are people with digestive issues, but is that the majority of the population? I think a lot of people can hold it in until they are away from other people. I always thought of it as similar to using the restroom, totally natural but for an appropriate time and place.

        Lol not sure how true this is but I read an article saying that most people fart once they walk out of the office for the day. I chuckle thinking of all of the people farting in unison.

        1. LadyByTheLake*

          Honestly, it is inconceivable to me that someone could time or suppress their farts any more than they could time or suppress their stomach growling, and I don’t have any digestive issues that I’m aware of. I guess I learned something new today — that this is something that some people can do!

          1. MissDisplaced*

            Yes, you can suppress your urge to fart! At least for a little while. As with most bodily functions, we have some degree of control over them, until the urge grows too strong and then your bodily survival instinct kicks in.
            This level of regular sustained silent-but-deadly flatulence is NOT an ordinary digestive function any more. Likely it’s also not intentional. Build in some bio-breaks every hour or so!

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Bio breaks probably won’t help in this situation. I had SBDs for years and kept trying to figure out WHAT on earth was causing them. Going to the bathroom made zero difference; it wasn’t because I needed a restroom break that was causing the issue, it was just smelly-ness coming out of my body. (Finally mentioned it to my doctor and he said, probably lactose intolerance, and it was GAME CHANGING. But it went on for YEARS and was quite embarrassing.)

          2. Mango Tango*

            Are you…. in the US? I’m wondering if this could be cultural because I have never heard anyone say this. Most people can and do hold gas and belches most of the time, medical conditions excepted. It it not normal to just let one rip wherever and whenever you happen to be and I am stunned someone thinks that.

            1. rubble*

              what do you do to hold it in, do you clench the same muscles that you’d clench to stop yourself pooing? I’m not from the US, and I have never heard anyone say they could control their farts. now I’m wondering if I could teach myself to do it…..

        2. JSPA*

          OK, I did the numbers geek dive on this just for you,

          “Flatus incontinence is the most common type of anal incontinence, with a prevalence estimated at approximately 33% of the general adult population”

          in the paper,
          “Efficacy of antibiotherapy for treating flatus incontinence associated with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: A pilot randomized trial”

          and that figure is referenced as,

          Damon H., Guye O., Seigneurin A., Long F., Sonko A., Faucheron JL, et al. Prevalence of anal incontinence in adults and impact on quality-of-life. Gastroenterol Clin Biol. 2006; 30: 37–43. pmid:16514381

          So as far as a problem bad enough to count as a medical issue: 30 of adults. As far as a problem that hits quite a few people periodically–and for owners of a cycling uterus, “periodically” can be literally the key–I’d be surprised if those numbers didn’t pass 50%. So while it’s perhaps not “most people,” it’s a lot of people. Another thing to be thankful for, if you never considered the possibility. Or another thing to look forward to upon aging, as (along with age-related lactose intolerance and other food intolerances) it’s probably more common with age.

        3. Anon4This*

          I don’t have digestive issues, but I do have childbirth-related scar tissue that has reduced my ability clench enough to keep gas in. Fortunately, not having digestive issues, I’m not constantly farting, but, if I need to during a meeting, I can’t just “hold it in” and running for the door will only result in a crop dust. From an informal poll of mom-friends, this isn’t terribly uncommon. The older one gets, the less control one has over those muscles for a variety of reasons. Believe me, I wish “just hold it in” was an option for me, but it’s not. I don’t pass gas to end a meeting, I can’t help it and don’t feel like I should have to explain the genesis of this to coworkers.

          1. Jennifer*

            That question was meant for people who do have the ability to hold it in, not for people who have an issue that is beyond their control.

            I still think the vast majority of people are able to hold it in until they are away from a group of people. If not, we’d just be smelling people’s farts all day at work or really in any public place.

            1. nonegiven*

              I assume most of them don’t smell that bad or make much noise. You are breathing farts all day and don’t know it.

        4. Mannequin*

          Once I got into my 40s, it became very difficult to hold a fart in anymore. Best I can do these days is just hope I can keep it from being noisy.

      2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        Many decades ago, I arrived a few minutes late to a wedding. Boyfriend and I luckily found a back pew and quietly slid in. Then my stomach started growling. At first, just the people in the few rows in front of us glanced back. Then it got louder. And louder. The bride’s and groom’s families were glaring at me. Then the bride and groom and minister. It finally subsided and the ceremony continued. If I’d been a little older and experienced in handling situations like that, I’d have stepped outside. But at the time, I just stood there sounding like an angry lion and feeling mortified. But I must say, between that and giving birth in a teaching hospital where entire classes came in to look at my crotch, it cured my shyness.

      3. Maggie*

        Really? You’ve never heard someone mention that farting in a room with other people is rude? I believe you but I find it kind of shocking. If most people can’t control it- than wouldn’t offices just be a chorus of farts that constantly smelled? Most people can and do hold their farts in.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          When I had farting issues, it was absolute not possible to hold them in. I had a digestion issue and I could not control it. Regular farts can be held in, sure, but these were by no means regular farts.

      4. Confused*

        Gas stinks. It’s generally kinda rude to stink around people, even if it’s just B.O.

  22. I'm just here for the cats*

    Why do people automatically assume that if someone passes gas they are doing it deliberately and that it’s just not something that they can control? I could see if someone was farting and making noise when a particular person was talking. But this doesn’t seem to be the issue. It sounds like someone has a medical condition that causes them to be gassy. Leave it alone, stop trying to find the culprit. If anything, maybe you can ask for breaks when you have such long meetings?

    1. ObservantServant*

      I know someone who has been with their spouse 10+ years but tells me they have never once farted in their spouse’s presence and never would. Same people?

      1. JillianNicola*

        I don’t understand how that’s even tenable. You marry/stay with someone for the comfort and security, to be able to be extremely and messily human no matter what. If someone is going to be incapable of letting me fart in my own home around them, then that someone is going to be single real quick lol.

        1. ObservantServant*

          This was entirely on the farter though. They just couldn’t imagine doing so and controlled it…somehow. Control freak pretty much sums up various aspects of their personality though so it makes sense. Spouse was much more laid back and couldn’t have cared less if anyone farted around them.

    2. basically gods*

      I assume they’re the same people who are set off by people who dare to POOP in PUBLIC RESTROOMS. I guess they missed the memo re: everyone pooping. They made a whole book about it!

      1. JillianNicola*

        Oh god when I worked at red big box retail, someone complained to me at the service desk that the women’s restroom smelled like poop. I was like, okay? They said, aren’t you going to do anything about it? I said, I mean that’s the correct place for those kinds of smells, and at least it’s not the fitting room again. They looked at me in horror and walked off. *shrug*
        (Side note while not being able to try stuff on in store during Covid has been inconvenient, knowing exactly what horrors happen in public fitting rooms I ain’t mad about it!!)

      2. Sharrbe*

        Oh my gosh yes. When I was living in a dorm my first year of college, there were two girls who would complain that people had the audacity to poop when someone else was in there. Made me paranoid, me being an introvert and away from home for the first time. I thought I was lacking in proper bathroom etiquette.

      3. Self Employed*

        I volunteered at a biology makerspace and got migraines from the huge quantity of air freshener the manager used (a whole bouquet of reed diffusers in a single-person restroom). I asked if we could get rid of them so I would stop getting headaches. She said “but then the bathroom will smell like POOP!” I answered that yeah, bathrooms smell like poop sometimes and people who are paying for biology projects like culturing bacteria for fun are probably less offended than restaurant patrons would be. I got fired as a volunteer for insubordination.

  23. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    COVID gives you a great excuse to hold these meetings outdoors! See if your office has access to a deck or a nearby park — the change of scene might even help spark new innovations.

    1. Lana Kane*

      When our department moved to work from home, “my own private bathroom” was probably the #1 item in the “Pros” list.

      1. BeenThere*

        I’m so worried about returning the office now my body expects it’s own dedicated toilet 24/7, add bowel surgery during the pandemic on top of that and I start to get a little terrified.

  24. raincoaster*

    I bet it’s my roommate. He farts and burps so much I’m tempted to hack his Google Home to tweet every time he does it.

  25. it's me*

    I know myself well enough to know I’d be distracted by this too, but OP, how would that conversation even go? “[Boss], I’m concerned that someone keeps farting in the Xyz recurring meeting”? In terms of actions, what would the boss(es) do here? What if it WAS a boss who was doing the farting?

    1. it's me*

      All right, fair enough — casual suggestion for more “bio breaks” is probably the way to go here. Just don’t add “Because of all the farting.”

    2. LizM*

      If an employee brought this to me, I’d be so tempted to just say, “He who smelt it, dealt it.”

      And yes, I am a 10 year old at heart.

      I mean, what is a manager supposed to do? Pull each person in the meeting into their office and interrogate them on how many beans they eat? Or wait for them to fart?

      The bottom line is, the person farting knows they’re farting. And they’re probably embarrassed. When I was pregnant, I had horrific gas. The worst part was, if I was sitting, the act of standing up to go to the bathroom would cause me to let one rip, and it’d be a lot louder than if I stayed sitting. It stunk (figuratively and literally), and if someone had taken the time to figure out who was farting and then *talked to me about it* I probably would have died of embarrassment on the spot. Really, the only thing you can do is have enough breaks and politely pretend you don’t realize it’s happening. Or get an air purifier.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        I likely would have had an episode of either vertigo or vomiting, given the pregnancy. Likely on their shoes.

    3. Guacamole Bob*

      If OP absolutely feels she has to address it, I’d go with “could we move the X meeting to a different conference room? The room we’ve been using can get pretty stuffy over such a long meeting so Y alternative room [which has better ventilation] might be more comfortable.”

      Only really plausible if the room also gets hot when full of people for a long meeting, as many of the rooms in my office do (mostly interior, no windows that open). But we have a terrible HVAC system and have outgrown the building so we often have too many people for the space so it’s not an unreasonable thing to suggest for key meetings.

  26. IBS and the Silent Trumpet*

    I think as others have already suggested, just opening a window, using an air purifier, or some other kind of non-scented but gentle ventilation technique (or the one suggestion of either building in breaks, or scheduling the meeting before the consumption of food, rather than after) is really all you can do, OP. But I can most assuredly promise you that me and all the other people with medical conditions that make us not able to control this as well as we’d like are most definitely not doing this on purpose or to ruin anyone’s prospects of success at work!

  27. R*

    The air purifier is a great idea. If you’re going to get one, I recommend one with a large activated charcoal filter. That’s what you need to control odors. AustinAir is a great brand for this but they are not cheap.

    1. mf*

      Agree. If anyone notices it, you can blame it on allergies. “Oh, the air purifier is for me. I get terrible allergies this time of year.”

    2. The Rural Juror*

      I bought a pretty generic air filter, but added the thin charcoal liner in front of the standard filter cartridge. It works wonders to filter out the strong smell of cleaning supplies in my office. Hasn’t been fart-tested, though…

    3. Self Employed*

      Alen is not cheap but they’re super quiet. I don’t know how they’re priced vs. AustinAir but I have one rated for a 900 sqft room that was about $450 with a charcoal filter and it’s probably about as loud as a regular AC vent on high. (And by “charcoal filter” I don’t mean something that looks like a black scouring pad–it has a compartment full of a few pounds of pellets that look like pure black poppyseeds.) For about $50 extra, you can get a decorative front panel to match your conference room decor.

  28. Dark Macadamia*

    It’s not rude or unprofessional to have a body, even a stinky one. It’s both hilarious and confusing that this LW is so horrified about someone farting silently and everyone pretending not to notice. That’s what you’re supposed to do!

    LW, your boss stinks and isn’t going to change :)

    1. Heidi*

      I appreciate that last remark more than you’ll ever know.

      I also agree. The only really professional thing to do is to forge on and pretend it never happened like the other seniors are doing. People reveal a lot of who they are by how they handle adversity, setbacks, and nuisances. Keeping your focus through a storm of farts is just another way of being a mature professional. Besides, what are you going to say to management? Everyone knows it’s happening already. Unless you want to propose outfitting the whole room with one of those air filtration systems that they use in autopsy suites.

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      That’s exactly what i think…if none of the top level executives have said a word, it’s probably because one of them is the source.

      Don’t do this: You could doing break out groups and suss out who is present when the fart occurs.

  29. fposte*

    I feel like an obvious solution is being missed here: someone needs to bring a dog to the meetings. Then all smells can be blamed on the dog.

    1. LizM*

      Growing up, my parents’ dog had the magical ability of throwing her farts to where ever my mom was sitting. Even if the dog was in another room or we weren’t home.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I was on a first date once where we somehow ended up at his place watching a movie. (Nothing else happened. I watched Blue Velvet and went home. Saw the film a few more times, never saw the guy again.) His two large dogs were in the room with us. At one point, my date paused the movie to explain that it was one of his dogs that had just farted, and not him. In hindsight, this was one of the most perfect dates I’ve had. Y’all should’ve seen those dogs, they were adorable. Definite yes from me to bringing a dog to all the meetings.

    3. Damn it, Hardison!*

      My cat would be happy to volunteer. She is small but her smell is mighty.

    4. Funny Cide*

      Partner and I consistently blame ours on the cats. I might have the humor of a 12 year old but it’s extremely funny to me to have one of us rip a big one and blame it on the little 9-pound very prissy princess who might not even be in the room.

    5. pagooey*

      I worked with a blind woman whose lovely, brilliant guide dog would lie under the conference table and let ’em rip. Vile and hilarious. The dog would also snore loudly during particularly dull meetings; 14/10, goodest girl ever.

  30. Jovigirl*

    I’m always amazed at how offended people get over passing gas. It’s not fun for anyone but it’s natural and can’t always be helped. Living with a digestive disorder is embarrassing enough without having to be shamed for it. How about a little empathy for the poor guy.

  31. Dr. Rebecca*

    Going to disagree slightly with the commenters who say that the LW seems to think that the farter is doing it on purpose. “Not on purpose” isn’t the same as “without foreknowledge or warning” and generally (not always, don’t bite my face off) the body gives various warnings which they could heed. I think I would probably clench myself into next week, (or excuse myself, no matter how junior), rather than be the SBD farter in multiple high-level meetings.

    1. mf*

      Disagree. As someone who’s had digestive issues in the past and who tends to be gassy due to a previous surgery, I usually get 3-5 seconds of warning. Not enough time for me to excuse myself from an important meeting.

        1. mf*

          My digestive issues are the kind that are super common. So when you say “not always,” what you should be saying is “not always and sometimes not at all for large portion of the population.”

      1. Self Employed*

        I very, very rarely get enough warning to do anything. I don’t think leaping out of your chair and letting it rip on the way to the door is better than sitting and pretending it isn’t happening.

    2. Lily Rose*

      I think the warning signals are what enable the person to do it silently. I am actually pretty impressed they have been able to do it without a sound every. single. time!

      1. BRR*

        That’s my conclusion as well. The story I’ve made up in my head is the farter is actually being the opposite of rude by muffling the sound. And everyone else is being polite by ignoring it.

      2. allathian*

        Yes, this. If they tried to hold it in, it might work for a while, but then it might be loud as well as stinky.

    3. Fartfire Raccoon*

      Yeah no. I’ve had big babies and there’s damage. I don’t always have warning, never mind if I sneeze or cough.

      I’ve also had an admin and later a boss who’ve had gastric bypass surgery. Both had terrible issues with gas and would little or no warning. They were both open about their struggles and no one cared. Holding it would not have helped and would have caused them pain.

    4. Littorally*

      Right. Like, I enjoy a good salad for lunch but I def would not have a bowl of shredded brussels sprouts and cabbage in the day or two before a big meeting.

    5. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      Besides various health issues, just aging causes the sphincter and butt muscles to be less efficient. If Silent Skunk is one of the senior executives, it’s quite possible he’s older.

  32. Campfire Raccoon*

    It doesn’t sound like anyone is releasing the kraken on purpose, and (I know I have the maturity of a 12 year old) farts are funny. They will never not be funny.

    Just don’t chew gum during the meeting. You don’t want any poop mist messing up the flavor.

      1. Campfire Raccoon*

        It’s the same advice I give to people when they have to clean a chicken coop. Gritty.

  33. Justme, The OG*

    Y’all, these comments are gold. Thank you and I love you all.

    And yes, air purifier is a great idea.

  34. seriously, anonymous*

    I respectfully suggest that prior to the next meeting, someone queues up Josh Groban’s ‘Bean Song’. It will cast all of this in a beautiful, melodic light. Please.

  35. Pants*

    I can’t stop giggling. I’d probably be giggling in the meetings too. I like the idea of someone trying to weaponize their gas. Who can consistently fart on cue? (And if you can….why?) And what kind of training did that entail? (And again…why?)

    Other than announcing at the top of the day “Client meeting today, don’t eat anything that makes you fart!” I’m not sure there’s any recourse. I always bring a hand fan into meetings with me because I’m always hot. I imagine it’d come in handy in this case too. I get ’em on amazon by the dozen. Start a trend, OP!

    1. Sleepless*

      That’s what I was thinking. I’ve never understood the idea that people can control when they fart, for more than a few seconds anyway! How or why would anybody be doing this deliberately in a meeting?

      1. Pants*

        I could see once or twice, maybe. Like “oops, this could be bad. Oh well” and pfffffffff. But every time? On purpose? I almost feel like that kind of gut control should be appreciated.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Raised two sons, can confirm. They start training in K-first grade and master it by the 5th-6th.

          1. Campfire Raccoon*

            It’s stored in a special pouch that, if not released regularly, backfires and causes their voice to crack.

    2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      I think someone trying to weaponize farts was the plot of the first chapter of John Scalzi’s The Android’s Dream. Or at least cause a diplomatic foofaraw with them.

    3. Mannequin*

      I dated a guy who could fart at will. I envied the ability. I envy it more now that age has made it difficult for me to hold a fart in.

  36. Turanga Leela*

    It doesn’t change the advice at all, but I see a lot of people saying, “No one is farting in meetings on purpose,” and I don’t think that’s true! There are a lot of cultural differences around farting—and I don’t mean, like, in different countries, although that might be true too. I mean different families in the United States are different about this. I was raised in a family where if you had to fart, you went to the bathroom. But I have friends (and now family by marriage) who think that if you have to fart, you fart, and everyone else will just deal with it. It’s possible that one of the executives belongs to that school of thought.

    1. Lana Kane*

      I agree. I don’t see it necessarily as a vindictive thing – but I’ve known people who just don’t care. And that’s not cool. I absolutely want to give grace to anyone who has a condition where this happens – but it’s not the only possibility.

      The reason this is An Issue is because it does smell. Just like there are people who may have a medical issue that causes them to pass gas, there are others (me) who are supersensitive to smells. At some point we have to meet in the middle – be kind to people who have this as a medical issue, but also recognize that it’s not always the case. And it’s ok to not be cool with that.

      I remember once in school, our teacher let us leave the classroom because someone’s fart was so bad. To her credit she didn’t try to shame anyone, she was matter of fact about it. But yes, I appreciated being able to leave the room.

      In any case, air purifiers FTW. Easy to justify in most offices, as ventilation usually isn’t great anyway.

    2. Llama face!*

      Yeah, I came from a family where farting was considered rude and you were expected to leave the room to pass gas (and then wait a little while so you didn’t drag the scent trail back in behind you). Sometimes there’s enough warning but not always and then my family would get mad about being gassed- even if it was just a scentless squeaker. It didn’t help that I did (and still do) find fart sounds hilarious. Although I also have an easily triggered gag reflex when it comes to odours so that conference room would be awful for me. Nothing like having to hold in dry heaves while in front of clients and bosses!

    3. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      I agree. I once worked at a company where the culture was corporate and formal. One of the assistants told me there was a time when the high level executive men would keep their office doors open and fart so much the area around their offices smelled like a barn sometimes, for people passing their offices and also for their assistants who had their desks right outside their offices. They just thought nothing of it. The assistant said someone finally mentioned something to the farting execs and the problem was resolved. They closed their doors more often and were more aware of the impact their farting was having.

      I wonder if a sort of passive-aggressive approach might work. Something like saying to all of them “there is sometimes a sudden foul smell in the conference room during meetings, and I’m not sure what it is, should I bring an air freshener next time? I wonder if I should also call building maintenance…I just hope our client doesn’t notice…” Maybe the culprit will take the hint and be more careful.

      1. allathian*

        Air fresheners tend to make things worse for people who have a sensitive nose. A portable air purifier would be much better…

        1. Self Employed*

          I’ve never gotten a migraine or asthma attack from farts, but air fresheners I get both.

          The conference room needs better ventilation because COVID.

          The meeting needs breaks because humans need breaks–who can really pay attention in a break-less meeting that long?

          Whoever has a sensitive nose can bring their own Vicks, Ricola, whatever.

        2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

          I wasn’t actually suggesting air fresheners. I was suggesting that is how they might go about saying something about the situation so that the farter would maybe take the hint and stop.

  37. Maggie*

    I would personally recommend a few things because you obviously cant call out a senior exec on farting. I am going to have to disagree with people that farting isn’t rude or isn’t controllable (most of the time). Maybe I fart a ton but if I farted anytime I had to I don’t think I’d have any friends or business associates. Anyways. I would try to schedule breaks in addition to an air purifier. That way people can hopefully go to the restroom or outside and get some of their farts out. Also if youre serving food and snacks maybe try to keep it limited to plain foods, ie get rid of the veggies and hummus or sodas. Pretzels and water!

  38. Doctor is In*

    Send a memo to all participants. There is a product called Flat-D, a thin charcoal liner worn in underwear, that will take care of this! Hope the person that needs it will get it! (Possible if the person has a poor sense of smell they are unaware. )

    1. Heidi*

      I don’t know if I would want to call everyone’s attention to this issue and make it a bigger deal than it is. Better to slip it into a list of holiday gift ideas among other things. :)

    2. PT*

      I’d buy some and stick them in a supply drawer or firs aid kit in an envelope, then email everyone individually that they are there and whoever is farting could they please take them, no judgement, thank you.

      And then never follow up or check on it or mention it again.

  39. Former call centre worker*

    Is it definitely someone in the room and not, say, a plumbing issue? Just suggesting this possibility as my office has one particular meeting room that frequently stinks, for reasons as yet unknown.

    1. Dwight Schrute*

      This happened at my boyfriends office too! He has an area that smells straight up like sewage on occasion and so far no one has been able to determine why

    2. PeanutButter*

      This is something I was wondering – if there’s vents near by that are connected to a restaurant it could be rancid grease in a drain. My college had this issue – one spot on campus REEKED of rotten eggs for like 1-2 hours at a time, but then went away. It took almost a year before they figured out it was a big grease slick trapped in a pipe underground, and when temperature/pressure/humidity were just right the smell would leak out.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        My city had a whole part of downtown that smelled like that. You’d be driving through it in winter with your windows closed and the heater on, and smell rotten eggs. I believe the smell is gone now. The area has become trendy and expensive, so I suppose there was suddenly an extra incentive to find the culprit, and so it was found.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Our route home from my inlaws used to go right by a sewage treatment plant and I frequently made jokes about DoWiSeTrePla so I appreciate this reference :)

        1. PT*

          This used to happen when I lived in Boston, you’d get a rancid smell of rotting death every once in awhile, in various neighborhoods. People would call the police because it was so nasty.

          It turned out, the smell happened in the winter, when a sewage pipe leaked onto a hot steam pipe, and vaporized. It was a very specific situation.

    3. Keyboard Jockey*

      I stayed in an AirBnB once with my spouse, in which I went to use the bathroom after he did and it *reeked*. I teased him about “no more burritos for you.” He was very confused: turns out the plumbing in the condo was letting sewer gas escape into the bathroom (via the shower drain, somehow??) every time you flushed the toilet. We still refer to that as “the stinky vacation.”

    4. Campfire Raccoon*

      My Costco has this issue. You always want to park on the bakery side and not the bulk fart side. Fresh baked cookies or outhouse? It’s a no-brainer.

    5. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      That might actually be a way to address the issue, by asking all involved if there is a plumbing issue b/c there is an occasional sudden stench in the room. That way, the farter can be aware that their farts aren’t going unnoticed and can either be more careful, leave the room if possible, or even switch to participating in the meetings via Zoom if it’s something they can’t control.

    6. Pickled Limes*

      I used to work in an office building that had been recently remodeled. One of the many changes they made in the remodel was moving the location of the bathroom. Unfortunately, when they did that, one of the pipes left behind wasn’t closed off properly, and on some days there would be a horrific smell. It took over two years for someone on the building maintenance team to figure out what was causing the bad smell, and as soon as they fixed the pipe all the bad smells stopped.

    7. Self Employed*

      Plumbing or HVAC issues could definitely let stinky air into the conference room.

      I presume that HVAC systems are supposed to be set up so that bathrooms have negative pressure, but with lots of hasty retrofitting to increase ventilation for COVID, who knows, maybe the conference room has negative pressure and it’s sucking stinky bathroom air into the room? Or there’s a leaky vent from the plumbing that’s releasing sewer gases into the building that are picked up by the HVAC? That could be a health hazard, so maybe talk to Facilities about the odor.

  40. Mary Anne Spier*

    My dad was once in a meeting with someone outside his company, held in a small room. The other guy farted and it smelled so bad my dad threw up into a waste basket. My dad told him it was because of the fart. I think about how awful this fart must have been for my dad, a world traveler who has eaten some “adventurous” meals, to have puked in front of this person.

    1. JillianNicola*

      Yikes!! I have a delicate stomach and a sensitive gag reflex but that must’ve been BAD. My bf is the king of foul gas but I’ve never been physically ill from it. Also how embarrassing for the other guy that he made someone throw up!

        1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

          Yeah, thats bad. Almost as bad as I can be. Almost, but not quite.

        2. Mary Anne Spier*

          hahahahaha that’s true, this must have happened 25ish years ago and here I have been focused on the other guy’s mortification this whole time. Perhaps it’s a badge of honor instead.

  41. Kimmy Schmidt*

    Silent Boardroom Farter is my new band name I call it I call it I call it!

    In all seriousness, you mention that these meetings can last all afternoon. Are you providing enough break times?

  42. Dwight Schrute*

    I have been the office farter before and have asked for advice on improving it! It sucks to be that person and have people think you’re gross and rude. OP please understand that some people have medical conditions or are on medication that makes it very difficult to hold it in especially in the afternoon after a meal. My suggestion as someone on the other end is to try an air purifier, open a door or window, and continue to pretend it’s not happening. Adding more breaks may or may not be helpful. In my case it wouldn’t help much because it’s a side effect of meds and working from home seems to have weakened any ability to control things

    1. Jane of all Trades*

      Honestly, I think it’s really inconsiderate of OP to schedule very formal meetings lasting all afternoon that apparently have no breaks in. Nobody is a machine, and a lot of times I need to stretch my legs or walk to the rest room or take a moment during the afternoon.
      If you caught me on a bad day and forced me to sit in a stuffy meeting room all afternoon I’d probably get a pretty bad stomach ache. Thankfully it has never happened, but I’d be quite distressed to be put in a situation, repeatedly, where I don’t have a chance to step away for a moment if needed.
      Schedule breaks in between, but also consider whether you are using everybody’s time efficiently. Are there things that could be resolved or narrowed down pre-meeting? Is it really necessary for everybody to be in the room and part of the discussion?

      1. Dwight Schrute*

        Agreed! I do get stomach aches when forced to sit in basically the same position with no breaks and it’s very uncomfortable! Agree with trying to minimize the length of the meeting and see if there’s a better use of time

    2. RagingADHD*

      I remember your post being up briefly. Interesting to see that Alison has embraced the “gross” and turned to the fart side of the Force.

    3. fluffy*

      Several years ago I got an incredibly glowing performance evaluation except for one thing: my manager was upset that I had a tendency to fart in the office. He didn’t care that I have IBS and that it’s not like I was doing it on purpose, and he humiliated me over it. So I went to HR. HR humiliated me over it too, and said that I should go to the bathroom to fart. I had panic attacks over this for weeks.

      I am very much not a fan of people being shamed for medical issues.

      1. Self Employed*

        That sounds like a possible EEOC issue, shaming an employee about a medical issue.

        Not that any HR department I’ve worked with would do otherwise, unfortunately.

    4. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Thing is, if I had a stomach issue that made me have involuntary gas at inappropriate times, I would discreetly make arrangements to participate in those meetings remotely. I would talk to someone privately about it, and then if anyone tried to call me out for not being there in person, I would just say I need to participate remotely due to a medical issue. Or something like that. The fact that someone has a medical issue should not mean everyone else in the meeting should have to be subjected to the smell of their farts. That’s just disgusting.

      1. A Genuine Scientician*

        Statements like this have been rubbing me the wrong way. I think because they seem to indicate a mode of thinking along the lines of the Shirley Exception. “Well, surely there will be reasonable exceptions…”. From reading this site, we all know that there are many unreasonable workplaces, and many unreasonable individuals even in otherwise fine workplaces. I am willing to bet that there are a lot of managers who would rate someone lower if they attended meetings remotely for a medical reason than they do in person. Some explicitly so, and others just unconsciously.

        Others will take it to mean something else entirely; if someone told me that they need to attend meetings virtually due to medical reasons, my first thoughts would be either mobility limitations or a suppressed immune system. Those sorts of thoughts might lead even a well-meaning manager to change who gets assigned to a particular role in a future project. Or who presents something (because they can do it in person), and therefore gets the face time with the clients or the big wigs.

        You’re asking someone to voluntarily harm their career prospects because you don’t like an odor that is most likely associated with a medical condition. And if it works successfully, the other people in the meeting will never even know that it is for their benefit. That is a very big ask.

        And what we label disgusting is also just somewhat weird. Sneezing and/or coughing impose *way* more of a cost on people around you than farting does, but we act like the latter is a great sin while the former are no big deal and/or elicit sympathy.

        1. Mina The Company Prom Queen*

          It’s still not okay to force others to smell someone’s flatulence. That is intrusive and, in fact, disgusting. And the excuse they can use for attending remotely doesn’t have to be a ‘medical issue’- they can think up any plausible excuse they like until the person resolves the issue.

    1. Funny Cide*

      The smell of sulfur from the hellfire might make the farts pleasant by comparison

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Summon one, promote it to head of IT and blame all smells on them.

      (No, not basing this on personal experience why do you ask ahem don’t look at my username)

  43. Laura H.*

    Also, since the meetings are lengthy, are there built in breaks? Building those into the agenda and ensuring everyone knows the schedule may help also, and give everyone a reprieve.

  44. Budgie Buddy*

    Since the farts are silent I wonder if the person making them has a poor sense of smell too and doesn’t know how bad the issue is. If the smell is mild or nonexistent to them and everyone else is trying to be as chill as possible, they may think they are being successfully discreet at hiding the incidents. It would be so mortifying to think this and then find out the smell is really strong… 0.o

    I would hate to be the one to break the news, so maybe bringing in the air purifier and making sure it’s close to where the three execs sit is the best solution. And hourly breaks – even if the farts are unpredictable, I find when I feel bloated that bearing down on the toilet helps encourage farts to happen there if they need to happen soon, which relieves the pressure and decreases the chance of one coming right afterward.

    1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      Ahhhh, yes. This reminds me of how my sibling, at about 35 years of age, finally found out that no, their students were not just being over-sensitive about farts, they can actually stink so bad it makes your eyes water… unless you have a terrible sense of smell, like my sibling does. I think I saw several decades of their life flash in front of their eyes at once.

      Honestly, with COVID causing lingering loss of sense of smell in some people, I have wondered if this was going to become a more frequent occurrence.

      And I agree on an quite purifier and breaks. No matter the source of the issue, that should successfully mitigate it.

  45. chewingle*

    Maybe I missed it, but I see no mention if breaks during the meetings. If these people are going to keep everyone locked in afternoon (i.e.—post-lunch!) meetings for the rest of the day, then they get what they get. It’s a bodily function you can only control for so long.

  46. No Tribble At All*

    Once upon a time we were meeting the board
    Now we’re only meeting apart
    There’s nothing we can do
    a total eclipse of the farrrrrt

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      OMG I’m dying and this is the best comment section everrrrr

    2. allathian*

      Thanks for the laugh!

      I can’t help it, I have the sense of humor of the average 12-year-old…

    3. Al*

      The conference room had a polluter
      We could not ID the tooter
      So we opened the door
      Lit some candles and more
      So at least the smell we could neuter

  47. C.*

    I don’t doubt that this is an unpleasant occurrence, but… lighten up. There are a number of medical conditions or bodily reactions that could cause this, ranging from wrong food choice for lunch to more serious gastrointestinal issues. It’s highly unlikely that the person doing it is doing so intentionally in ways that sabotage the business. Like Alison said, if it’s really that insufferable, arrange for an outdoor gathering or have people call in.

  48. gf*

    Air purifier as recommended… or how about setting some break periods throughout these lengthy meetings? Unsure how long they go on for but it can be UNBEARABLE to sit in a meeting for a few hours.

    Try condensing your meetings into 1 hour segments with 10 minute breaks for people to stretch their legs and use the restroom.

  49. Not That Kind of Lawyer*

    I once attended a retirement party where all the guests put in money for a gag gift of some boxes of charcoal inserts for underwear. The card said, “Don’t give anyone an excuse to call you an old fart.” The honoree laughed his head off, and his wife said this gift had reserved us all special places in Heaven.
    Not really advice, but a pleasant memory.

  50. IvyV*

    I don’t have any diagnosed “medical condition” but my digestion is touchy and sensitive and my pancreas works inefficiently (I have the genetic testing to prove it). That means I have frequent and unpleasant flatulence that is nearly impossible to ‘hold in’ or ‘put off’ — even postponing the inevitable is painful to the point of acuity. I’ve seen specialists and modified my diet and have taken charcoal pills and enzymes. I’m ambitious and professional and serious about our clients too.

    OP, you asked what you should do, but first what do you suggest I do? Run out of the meeting every 20 minutes? Try to hold it in until a break and be in a ton of pain? In fact, this latter is what I actually do (while smiling and running my meetings), but sometimes I can’t make it. It has nothing to do with unprofessionalism.

    Anyway, here’s what I suggest YOU do: schedule more frequent short breaks, have an air purifier, if you cater food provide easy to digest options (no bean and broccoli casserole please), and make sure there’s a restroom nearby. Make your poor exec’s life easier — he may just appreciate it. Otherwise mind your own business.

    Oh, and maybe reconsider your perspective on what’s rude, because reading your letter I had a very different view.

    1. Sophie*

      “Mind your own business” when someone is inflicting the smell of their farts on you? Actually, I suggest that someone with a medical issue like yours make arrangements to participate in the meetings remotely. They could say it’s due to a medical issue, which is true. It doesn’t matter whether the farting is on purpose. Being subjected to someone’s farts his disgusting. Making arrangements to attend the meetings remotely would be the considerate thing to do. It’s definitely something I would do.

      1. IvyV*

        I strongly object to the use of the term inflicted here. I’m AFflicted with this issue. Unfortunately WE end up being afflicted with some odor. I’m not INflicting anything on anyone. I’m not farting AT YOU. I do my best not to subject you to odor and you do your best to deal.

        My issue is frequent but not constant and often surprises me in the moment and if it surprises me while I’m in Asia, for example, and visiting 8 client sites in 6 days, then asking permission to Zoom into a meeting isn’t going to fly (that’s a real example from two years ago by the way and not a straw man). Also, you don’t know what you would do because you are not me and obviously don’t have this issue (in my dad’s vernacular you think your $&*+ don’t stink).

        If there’s one thing that this discussion has brought home to me it’s the barest inkling of the challenges that people with real disabilities (particularly invisible ones) must face in the workplace every day. My positive takeaway from this interaction will be heightened awareness of that dynamic moving forward. To thank you for that.

        1. Disabled Person*

          Person with a “real” disability here! Please don’t use your digestive issues to relate to my “challenges.” That was such a self-centered, self-serving comment. We have to navigate the workplace in a much different and more serious way, and we understand that reasonable accommodations go both ways. You, on the other hand, seem to expect everyone you interact with to adapt to you and you alone. Congrats on your international business success too! You are so important. One more thing: using the word “challenges” was very belittling. Actually, that whole last paragraph was a joke. Don’t use disabled people to claw your way back up on your pedestal. I think you need to take your dad’s advice more than Sophie does. No need to respond to this.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yes, I’m sure HR would be very jazzed about the resulting discrimination suit.

        Many people with these sorts of issues are already self-conscious about them and self-mitigate by restricting their diets or other means, but, sure, let’s ostracize them, too.

        1. Sophie*

          Or better yet, let’s just let them stink up the room. I guess that’s supposed to be okay.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Yes, many adults have learned to ignore all sorts of less-than-ideal circumstances at work or other community gatherings. Miss Manners has long counseled ignoring flatulence, and there are myriad options in the comments for masking the smell while it dissipates. Or excuse yourself if you’re particularly sensitive to smells.

            HR probably cares more about being sued for discriminating against someone with a medical condition than they do about periodic odors that can be mitigated by opening windows, getting an air purifier, or, again, any number of other suggestions here. Suggesting that people, especially those whose issue is sporadic and unpredictable, self-segregate entirely or at the last minute is not likely to be considered reasonable accommodation.

            No one enjoys unpleasant smells, but it’s not like people are taking a dump on the conference room table, refusing to use deodorant, dousing themselves in overpowering perfumes, or microwaving fish before burning their side dish of popcorn. It’s bad enough to have to live with these sorts of medical conditions, it’s worse to have adults act like elementary schoolers to try to suss out a culprit. People’s pets pass gas and we don’t sentence them to live outdoors permanently, surely we can extend some of that basic empathy to humans.

  51. Colorado*

    I don’t care who you are or how reserved you come across. There’s nothing that makes humans giggle more than talking about farts. The comments are priceless today. Thanks for the laughs!

    1. Colorado*

      I used to have a horse that would fart and spook himself. Funniest damn thing ever. Still makes me laugh.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I’ve seen a dog scare himself by farting so loudly he woke up from a nap, scrambled to a standing position, then ran around in circles trying to catch his own butt. Priceless!

        1. PeanutButter*

          My farty kitty has woken himself up with the smell and then turned and given his brother who was sleeping next to him a good chomp in retaliation. (Farty kitty has no teeth so his brother is more confused than hurt.)

        2. generic employee*

          I once saw a toddler do that, complete with 720-rotation to try to catch the farter. I nearly died.

        3. CommanderBanana*

          My dogs likes to eat grass, which sometimes gets stuck in her bum, which scares her and leads to her crouch-running away from her own bumhole until I can stop her and assist.

    2. Funny Cide*

      The OP’s description of everyone clearly trying very hard to not react really stuck with me – I have a feeling they’re not just trying to not react to the smell itself, because if I was in there and made eye contact with literally anyone I’m pretty certain I’d bust up laughing in this very important meeting. Which, unlike a bodily function you can’t control such as farting, is actually probably unprofessional.

  52. CommanderBanana*

    I recommend you go to YouTube and watch the My Favorite Murder (this is non-murder-related!) animated Post Office Fart story. The bomb squad were literally called in.

  53. Mockingjay*

    There’s an old proverb: Every one likes the smell of their own farts.

    (Corollary: No one likes anyone else’s.)

    1. Self Employed*

      I think I heard that from Harlan Ellison at a SF convention in LA in the 80s

  54. badstomachBAD*

    I have IBS and have become the master of silent farts over the last decade (god that makes me feel old). They know. They are most likely horribly embarrassed but have literally no solution.
    My most scarring memory (relating to farts) is trying out a jujitsu class. I practise taekwondo with no issue but apparently my body decided to rebel against jujitsu. I stank out the room. My friend was commenting to me about who she thought it was, there were no windows, we had to get up close with strangers. Just every level of awful and I couldn’t do anything about it. I needed a ride so I couldn’t leave early, I didn’t have medication with me, just nothing to be done
    I don’t really have a solution, I just want to show that this person will be painfully aware of it and not to judge them heavily. I do like the idea of adding breaks though!

    1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      Oh the stories I could tell….I work in the sewers…Like,if ninja turtles were real,we’d be on first name basis…A group of us were working in a wet well. I broke wind,ever so daintily and within 10 seconds,I cleared the well. I have literally made a car lose resale value with a single hot zester.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I once worked at a sewage treatment plant. There was a guy there who could clear out a digestion plant room. He liked cabbage.

  55. Sedna*

    1. Air purifier
    2. Occasional breaks
    3. You are working with human beings who have bodies that are not always entirely in their control, please cut us a little slack

  56. Elle by the sea*

    The reason why people break wind is not because they have bad manners or want to irritate people around them. It’s pretty hard to control if you have digestive issues or you are on your period. So, please don’t play fart hunt like primary schoolkids. It must be embarrassing enough for the people who do it.

      1. Elle by the sea*

        Haha! When I was in undergrad, there was pavement pizza hunt. The dorm supervisor wanted to find the person who delivered a pavement pizza after a drunken night.

      2. Mockingdragon*

        There’s a game called Excuse Me that’s the reverse of that, where you only have so much time to find a private place to fart where no one will catch you.

  57. cactus lady*

    I feel for whoever it is. As someone with Crohn’s Disease, this is my biggest nightmare going back to the office. It’s so frustrating because even things that are fine one day aren’t another. And the stress of being back in the office (even if you’re happy about it, it’s still a switch up in your routine) is definitely a factor too. Work from home has been a godsend to me because it’s allowed me to work through a lot more symptoms than I would want or be able to in the office.

    1. Elle by the sea*

      Exactly! People should be a bit more considerate. I don’t have any known health issue but when I’m excited or nervous (as I would be at an important client meeting), I have to break wind a lot and it’s extremely difficult for me to control or even to keep it silent. Also, when I have a period, it’s almost continuous. That’s why I find OP’s suspicion about the senior executive being the culprit surprisingly sexist. I am baffled as to why you would assume it has to be a man and that it’s one serial offender rather than multiple one-time farters.

      1. lemon meringue*

        I don’t think the LW was assuming it couldn’t be a woman–I think she was just narrowing down the suspects based on who had been present at all of the meetings. Maybe in a surprising twist, it will turn out to have been the LW all along.

  58. Sleeping Late Every Day*

    This sounds like an unpleasant but uncontrollable condition on the part of the farter. Your office needs a staff puppy so when the gas cloud of doom escapes, everyone can state at the decoy doggy.
    It’s not like my old boss who would sit with his legs spread, facing someone (frequently me), then rear up and aim a vile shot at his victim, disgusting to the nose, ears, and eyes. I’d usually just glare daggers and leave the room – MY workspace.

  59. Leah K.*

    If you are going the air purifier route, make sure you don’t get one that turns red when it’s actively trying to remove something from the air. I have one in my bedroom, and every time someone farts, the air purifier light turns accusatory red color, and the fan loudly starts whirring, drawing attention to the transgression.

    1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

      I don’t know why this made me burst into giggles, but it did, and now my coworkers are all looking at me funny.

    2. Sophie*

      This might be a good thing, though. It might prompt the farter to be more proactive about it and either talk to their doctor or do something to resolve the issue.

  60. Harvey JobGetter*

    The best advice for OP here is to not be so quick to assume people are doing things for malicious reasons.

  61. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    I knew a woman on a rival roller derby team who could fart on command and routinely deployed weaponized farts to try and trigger false starts, but I honestly can’t imagine being so sure that someone was deliberately deploying weaponized farts during important client meetings and being so offended by this perceived rudeness. Not being a fan of the aroma, sure, but… like, if you genuinely think a senior executive is letting it rip for toots and giggles, maybe it’s time to examine why that’s your first thought? That being said, air purifier, regular breaks, and charitable thoughts are the way to go.

    1. Sheltering Skye*

      “I knew a woman on a rival roller derby team who could fart on command and routinely deployed weaponized farts to try and trigger false starts…”

      This is a beautifully constructed sentence. You have the beginnings of a stellar short story here.

  62. Gina Martinelli*

    I’ve been lurking on this site for years, but I guess it takes a great fart story to pull me out of hiding.

    A few years ago, I was working as a scientist in an old building (I believe 1970’s construction). The pipes were as old as the building and were always acting up in one way or another. One day, my group was having its monthly project update meeting. We had tacos brought in for lunch. We had been in the little conference room for a few hours when a putrid, rotten eggs smells slowly started seeping into the room. It was getting worse but no one wanted to say anything because it was known that one of my coworkers had been suffering with an IBS kind of medical issue and we all assumed that it was him. We didn’t want to be rude or embarrass him!

    As the smell got worse, everyone started darting their eyes around and the guy who we thought was having the issue was getting into it, pointing at the coworker next to him and mouthing “I THINK IT WAS HIM”. Finally, when it became apparent that the smell was actually blowing in from ABOVE, another coworker stopped the meeting and was like, “Does anyone smell that?” We all cracked up and couldn’t stop laughing as we tried to pack up our stuff and also not breath. We realized that we had some kind of chemical release happening. We left the room and saw that various people from various floors were coming out of the woodwork, “WTF is that smell?” and we pulled the fire alarm and evacuated.

    It turned out that a sewer pipe had burst and that it was the building farting the entire time.

    To make matters worse, we went to the outdoor evacuation meetup spot, but that was downwind of the building so it smelled like epic farts there too. “Next time,” we all said, “let’s not do tacos for lunch, OK?”

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      OMG!!! That is so funny “It turned out that a sewer pipe had burst and that it was the building farting the entire time.”

      This also made me think of what happened to me at an old job. There was this BAD smell, almost like natural gas. Some people left because they got sick. unfortunately, our Operations Manager didn’t care about the safety of the employees and deemed that the Fire Department will be called, but we still have to work. Why the Fire Department didn’t evacuate us I will never know. We were never really told what it was. Someone said that it was a rotten animal in the duckt work. I don’t think that was it.

      But it gives a thought to the LW. For all of these meetings, are they all in the same room? Could it be something in the vent or the wall or even something coming in from outstide?

        1. Mannequin*

          OMG! When I lived in the desert with an ex BF, an itty bitty mouse died in our bedroom, and the massive stench was how we found it (and it took a couple of days, UGH.)

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      We had this happen once – a kitchen sprung a leak and spewed foul, garbage disposal detritus all into the ceiling in the kitchen beneath it. There were no wet marks/dark spots on the ceiling, so no one knew where the stench was coming from. Aspersions were cast and assumptions made about who dealt it. (And we’re in a high-rise, so windows do not open and the kitchen was on the interior.) It was a relatively easy fix once building maintenance figured it out, but, good lord, the smell was horrible.

  63. GarlicMicrowaver*

    OMG… How about lining your masks with essential oil drops so you can breathe something else in instead? Or would that just smell like a yoga studio next to a dumpster? I don’t know…. eek.

    1. SleepyKitten*

      Essential oils are STRONG even in single drops, and have been known to cause chemical burns, so you’d want to dissolve them in a carrier first.

      I believe morgue workers use vaporub under their nostrils? Although you’d want to be wary of the camphor and not go overboard

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Aniseed lozenges work a bit better in my experience of extremely biological smells. Also won’t stick your mask to your face.

  64. Carrie Oakie*

    As a newly diagnosed IBS/GERD and several other fun /s\ digestive issues, I feel bad for the silent but deadly culprit. Foods can have no effect one day and be the worst option the next. I would be so embarrassed so I’m going to give the culprit the benefit of the doubt. What I would do is bring in a diffuser and use a generally non-offensive sent (eucalyptus, citrus, peppermint) to help counter balance the offending odor. An air purifier could help as well. You could also try to schedule these meetings at different times of the day, in case it’s a digestion timing thing – immediately after lunch can be difficult for those who are digestively challenged.

    1. Self Employed*

      Not a fan of diffusers. They can trigger asthma attacks, and a lot of the scents have weird additives or carriers that can cause problems even if the pure scent wouldn’t. If they can be fatal to pets, they can’t be great for humans.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I was just thinking Uh Oh! here go the gross workplace stories again. Bathroom etiquette, farts, smelly coworkers and stolen lunches are starting to creep in again.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        YES. I have felt since March 2020 like I could track the evolution of the pandemic via my inbox (and have had a sad dearth of interpersonal issues in there all year), and things are slowly creeping back toward normal there.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Interpersonal issues of all kinds, or just the bodily / personal space kinds? I feel like there’s just as much room for annoying/rude behavior during WFH, when it’s so easy to forget that other people are human too.

        2. Autumnheart*

          But now we’re going to get a whole new genre of stories: “We’re back in the office, and my coworkers don’t know how to behave in public anymore”

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          I have seen this on the management side, too – do you know how many complaints I’ve gotten about coworkers using their pen, playing music too loud, coming in five minutes late, sneezing/coughing too much/too loudly, violating the dress code, etc. since March 2020? ZERO. The complaints are now almost entirely work-related and people who could not get along in the office are suddenly getting along just fine. I have accomplished so much on my strategic to-do list this year.

  65. FuzzyBrain*

    Speaking as an Ostomate (specifically someone who has a colostomy), sometime it isn’t controllable, is noisy, and can on occasion smell. I would refrain from trying to manage someone’s bowels and emissions.

    1. momofpeanut*

      Thank you – I was coming here to say this. My husband had a staffer who had a colostomy following her cancer surgery, when surgeons accidentally perforated her bowel – undiscovered until she was in serious septic shock and almost died. She fought back and returned to work, and an occasional noxious smell was a celebration of her telling Death “No f*ng way!”

  66. Veryanon*

    I once had a manager who farted constantly in meetings. It was very loud and noticeable, so I can only assume that she had some kind of medical condition. We all just pretended we couldn’t hear it.

  67. Tigersmom*

    Before I retired, I worked at a state agency. We had a call center at one of the local prisons with inmates working for us. I was the back-up supervisor, to fill in for vacations or sick days. Most of the inmates were in their 30s or 40s, but often stuck at junior high level emotionally. One day, two of the guys in adjoining cubicles were mad at each other so they got into a farting contest. That was “interesting”! And quickly shut down. All of them were permanently at “strike 2, 3 strikes and you’re fired” status, so we could easily have fired them. That would have resulted in their being moved to a less-desirable prison across the state (yes, the inmates ranked the prisons). They were told to knock it off and decided to comply.

  68. SleepyKitten*

    Ah, a message from the elusive contingent that thinks farts should never be released in company. Clearly you were not raised on a diet of pulses and brassicas :P Like stand up and sit down wipers, the two camps rarely know about each other until a critical moment.

    As well as just sometimes escaping of its own volition, gas can also be legitimately painful (c/f reviews of sugar free gummy bears).

    As Alison said, really all you can do is try and improve the smell a bit. If you claim that it’s due to mustiness or stuffiness, then everyone can pretend that nobody has ever had bowels. If the room has windows or air con, then you can just open/activate them after the incident and claim it’s for fresh air. Air fresheners, air purifiers and odour absorbers are things you could try, saying that the room itself gets stuffy or damp (to clients at least – if your manager starts worrying about mould then tell them what’s going on). Try to go for cotton or pine over blueberry and lavender or what have you.

    1. ecnaseener*

      +1 to sugar free gummy bear reviews. Very worth a google, if you weren’t planning on eating soon.

  69. such a farter*

    Oh man, I bet whoever is doing this is also absolutely embarrassed but feels like they can’t get up. I have ulcerative colitis, and when I am flaring, I am running back and forth to the bathroom. I take calls from home during these times, admittedly sometimes from the toilet, but I mute myself. Sometimes I am just at the beginning of a flare, so I am experiencing a lot of gurgling and gas and no matter what I eat, drink or take for the gas, I can’t make it stop. I am usually still at work because things haven’t gotten bad. I try to avoid enclosed small spaces, but sometimes I can’t, and sometimes I can’t excuse myself, so I do my best to sort of cough or sneeze over my farts. My bosses and close coworkers know to ignore me if I do quickly excuse myself from the room, but I can’t go around disclosing my condition to clients!

    In the end, it sucks, but it’s biology, and we all have to deal with it.

    1. Llama face!*

      Ah the cover cough/sneeze! Just as long as you don’t end up like that awkward incident of pinterest fame where she’s in class and figures she’ll drop her textbook to cover the sound of her fart. Except her timing is off so it ends up more like:
      Drops textbook
      Everyone looks
      Loud fart

  70. raincoaster*

    The simple solution is the most obvious and also the safest in a pandemic: have your meetings outdoors or in a place with excellent ventilation.

    I personally would not be willing to sit in an hours-long meeting in what is essentially a fishtank

  71. AnnaBeaverhausen*

    As my father used to say:

    Better to fart and be ashamed,
    Then not to fart and be in pain.

    He was a lovely man, but prone to flatulence at inopportune times.

    1. More Pizza*

      Lol. I wish we could evolve as a society so we don’t have to feel embarrassed about a standard human function. To the op, crack a joke and light a match. The stiff atmosphere just makes this whole situation worse. Yall could be laughing through the gas if anyone had a sense of humor. What a waste, no pun intended.

  72. Jennifer Juniper*

    How about opening the window?

    My wife also pointed out that the meeting issue is temporary.

  73. :P*

    This won’t help at all, but next time this happens think of that Drake song where he says “someone just farted and we’re already done.”

  74. Alex*

    Maybe you can pass out clothespins at the beginning of the meeting.

    New item to put the office logo on! Charcoal-lined briefs!

    I am not mature enough to respond to this question….

  75. InNeedOfAName*

    This is why I love working from home. I have gastrointestinal issues and I’m not farting at work to be rude. It’s because I can’t hold it in. Sometimes I could make it to the restroom but sometimes it just comes out. I am forever grateful to a former supervisor for politely ignoring when I farted during a conversation and she just kept moving on. That’s all you can do.

    But maybe also consider having a break? If it’s an hours long meeting, giving people a chance to use the restroom may help curb it somewhat.

  76. Anon for this*

    This is a medical issue, nearly certainly.

    A few years ago, I found out that I have a genetic condition that leads to IBS; I’ve likely had IBS previously, but it got particularly bad after a course of antibiotics and just never got better. I am on two prescription medications and one OTC to get down to only 4 bowel movements / day, from the 10 or so I have without them; remove any one of those three and I’m back to as if I were untreated. One of the side effects of slowing down the passage of my GI tract is a huge increase in the amount of gas I produce, and also an increase in its odor. I’m on the maximum allowed dosage of an anti-gas medication to try to rein it in But, honestly, the only way to be fairly confident I won’t need to pass gas during a particular 1-2 hour block is to completely change my eating times for both the day prior and that one. I can (and do) do that for my job, since the times in which I am going to be dealing with either coworkers or members of the public are very highly scheduled and consistent from week to week (even though not day to day; Mondays are consistent with each other, but different than Tuesdays, etc.) If I were in a more typical office environment, where meetings happen with much less notice or predictability? Simply not possible.

    Your coworker is not passing gas *at* you. They are doing it *near* you, but it’s not an aggressive action here; it’s way more likely that this is simply something medical.

    1. Anon for this*

      Also, air purifiers generally do roughly no good. There are sprays that will mask the odor for another one, which can sometimes be pleasant but can also really trigger scent sensitivities. But the products that are touted as “eliminating” odor that’s already in the air, rather than dealing with it at the origin? Generally completely useless in that regard, but they do create an irritating low-level noise.

    2. More Pizza*

      Right? Who can rage fart. I’d like to meet the person that can fart on cue.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Because we are not mature people at home, my husband has been joking about this for years – if only he could fart on cue when the kids are grabbing him around the waist trying to knock him down (he’s 6’+) or when he throws them over his shoulder. Sadly, he has not perfected this skill yet, and the kids are quickly outgrowing the size it’d be useful.

    3. Sophie*

      They may not be farting “at” their colleagues but it still does not absolve them of trying to do something about it, even if that means working from home or taking part in the meeting via Zoom. If I were the one with the stomach problem, I’d be mortified and would do everything in my power to resolve the situation. And I would certainly not expect everyone else in the meeting to tolerate the smell of my farts. People keep saying we need to be considerate of the farter but what about everyone else who has to smell it and act like it’s nothing?

    4. Owler*

      I know you didn’t specifically ask for advice, but as someone with IBD and having gone through multiple surgeries to have their colon removed, I’m experienced with the post-antibiotic gas. I also sometimes pause my diet I’d it’s something I don’t want to have to deal with. Feel free to skip the rest of what I write if you don’t need to read of a similar story.
      SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) has been a huge problem for me after rounds of antibiotics. The ABX do too good of a job killing all of the germs, and the bad ones sometimes come back and flourish in the newly clean digestive system.
      I’ve finally seen some results from some small dietary changes (no soda; less dairy and wheat unless I’m willing to deal with it), and by adding probiotics to my diet. Specifically, there’s a medical grade version called Visbiome that has shown success in clinical trials for treating UC and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).

  77. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

    Air purifiers don’t help much. What you need is ventilation. If you have the capital find out if the ventilation rate can be upped without making noticeable amount of extra noise. Or suggest a different room if possible. Or change the venue, can a hotel conference room be rented for the needed time?
    That said your limited by how high in the totem pole you are here.

  78. Erin*

    To the fart letter writer: please give us updates to the meeting farter.

    Also, I really want it to be someone with a passive-aggressive axe to grind, and not someone with a serious yet smelly medical issue!

  79. JR*

    OP responding here. Thanks for all the suggestions so far, some very useful feedback.

    Replying generally to all, it did cross my mind that perhaps someone has some problem they aren’t in full control of, but given the frequency of the SBDs, and the seniority of those whose direction the finger of suspicion points in (I mean that in a light-hearted way) , not to mention the importance of the meeting, I’m just not sure why this problem has lasted more than one or two meetings. Surely someone who knows they are inevitably going to stink out the meeting room would just stop coming or get someone to replace them. I don’t think the senior execs all absolutely have to be there for each meeting.

    For that reason I assumed that it was just someone simply not caring therefore I considered it bad manners. I agree farting is not rude in itself. I certainly don’t mean to judge anyone who has a health issue. Hell, I don’t even have a problem with people farting in the office in moderation. The simple fact of the matter is we all do it. But the issue here is the frequency and setting.

    Also my letter may have come across as humorless. But the truth be told, another reason I dare not catch anyone’s eye during the meetings is because I am trying not to snicker because the formality and seriousness of the situation makes it inherently funny. It’s just that thinking about it afterwards, it would be no laughing matter if the client made their excuses and didn’t come back.

    Couple of more responses to specific points – we work in a high rise building and the windows do not open. We have AC which helps circulate the air somewhat and keeps the temperature comfortable, so bringing in fans from outside would seem a bit like overkill and would require explanation.

    Anyway thanks again for all the suggestions. Frankly I would rather someone broke their silence as it were, either intentionally or otherwise, that way the issue would be out in the open and I think easier to deal with. Despite our formal atmosphere, relations are good and I think the matter would be laughed off or at least make it easy for the individual (or even possibly individuals) to excuse themselves, or take a “fart break” as one commentator suggested.

    Anyway I’m glad my letter provided some light relief.

    1. allathian*

      How about getting new seats for the conference room with charcoal cushions for everyone? Are you high enough on the totem pole to suggest it?

      Have you had any meetings in the same room without the executives present? Since the farts are silent, the issue could be caused by problems with the plumbing, for example.

      Even with decent AC, portable air purifiers could be brought in to prevent the spreading of airborne viruses and those carried by droplets, such as Covid.

      1. JR*

        I’ve had meetings in the room with the executives and there’s been no smell. Although if the client was to mention anything I guess a plumbing issue (in the building, that is) could be a good cover story.

        Air purifiers or charcoal seats might mitigate the problem to an extent, but the stench is pretty bad so it would be damage limitation I feel. Again though Covid could be a good cover for fans or filters, the meeting room isn’t particularly big so could use a fresher atmosphere, wind-breaker present or not.

    2. ADHSquirrelWhat*

      if you like sci-fi at all, you have GOT to read John Scalzi’s _An Android’s Dream_.

      chapter-long fart joke. that actually works. it kills every time.

      1. JR*

        Duly added to my reading list, thank you. On reflection I think laughing this off is definitely the way to go.

  80. Mimsie*

    About an hour into the meeting after the lunch break, put into your agenda a “comfort break” to let “people stretch their legs, get some water, etc”. The farter can either go to the bathroom to relieve themselves or if they’ve already done one, you can at least open the door and clear the air, so to speak. I would recommend such a break every two hours if you’re not doing it already. Nothing long, literally just 5-7 minutes. People do need these kinds of breaks during long meetings anyway.

  81. agnes*

    It very well could be a medical issue–I can say that with some confidence as somebody who has a medical issue like this one. I had extensive GI surgery several years ago to remove a significant amount of my intestines with the result that I suffer from the things you can imagine come with that—diarrhea, constipation, gas, abdominal pain, you name it. It often comes on without warning and there is just very little I can do about it. It’s been so bad that I have had to just get up in the middle of a meeting–even really important ones— and say excuse me and run to the bathroom.

    Talk about painfully embarrassing. It was so bad at one point that I finally broke down crying after a meeting and disclosed the issue to someone. They were wonderful! It resulted in a meeting with my (small) team where I told them about my medical condition and how embarrassed I have been about it. They have helped me so much and supported me–covering when I have important meetings, suggesting we take a break in important meetings when they see me starting to squirm (sometimes I’m not the one who can suggest that for various reasons). And they ignore the occasional noxious odor.

    I do some things to prepare for long, important meetings or when I have to travel ( go on a special liquid diet for a few days and “clean out” my system ) , but I need some advance notice. I’m very lucky–I could have died from the medical condition—so I try to keep things in perspective.

    Most people have no idea of my situation and I prefer it that way–but disclosing it to a few key people has definitely made it easier for me to work and contribute to my organization.

  82. ADHSquirrelWhat*

    I think the OP needs to read John Scalzi’s book “An Android’s Dream” and get an idea of how bad it /could/ be!

    …. for the record, the book starts with a chapter long fart joke – and sells it! (for anyone that likes funny sci-fi, it’s an amazing book. so wrong!)

    but read that, and you’ll never experience flatulence the same way …. :D

  83. Librarian Liz*

    I find this assumption to be a bit juvenile and out of touch with professional norms. Why do people think someone would fart on purpose in a professional context? Like yes someone might at home being silly but I can’t see someone doing it at work. It’s a normal bodily function and whoever is doing it is probably embarrassed. Of course it can be gross but OP needs to let this one go.

  84. Laura*

    Is it possible the senior staffer had to have or has a colostomy? The bags are designed to allow gas to escape to prevent the alternative (bag rupture). It can be quite embarrassing for people when they first begin to adjust to the bag. It takes most people time to readjust their diets to prevent gas formation.

  85. Raida*

    make sure if you do want to handle the smell that you do not put an air ‘freshener’ in the room – only use something that neutralises smells, not perfumes.

    Being trapped in a perfumed room is a pain, and being trapped in a perfumed room someone is farting in is no better.

    Hell, put a charcoal pad on the three seats the execs will be in, to try to filter it at the source if you need to do something.

  86. Sarah*

    Loved the comments!

    Not rude. Agree with a lot of suggestions, ex. air purifier, etc.

    As a pregnant woman who can’t stand smells and with morning/all day sickness, to change my child’s poopy diaper, I open the window, wear a mask, and if the smell is particularly stinky or I’m getting particularly nauseous, do this all while chewing mint gum. It isn’t a perfect system but it helps a little.

  87. Chris Hogg*

    Dear AAM and OP —

    Thank you all, thank you, thank you.

    Thank you, OP, for writing this … thank you, AAM, for posting this … and thank you commenters, for commenting on this.

    I burst out laughing when I first read the headline, continued laughing out loud as I read the post, could literally not read the headline to my wife for laughing so hard, and laughed out loud with tears coming out my eyes all the way through the comments (my apologies to those with medical conditions, I know that’s not funny, but still….).

    I’ve been following AAM forever, and I do believe this is the funniest post I’ve ever read.

    And it’s literally been years (at least a decade) since I’ve laughed this hard or this long over something I’ve read.

    Thank you all for making my day.

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