coworker is bitter that I wouldn’t play a game, employee has bad BO, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworker is bitter that I wouldn’t play a game with her

I (19M) am a college student with a single source of income. Before my shift today, my coworker (18F) sent me a Game Pigeon text out of nowhere. I sort of went along with it, we went back and forth with Cup Pong a few times, and then I started my shift at work. I assumed it was okay to leave the game unfinished until I got off of my shift, but my coworker kept trying to distract me and get me to finish the game. I feel it’s perfectly reasonable to patiently wait to finish a Game Pigeon game until later, but apparently she didn’t share that conviction. She got increasingly irritable the entire shift, even at one point going as far as trying to call me and then leaving a succinct voicemail with just two biting words: “fuck you.” This was the final straw for me and when I decided I was going to draw the line in the sand. I made it clear to her that I wasn’t going to finish the game until I got off work. I politely informed her that I would get off at 11 and that we could continue the game then.

She proceeded to harass me throughout the entire shift and made it clear that I was no longer a friend to her, just a coworker. It was so bad at the end of the night that she wouldn’t even speak to me. I tried to say bye in a cheery voice and she just gave me a blank stare, her lips pursed as she glared at me. I tried a few more times to lighten the mood, but it was clear that she wasn’t gonna bite. She then left and now I just feel bad. Am I the a**hole?

No. Your coworker is a petulant child.

2. Older employees give me basic life reminders

I am a relatively younger manager (early 30s) and keep running into a minor issue when I manage people older than me — they keep giving me advice and reminders like I am not a capable person. For example, when planning a big cross-country move, one gave me unsolicited advice on the best way to pack and lift a box (!). Today, a person I manage reminded me that I need to file my taxes or get an extension if I am not ready (they were done weeks ago).

Answering the question in good faith rubs me the wrong way because I wouldn’t even like this type of “advice” from my mom, but I also don’t want to be abrasive about such innocuous comments. I don’t have any issues with them following my instructions or adhering to my decisions, so it feels silly to be fixated on this, but I also don’t want my colleagues to think I need basic concepts like “file your taxes on time” explained to me.

I would love a script or advice on what to say next time so I don’t accidentally blurt that I have been a grown adult for several years now and don’t need another parent.

Are you a woman and was the box-lifting advice from a man? Because you might not ever cure them of that. But you can try with a dry, “I’ve moved before, thank you” or “I’m good with that stuff, but thanks.”

With the tax-filing advice and similar topics, it might be interesting to think about how you’d respond if the comment came from someone your own age or younger. If someone younger than me reminded me about taxes, it would probably feel more camaraderie-ish than parental — more like “ugh, taxes are due for all of us / have you filed yet / I’m still working on mine” and less like a parental reminder. But even if it’s clear they don’t mean it that way, you could try responding as if they did — “I did mine last month, have you done yours yet?” And responding as a peer might reinforce to them that you are not in fact a child in need of guidance.

If it’s not possible to respond like that because the advice or their manner is so infantilizing, sometimes the most effective thing is to allow your face to pointedly convey “what an odd thing to say” and/or to dryly respond, “I’ve got it covered.”

3. My employee smells bad

I have a team member who has some pretty bad BO (body odor). I’ve had a conversation about it with her, and, without prompting from me, two other team members have politely mentioned it to her. Both times she said she’s had Covid and couldn’t smell much, but also swears she used deodorant and cologne. I even had gotten a new stick of deodorant and put in a drawer I keep hair spray and a few other such things in and told her it was in there if she needed it, just in case it was a financial issue. She said she had sensitive skin and couldn’t use that kind.

Now, I would think that once someone has told you that you stink, you would be mortified and make it a point to handle it, and if not after the first, the second time!? Everyone says she has really bad BO and one other team member in particular is very upset at working with her like that. I hate to write up or fire someone for BO, but what else to do? Is it an offense worthy of such?

It’s reasonable for you as an employer to set baseline expectations that people will show up at work clean and not smelling of body odor so extreme that multiple coworkers have complained. So it’s time for another conversation. This time say something like: “We’ve spoken about this before but it’s continued to be a problem. You might need to wash your clothes more frequently or shower more often, or it might be something medical that you should speak to a doctor about. I know you mentioned you were unaware of it previously, but this time I do need you to see what you can do about it.”

(Obviously if she informs you that there’s a medical reason for the problem, that changes the situation. But unless that happens, it’s reasonable to expect her to come to work with appropriate hygiene.)

how to talk to an employee about body odor

4. Manager recorded training role-plays without employees’ knowledge

My husband works for a large company at a location managed by Bryan. Bryan isn’t his supervisor or in his reporting line, but he does have the ability to assign him some tasks and can make some decisions that affect my husband as an employee based out of that location. However, all of the other employees at this location are directly supervised by Bryan. He has made some odd management decisions in the past, but nothing especially egregious until last week.

All employees at this location went through a training session with corporate HR and Bryan. They were paired with another employee to act out scenarios in front of Bryan with the HR person joining remotely over Teams on Bryan’s laptop. After everyone had completed the training, Bryan sent out a link to a recording with everyone’s session. No one taking the training had any idea that they were recorded. Some folks have tentatively raised this issue with Byran, but he doesn’t seem to get that this was inappropriate.

People are understandably upset. We live in a one-party consent state, meaning that nothing illegal has occurred from what we can tell. Even so, my husband is surprised that Bryan wouldn’t realize the implications of recording employees without their knowledge. The presence of an HR person over Teams makes this particularly baffling, since they would have received a notification on their screen that it was being recorded. My husband plans to let his own supervisor know what occurred since she works closely with Bryan’s supervisor. Are we correct in thinking that Bryan did something wrong here? And is there a better way to elevate the concerns of employees in this location, given the fact that HR may have known that people were recorded without their consent?

Yes. You don’t record people role-playing without their knowledge. It would be reasonable to ask HR for a clearer policy on recording, one that at a minimum ensures anyone participating in a meeting or training session is aware when something is being recorded. (Ensuring you have everyone’s consent can be more complicated in a work situation since sometimes people’s discomfort with recording is trumped by business needs— but at a minimum people should be informed and have the opportunity to raise concerns if they have them.)

Your husband could also ask that the recording be deleted since it was made without people’s knowledge or consent, but I’d be more concerned about ensuring Bryan is told it was inappropriate and that it won’t happen again.

5. Wearing a swimsuit around coworkers

I just came back from a week of travel out of state for work. Typically when I travel to this location, there are many people from my company who stay at the same hotel so the odds of running into one of your other traveling coworkers around breakfast, in the gym, in the elevator, or at the bar at night is pretty high.

However, this week while I was at said hotel, I was walking by the pool and I thought how nice it would be to go for a swim that evening after all work events and obligations were complete. I did not have my suit with me anyway, but then started to wonder if it would even be appropriate to go for a swim? As mentioned above, the chances of running into someone you work with (including your own manager) in the elevator is pretty high. Assuming that you wouldn’t be walking around the hotel in JUST your swimming suit (wearing a coverup or something), is it appropriate to go swimming (or use the hot tub) while on a work trip?

Yes. Just like it’s not inappropriate for coworkers to see you wearing gym clothes in the gym, it’s not inappropriate to be spotted wearing swimwear in the pool. You’re wearing the right clothing for the occasion.

{ 416 comments… read them below }

  1. Happy meal with extra happy*

    Ugh, the BO-ridden coworker is so unfortunate for everyone involved. I bet there is a decent chance that it’s medical-related (such as something like trimethylaminuria), but the employee still needs to raise this.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      I’ve got a friend with a medical issue similar to this – he takes a minimum of two showers a day and still has a noticeable odor within hours. His solution was to make smart choices about clothing, bring an extra shirt to work in case he got sweaty, and to be upfront about it with coworkers and bosses so they know it’s NOT just him being obtuse. That said, it’s also limited his job options – he’s got the personality to be an awesome salesperson, but he’s had to stick with jobs that don’t have as much face-to-face with customers and don’t require him to be outside in the heat all day. It sucks, but what he doesn’t do is ignore everyone’s polite pointers and pretend the problem is all in their heads :-\

      1. Janet*

        What are the smart choices about clothes? Only wearing natural fibres? (That’s the only thing I can think of.)

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, I think the choice of fabric makes a big difference! I get pretty smelly quickly in some of my polyester shirts, basically never in cotton unless I forget my deodorant…
          I also imagine more loose-fitting and “airy” might help?

        2. Allonge*

          I imagine wearing layers also helps (when it’s cold at least) so if you get too hot, there is an option to take something off.

          Plus, the individual factor: some textiles are objectively suitable for clothing and still irritate some people’s skins, or finding a comfortable option in collar style and length of sleeve – might be a tiny thing, but maybe helps?

          1. ThatOtherClare*

            Wearing layers can actually help when it’s hot, too! As a society we’ve lost essentially all knowledge of how to comfortably dress ourselves since the industrial revolution. Have you ever read a historical book that spoke a lot about linens? We used to all wear a layer of linen between our skin and our outer clothes. Linen is made from the stalks of plants that are specifically used by the plant to transport water, and they work that way in clothing, too. The linen used to also protect the clothes for our oily acidic skin, meaning our nice outer layers could be worn several times without washing. Even corsets had a layer of linen underneath them. The moisture wicking properties of a close fitting linen inder layer keeps you cool in summer, and the extra layer adds warmth in winter.

            We’ve also almost entirely forgotten how to make underarm gussets and properly fit sleeves, (the exception being high performance sports wear like cycling gear) – but I’ll save that rant for another time.

        3. londonedit*

          I stopped buying anything made from polyester years ago because within a couple of hours I’d be noticing my own sweaty BO smell, even if I was freshly showered and wearing plenty of deodorant. Polyester just seems to make BO so much worse, and the fabric seems to hang on to smells even after you’ve washed it, so you put something on and the warmth of your body makes it smell again.

          The only polyester thing I do wear is running kit, and for that I use a laundry sanitiser liquid when I wash it (here in the UK there’s one made by Dettol, which is what I use) and I make sure it’s thoroughly dry before I fold it up and put it away. I also only ever wear running kit once before washing it, even if I haven’t been particularly sweaty.

          Sometimes smells can also come from things like coats and outerwear, because people don’t tend to wash them as often (and sometimes not at all, because a lot of the time coats are dry clean only and people don’t bother/can’t afford it). We’ve probably all had times where we’ve encountered someone out and about whose coat absolutely reeks of that musty unwashed smell – they could be as fresh and clean as a fresh and clean thing underneath, but if their coat smells horrible then that’s not going to help much!

          1. Check cash*

            I’ve had trouble getting the smell OUT of the clothes. And I generally try and not use harsh chemicals, so I try to stick to natural fibers as well.

            1. Petty Betty*

              baking soda and white vinegar work wonders.

              Also, in a pinch – a vodka spray will work until you’re able to wash the clothing properly.

              I spend a LOT of time costuming and outfitting a lot of bodies. I keep a big spray bottle of vodka on hand to cut down on the smell, especially when I’m carting around costumes to outfit up to 40 people for some events.

              1. ThatOtherClare*

                When should one use baking soda and when should one switch to using vinegar? I remember the logic from my school days: baking soda is alkaline, so it will neutralise the acidic body fats and oils, while vinegar is acidic, so it can dissolve body oils in a way that water can’t. But obviously if you put them on at the same time they neutralise each other and you’ll just be pointlessly smearing salts on your shirt – so how do you apply them? First one, wash it off, then the other? Or is it a case of try both separately and pick a favourite?

                (Another cleaning tip: if you find modern surfactant-based dishwashing liquids aren’t doing a great job of getting oil off your non-diswasher safe items, try sprinkling them with baking soda and rubbing it in while dry. This will break up all the fats and you can rinse off the resulting ick with just hot water. That will clean them, and then you can use the dishwashing liquid afterwards to kill any nasty remaining germs.)

                1. Lenora Rose*

                  In the cases where you don’t want them to react, it’s baking soda first because you can vacuum or otherwise remove the dry powder, then vinegar. Every instruction I’ve seen that combines them also involves applying the Baking soda first, letting sit for a minute, then pouring the vinegar over.

                  But for the core of your question, baking soda and vinegar don’t really neutralize – or rather, they neutralize *after* they react to one another – as anyone who made a childhood “volcano” can attest. So you get a useful fizz first. The neutralizing is good news in the long term, too, as it means your fabric isn’t being broken down. So yes, you can use both (though the only time I’ve had to try it is on a mattress or garment after a toddler accident).

                2. STAT!*

                  Thanks for asking this question, I always wonder about the efficiacy of cleaning recommendations that mix bicarb soda & vinegar. But it’s news to me that vinegar dissolves body oils. I would have assumed it’s like salad dressing, ie the oils & vinegar just can’t mix because … reasons (is it something to do with molecular polarity?).

            2. Moira's Rose's Garden*

              +1 on white vinegar. Other bonuses is it prevents lime yellowing of whites somewhat, is a great fabric softener. Discovered it when we were doing cloth diapers.

            3. Tisserande d'Encre*

              I personally use borax powder (either as a “pre-wash” or just dumping a bit right in the washer) and it works great!

          2. Michelle Smith*

            This is exactly it for me. I had to learn that even though I find synthetic fabrics much more comfortable than cotton for undergarments, they do not smell fresh when I run them through the wash so unless I want to replace them at a higher than comfortable frequency for my budget, I need to stick with cotton.

          3. BubbleTea*

            I was baffled for a while by the smell of unclean hair when I’d washed my hair that morning, before finally realising my hat was making my hair smell. I’d forgotten that it needed washing!

          4. ZK*

            Many years ago as a poor college freshman, I worked for Taco Bell. Our uniforms were 100% polyester. They gave me ONE to work nearly full time. Living in a dorm. By the end of shift I smelled so bad! I would wash my uniform in the sink and hang it to dry, but you never get food smells out of clothes (we won’t talk about my hair). I’ve never been able to wear polyester since, unless it’s a blend.

            1. Princess Sparklepony*

              During the summers my older sisters used to work in a diner with polyester uniforms. They would come home from work, enter though the laundry room, strip down and wash the uniforms without them coming into the house. They had robes in the laundry room and then they went into the shower all within about five minutes of getting home.

              And this was back when it wasn’t only cooking grease smells but cigarettes as well. Ugh, those uniforms stank and so did the sisters!

          5. Richie*

            Most “dry clean only” clothes are washable at home. by hand, with shampoo no harsh soaps and need to be hardly wrung at all and dried flat on a towel, am thinking wool, cashmere, coats, etc

    2. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      I had a co-worker who was allergic to just about anything that touched her skin too closely. She couldn’t wear lotion, deodorant, or any cosmetics. This was in the panty-hose era, and she had to go bare-legged, which was not fun in winter. She wore full skirts and loose cotton blouses because pants or slim-fitting skirts were even a problem. She was slightly odorous, but washed every day so it didn’t build up. She had an endocrinologist and a dermatologist working on solutions, but nothing helped. She was very nice, and we all felt so bad for her and rather protective if anyone unfamiliar with her situation would get That Look on their face. She was excellent at her job and trained new people, so she’d just explain it matter-of-factly to them.

      1. Rainy*

        When I was in my early 20s, people got really excited about the “natural” crystal deodorants–a lump of mineral salts that you dampen and rub on your pits. I tried it–a lot of my friends and coworkers had switched, swore by it, it was during that period when they thought that exposure to aluminum caused Alzheimer’s Disease, so a lot of people were doing it and it was touted as the healthy, safe alternative to antiperspirants and deodorants.

        I used it for about four days and noticed some redness where I was applying the stuff. The fifth day I put it on and it felt like someone was torching my pits. I washed it off, but the burning didn’t stop for several hours. I threw it away immediately, but the damage was done. The next day, I had a huge puffy rash in both underarms. I had to stop shaving, obviously, and also you can’t put standard anti-perspirant or deodorant on a rash like that. It took months for the rash to subside completely. I tried my old antiperspirant once the skin looked like skin again, only for the rash to immediately begin again, still taking months to go down. The next thing I tried was just deodorant, in case it was the antiperspirant ingredients. No dice. Over the next year and a half I tried six or seven new deodorants or antiperspirants, each time with the cycle of rash, waiting for it to stop, trying something new. Along the way I had to field some complaints from coworkers–I was working in a job that occasionally meant I got sweaty–but I honestly couldn’t do anything about it except stay clean and wear clean clothes and bring a spare shirt.

        I finally found an antiperspirant that didn’t trigger the rash cycle. I’ve been using it ever since.

        Sometimes you honestly just can’t help it.

        1. Christine*

          My husband is super sensitive. He now uses rubbing alcohol, liberally splashed on and rubbed through the hair.

    3. Also-ADHD*

      If a young shift worker, the employee might not know the medical reason even if there is one, and may not have accessible health services at no/low cost. That’s a big challenge with medical issues like that, though they mention an allergy or insensitivity to certain types of deodorant too, which suggests something going on to me.

    4. Beth*

      I had a houseguest once who reeked. Their sense of smell wasn’t very good, but the underlying issue was that their sense of social norms was so off kilter that I had to spell it out that they needed to shower regularly and use deodorant if they were going to be in the same space as other people.

      I also have a co-worker who, as far as I can tell, bathes in increasing amounts of cologne as the number of days since their last shower increases. I wear a mask when I have to talk to them.

      1. JustaTech*

        When I was in college (a tech school) every year the proctors of the various dorms would have to have conversations with students about needing to *both* shower and wash their clothes.
        It was already part of freshman orientation, but some folks needed to have it repeated a few times – usually when their roommates couldn’t take it any more.
        In our collective defense, we were young and school was very hard (and entirely too many people showed up to school not really knowing how to do laundry because “boys don’t do laundry” ugh).
        On the other hand some of it was intentional, in the way that kids would rebel in the weirdest ways – swearing constantly, drinking soda at breakfast, and choosing to wear the same shirt all week – to prove that they weren’t under their parents’ thumbs anymore. Understandable, but still tedious and smelly.

        1. Selina Luna*

          People ask me why I am having my 4-year-old help me with laundry, cooking, weeding the garden, and whatever else. Because I don’t want my son to get to the college dorms and not know how to do the basic stuff, and if I’m “letting him help out” now, he’ll know a little better than if I just assign it as a chore later.

          1. BubbleTea*

            It’s remarkable how many people forget that the goal of parenting is to raise an adult.

          2. i like hound dogs*

            People ask that? I have a young kid and this sort of thing is either seen as table stakes or as “aww, that’s great.”

        2. What name did I use last time?*

          I remember someone I knew who was squeaky clean, showered daily, but had a poor sense of smell (allergies causing constant congestion) and no idea they smelled bad because they needed to put on a fresh shirt every day. They couldn’t smell that yesterday’s shirt smelled sweaty so they just put it on their clean body.

    5. Boof*

      Yeah. If it’s a medical thing I think coworker really has to either declare it or deal with it since it sounds like it’s reaching needs a formal accommodation plan if it’s something that really can’t be helped (I’m pretty sure things that could cause a strong body odor despite all reasonable hygiene attempts are pretty rare, but that’s when it might be time to break out some alternative office space setups etc).
      If the problem is just lack of smell, well I don’t think that’s a great excuse; my spouse doesn’t have much of a sense of smell and is paranoid about BO / showers way more than me / etc exactly because he can’t smell it and doesn’t want to be clouding the air. So the work around for that is just to be fastidious about hygiene and have someone you can go to for a smell check if needed. (I ask my spouse to reach tall things; they ask me to smell things; it works out!)

      1. Alisaurus*

        I sympathize with your spouse. My roommates have always known going in that I need smell-checkers, so it’s worked out (except this is the first time I’ve been taller than a roommate so I usually can’t reach tall things either lol).

      2. Michelle Smith*

        Unless there is something in the letter I missed, we don’t know that this employee doesn’t shower once or twice a day. She very well could be “paranoid about BO” as you describe and not feel comfortable advertising the details of how she cleans her body to her boss and coworkers.

        1. Java*

          No one is suggesting she advertise all the details – but there’s a big difference between someone who is smelly because they can’t help it and someone who is smelly because they think it’s not a big deal.
          If she’s in the first category it benefits herself and her coworkers for everyone to be aware that she isn’t just brushing off and ignoring the complaints from coworkers.

          1. MedicalScents*

            As someone with a medical issue that can cause body odor, it’s not that simple. I’ve offered to discuss it with people when it comes up and the standard answer is no, I can’t discuss it and further they have to protect the anonymity of people who are bothered by it. So I end up doing performative things like periodically showering at the office if they have shower facilities because there isn’t anything else I can do about it.

    6. alex*

      I had a college classmate who reeked so badly that it was almost impossible for it to be non-medical, unless he showered just once a month. Fortunately he skipped a lot because when he did show up about every two weeks, the odor was so bad that other students would move away from him. The classroom was fairly small and there was at least a hint of the odor everywhere. We could never tell if he was aware of it or not and I don’t know if anyone ever talked to him about it. And, this was just an hour or so a couple of times a week. I can’t imagine having this situation for a full shift with a coworker almost daily.

    7. I'm just here for the cats!*

      True, but then you also get the people like the guy at my old job who did it on purpose. He didn’t have a medical thing.

    8. Jojo*

      I once had to have the BO talk with an employee. In her case, it turned out that her washer was broken and she couldn’t afford to replace it. It was retail, so BO was a problem, but also, it was retail, and she didn’t make enough to be able to afford basic upkeep on her house. The entire conversation sucked. But, she didn’t smell after that. So a win?

      1. Coco*

        I worked retail part time while in college. I some weeks I couldn’t afford to use the laundry mat. I would hand wash my clothes in my bathtub/sink and air dried them on hangers or a laundry rack. It was unpractical, but inexpensive.

    9. BethRA*

      I think the BO can also be an issue with clothing. I have shared an office with someone who had a condition that caused a lot of sweating, and while her particular condition affected the non-stinky sweat glands (turns out there’s more than one kind!), she didn’t wash her clothing often, and used “natural products” – which meant that her clothes got unpleasantly funky.

      She was pretty nose-blind to it, but unfortunately the rest of us weren’t.

    10. Butterfly Counter*

      I might have mentioned this here before. Years and years ago, when I was on a bus in Chicago, a man got on and fully cleared the front half of the bus with his smell. I took public transportation for a long time and have been subjected to all kinds of smells. This was truly unique in that he just smelled sick. As in dying. And it was powerful. I had been reading a book that was lent to me from someone’s dank basement and I was forever grateful of the musty smell of those pages. I’d otherwise have gotten off the bus and walked the 4 miles home.

      The smells a body can produce are incredible.

      1. Anon for This*

        I knew someone who had strong body odor to begin with, didn’t like to bathe more often than every couple of weeks, and wore everything but underpants multiple times before washing them.

        I was once able to find him in a large grocery store simply by walking down one of the large central aisles and sniffing; no problem locating which aisle he was on, as the odor was noticable once I got within a couple aisles of him.

      2. Deborah*

        They had to ground a plane for someone smelling terrible, and that person DIED of a tissue infection a few weeks later. This was 2018 if you want to look it up.

      3. Ann Nonymous*

        I was on a NY subway and a homeless looking guy got on and a powerful stench took over. We all ended up covering our noses. The guy got off but the smell remained. We then realized it was not coming from him, but from another normal-looking guy who just reeked.

      4. Orv*

        There’s a particular funk that heavy drinkers get that’s hard to miss. Showering barely touches it — I think it comes from their lungs.

    11. Sweet 'N Low*

      It is so so hard to deal with body odor issues when you can’t smell them. I have first-hand experience based on a very unfortunate combination of problems…

      – I sweat very excessively (possibly caused by a medical issue; working on figuring that out)
      – I work in sports, so I get sweaty on a daily basis
      – Working/participating in sports so long has left me completely desensitized to the smell of sweat & I cannot smell mine at all
      – I live alone & have no one to check if I smell bad

      I basically just do what I can and check with people I trust when I’m worried I might smell bad. The one thing that’s been helpful to me so far is Duradry’s 3-step system. It’s a bundle of a morning deodorant/anti-perspirant, a night deodorant/anti-perspirant, and a deodorizing wash. Hard to say how much of an impact it’s had on odor (see problems above), but I no longer sweat through t-shirts while sitting on the couch!

    12. Trying Hard*

      It sounds like it may be a medical issue for her but perhaps also a skin sensitivity issue. My small version of that is that like her my underarms are so sensitive- I can’t even use aluminum-free deodorant without my skin turning red and irritated. I’ve learned the hard lesson that it needs to be baking soda free AND aluminum-free (Native has a few of these). The part that sucks even more is that those are all more natural deodorants, so they don’t last as long. I am always using lotions and perfume to combat this. This is tough stuff; I hope she finds a solution.

      1. Ex-Stinker*

        I’ve had some success with Pixi Glow Tonic from target – it’s meant to be a facial serum but is highly antibacterial and I saw it recommended on a reddit thread for deodorant substitutes. They said any 5% glycolic acid toner would work and for me, that one has been great! It’s a bit pricey but a little goes a long way and you can get travel size ones for under $10 to test it out. Just in case that helps anybody else out there!

        1. Richie*

          There’s also palmarosa essential oil, it smells like light geranium and is antibacterial, it lets you sweat (because that’s essential) but no smell. I take the whole EO bottle when travelling in summer and mix it with a face cream to apply under arms. Tried and tested in Andalousia in above 30°C temperatures.

    13. Laura*

      I had COVID and developed body odor for a period of time. It appeared that my autonomic nervous system had jump started my apocrine sweat glands, located in the scalp, armpits and groin. It didn’t last and I never noticed it about myself. I guarantee they are embarrassed about it.

  2. The Bimmer Guy*

    Re #1: You’re a bigger person than I am. Someone who told me “f*** you” over a stupid game would not get an offer to resume playing later on. She sounds ridiculous and I’d keep my interactions with her to a minimum from here on out.

    Re #4: So only HR and other administrators get notifications on Teams that the software is recording? Ugh. Yet another reason to hate Teams. I think everyone should be notified. Is there ever a good reason to discreetly record a meeting and *not* inform everyone?

    1. ad astra*

      Re: #4–I think everyone involved in the roleplaying was in person & the HR person was the only one joining remotely. Not that it changes things that much (they 1000% should have told people they were recording), but it does explain the notification comment at least

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        To LW 4, I also had the impression the training was in person except for the remotely joined HR Rep – so nobody got the “you are being recorded Zoom warning flash.

        However my team as a standing practice from our manager will record trainings because we are all remote. He does announce at the start of training that it will be recorded for us to go back later and use if we have questions. Additionally only test cases are ever used while recording is in process. And role plays are never recorded – without being all volunteer teams that are well aware far in advance that this particular role play will be part of the recorded training.

      2. Also-ADHD*

        I’ll be honest, my job is related to training/HR, and I wouldn’t directly think about the notification in many cases. Depending on how the recording was started, how involved I was with setup etc., I might not assume it was a case where the people in room weren’t also notified. Or that it was for public posting (a Zoom/Teams recording would be a truly bizarre way of filming an in person training to me too, I guess, quality wise, if we were doing so). That whole setup sounds confusing. Plus even if the HR person thought that was odd, being offsite and probably not the manager/direct superior of the guy recording, I’m not sure what they could’ve done at the time. The level of power an HR rep had to change in the moment manager behavior like that would be small even with all the information clear. They can probably help you get it pulled down though.

        1. ferrina*

          Agree with this- HR probably didn’t know that the other people in the room weren’t aware that the training was being recorded. HR would have been notified automatically (with the Teams notificiation) and might have even discussed it Bryan the manager, but Bryan failed to share the information with the team.

          If HR is generally receptive, I think it’s fair to go to them and say “hey, we weren’t aware that this was recorded and it’s making us really uncomfortable. Could we set a policy so this doesn’t happen in the future?”

          1. LW #4*

            Hi all! Yes, Bryan, the HR person, and another manager at a different location were the only people on Teams. My husband and other employees at his location were acting out scenarios in-person while the HR person, Bryan, and the other manager watched. Bryan’s laptop was situated so that the HR person and other manager could see the role playing and provide feedback. Bryan’s laptop was used to do the recording, so HR and the other manager were the only people to receive notifications.

            My husband learned yesterday that HR and the other manager did actually know that it was being recorded (and not just because of the notification). No one let anyone acting out the scenarios know about the recording. Bryan is out of state at headquarters this week, but others are dealing with the fallout from this. I’ll send in an update when things have settled!

    2. fluffy*


      I hadn’t even heard of Game Pigeon before, but it sounds like it’s intended to be played offline and asynchronously. Your coworker needs to take a chill pill and understand that different people prioritize things differently.

      I do wonder how you communicated with her during the shift, though. Did you just pointedly ignore her, or say things like, “Not right now, I’d like to finish my shift first” or the like? Like maybe your coworker needs to get a better handle on prioritizing work vs. play.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          I wouldn’t characterise not answering a gaming message during work as pointedly ignoring someone. That’s what makes texts so useful and different to calls; people don’t have to respond immediately and they’ll get back to you when they can.

          1. Bast*

            This is my view on texting as well — I respond when I can, which is not all the time — but it seems that many people now expect 24/7 availability from people.

          2. Tio*

            It sounds like both these people were in the same place – ” It was so bad at the end of the night that she wouldn’t even speak to me. I tried to say bye in a cheery voice and she just gave me a blank stare, her lips pursed as she glared at me.”

            Which makes calling and leaving a f*** you voicemail VERY extra, but also means they probably did have a chance to actually ignore them (though nothing actually indicates LW1 did)

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        OP1 let coworker know not know I will finish after work. I mean they were at work. It is not odd to actually, you know, work while at work and not play a game. Coworker was right there. She could see OP1 was working.

        This is all on coworker, not OP1.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Plus anyone who would be that persistent and escalate their response to FU over an online game that they hadn’t agreed to be playing that day (“out of the blue”) and over the course of a working day? No matter *how* LW communicated during their shift (which it sounds like they weren’t rude or icing the co-worker out) that is a ridiculous response to a minor disappointment based on entirely one-sided expectations.

          If LW had previously had an long standing positive no-drama relationship with this co-worker, I give co-worker one and only one “hey, what was up the other day? cuz you seemed REALLY intense about me not being about to play Pong during work” in case IDK, they needed a Snickers bar or something. But otherwise or if the response is anything other complete ownership of their behavior, I would give them a Very Wide Berth going forward. Because for whatever reason, they’ve demonstrated problems with unrealistic expectations, presumption of control of other people’s behavior and OTT hostile escalation. And LW is not in a position to help them with that, whatever the cause.

    3. Pinky*

      Putting your hate on a dumb computer programme and not on the people using it is certainly an odd choice. Behind every malfunctioning algorithm is a human not giving a shit. Putting the blame on some software is exonerating the techbros causing the digital hell.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Agreed. I have felt that way since the beginning. When I get annoyed by a program, I’m really annoyed by the jerks who designed it and are making my life difficult.

      2. daffodil*

        in this case it’s not a software problem, it’s that the people who didn’t know were not using the software, because they were in person. And probably the call/recording started before they arrived. On our iteration of Teams anyway it is very clear when a recording is happening, visually and with an audio notice when the recording starts.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      For OP#1 – I think I might even have a word with my supervisor about the situation, if your co-worker continues to be nasty. Once you’ve done your best to manage a situation with a coworker, it’s okay to escalate if the coworker gets overtly abusive about it.

      1. Anonym*

        Yeah, it’s worth giving a supervisor a heads up. Framing it as, “Hey, I had some weird interactions with Coworker the other day. How do you want me to handle if they keep being aggressive and weird?” would be reasonable.

      2. MassMatt*

        I would play them the “F You!” message they left. The fact that this is all stemming from the coworker’s anger the LW would not finish a game while working is nuts but also means LW can probably get them fired easily if they don’t grow up quickly.

      3. Throwaway Account*

        I came here to say the same, tell your supervisor if the behavior continues. You might tell the supervisor now if you want to and frame it as asking if you should have handled it differently (I don’t think you should have but asking advice is a way to tell them).

        Coworkers don’t have to like each other, but they do have to remain collegial and respectful to each other. Your coworker was not respectful.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          LW1: This is 100% true, but also be thoughtful about whether future coworkers are truly being rude before you enlist the help of a manager. In this situation it’s clear, but remember that coworkers are not obligated to be your friends. If someone decides they don’t want to be friendly anymore, but they are still polite and professional (just a little formal or reserved), that’s not enough. Being actively chilly, not responding to you about work related tasks, or cursing at you like this person did? That’s when you talk to the manager. And if they dismiss it as a personality conflict and tell you to handle it on your own, you don’t have a good manager. They should enforce a minimum level of politeness that facilitates letting you get your job done without active hostility from others.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            Also remember that the politeness should go both ways. Even if your coworker sucks, you don’t have license to curse them out right back or refuse to speak to them. Continue being as polite as you have been.

          2. allathian*

            In this case the LW could potentially get the coworker fired. Deservedly so, in my book. People are at work to work, and even if it’s perfectly fine to take breaks and to play games during said breaks, getting angry at someone for not wanting to engage in a non-work activity during working hours isn’t a good look.

    5. purple monkey & bubblegum tree*

      No, everyone who joins a Teams meeting on their computer is notified. It’s just that the HR person was the only one joining remotely. Everyone else was in the room together, so they wouldn’t have seen the notification.

    6. justanobody*

      Re #1: You’re a bigger person than I am. Someone who told me “f*** you” over a stupid game would not get an offer to resume playing later on. She sounds ridiculous and I’d keep my interactions with her to a minimum from here on out.

      THIS ^^^

    7. MBK*

      I thought it was oddly wholesome that LW#1 directly quoted the “fuck you” unredacted but then asked if they were an “a**hole.”

  3. NotSarah*

    I inspected transfer stations and one of the fellows was always more than a little ripe. I figured it was just part of the job – expecting people who do manual labor all day not to stink didn’t seem logical.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Above and beyond just manual labor – some jobs just expose you to more environmental odors: mechanics are around oils, solvents, gas; cooks are constantly around cooking food; hospital staff are often around lots of disenfenctant soaps (and far too many of those are way overperfumed in my opinion); plumbers well we can fill in that blank; etc.

      The standards are different in an office setting though. To me it’s about being aware of your work setting, and fitting in with it, including scent and grooming standards.

      1. Garblesnark*

        Yeah. My spouse is a well showered fellow who cares a great deal about smelling good. The man matches his cologne to his shampoo. Also he does building maintenance and once in a while, a toilet explodes on him. He smells worse those days.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        See also, agricultural workers. It’s really hard to work hands on at a duck farm in any capacity and not acquire some odors during your workday. (based on my experience dating someone who worked at one summers during college)

    2. AnonForThis*

      Tbh there’s also a big difference between being “a bit ripe” and actual problematic smells coming from people. I work with someone who some times smells so bad that it makes people gag – and it lingers even if they’ve just walked past you. And it’s not just because the person forgets to shower occasionally or has been doing manual labour.

      1. NotJane*

        Yep. I once worked in the office of a roofing company and when the crews came in at the end of the day (especially in the summer), everyone was understandably a bit “ripe”. However, there was one guy who smelled absolutely horrible from the moment he walked in the door in the morning. It was more that just normal BO and it got to the point no one wanted him to ride in the crew truck because it was unbearable.

      2. ThatOtherClare*

        This. Some people have body odour that comes not just with a smell but with a physical sensation. It feels similar to the way wasabi/horseradish burns through your nose when you eat it, except wasabi smells like food and BO smells of, well, BO. It also seems to somehow linger in the air after the person is gone. It’s not common, but if you’ve smelled it, you know what I’m talking about. I feel for those people, it must be very lonely.

    3. Emily Byrd Starr*

      I don’t see any indication that the LW’s coworker does manual labor, but if she does, she should bring her deodorant/perfume/body spray/cologne to work with her, and re-apply it throughout the day.

      1. BubbleTea*

        I think this is an unrealistic standard to set. Someone whose body smells as a result of performing their job role isn’t doing anything wrong, and applying perfumed toiletries just layers extra smell on top.

        1. Java*

          If they have to deal closely with other people or clients it absolutely isn’t an unrealistic standard. Ex. Hair stylists are doing physical labour all day long and a part of their training involves instructing them on how to keep a toiletries kit at work because being smelly while doing a client’s hair isn’t acceptable.

          Adding a little extra deodorant if you’ve been sweating a lot at work (especially if your BO is so noticeable that other people are complaining on multiple occasions) is really not a lot to ask of someone.

      2. K*

        No, we’re not doing manual labor, we’re inside all day. I still keep toiletries there to freshen up as needed because I sweat myself at times. It’s kinda like retail, in that we are around customers all day, sometimes spending up to an hour with one group, so I know customers have smelled it. I guess we’ll be having another talk next time she comes in, don’t see another way around it.

      3. Starbuck*

        This isn’t really the norm though, no one expects manual laborers to smell fresh after a day of heavy lifting.

        There’s definitely a difference between the smell of “showered in the AM and put on clean clothes, worked hard, sweated through my deodorant and some BO is developing” (totally tolerable as long as you’re not trying to hug me) vs. haven’t bathed in days and wearing equally funky clothes, and possibly adding on things like being from a home where pet messes aren’t cleaned up or other things like smoking happening inside.

  4. Allonge*

    LW1 – It really is ok to not maintain a ‘friendship’ with someone who behaves like this (I use the quotes because what she did was not something a real friend does. Don’t feel bad about your choices here – if anything, you were too accommodating.

    1. Call me Saul*

      I honestly can’t help but think the colleague wanted to be a bit more than friends. That might explain (but not excuse) such a reaction.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Yeah I got that impression too. What a fun relationship that would be! She sounds charming.

      2. Blame it on the Weatherman*

        Yeah my assumption was she thought they were flirting, and reacted to the game being on pause as though he like… stood her up at a restaurant. Not too logical or stable a reaction, but believable

      3. Hannah Lee*

        Oh, wait, I think you may be onto something here.

        I had a co-worker wig out on me over something similarly trivial, and it turns out, that was likely what was going on with him. (That I was 20-something and he was 40-something, and it was over slicing up to share with co-workers a half-sour pickle he’d given me when he got back from a work trip to NYC* made it a bit … icky)

        * another co-worker who traveled to NYC frequently brought back bagels that he handed out, so I just thought the pickle thing was a variation of that. Also, turns out I really don’t like NYC half-sour pickles so was happy to share with people who did.

    2. Jellybeans*

      Okay but we are talking about literal teenagers here. Kids do dumb stuff sometimes, because they are kids, and especially kids do dumb stuff in the workplace.

      AAM semi-regularly gets letters about kids messing up, flirting or fighting at their random minimum wage retail or fast food jobs, and everyone always gets very “document with HR!!” about it and it’s like, they’re just kids chill.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        They are not kids, and it’s okay to not want someone’s crappy behavior toward you discounted on the grounds that you are a teenager and this stuff only counts when done to 30 year olds.

        Being young and new to work is a context where someone might actually need to be told that their colleague isn’t ignoring the game because they forgot, but because they are focused on work. Told once, after which they experienced at worst a mild feeling of embarrassment and integrated the information into their model of how to act going forward.

      2. Allonge*

        Sure – I was not talking about documenting with HR though, nor did I say that this coworker is an irredeemable lost cause. Also – by the time people get to 18-19, they had plenty of experience with having times and places not appropriate for playing games.

        OP seems pretty invested in maintaining the relationship despite coworker’s increasingly bad behavior. I thought confirmation that this is not what friends do can help a bit.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          I thought he was immensely patient and forgiving with her. I would have given that behaviour a very wide margin at any age.

          1. ThatOtherClare*

            Not necessarily. Sometimes people lose their head for a day and do or say really weird things. I know I’ve said some incredibly bizarre and rude things to family members the day before coming down with a cold.

            If she doesn’t double down, and instead backs off, seems ashamed and never mentions it ever again – I’d personally give her some grace and assume it was a one-off. Of course, the best course of action is to apologise and tell the other person that you lost your head and don’t actually believe any of what you said, but young adults quite often struggle with that level of maturity.

            I once received a very nasty email from a colleague’s pregnant wife calling me all sorts of horrible things because I came into work when I had a sick family member. I had actually offered to work in a different space and my colleague said “Don’t bother”. I could have responded (and probably started a fight), but I just ignored it. I’ve met her and the child several times at work functions and she’s always been extremely nice to me. She sent me a lovely card before I had surgery, and I knitted the newborn a sweater during my recovery. A single outburst means nothing in my experience.

            The second it becomes a pattern though, 100% with you. Wide margin. The letter writer will be able to identify which case applies to him.

            1. ThatOtherClare*

              I will just add one more thing: this behaviour is truly bizarre and outlandish, and often the more bizarre and contextless behaviour does turn out to be a one-off. Not always, but very often.

        2. ferrina*

          Exactly. Just because the person acting inappropriately is a teenager doesn’t mean that you should just stand there and take it. Yes, teenagers make bad decisions, but they learn from the natural consequences. Natural consequence of being a jerk is that people don’t want to be around you. Ideally someone in this girl’s life should have a conversation with her about work and asynchronous communication in general, but I know not ever teenager has that person in their life (I sure didn’t- I got to learn a lot the hard way).

          The beauty of teenagers is that they are young, their brain is still growing, and who they are now isn’t necessarily who they will be in a few years. I think the advice for OP to avoid this girl for now is a good one, but if she chills out in a few months you can consider carefully reopening the friendship (an apology would be ideal, but may not happen). But for right now she needs some space so she can grow up, and OP can focus on less drama-filled activities.

          1. Resentful Oreos*

            I agree. Teenagers aren’t toddlers, and LW1’s coworker ideally should know better than to throw a tantrum over a game. However, this might be her (and LW’s) first job, and it’s better to learn these things at the kind of low-stakes jobs that most teenagers have, rather than one’s first Big Deal Professional job.

            You get written up or fired from your fast-food job? No big whoop. It’s a learning experience. Getting written up or fired from the kind of white-collar or skilled blue-collar job where there are networks, references, maybe a union – that’s a much bigger deal. I honestly think it’s a *good* thing for teens to have some kind of job (that isn’t freelance babysitting or yard work or whatever) because a lot of lessons can be learned on the job there, and people are more likely to laugh off or excuse bad behavior from someone who is 18 than someone who is 23 or 24, and “should know better by now.”

            LW1, this will probably be something you laugh about 10 years from now (“would you believe Ashlee threw a temper tantrum over something called “Game Pigeon?”) but for now you can just ignore her.

      3. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I wouldn’t worry too much about documenting this with HR but if she starts treating OP differently at work (which I’m sure she will), he should probably tell his supervisor about that. But honestly, no human being should ever swear at another human being just because that human being has higher priorities in their life than playing an online game with them, no matter how old they are. And an 18-year-old should know that by this point in their life.

        1. Bast*

          I am in my 30s and still have encountered people (around my own age) who throw temper tantrums when someone is not available immediately/does not respond quickly enough for their liking.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Yeah, there are many reasons why someone might throw a tantrum at an age well past when such things are socially acceptable. For instance, I’ve been reading up on neurodivergence and apparently we neurodivergents are more likely to get overloaded and have a meltdown. But that doesn’t mean that it’s okay for us to swear at our coworkers.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          I wouldn’t go full-blown HR, but the 18YO may need some supervisor feedback on appropriate uses of time during one’s shift and professional treatment of coworkers. They’re young and learning, but they also need feedback to do the learning part.

          Normally, I’d say that there’s no need to report on a first offense and just handle it oneself, but their constant messaging and FU message are kind of over the top and in no way appropriate to even the most casual of work environments.

      4. RIP Pillowfort*

        They may be immature and sometimes make bad decisions, but most people aren’t going to leave a voicemail cursing a co-worker out because they wouldn’t play a game with them during their shift. The stuff she’s doing sends up some orange caution flags because it’s so far outside normal social behaviors.

        I don’t think the answer is run to HR. I think you see if it blows over and if it doesn’t, deal with it from there. But treating it like “kids will be kids” is not a great plan for most things and doesn’t help people learning workplace norms. Minimum norm is that a co-worker should not be leaving you voicemails like that.

        1. Worldwalker*

          I’m in my 60s and I have never left a voicemail like that. Or its equivalent pre-voicemail. Nor has any co-worker left one for me, whatever their age.

          This is not a teenager problem; this is a person who wants to be treated as an adult but is acting like not just a child, but a toddler. She demanded something of another person, could not postpone gratification, could not understand that what she wanted was not appropriate for the time and place, and then threw a tantrum, followed by sulking. This is not teenage behavior. This is not behavior expected of anyone over the age of six, and children who act like that are corrected or punished.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, this. It’s not acceptable behavior at any age. Sure, toddlers are toddlers and can’t help it. I’m not saying it’s appropriate to punish (punishment = excessive consequences) them for behavior that’s typical for their age, but it is appropriate to teach them how to do better.

            These people are legal adults. Young adults certainly, but still fully responsible for their own actions in the eyes of the law.

      5. MrsPookie*

        At that age my son was managing (GM) a retail store so just because they are young doesn’t mean they dont have work experience . It just means they have to work with idiots.

      6. not nice, don't care*

        If the game player gets this vicious about a stupid game, I imagine they are the type to continue making life hell for OP, in which case letting a manager know (or HR if the manager isn’t reasonable) could head off a lot of trouble. As for ‘just kids chill’, may you experience whatever you need to gain enlightenment on the issue.

      7. Laura*

        Nobody’s talking about going to HR. They’re just pointing out that this person isn’t behaving like a friend the OP doesn’t have to maintain a friendship with them. Which is something that applies to anybody of any age.

  5. WS*

    We just went through the BO situation with a new employee and it turned out to be her clothing, much of which she shares with her similar-aged sister. She is definitely nose-blind to it, so every now and then when she wears an affected item we have to remind her, but it’s less and less often and less of a big deal.

    1. Rebecca*

      Yep, I had a friend who always smelled bad, and it was because she didn’t wash her clothes.

      1. Sherm*

        I had a coworker like that, too. He showered regularly, but he never did laundry, instead wearing his unwashed, increasingly funky, clothes over and over. He didn’t realize he smelled until one day a visitor near where he stood said “What’s that smell??”

        So now I do wonder if OP3’s coworker thinks everything is A-OK because she showers/bathes and uses deodorant, but in reality another hygiene issue is at play.

        1. Swan*

          To be fair we shouldn’t be washing our clothes as often as we tend to do…but you’re still supposed to at least air them out (outside, in your bathroom in pointless) between wears and wash them when they get noticeably dirty or smelly!

          I wonder if he had heard that somewhere, if he was just a slob, or maybe even that no one taught him how to do laundry so he just didn’t.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            You don’t need to wash every garment every wear, but the layer closest to your skin is really a one-and-done – underwear obviously, but also probably shirts unless you have an undershirt.

            Judicious use of wicking undergarments, and changing out of work clothes as soon as you get home, can extend the necessary time between laundering.

            It is also important to use a clean washing machine. Shared machines should be properly maintained by management (!) but an in-unit machine typically needs monthly maintenance to empty filters and clean out residues.

            1. bamcheeks*

              and the door left open between washes! This is the bane of my washing machine existence.

              1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                Door AND DETERGENT DRAWER.

                Powder leaves less residue than liquid or gel, so the drawer dries more quickly and effectively.

                Take the drawer all the way out every now and then so you can scrub it out completely. Unbelievably gross.

              1. Spring*

                I unexpectedly stayed overnight at a friend’s house so I borrowed a blouse to wear to work the next day. I assumed she had given me a clean blouse, but over the course of the day, I realized that my body heat was bringing out the leftover BO in the armpits of the blouse, and if I could smell it, other people could, too. So I ran out and bought a new top. My friend never smelled of BO, so I think it must have been a combo of unwashed blouse and my skin chemistry (or whatever it’s called).

                1. FashionablyEvil*

                  It was almost certainly washed. Synthetic fabrics can really hold on to odors that you can’t smell until you wear the clothing and it gets warm from your body heat.

                2. LCH*

                  certain deodorants are really hard to wash out of clothing and can trap BO smell over time. i had some great clothes ruined because of my cakey deo like 25 yrs ago. so it could have been an item she washed, but still had residue.

            2. Nonny Nonny Hey*

              I am pretty good about doing the “Tub Clean” cycle with bleach on my washer once a month – but at one point my bleach got too old (I had technically heard of that, but it wasn’t _that_ old) and I was therefore ineffectively cleaning it for a few months. And my clothes started smelling. It increased very gradually, and I wonder now if it was noticeable to other people before it was noticeable to me. >_<
              Eventually I had to get rid of a large percentage of my clothes, because I couldn't fully get rid of the smell no matter what I used.
              Another issue is that in the summer, the humid outdoor air somehow leaks back in the vent to my dryer, so if the clothes are fully dry initially, they get damp again if I leave them too long!

            3. MigraineMonth*

              Ugh, that reminds me of the “perk” of my new apartment: its own washer/dryer unit. A single machine that was supposed to both wash and dry clothes, but did neither well. It took hours and still left clothes damp and smelling like mildew, so I ended up re-washing everything in the shared washer down the hall. The unit itself smelled bad, too, and my attempts to bleach it had no effect. I eventually them to remove it so I could at least use the closet space, and the odor from the unused water connection made me want to throw up.

              1. Orv*

                It was probably growing mildew in the door seal. It’s a common problem with front-loading machines, and one reason I prefer a top-loader.

            4. ThursdaysGeek*

              And yet there are people who don’t wash bras after every use, and they are quite vocal that it isn’t necessary either. I consider a bra underwear, close to armpits and sweaty underboobs. If your shirt needs to be washed, then so does anything under it.

              1. Katrine Fonsmark*

                Oh I disagree with this 100%. Bras that fit me correctly are hard to find and expensive, and I’m not going to ruin the life of a $200 bra by washing it after every wear – the elastic can’t handle that. On a normal day I don’t sweat very much if at all, unless I’m outside in the summer. Of course I have sports bras which get washed every wear, and if I actually sweat then sure, I wash the regular bras, but it’s really not necessary most of the time.

                1. BubbleTea*

                  Same. I can’t afford enough bras to change them daily, and honestly anyone close enough to smell my bra is either too close or not particularly bothered (eg my toddler).

                2. DrSalty*

                  Same. I always do a sniff check though on the area under the arms to determine if it needs to be washed. Some of us just don’t sweat very much during a normal day to day.

                3. Bob-White of the Glen*

                  Agreed. I change my undies sometimes 2x a day, but a bra can go for a week, unless I sweated in it. (Cool climate living!)

              2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                This is why I wear a thin tank under my bra. The tank gets washed after one wear, and the bra is still effectively clean.

          2. Emily Byrd Starr*

            With the exception of coats, hats, and sometimes sweatshirts, I always wash every article of clothing every time I wear it. Do people really not do this? I just figured it was standard.
            I do know of at least one instance where someone stunk because he didn’t realize that he needed to change his underwear every day, but I always figured he was an outlier.

            1. not nice, don't care*

              I know so many people (myself included) who do not wash every item of clothing every time it’s worn(underwear excepted). There are plenty of listicles making the rounds about best practices for washing various types of clothing/fabric, including not washing every item every time.
              Anyone on a budget or who likes their clothes to last as long as possible knows that appropriate laundering intervals can extend the life of clothing while still being clean and unsmelly.

            2. sparkle emoji*

              Some fabrics can’t handle frequent washing. For things like jeans or underwire bras, washing every time will dramatically shorten the lifespan of the garment. There are ways to keep them from smelling even without washing them all the time: airing them out between wears, storing them in the freezer to kill smelly bacteria, etc. I’m not unhygienic just because I wear a pair of jeans a few times before washing them. Wearing the same pair of underwear every day for a week is a different story.

              1. Annie*

                Yes, jeans and bras are not washed after every wear, and depending on how long and in what situation shirts/blouses are worn, they may not be washed every time (say, a shirt is just worn out for dinner after wearing a different shirt all day at home).
                Underwear, definitely, every time it’s worn it’s washed after.

            3. Orv*

              I wear everything except socks and underwear at least twice before I wash it. I’ll sometimes wear jeans for three or four days, depending on what I’ve been doing in them. I hang them up in between wearings so they can air out, and so I don’t have to wear the same thing two days in a row.

            4. Future*

              I don’t wash my jeans or work trousers very often at all. They don’t usually need it. Certainly not after every use.

        2. Kitters*

          It could also be the case where the clothing is being washed and souring in the washer or the dryer, after being left to sit wet for too long. We didn’t really get an descriptor except, BO.

          1. learnedthehardway*

            Yes – I loathe front-loading washing machines for this reason.

            With ours, you have to wash every load with a cup of vinegar. Doesn’t matter whether I’ve run laundry machine cleaner tablets, kept the door open, etc. etc. or not. I would have someone come and tear the machine apart to deep clean it, but I’m certain it would just start all over again.

          2. Emily Byrd Starr*

            The dryer? Really? I can see the washer, but why the dryer? Can clothing really stink in the dryer once it’s already dry?

            1. not nice, don't care*

              The dryer. Really. Sometimes folks forget to turn it on, or it stops before clothes are fully dry.

      2. Quoth the Raven*

        Even if you wash your clothes, at some point body odour can just linger.

        When I was an older teenager, no matter how many times I washed my shirts or what detergent I used, some shirts just smelled like sweat. It was just like the moment I put them on, you could smell it, even if my own body didn’t smell (and in fact, the problem went away if I changed my clothes). I ended up having to toss quite a few shirts out because I couldn’t wear them at all.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, at some point clothes just keep the smell – like, literally, they smell like old sweat after about half an hour, even if they seemed fine right after washing. For me, either using a hygienic rinser (? The disinfectant stuff) or, if material allows, a hotter wash at 60 or 90 °C every now and then helps.

          Of course, the first time that happened to me was at a week-long sports camp and it happened to *all the sports clothes I had brought at the same time*. Fun times…

          1. Phryne*

            There is some stuff that helps. I use a powder that uses enzymes to reduce odour in clothes that you can add to your regular detergent that works pretty well.
            And cleaning you machine by running a boiling hot cycle empty, and leaving the door open to air it out all helps.

            But yeah, synthetic sports clothes especially eventually just need to be written off.

            1. Swan*

              Yeah, unfortunately the reason sports clothes are so good at keeping you dry unfortunately also tends to be the reason they’re difficult to wash.

                1. Phryne*

                  yes, that is a good one too, soak it in vinegar for 20 mins before putting it in the washing machine.

                1. Phryne*

                  Probably not in large quantities, but if you soak your clothes in vinegar and then rinse them before you put them in the washer the trace amount of acid is not going to be a huge problem

          2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            Dyer’s detergent. I threw some athletic shirts in with the tie dye I was washing out because polyester doesn’t take cotton dyes and I didn’t want to waste my quarters. Absolutely no smell, even on the nasty old one that hadn’t smelled good for years.

            It’s kind of expensive, but you don’t need much.

        2. Artemesia*

          T shirts worn as undershirts eventually develop this funk even when regularly washed and the low water using eco washers don’t help; fact is old fashioned detergents and high volume top loaders do a better job getting things clean. After a few weeks, I soak my husbands t-shirts in an enzyme soak product for a couple hours and then wash them with detergent and then really works on lingering sweat — and he is very clean and rarely smells — but sweat accumulates in things like t -shirts.

          1. Starbuck*

            It also depends on how you wash them and what else is there. I finally tossed some cotton shirts from high school and college where the pits had like, hardened/solidified and darkened. It had to have been the combo of fabric softener and the type of deodorant I wore back then, because I quit using both of those years ago and the pits of my cotton t-shirts are no longer doing the weird solidifying but also melting apart thing.

        3. Mouse named Anon*

          After I had my last kid I stunk bad for a while. I showered everyday, but the hormones just made me stink. It got stuck in a lot of clothes too. I tried everything to get the funk out, but eventually threw alot away. Eventually my body went back to normal.

      3. niknik*

        Same, but in my case she washed her things but let them in the machine for hours on end. So freshly “washed” by already funky when she put them in the closet.

        1. DyneinWalking*

          Oh, thank you for mentioning that. These discussions always make me paranoid because I don’t take washing my laundry nearly as serious as the comments suggest I should – but I keep the door of my washing machine open and I notice the smell on laundry that stayed too long in the machine and will run it through a short rinsing cycle whenever that happens.

          Also, it occurred to me that climate plays into this, too. I’m much more diligent about laundry in summer, but for the rest of the year the temperatures here in Germany don’t promote sweating. So presumably the reason why I don’t feel the need to wash my clothes as often is that they mostly just don’t get that funky that quickly anyway.
          Some other factors that influence the smelliness of clothes (in my experience): How much I walk in and out of heated/cooled buildings – a frequent change in temperature makes me way more sweaty than an even temperature all day round. Also, stress and sleep deprivation make me more sweaty and the smell more funky (I’ve wondered if maybe I just notice BO more in that situation but I doubt it – my armpits feel more sweaty, too, and I know that my overall sensitivity to smells actually is reduced during those times – the stronger smelliness/fragrance of the world around me once I caught up on my sleep is always very noticeable!).

          So, lots of factors to keep in mind when discussing this issue. The climate, temperature difference between buildings and environment, level of exercise, base level of sweatiness and base level of smelliness of that sweat ALL influence the amount of diligence required to avoid BO – everybody’s situation is going to be slightly different.

          1. Pinky*

            I go into work 2 days, mo and tue, and I take care to shower in the morning and put on fresh clothes these days, cause I will be around other people all day.
            And then Wednesday and Thursday when I am at home alone and not around any other humans I just re-wear those shirts. No one to smell me anyway. Except in high summer when it is warm, then I wear stuff only once.

          2. LaurCha*

            Once your wet laundry gets funky, it need a full wash again, with detergent, not just a quick rinse.

          3. Emmy Noether*

            Speaking of climate, humidity is a big factor too. Germany doesn’t get very humid compared to some other places, so even when it’s relatively hot out, at least it’s dry, which is much less conducive to developing smells.

        2. Victim of Experience*

          There are products called internal deodorants that can help with this. People with colostomy bags often use them. Check it out.

          1. BubbleTea*

            Childhood neglect. A child at my school was not well cared for and I doubt saw much of a hygiene routine at home.

          2. Dahlia*

            Poverty. When we moved into a new place with a washer/dryer, I had to relearn how to do laundry, because the machines in my apartment don’t work the same as the machines at the laundromat, which up until then was all I knew how to use.

            I also once lived in a place with an absolutely bonkers set-up for a washing machine. Ever had to put a pipe through a hole in the wall into the bathtub to drain a washing machine? I have.

        1. Pieforbreakfast*

          There’s also knowing but not able to do so regularly- lack of or low access to machines (most of the laundramats in my town have closed/been torn down), using shared machines that are rarely available, etc… so you try and wear clothes for an extended period. Also causes a tendency to rarely do bath towels or other linens which can also cause body odor.

    2. LBD*

      BO can build up in our environment in a lot of places. I have had to deal with people staying in temporary accommodation who had less than ideal hygiene, and the rancid stale BO smell can be in mattresses or mattress covers (somebody hasn’t showered for a while and sleeps there), in carpets or rugs (stinky feet and dirty clothes left on the floor for a long time), clothing in general (they were washing their clothes but never used laundry detergent or soap), and I can imagine that upholstered furniture or even car interiors could smell too.
      It can be really hard to get rid of the smell. I just noticed last week that a mattress cover that I knew had been washed, smelled faintly of rancid body oils and BO. And this is before anyone considers medical reasons that could cause more persistent odors.
      You will be happy to know that when I found out and Used My Words, a simple short conversation easily convinced the one culprit to use the available laundry detergent!

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, and things like having limited opportunity to dry clothes after washing them, so they are damp and become musty can be an issue, it can as you say be an issue for people who are in insecure or inadequate accommodation

        1. londonedit*

          It’s not even necessarily just people in insecure/inadequate living arrangements. I live in a more than adequate flat in a decent part of London, and I don’t have any damp issues or anything, but I also don’t have outdoor space to hang washing out to dry, so I’m limited to drying things on a heated airer. That’s been a godsend since I got it, because you can actually dry things like jumpers and sweatshirts in a reasonable amount of time, even in the winter, so they don’t go musty. Before I got the heated airer, I often had trouble in cold weather trying to dry things quickly enough so they didn’t end up with a musty smell – you’ve got to make sure there’s enough air circulation around the clothes on the airer, and that the room itself is warm enough, or things take forever to dry and then it’s hard to keep them smelling fresh. As we all know the weather in Britain can be damp and cold for much of the year (it’s been damp and cold here since about October) and if you don’t have a load of space for drying things it can be difficult to keep on top of it all. I’m pretty fastidious about making sure my clothes are fresh and clean, but someone with less space than I have, or who lives in an older property that’s more susceptible to damp, or who lives in a houseshare and has to dry their washing in their bedroom, or whatever, would definitely struggle.

          1. N.J.*

            That’s a lot of work, and sounds exhausting! A curiosity question-are clothes dryers not (as) common in the UK? In the U.S., we don’t typically line dry/hang dry clothes outside of generational preferences (my 96 year old grandma prefers line drying) and access issues (no money for a laundromat if someone doesn’t have an in home dryer, no money to buy a dryer in the first place, housing instability etc.).

            1. Audrey Puffins*

              We have them, but they take up a fair bit valuable space in smaller properties, and as someone who’s stuck in the rental market, I’m very much at the mercy of whatever white goods my landlord du jour chooses to supply, so they’re very common but by no means universal.

              We don’t have a dryer in our current home so have to hang clothes to dry, but for anything that’s too awkward to hang (mostly underwear, but also bedding during the winter) we just take bundles of wet things round to my parents’ place.

            2. londonedit*

              I mean…it’s not really exhausting, per se. It’s just hanging washing on a clothes airer. But it does take up space in a flat, and it would be easier if I had outdoor space and a washing line (though the number of days on which one can actually get washing dry outside are few and far between at the moment!)

              We have smaller houses than in the USA. Dryers aren’t traditionally part of a kitchen/utility setup and while some people do have them, the cost of running them also puts people off. It’s very rare to have a tumble dryer in a flat, because it takes up too much space. If you have a house with a garden you’re more likely to want to have a washing line than a tumble dryer. It’s just not something that’s generally part of the British psyche – nowadays when people renovate a house they’ll generally open up the kitchen/diner into a bigger space and then they’ll probably have a utility room and possibly space for a dryer, but it’s not something that’s seen as hugely desirable.

              1. Ellis Bell*

                Hadley Freeman (a New Yorker in London) wrote a very funny piece in the Guardian about how excited she was with her first London flat when the landlord told her she had a combined, space-saving “washer-dryer” installed in her kitchen. She expected the drier cycle of the machine to be on par with a typical stand alone dryer and thought there would be no need to traipse to the launderette. Of course, she discovered that washer-dryers are actually absolutely terrible at drying clothes and she had to get a clothes airer to use her washing machine. I had one in my new house when I moved in and was also seduced by the title. It creased everything I had to beyond the help of an iron.

                1. MigraineMonth*

                  I had one of those in my apartment when I moved in and not only did it not dry well, it didn’t wash well! Even after I tried running an empty hot cycle with bleach the unit stank, and everything washed in it smelled like mildew. I ended up asking the apartment manager to just remove it.

              2. doreen*

                Am I understanding correctly that it’s common to have a clothes washer but not a dryer? That’s what I think is uncommon across the US – there are plenty of people who have neither a washer nor a dryer in their house/apartment and plenty of people who have both but I don’t think I’ve known someone who had a washer but not a dryer in close to 50 years.

                1. Guacamole Bob*

                  The other difference I’ve learned on these threads over the years and then on a trip to Ireland this summer is that the common types of machines are different, too. European apartments are more likely to have dryers that don’t vent to the outdoors and therefore are limited to low heat and take absolutely forever. I’ve never seen those in the US, though I’m sure they must exist – it’s more common to just not have a washer and dryer if the setup can’t accommodate the vent duct.

                  If your low-heat dryer is going to take 3 hours and still not get a full washing machine load all that dry, it makes more sense to at a minimum pull out the larger items and line dry them.

                2. londonedit*

                  Yep, pretty much every home in Britain will have a washing machine (though we do also have launderettes for those who don’t) but dryers are far less common. It’s also very uncommon to have communal laundry rooms in apartment blocks, which I believe is common in the US – the only time I’ve experienced that was in halls of residence at university. Line drying is by far the most common way to dry washing here – as bamcheeks mentioned below, there’s no social stigma to line drying. Everyone does it if they have the outdoor space. Dryers are seen as expensive and damaging to clothes, and nowadays with people having more concern for the environment that’s an issue with them too.

                  We also tend to keep our washing machines in our kitchens (as most houses, unless they’re newer or renovated or much larger than average don’t tend to have separate utility rooms) which is different from other parts of Europe where it’s much more usual to keep the washing machine in the bathroom.

                3. Cyborg Llama Horde*

                  My parents got their first dryer after I was born (30-some years ago), and to this day I tend to line-dry things (except towels and sometimes sheets, since they’re more prone to getting funky), but I can’t think of anyone I know who has washer but not dryer.

                  My host mom in Spain only had a washer and dried everything on a rack on her balcony, but the climate in southern Spain is very suitable for that.

                4. Cyborg Llama Horde*

                  @Guacamole Bob: We do have them here — a friend of mine recently got one. She hasn’t mentioned that it takes forever to dry (possibly they work better with front-load washers that get clothes more dry to start with). It’s definitely something you have to look for specifically, though.

                  @londonedit: Yes, it’s very common for apartment buildings to have shared laundry. People generally prefer in-unit laundry, and it will be listed as an amenity in an apartment listing, but it’s not unusual to have shared. (I live in a two-unit house with one washer and one dryer in the basement, for both units. This works better or worse depending on the level of organization and fastidiousness of the other unit.)

                5. Myrin*

                  Yes, that’s the case in Germany at least. I’ve known a few people who have dryers but they aren’t common at all (especially not for “regular” people – businesses, especially in hospitality, mostly do have dryers because of the volume of fabrics alone) and the “normal” way to dry clothes/fabrics is on a foldable rack. Also – and I actually happen to know this because I intentionally looked it up once – I have exactly one pair of trousers which is suitable for putting in a dryer and literally nothing else. And, well, it’s possible that it would be fine but I’m not going to risk it.

                6. Emmy Noether*

                  In addition to what others have said, tumble dryers are also not great for the durability of clothes. When we first got one, I used it for everything (except wool and silk), but then quickly noticed that it would ever-so-slightly shrink cotton t-shirts, and that I could aready see the extra wear on our clothes after a couple of months. Since I expect my clothes to last for a decade or two, I went back to line drying clothes, and use the tumble dryer for sheets, towels, rags and emergencies.

                7. Baunilha*

                  I’m not in the UK, but here everyone has a washing machine, but hardly anyone owns a drier, probably because they are very expensive.
                  Since the weather is mostly warm, the norm is to hang clothes to dry. Even in my small apartment I have a drying rack that is not pretty but gets the job done. On the rare occasions when the weather doens’t help, I wash my clothes at home and take them to a laundromat to dry.

                8. Ellis Bell*

                  The only person I’ve ever known to not have a washing machine is when my brother had a one bedroom bedsit with no kitchen. Most British kitchens are set up to have a washing machine near the sink, but there’s not always room for a dryer too. Launderettes exist, but they tend to be for bedsits, students in dorms and people who need the bigger machines and dryers for duvets.

                9. Quoth the Raven*

                  From Mexico City here. In my experience, having a washing machine is relatively common. Driers, not so much. They take up a lot of space and running them can get expensive so we hang things out to dry most of the time.

            3. MCL*

              My spouse (41) exclusively line dries because it’s easier on clothes and he hates shopping. I mostly also line dry. We have a big fold out laundry hanger in the basement that gets a fan on it in the winter months, and a jumbo sized clothesline in the back yard in summer.

              But apropos to the coworker with the body odor, don’t give up! It’s uncomfortable to talk about but it sounds like it’s severe. Hopefully if it’s medical then at least you can help her make a plan (clean backup clothing at work , etc).

              1. Lady Danbury*

                I’m the same way. I have a large umbrella style clothesline in a spare room and a regular line in the backyard that I use to hang the vast majority of my clothes, even though I have a dryer. My clothes last so much longer by washing on delicate, inside out (so that the internal fibers take the wear and tear from rubbing against other clothes) and then hanging to dry.

            4. Agent Diane*

              We do, and we also have launderettes with coin-operated dryers. Plenty of people have both a washer and a dryer.

              However, dryers are both bad for the environment and bad for your clothes. They damage the fibres in the fabric, so your clothes wear out faster. Whatever heat setting you use, they cause shrinkage and distortion.

              I’ve just got a heated airer (probably the same brand as londonedit!) to help dry clothes faster in winter when air drying outside isn’t possible.

              In terms of BO, drying white shirts etc in the sun really helps freshen them up. I was so happy to put my whites back out this weekend after months of rain.

                1. Agent Diane*

                  And a long hot dry spell where you run out of things that could be washed… marvellous.

                  “Fine weather for drying” is a mood.

            5. Ellis Bell*

              There not uncommon but they’re not as common because of size of rooms. So I have a three bedroom house and I definitely don’t have room for one in my kitchen. In the summer it’s on a washing line, though my humidifier is so good at drying at my clothes on an airer in a spare room that sometimes I don’t bother with the line.

              1. SarahKay*

                I have a 2-bed flat, but the kitchen is tiny, so no space for a dryer, unless I’m willing to cough up for a washer-dryer, and I’m not.
                However, it’s a purpose-built two-storey flat – lots of them built just before and after WWII – so it has a garden. As it’s just me I can afford to let washing build up a bit, so in winter I watch the weather forecast for any possible opportunity to get my washing hung outside, even if it needs a final finish on a drying rack inside. I think this winter there was only one batch that didn’t go on the line at all.
                I reckon there is nothing so luxurious as going to bed when the bedding is fresh off the line, having dried in a good stiff breeze.

            6. bamcheeks*

              We have a dryer (got it when we were doing cloth nappies, thereby negating the advantages of cloth nappies) and use it about 2-3 times a year. We still talk about the time that I opened it in September to find several Easter eggs that the Easter bunny had forgotten!

              1. bamcheeks*

                (We also have no social stigma around line-drying, and if anything the ability to line-dry is a sign of wealth cos it means you have exterior space! Finding out some Americans considered line-drying tacky was one of the biggest culture shocks I ever had!)

                1. La Triviata*

                  There are also places in the U.S. where line-drying can offend neighbors and possibly call for a visit from the home owners’ association. I grew up with line-drying when weather allowed, and no one objected. But these days …

                  Anyway, I use a vinegar rinse for cleanliness and to remove soap scum. I’ve found that turning a fan on clothes hanging indoors gets them dry quicker.

                2. MigraineMonth*

                  A number of years ago I read that having a neighbor who line-dried clothing could reduce your property value by 10%, which is why some home-owners associations ban it.

                  When I was growing up we had a hot-air dryer but still line-dried almost everything (outside in the summer and in front of the wood-burning stove in the winter).

                3. fhqwhgads*

                  Where I live in the US, it’s so windy and so dusty outside, if clean off my outdoor furniture and wait 3 hours, it’ll be visibly dirty. Just from the wind. I keep wanting to have a line-dry setup, and then I realize it wouldn’t make sense because nothing would be clean anymore. :(

            7. Brunost*

              Rentals in Norway also lack dryers ( or they’re unvented, so your clothes only get warm and damp). The wet climate doesn’t help! I got used to smelling slightly mildewy all the time.

            8. Sleeping Panther*

              In addition to what the UK commenters said about clotheslines and space constraints, folks in Europe sometimes have combination washer/dryers where one machine does both tasks. However, their capacity is much smaller than a standalone dryer with the same footprint, and they take ages to actually dry clothes – I think the one in my dorm in Moscow needed about six hours for one wash/dry cycle.

              1. londonedit*

                I had one of those in a flat I rented a few years ago, and it was utterly pointless. I was initially quite excited about it, but the drying cycle took forever and never actually dried anything, it just made things hot and slightly less wet.

                1. D'Arcy*

                  There’s a trick to those — the drying capacity is about half the washing capacity, so you can’t just tell it to dry the load it just washed as-is.

              2. DyneinWalking*

                I have one of those but would consider them quite fancy. I only have mine because I inherited it from a deceased relative – everybody else already had a washer and dryer or lived on a different continent.

                I rarely use the drying function because I prefer air drying (SO much better for the environment and I have the space). If I do, then usually not as an alternative to air drying but rather as a supplement. The dryer-safe clothes are dried for maybe half an hour and then still end up on the drying rack – but because they’re less damp and warm, they dry much more quickly even on a humid day.

              3. Yorick*

                My husband had one of these before we were married. The drying cycle didn’t really work unless you laundered basically one item at a time.

            9. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

              American here. In the Midwest. I have a washer but no dryer. I have always hung clothes either out on a line or on folding racks over the heat grates. Even when I did have a dryer I only tended to use it for towels and blankets. Haven’t had a dryer for over 3 years now. Can’t say that I miss it. At least 1 Auntie also doesn’t have a dryer by choice. Clothes dryers break down fibers and your clothes last longer when you hang them to dry. Also reduces you electric bill. And in a small laundry room I’d rather have that 3 square feet for something else. Also sheets off the line in the summer smell amazing with no fabric softener! Out in the rural areas and large parts of suburbia that isn’t HOAs clothes on a laundry line are still fairly common. Lived in a Hispanic community in a capital city for a few decades and clothes lines were pretty common there too. Most HOAs ban them however and a lot of city dwellers just have no room to hang stuff.

          2. BubbleTea*

            Add a dehumidifier to your setup and you may find you don’t even need to heat the airer except on the coldest days! I’ve used cloth nappies for my son for 2.5 years without a dryer and my dehumidifier has been the best thing.

    3. Artemesia*

      I had an employee like ths and it turned out to be sweaters — she apparently never washed them and was unaware how gross they were. People usually launder underwear, cotton shirts and jeans etc, but sweaters require special maintenance and lots of people wear them indefinitely unaware at how they have become.

      In an exercise class a few years ago the whole gym reeked of BO — well it was a gym — but it turned out to be one person’s puffy coat stacked in the corner with the others that literally filled the entire space with rancid sweat.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I have a lot of vintage wool sweaters, and they are like having pets! I wash the underarm part with charcoal soap and do dryer dry cleaning with them.

    4. Gigi*

      I came here to say this. The conversation might be not offering her deodorant, but rather finding out what her laundry situation is. If she doesn’t have in-home laundry, it could be she can’t wash her clothes that often. Not that it’s your responsibility, but if you do want to help try this path.

    5. Sharpie*

      I sweat so ridiculously much,in situations where someone else would barely be perspiring gently. What has helped me is making the change to natural fibres, as much as possible, for my clothing, and wearing a top only once before putting in the wash, especially in summer. And showering properly and regularly. There really isn’t much I can do otherwise, I just try to be aware of what’s going on with me.

  6. SaganZ*

    B.O. is my biggest fear at work right now. I recently started medically transitioning (FtM) and I’m learning all sorts of new ways my odor can change. Any advice for what to do if you *do* have a medical reason for what’s going on?

      1. Boof*

        May have more luck with a support group than the medical team; will depend a lot on the medical team and how interested they are in quality of life stuff vs how much they have to focus on just getting through the major medical stuff. It’s worth asking but this sounds like something others going through it will have more tricks for.

    1. AL*

      Alison has mentioned a script many times in the past that may work for you; “I’m dealing with a minor medical issue and am working on resolving it with my doctor.”

      Hopefully you have some close (non-coworker) friends – and a good doctor – who can be honest with you about how you smell and help you find the right products that work for you now.

    2. Rel*

      Bringing a (clean, obviously) change of shirt/undershirt so you can act immediately to try and address the problem if someone mentions it to you could also be useful – demonstrates that you’re self-aware and trying to minimise the issue at work.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        also, a spray can of deodorant that works in all areas, that way you can do more than just your arm pits.

    3. amoeba*

      – good antitranspirant (*definitely* not the aluminium-free stuff! That doesn’t do anything!) – if it’s not enough, there’s the medical stuff you can get at the pharmacy that’s more concentrated and you use it only once a week. Called Yerka here in Europe, not sure it has the same name in the US?
      – Use a hygienic rinser every now and then when doing laundry. I’d also recommend doing a hotter wash for the clothes that tolerate it sometimes (we have 60 and 90 °C settings here in Europe), but I guess American machines are different, so ymmv?
      – I have so many friends who are super excited about the “Dr Beckmann odour remover” and I did just find out it’s apparently also available in the US. Haven’t tried it myself but apparently it gets rid of bad smells really efficiently – probably similar to a hygienic rinse but weaker/for regular use?
      – avoid polyester fabrics, cotton, linen, wool, etc. are all great. Apparently Merino wool has some antibacterial property that make it smell much less, hence its use for outdoor/hiking stuff where apparently you can wear it for several hiking days without it getting stinky?

      I mean, those aren’t exactly specific for medical problems, but I think might at least help when the problem isn’t bad hygiene, so hope I’m not too OT!

        1. Nonny Nonny Hey*

          There’s also the possibility that they are using a soap that is too moisturizing and it is not working well enough to get really clean.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Actually, any wool will have the same antibacterial properties, it’s just that merino wool is dramatically softer than many other types, so that’s what gets used for clothing that isn’t coats. (Different breeds of sheep have different coats, just like with cats and dogs. )

    4. Phryne*

      Not to downplay your concerns, but other people might be noticing your BO a lot less than you think in your case. We tend to be nose-blind to our own ‘normal’ smell, but because yours is changing you might just be noticing it a lot more because you are not used to it yet without it being significantly more present to others than it was before.
      If you are very worried about it, is there someone at work you trust whose opinion you can ask? Tell them you are worried you don’t have a clear benchmark right now and ask them to discreetly tell you when it is noticeable, and reassuring you when it is not?

    5. Catwhisperer*

      In addition to what amoeba said:
      – Wipe your underarms with rubbing alcohol or glycolic acid once a week, this will kill the germs that cause odors.
      – If you’re finding the odor sticks to your clothing, fill a spray bottle with vodka and use it to deodorize them. That’s what a lot of professional performing companies (ballet, theater, etc.) use on costumes because they can’t be washed.
      – If you find you’re sweating heavily, you can get garment/dress shields on Amazon. They’re little pads you wear under clothing to absorb sweat, you can get a disposable kind that you stick directly to your clothing or resusable ones that you strap over your shoulder.
      – Uniqlo has undershirts designed for sweat wicking that are relatively inexpensive and work REALLY well.
      – If none of this works, as a last resort you can get Botox in the areas you sweat the most, which should also resolve any body odor issues.

      1. Mouse named Anon*

        I also saw online you can wash your pits with Head and Shoulders (or equivalent) it helps reduce BO smell. It works!

    6. Dr. Rebecca*

      When I started perimenopause, my under-boobs started to sweat a lot; turns out it’s perfectly safe to use the antiperspirant I use in that area, and it helps A LOT. It took me a few (uncomfortable, sweat stained, itchy) months to even hit on the idea, so you might check out if your normal deodorant is good for more than just armpits. I know Old Spice has recently started marketing a line of all-over products (because youtube force feeds us ads now.)

      1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        I’m not going to say that an all over deodorant isn’t helpful in some situations, but I literally have started screaming at ads that advise for all over deodorants for every day use. I hope this doesn’t catch on- I’m a fan of perfume, so I get that people like to smell nice, but holy heck, if we all start literally covering ourselves from head to toe in smells, the world is going to start smelling awful.

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          Oh, I agree. I wear unscented partially for that reason. I’m just saying, as a stopgap/temporary fix for someone going through either menopause or gender transition, it might be a good thing to investigate.

        2. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

          They do make “unscented” deodorant, which is what I use, because I hate almost all smells of products, and even deodorant on myself can be annoying. (The quotes are because even the unscented has a tiny bit of smell, but it’s not a specific scent.)

        3. Relentlessly Socratic*

          I use Lume, and I find that whatever fragrance it is does dissipate pretty quickly (which is good, because Lume itself actually smells kinda gross). I can’t speak for the other “all body” types.

          However, I will say that I tried Lume in my pits, and noticed that my clothes did smell like pits, even after laundering, despite me not actually being all that sweaty. So–back to Degree for the pits, and an extra thorough washing of my shirts took care of the lingering BO.

    7. Constance Lloyd*

      Lume body wash and whole body deodorant work great! I shower at night, so use the body wash and whole body deodorant before bed, then apply normal deodorant as usual in the morning before work. Lume manages smell really well but doesn’t do a thing for perspiration, hence the normal deo.

    8. CommanderBanana*

      I really like the MegaBabe underarm charcoal goop – you put it on and leave it until it dries and then wash it off. You can use it a few times a week. I think it was originally developed to help people transition to natural deodorant.

      Persimmon soap also works well. You can find it on Amazon.

    9. shrambo*

      Do laundry regularly, use deodorant, and shower after perspiring. In other words, the regular stuff should be sufficient. Male hormones don’t mean you’re cursed to stink up the room – my office is full of men and they smell just fine.

      1. FtM anon*

        This. You’re probably self-conscious due to being early in your medical transition, but it’s not like you’re going to turn into Frankenstein’s monster. The regular hygiene stuff should handle it. Just stay away from the Axe body spray – no one likes that stuff ;-)

    10. Rincewind*

      I absolutely LOVE Lume for various personal odors. I sweat a LOT and my feet tend to get smelly as well. Lume smells like wet dog when you first apply it, but it goes away after a few seconds and then it works all day. It’s a lotion and you can put it anywhere on your body. It’s really handy for putting on under a chest binder if you are “big” enough that the binder squishes you into places that aren’t normally under your chest.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Sounds good to me, It acknowledges the ‘advice’ without taking it.

      Also: As I got older, my impulse to offer ‘advice’ to younger folks grew. I’m not sure if humans get more paternal as they age, or if it’s a genuine desire to help, or if I always did it and just didn’t notice. Except for a couple of business-specific cases, I kept my mouth shut.

      1. Orv*

        For me it’s often stuff I was never taught and wished I’d known sooner. But I try to resist actually giving advice unless someone seems to be struggling with something, and then first I ask, “would you like some advice?”

    2. Sunshine*

      That is good. One of my go-to’s is a warm “of course.” Inspired by a scene in a Little Women film with this same situation, where the target mildly responded “you are absolutely correct.”

    3. Southern Gentleman*

      There’s nothing wrong with co-workers who happen to be older than you making small talk about everyday life circumstances. This is manufactured offense. Stop being so sensitive.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Back atcha. Touched a nerve! Stop being so sensitive – this wasn’t aimed at you.

        There is nothing wrong with coworkers who happen to be younger than you finding your unasked for advice about everyday life circumstances condescending. If you don’t like the response you get, you could change your own behavior instead of lecturing them about how wrong they are.

      2. LW2*

        I have no issue with it being said, but if you give me advice, and I say I have it covered, I have it covered! When I say that every box is a certain size because my husband worked for a moving company for several years and currently works in shipping, you don’t need to then belabor exactly how to pack a box and check for the appropriate weight. That’s past the realm of small talk.

        Source: everybody and their mother thinks I am a delight. The cashier at our old grocery story cried when I moved because she was going to miss our weekly talks.

        Also curious how gender bias plays for you here: I was purposefully gender neutral but Alison posed the question about men. My experience has been primarily older women because of the nature of my field.

      3. Worldwalker*

        Talking about the weather or a TV show or something is small talk.

        Instructing me in how to live my life is not.

    4. Beth*

      Yep. I’d bet money that these comments aren’t coming from a place of “LW2 is such a baby, she needs my advice on this!” It’s way more likely that their comments are mostly about themselves. Maybe a team member is thinking about how they have to do their taxes tonight because they keep forgetting and tax day is almost here, they get into a meeting, LW2 asks how they’re doing, and what comes out is “Tax day is coming up! Don’t forget!” Maybe they hear LW2 is moving, remember how they wrenched their knee lifting a heavy box last time they moved, and (intending camaraderie) tell LW2 what they learned about how to lift boxes safely.

      In an ideal world, people would have a filter that checks that any advice they’re offering is explicitly wanted by the recipient before they give it. In the real world, this stuff spills out sometimes, and it’s almost never a sign that the giver thinks the listener is incompetent.

  7. BackInTheDay*

    When I was a young manager ( 35 years ago, I was 20 at the time) I had to talk to an employee about their “BO”, and I had nothing to guide me. No internet advice or AAM in those days! It was very awkward, but I got through it. The employee took the steps they needed to to correct the situation, because he was able to, it wasn’t something beyond his control. That said, had it been beyond his control, I am not sure what I would have done. He was one of my best employees, and the couple of other employees complaining about how he smelled were not even close to his productivity.

  8. Garlic Knot*

    #3 I have an employee who was worried about her BO issue, and gave this person an honest answer and some advice. The issue itself was caused by the geography of pet cages and clothes storage location. Now they have a different set of pets, but the issue has not been resolved. There is only this many conversations I am willing to hold on such a sensitive subject, but there is a huge contrast when this employee comes in for her in-office day.

  9. Janet*

    #1 Would it be an idea to loop in HR? Because other coworkers are going to notice her behavior and it might be a good idea to give HR your version of events first.. Though, with the ages mentioned, I am wondering if this might be some sort of retail and those don’t generally have a good reputation for good HR/management.

    1. DJ Abbott*

      Maybe not HR, but if LW1 has a good supervisor, maybe mention it to them in case of any escalation.
      If it were me I’d probably wait and see what coworker does next though.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, that was basically my recommendation in another thread. If she’s treating OP differently at work because of this (refusing to speak to OP, etc), then OP should talk to his manager about it because that’s affecting OP’s ability to do his job. And if she starts being actively rude to OP, talk to the manager ASAP. And though I wouldn’t necessarily bring this up to the manager now, the fact that she actually *swore at* OP (because he was doing his job and not goofing off at work, no less!) is something that OP should mention when he talks to the manager about how she’s treating him differently. And now that I think about it, the fact that she is playing games at work isn’t a good look for her at all.

        I hope we get an update on this one.

    2. Ink*

      I anticipate hr/a supervisor/manager in OP’s future. Either this is going to continue as is or they’ll be walking on eggshells trying to avoid another incident. Neither one is workable long term :/

  10. Mark*

    #3. Many years ago I had a direct report with a BO issue and multiple complaints. I brought it up repeatedly with the person to a point I was no longer embarrassed. I got to the point where I was very clear they needed to wash their body with hot water & soap daily, change all clothing that touched their skin daily and wash all clothing with hot water and soap. It would only improve the day after I had a talk. Then I was trying to persuade them to seek medical attention and HR was attempting to set up an appointment with the company doctor as nothing I said worked and they seemed bewildered by it all. They transferred to another branch shortly after taking their smell with them. It took us a long time to disinfect and deoderise everything they touched in work. It was an intractable problem as far as I was concerned but not a fireable offence according to HR. I think HR would allow me to fire them nowadays, no coworker should put up with that BO on a daily basis.

    1. GythaOgden*

      Yeah, there was a hint of one person being let go from IT with us for dressing badly and being scruffy (and this is the UK…but they did use quite a few contractors since the department dealt with things like phone refreshes and so on which needed a larger number of colleagues on hand for a limited period). That said a lot…

    2. kitto*

      did they ever notice the smell, or were they oblivious every time you re-informed them? i know nose-blindness is a thing but it sounds like it was quite a strong smell and that you were very straightforward.

      years ago, a coworker of mine had very bad BO that unfortunately made me ill when working nearby her but her line manager felt too awkward to sort it out, so i applaud how direct you were!

    3. Safely Retired*

      Your advice about washing oneself, and wearing fresh clean clothes, are the answer, barring an uncommon medical issue. It was mentioned that she “swears she used deodorant and cologne”, which misses the point. Deodorant isn’t going to be used over the entire body, and cologne at best masks the problem and at worst adds to it.

  11. Kella*

    OP1 There are no circumstances under which your coworkers behavior would be considered okay or reasonable. That set of behaviors were honestly controlling to a baffling level. Repeatedly bugging you to continue a game and calling you and cussing you out when you don’t? Harassing you when you set a boundary about how you’re going to be spending *your* time? Have as little to do with this person as possible going forward.

    1. Helewise*

      When my 12-year-old comes to me and tells me that a friend is treating her this way we have a conversation about tricky friends, and how it’s not okay for people to treat us badly even when they’re having feelings, and when is the right time to decide to either not be friends or limit interactions with that friend.

      In other words, LW1 – I wouldn’t consider this appropriate behavior at 12; it is far beyond the pale at 18.

  12. Knitting Cat Lady*


    Back at university I was sitting behind two guys during a lecture. One of them was absolutely rancid.

    They had a very funny conversation.

    Guy1: Dude, you stink! Do you ever shower?!
    Guy2: I showered this morning!
    Guy1: You need to wash your clothes as well, you donkey!

    Maybe your employee isn’t doing laundry?

    1. Mr. Mousebender*

      Or possibly just not doing it properly. I used to have a flatmate who WOULD wash his clothes… in water. No detergent. It rapidly became an issue to the point that I had to have a conversation with him about it.

      Turned out he was just strangely clueless, as opposed to deliberately being a walking stinkbomb, so it worked out OK.

    2. SarahKay*

      Also, make sure you hang your towels somewhere they can dry after the shower, and launder the towels every so often too. Likewise facecloths – after every use rinse with hot water and hang out to dry; get a fresh one at least every week, and when you wash them do it on a hot wash – 60c / 140 F if possible.
      It’s amazing how nasty fabric can become if it’s left damp, and it will absolutely spread that odour to your skin.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        One of my roommates when I was a Peace Corps volunteer not only did not hang her (only) towel outside to dry in the sun, she also used it to wipe the water off the floor (the shower leaked).

        And then used it on her body again.

        (She also picked her toes while she was at the dinner table, so she was just gross.)

        1. SarahKay*

          Oh, yuk!
          I happily use a towel more than once when it’s only been used to dry freshly-cleaned bits of me, but not once it’s been used to dry a floor.
          And picking toes at the dinner table… words fail me :-O

    3. Rara Avis*

      When I was a senior in college, my brother was a first-year. I used to visit his room fairly regularly, because printer technology had come a long way in those 3 years. I think it was second semester when I asked, “Hey, have you and your roommate washed your sheets … even once … since the beginning of the year?”

  13. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, my impression is that your coworker isn’t mature enough for a job. Her behaviour is what I would expect from a 14 year old (and the cursing you out would be a ridiculous reaction even from a 14 year old). People mature at different rates and it sounds like your coworker is still at the “let’s play games behind the ‘teacher’s’ back and if somebody doesn’t want to, clearly it’s because they hate me and are excluding me rather than being responsible” pre-teen/early teens stage.

    Your decisions were absolutely reasonable and there is no reason you should feel bad. This is all her behaving unreasonably.

  14. English Teacher*

    Seconded. And really, most of my middle schoolers would be way more understanding if their friend opted to focus and not play games in class.

    It honestly sounds like there’s something going wrong mentally for this coworker, but you’re not in a place to really help. Hopefully she has a support system.

    1. amoeba*

      Eh, I feel like “petulant child” describes the thing quite well – she’s probably just fresh out of highschool and hasn’t adjusted to the world of adults, unlike LW appears to have. Like, I mean, the behaviour is obviously bananapants, but I’d just chalk it up to her basically being a teenager…

      1. English Teacher*

        Quite possibly. But honestly, if I was any older than…10 or so, and a classmate behaved this way about a GAME, I’d be bewildered.

        1. Relentlessly Socratic*

          The only quasi-logical reason I can think of is that she’s thinking that now that she’s an adult, she can do whatever she like whenever (because adult=freedom), but hasn’t learned that this isn’t “adulting”?

      2. Worldwalker*

        This type of behavior is not appropriate for a grade-schooler, let alone a teenager.

    2. DJ Abbott*

      If she did have a mental problem, LW1 should not be trying to help. That’s not for a young adult with no training to do. Leave it to the trained professionals.

    3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      No, being a controlling abusive jerk is not a mental issue. Its just being a controlling abusive jerk.

      OP was quite clear they were not going to play the game until shift was over. Coworker refused to accept that. There is nothing more to it. Tying ourselves in knots to understand the coworker is not necessary in this situation.

  15. slashgirl*

    Re: BO. I took a one year receptionist course at community college the year after high school. We had a typing course and the instructor, who was probably in her mid to late 50s (she looked older it was hard to judge) had the worst BO. Pretty sure she didn’t wash her clothes at all and possibly not herself either. What I do know is that if you asked her for help or she was headed in your direction, you took a big breath and held it, hoping she’d be done before you had to breathe again. It was every day, too, not just once in a while.

    What was funny (not really) was one day in our “receptionist” class–a double every afternoon, talked about business norms, writing, etc, one of the women in our class asked that instructor what you did if you worked with someone with bad body odor. Some 30+ years later, I don’t remember the answer she gave, but I do remember the follow up question my classmate asked. “Have YOU ever worked with someone like that?” To which the instructor, “No, I haven’t.” With a straight face. Nobody called her on it, but honestly, she had to know who we meant. Of course, I realized later that she couldn’t discuss a current coworker in that way with the students–so she was very professional about it.

  16. Dumpster Fire*

    Re: box-lifting advice. “Oh, thanks so much for offering to help me pack my truck! We’re starting at 7 am on Saturday!”

    1. Artemesia*

      Irritating as this is, the only play that doesn’t make you look immature and in need of the mansplaining is to stay cool and disengaged. Phrases like ‘Thanks, I’ve got it.’ or ‘oh the taxes are long filed’ without affect is the way to go.

  17. Stinky*

    Re #3 – body smells were the last smell to come back when I lost my sense of smell with COVID. I knew I had to stink, logically, but I could put my nose directly into my armpit and get nothing long after I could smell things like lotions and perfumes.

    1. Artemesia*

      most people, COVID or not are fairly nose blind to their own smell and their own home.

      1. Victim of Experience*

        Not me! Nose blindness is a problem more for smokers and pet owners who always remark how fresh my home smells because there’s no smoking or animals in here. That said,smokers who use HEPA filtration devices have much better smelling homes. And good sanitation practices prevent pet odors, such as cleaning a cat box several times a day. I’m surprised no one has mentioned HEPA devices, could be a workplace solution also. I’m very, very sensitive to odors, and when I rode public transportation carried fragrance spray for my hand which I held to my nose when needed. Going in stores, etc. I expect a funky person or two but all day in the workplace is intolerable. So glad I work fully remotely.

        1. WellRed*

          Yeah, I don’t think people automatically become nose blind to everything in their environment. I definitely know when I smell, etc. the sheer volume of deodorants available (was shopping for it yesterday) would seem to suppprt this.

          1. doreen*

            Presumably you don’t “smell” all the time and that’s why you can tell when you do. And I put “smell” in quotes because pretty much everyone actually does have a scent all the time – might be your soap or your shampoo or your deodorant or just the way your body smells even when you haven’t been sweating and I’m sure you don’t smell that constantly.

        2. SarahKay*

          I’m pretty sure nose-blindness is a fact for all of us, but only becomes a *problem* if there is something causing unpleasant smells in our lives.

    2. V.*

      Yes, thank you for bringing that up. Her BO may also be a new issue since covid (I have gut dysbiosis as part of long covid and it is causing BO that I have never had before). So the coworker may truly be unable to perceive her issue.

      1. Minimal Pear*

        Yes, I was wondering if maybe she thinks she HAS fixed it because she can’t tell the difference due to her impaired sense of smell.

  18. Keymaster of Gozer*

    3: Smells are one of the most awkward conversations to have! I lean a lot on the great Captain Awkward site for discussions about delicate subjects like that outside of work.

    Inside of work, I did once have someone with a horrible, truly revolting stench that was pretty much identical to my university digs i.e. unwashed everything and dirty towels. People were dropping hints about washing clothing, different deodorants but that didn’t land. What did was a word from our manager at the time who was rather upfront about ‘look Dave, I dunno what’s going on in your life but you need to do something about the smell’

    If he’d had a medical problem then it still wouldn’t have mattered – none of us could be near him without breathing through our mouths. A reasonable accomodation isn’t ‘make your coworkers gag’.

    He arrived on the Monday (Friday was the day of the chat) without any reek and in clean clothing and we all rejoiced! We never brought up the subject again.

    1. OdorExists*

      As someone who has a medical condition that causes body odor that cannot be adequately addressed by some people’s standards, what do you suggest? I have a right to earn a living. And I’ve had it for >30 years and there really, truly isn’t anything else that can be done and my doctors think people who complain about it should check their privilege and are being obnoxious and need to learn how to live among people.

      A lot of what I do when I have to work onsite is performative – if the office has a shower I’ll shower at the office periodically so they see it doesn’t help. I’ll keep an air freshener at my desk. I’ll wear a bit of the light perfume my skin can tolerate. And if you ask people on this site they don’t want air fresheners or perfume in an office, so what, exactly, do you suggest for people with real medical conditions (which, I assure you, are not as rare as some people in thus thread make out). I can pretty much assure you they’ve already tried everything you’re going to suggest and probably 200+ other things.

  19. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    I totally feel your pain about patronising but well meaning life advice from older colleagues! I had this at OldJob and it really irritated me. I always tried to keep it in perspective but one guy in particular (who also happened to be sexist and obnoxious in a number of ways) really riled me. Partly because he was truly incompetent at his job and despite being a manager was really the last person you’d ever want professional advice from, let alone life advice.

    I did the organisation culture generally to be one of overstepping into telling colleagues how to manage their health etc and many older colleagues seemed to think it was their job to parent younger adults. I wish I’d had Ask a Manager then, Alison’s script is so good.

  20. Choggy*

    I went to a conference in Orlando and took my hubby along. We both enjoyed the pool with other coworkers, I did not even give it one thought about appropriateness.

    1. londonedit*

      Yeah, I really can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be ‘appropriate’. It’s a swimming pool, people wear swimming costumes in order to use swimming pools. I might steer clear of wearing a tiny thong bikini (I mean, I would anyway, but more so in this situation) but an ordinary swimsuit? Absolutely no problem at all.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Yes, make sure your bits are appropriately covered. No tiny bikinis or speedos. Just like you would wear appropriate gym clothes. I love the analogy.

    2. lilsheba*

      Yes take that swim, there is absolutely no reason not to. It doesn’t matter if it’s a work thing or not, outside of working hours you have every right to enjoy everything the other guests do. I don’t understand why this is even a question.

  21. Anon for This*

    OP4 – your husband should check his employee manual to see if recording of training is mentioned. Where I work training is generally recorded, so you can go over it with the trainer – particularly helpful in role-plays where you might not have handled things correctly. (In the old days we would be given a CD with the recording to review later if desired.) Yes, it would have been good if the employee had been reminded, but to me this is standard practice.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Some people feel odd talking to people from their job in just a swimsuit. I don’t think there is anything inappropriate about it at all, but when I was a member of a gym where some of my students go to, I definitely appreciated my towel poncho around the pool areas more than if it were adults only.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Some people might feel that a lot of bare skin is essentially being ‘undressed’ with colleagues. I don’t think swimming is an issue, it’s what you wear. Or don’t.

      See, I’ve been at hotel pools during off-site industry events and lost count of how many men wore Speedos. One of those men was my boss. Let’s just say I saw things only his wife and doctor should see.

      1. Sharpie*

        I have no idea why but your comment reminded me of the time I took part in one of the swimming events for the year long inter-squadron sports cup competition back iny Army days. All the various winners had to collect their medals from the CO while still in their wet swimsuits – some of us managed to have towels round our waists, but I for one have issues with visible nipples at times. I was very grateful that it was just a quick handshake and ‘congratulations, here’s your medal’.

        (4×25 metres freestyle relay, for the curious, only time I’ve ever won any kind of sports event in my life.)

    3. NaoNao*

      About 50% of the bosses (and larger teams) I’ve had seem to have this unspoken attitude that ZERO leisure (including eating or sleeping, sigh) should be happening on a work trip and one should be frantically banging away at the computer keyboard and on the phone at the same time for 15+ hours a day. I’m not sure where this deeply irritating and martyr-y attitude comes from (maybe just them trying to prove their worth? workaholics?) So this would fall under that attitude. Which took me years to figure out, when bosses would act huffy at me wanting to eat lunch, or not get up at 4.30 AM and work until the typical end of day at 4 PM or all kinds of nonsense.
      Also people gossip. Let’s say one has a lot of large tattoos or something, and people who typically wouldn’t see it now can see them. I can see some offices “spilling the tea” about that or something and it undermining authority or something.

    4. kiki*

      It’s not at about the swimming, it’s about having more skin showing than you’d normally display to your coworkers. I think most people can recognize that the context is different and makes the difference in attire appropriate, but some people will always be weirded out about seeing their boss in a bikini or their coworker in a speedo.

      I do personally opt to wear my more modest swimwear in scenarios where I might see coworkers, so I might go for a fuller-coverage one piece rather than my cheekiest bikini. But I also think if it’s swimwear that’s appropriate for a public pool, it’s swimwear that’s appropriate for a pool where your coworkers might see you.

      1. Heidi*

        Agree. It can be jarring to see people out of their usual context. When I was in elementary school, my teacher said hi to me at the grocery store one day and I truly did not recognize her for a second. I think it was the casual clothes. I hid behind my mom.

      2. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

        For some reason this brought to mind a friend who would not be seen drinking in public because her husband was a professor at the university and it might reflect badly on him. Which was hilarious because this was an extremely liberal university and most of the department faculty was pretty well known for their marijuana usage .

      3. allathian*

        Yes, this.

        My team did an offsite at a spa once. I was very, very glad to have my chlorine allergy as an excuse not to jump in the pool with my then-manager and coworkers. My body shame issues are my own to manage, and a part of managing them is that I never let them see me in any other state than fully dressed. What other people choose to do is up to them.

  22. Ally McBeal*

    LW4: Is that how one-party consent works? If neither of the people being recorded were aware they were being recorded, I think that falls afoul of one-party consent laws. Sure, SOMEONE knew they were being recorded, but the same could be said of the government wiretapping American citizens without their knowledge. But I’m not a lawyer, that just pinged my radar as “off.”

    1. Garblesnark*

      Hm! I’m not a lawyer but I have heard from lawyers that for no one in a conversation to be aware they are being recorded (and a recording to be made) violates federal wiretapping laws.

    2. The OG Sleepless*

      IANAL but I think in this scenario, since Bryan was present he was one of the “parties” and the rest of the group was the other party. If someone who wasn’t present had just set Teams to record and nobody at the meeting knew about it, that would be wiretapping.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        Ah, yeah, that makes sense. I forgot Bryan stayed in the room (virtual or otherwise) for the roleplays.

    3. ecnaseener*

      I’m guessing Bryan talked during the training (feeding people scenarios etc) and that that would make him count as a “party.”

    4. LW #4*

      This is what we’ve been puzzling over! Truly, I don’t think anyone involved wants to take a legal route, but the fact that there are places where this kind of thing would be illegal speaks to just how wrong it was to record folks without their knowledge.

  23. LW2*

    Thanks for answering! It’s interesting that my choice to keep it gender-neutral read male – I happen to work in a majority-woman office, so these were all women old enough to be my own mother.

    One of the things I realized while writing this/reading Alison’s response is that I tend to play it as a joke (because it is laughably absurd!). It’ll be a hard habit to break, but I think it’ll help the most here.

    Appreciate the answer!

    1. Expelliarmus*

      I think it read male because the behavior reeks of “men trying to help someone they believe is a helpless, naive woman”. Of course, due to the nature of sexism/misogyny, the fact that the people are all women doesn’t rule out that the behavior stems from internalized misogyny…

      Even if it does, though, you’re better off just doing what Alison says rather than making some snappy quip or something.

      1. LW2*

        The age demographic definitely makes me think of internalized misogyny – it’s the same age group of women who are surprised to hear that my husband does the dishes without me asking or having to check his work.

    2. 1-800-BrownCow*

      My mind immediately thought “mansplaining” as I work in a male dominant field and even though I’m pushing 50, I still get things explained to me, even by younger men, yet they don’t do it to one another. But yes, I can also see the “mothering” by older women too. My mom is that type, I stopped telling her when I or one of my kids is sick, because she’s immediately telling me what to do and how to take care of myself or them. Some of it is pretty funny since I’m a Gen-Xer and when I was preteen/teen years and got sick, I was home all day alone taking care of myself because both parents worked. She was never one to mother me or care for me when sick. Guess she decided to make up for it when I was an adult, lol.

      1. LW2*

        Exactly! I barely like it when my own mother mothers me like that, so I especially do not like it from coworkers. Which, as an aside, always makes me laugh because my parents raised me to be very independent so why are you shocked that I am, as an adult, very independent?

  24. ZSD*

    #1 What on earth. Your co-worker is the reason people over-generalize and develop negative stereotypes about the maturity of younger generations.
    Luckily, you are the counter-example people can use showing that some young adults do in fact have good judgment around both professional and social behavior.
    So, good on you, OP. Your co-worker is immature and nuts.

    1. Orv*

      It will also help remove calcite deposits from the internals of the machine, if you have hard water. I have extremely hard water where I live and I have to add vinegar to every dishwasher load.

  25. HailRobonia*

    #1 makes me think of the movie War Games: “The only winning move is to not play.” (I think that’s the quote)

  26. hbc*

    OP2: You can do the bland acknowledgements, but if you want to level the playing field a bit more, there are a couple of options. I personally like a friendly “Oh, did you learn that the hard way?” A lot of those warnings *do* come from personal experience, so they focus ends up being how ignorant they were rather than how ignorant you might be. And if they say they always did it right, you can go with something that reinforces that you have also never made that mistake.

    There’s also naming the implication of what they’re doing. “Geez, Bob, what do you think about my work if you think I can’t even manage a cardboard box without help?”

    1. Devo Forevo*

      Another approach you can take is to relate to the comment rather than respond as if it’s advice. Pretend it’s not! “I know, right? One time many years ago I bought giant boxes, packed everything up, and couldn’t lift them! Live and learn!” This worked well for me in reinforcing to coworkers that yes I am an adult who has had life experience, and for the most part people followed my lead and started treating me as a peer.

      1. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

        In graduate school, I had to move on short notice after my apartment building was sold. I packed my books in as few boxes as possible. The people helping me move were not impressed.

        1. Worldwalker*

          I sprained a P.O.D.S. forklift. I asked them if their containers had a weight limit. They said they did, but not to worry, nobody exceeds it. Well, I had about 100 cubic feet of books. I exceeded it. And I apparently damaged the forklift that was removing it from the truck.

  27. Spicy Tuna*

    Re: BO, it’s odd that the employee in question was spoken to about it multiple times and hasn’t addressed it. It sounds from the sensitive skin comment that she may have an issue with soaps and deodorants, which can be hard to navigate around. Years ago, my boss and I were working on a big project with someone in another department. He had serious BO. Boss and I used scented hand cream while in meetings with him – reapplying over and over and keeping our hands near our faces. Since he was in a different department and the project was over in a few weeks, we let it go.

    Recording the training session…. UGH. My mind went immediately to someone using the role playing out of context to get people in trouble (ie: someone was “acting” the part of a harasser and then it gets used to punish the person for harassing)

    Bathing suit – after hours should be no problem. I once worked for a company that had their annual picnic one year at a beach resort, so literally everyone was in swimsuits.

  28. Spicy Tuna*

    Also, another BO story… at my first job out of college, one of my co-workers had broken his leg pretty severely. He lived near me, so I drove him to and from work everyday. Monday and Tuesday, everything was fine. By Wednesday, he was starting to get ripe. By the end of the week, it was a horrible stench. It was really hard for him to shower with the cast on, so he was doing it over the weekend when his girlfriend could help him but by the end of the week, forget it! This was in the summer, also. My car had fabric upholstery and I never quite got the stench out of it.

  29. Kristin*

    Serious question regarding the smelly colleague situation – how close are you all getting to your coworkers that you can smell them? Do you have to sit like six inches away from each other at the office or are these people just radiating stink waves like cartoon skunks?

    Not that we don’t all need to practice proper hygiene and self-care, but I seriously have never encountered this problem, and I work in IT, a field not noted for high standards of grooming. I wonder if this problem wouldn’t also be improved by giving workers a bit more personal space in the office.

    1. WorkerDrone*

      I work with someone just like this, who has been spoken to about it, but the issue isn’t resolved. It is NOT a personal space issue. I’m surprised you assumed it was, after reading the many comments and personal experiences people have described.

      We often have meetings in a large conference room. Sitting next to him (at a normal distance at a normal table for a meeting) is almost unbearable. However, even if you’re on the other side of the room 10 feet away, after a few minutes you’re gonna smell him because it permeates the room.

      When he stands at the door of my office, I can smell him distinctly while I am seated behind my desk.

      When he has been in the break room, you will smell him up to 20 minutes after he has left the room. It isn’t possible to give him more personal space, because he isn’t even in the room.

      It’s lucky you haven’t run into this – but, I think I speak for us all when I say we’re giving our smelly coworkers as much personal space as humanly possible.

      1. Paint N Drip*

        I think it is hard to comprehend if you haven’t experienced it, but I second your breakdown here.
        When I lived in the dorms, there was one room that you could smell from FEET away from the closed door whether or not the offender was inside. There was definitely one smellier roommate and I assumed the other was tolerating it for the school year and any funk I sensed from him was probably hanging on from the room. I met his parents and they are very put-together clean folks. This less-smelly dude became one of MY housemates the following year and… you could smell his bedroom as you walked the hall – it wasn’t nearly as rank as the truly-smellier former roommate thankfully, but I wonder if he BECAME nose-blind after living with that guy or was just dealing with his own struggles.

    2. Peaches and Scream*

      I’ve worked with numerous people who left lingering scent trails behind them, or who had bad breath or body odor I could smell sitting across from them in a meeting, several feet away. None of those instances were personal space issues.

      1. Ms. Norbury*

        Same! In my first job I only worked afternoons, and our IT guy had such strong BO on occasion, that I could tell if he had been in the very small office in the morning, hours before I arrived. In his case, it was not a matter of hygiene, he was a clean guy who for some reason had abnormally acrid sweat, but it was not fun.

    3. Alex*

      It depends on how badly you stink!

      My boss isn’t usually a stinky person but I just saw him in the office kitchen and he smells today. I was not closer than three feet. He smells like ripe gym clothes.

    4. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I worked at a place that had someone who had significant BO. To the point that he was just in the general area it would make people gag and get sick. It was THAT BAD.

      In cases like this its not that people are getting too close and smelling normal odor from sweat. Its that the BO is extremely bad. Sometimes it’s medical, sometimes its because they have changed soap or deodorant that just smells bad on them. Sometimes it can be situational (Like there hot water heater broke and so they can’t take showers). And sometimes (hopefully rarely) you get someone who just doesn’t clean themselves and doesn’t care (as was the case with the person I worked with. I think he got a kick out of it).

      its situational dependednt

      1. Alisaurus*

        As someone who can’t smell (born without it), this actually makes me feel better because when the term BO is used, I always assumed it meant just normal sweaty smells/etc. So I’ve always been paranoid I’m going to accidentally subject others to smelling me in the summer or on those rare occasions when I don’t shower every single night.

        1. Orv*

          Everyone gets smelly occasionally in the summer, and people usually just accept it. That kind of BO doesn’t usually get comments unless it’s unusually persistent.

    5. Nola*

      I had the smelly coworker once. We all had private offices. I could standing the door to his office, he‘d be sitting at his desk, so a good 4-5 feet from the door, and I could still smell him.

      Definitely not a personal space issue.

    6. Seven If You Count Bad John*

      If people are sufficiently whiffy, you can get an odor cloud a few feet away, depending on how still the air is around them. Mostly though, people are probably noticing the odors at reasonable conversational distances—arms length or so. I had a boss like this once. He was a great boss but I never could figure out how he got hired in the first place.

      I promise you, this lady’s coworkers are giving her all the personal space they can!

    7. The OG Sleepless*

      I used to work with a very nice, refined woman who had the most foul halitosis I have ever encountered. I could smell it from several feet away. You could smell it in her general work area after she’d been there for an hour or so. And to make it so much worse, she was one of those people who liked to lean in and say something in a stage whisper for emphasis. This was all at normal Western social distance. (Nobody ever mentioned it to each other or seemed to visibly recoil when she talked to them. I either worked with really polite people, or I’ve wondered if I was somehow the only one who smelled it.)

    8. Irish Teacher.*

      It really does depend. I was once in the post office and there was a customer in front of me who smelled so bad that a) a toddler in a pushchair with their mum at the next counter started coughing (and when I say “toddler,” the child was probably about 14-18 months old, so far too young to be doing it deliberately) and b) when I reached the counter after the customer had left, his smell still lingered.

      Yeah, for normal body odours, you’d have to get pretty close to smell them, but if somebody smells really bad, you can smell them from a number of feet away and in the case of the person above, the smell lingered even after he had left.

    9. Ahoytheship*

      I had a colleague who sat behind me (also in IT) from a different culture, so they were maybe 4 feet away. For them it was their fleece jacket, I think it just didn’t get washed, and it was very hard to concentrate when they would move in and out of the space and the smell would waft over. It was definitely not a situation of me being up in their personal space.

      I asked our shared manager for help, she spoke with this individual, they either washed that jacket or started wearing a different one, and the issue was resolved.

    10. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      In some cases, the problem isn’t personal space, it’s poor ventilation: if someone (or something) sits in a closed room, any odors will tend to spread through the room air.

      Unfortunately, one of the things we’ve learned in the last few years is that almost nobody wants to spend the money or take the time to improve the ventilation in schools, offices, or other indoor spaces, even to protect their employees’ or students’ lives and health.

    11. Cedrus Libani*

      If the stench is bad enough, you don’t need to be within their personal space bubble. I’ve worked with that guy…he’d worn the same pair of Vibram finger-shoes every single day for years, without socks, and never washed them either, so you could smell him from the other side of a large and well-ventilated work space. He was the boss so nobody called him out.

      1. Billy Preston*

        Oh dang, if you didn’t say boss, I would assume this was my former coworker. I think he also didn’t wash his clothes in hot enough water or often enough? You could tell if he was around an area for minutes after he’d left it.

    12. Ev*

      Not colleagues but still in the workplace – there are genuinely library patrons that I can identify by smell alone when they put books through the bookdrop. While I am in another room, at least two yards away, with just a small slot in the wall between us. It’s not a personal space thing – some people have an expanding radius of odor.

    13. Bast*

      In a slight deviation from all the BO — I can still recall one teacher in elementary school who you could identify by perfume alone. She was an older woman who apparently could not smell her own perfume and had a very poor idea of how much she was applying. If she was within 10 feet of you, you’d be gagging, but you could smell her coming down the hall too — you could be blind folded but by smell alone would have been able to tell, “Here comes Mrs. Neil!” Some people are very pungent for one reason or another.

    14. Worldwalker*

      I had a teacher in HS who could stink up an entire classroom. Supposedly it was a medical issue. I’m sympathetic, but HS-me could not concentrate on the subject of the class because of the small. The students deserved some consideration too.

      It was not about personal space. You could smell him from ten feet away. I stopped asking questions because he’d come to my desk to help me and my eyes watered.

      1. allathian*

        Oh my! I’m so sorry.

        My son’s nearly 15 and they never shower after PE at his school. I went to the same school 35+ years ago, and we showered. Girls on their period were excused (and some were apparently on their period every week), but even then we were expected to wash our pits and faces at the very least.

        Generally, my son hits the shower as soon as he comes home on the days he has PE, but I pity the teachers who have to teach a roomful of teenagers after PE… They don’t require showers because there’s supposedly no time to shower before the next class.

  30. Administrative Professionals Day Sucks*

    “Thank you for your concern” is the easiest way to drive off these biddies.

  31. HonorBox*

    LW4 – While I don’t necessarily think that everyone should have to sign a consent form for work-related things that are being recorded, I do think that everyone should at least be informed when work-related things are being recorded. It shows respect for everyone involved to let them know what is happening. I think it is especially important when the workplace is going to share the recording.

    I’d suggest that your husband look into what a handbook says, and have a conversation with his manager/HR to make sure there’s clarity in policies going forward and employees are informed when they’re being recorded on camera.

    1. Nola*

      Our handbook states that all training sessions, in person or via Zoom, may be recorded. We also have to sign an acknowledgement of that. And every year we have to sign an acknowledgement that we‘ve reviewed the employee handbook and are acknowledging all prior acknowledgements.

      When someone complains about a training session being recorded without their consent our office manager will just remind us to review page 7 in our employee handbooks and invite us to stop by her office to review our previously signed consent forms.

      Have your husband check his employee handbook or onboarding paperwork.

  32. JLC*

    LW1 – Full transparency, I am old enough to both not have any idea what Game Pigeon is and to be comfortable not looking it up. Your coworker is highly out of line but I’d like to offer that she feels about on par with an 18 yo and you come off as more mature than your average 19 yo. It could absolutely be life circumstances that have lead you two to be where you are. The burden is on her to apologize and you can always be the bigger person and have a conversation about this. You could really help her understand work norms (e.g. there are many jobs where you can but should not be on your phone/gaming on downtime) and risk acceptance (sounds like you need this job to pay for college, is she in the same boat or evaluating risks the same). This is something you can do and would be quite helpful/eye opening to the right person but are never obligated to do.

    LW2 — Alison’s advice is great and practical. What I’d offer in addition is Hanlon’s Razor “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” In this case your coworkers could mean well but be ignorant to the fact that other people are also capable humans. Not that you are wrong for feeling miffed, but it does require reading more malice into their delivery.

  33. STG*

    LW4: This doesn’t seem that odd to me. I think it might be my time in government since I assume everything is being recorded/tracked in some way when I’m working.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Wouldn’t even in government they would say that it was being recorded? And it sounds like everyone but the HR was in-person. Wouldn’t you find that odd to record a training like this.

      1. londonedit*

        I think this is the thing – OK fine, if I join a Teams meeting there’s a pop-up box that says ‘Recording has started’ or ‘This meeting is being recorded’ or whatever. But if I was in a room with a group of colleagues, I don’t think I’d consider the fact that someone who’d joined remotely to watch the session might then be recording it. If it was an ordinary meeting I don’t think I’d mind, but I probably would mind if I found out someone had recorded a role-playing session without my knowledge, because you’re in a far more vulnerable situation and I don’t think I’d like the idea that someone had a recording of me acting like a tit trying to role-play something.

    2. doreen*

      I worked for about 20 years in government buildings where I just assumed I was on camera because if I wasn’t , it was just chance that the cameras didn’t cover exactly where I was standing. And even then, those cameras did not record audio precisely because it was possible it would record a conversation between two people who didn’t know about the cameras and therefore didn’t consent to audio recording.

  34. AnonInCanada*

    OP#1: Is this AAM or r/AmITheA$$hole? In any event, to coin their terminology: NTA. Honestly, I would’ve shared those texts with your manager. Other than trying to get you in trouble for playing games on your phone at work, what would be her motive? She should learn to act like the adult she is and suffer the consequences of her childish actions. If she’s going to be bitter about it, let her be bitter. But at least you’re not going to get in trouble for it.

  35. Not-So-New Mom (of 1 8/9)*

    LW5, my company once took our division to an all-inclusive in a well-known resort town. (It was amazing.) When I told friends and family about my work trip beforehand, I tried to downplay it–“who wants to see their coworkers in swimsuits/on the beach?”

    As soon as I arrived I dropped that attitude quickly. Sun’s out, guns out, baby. It’s all context-dependent.

  36. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I appreciate this OP writing to AAM with a workplace question. Looks like he’s 19 and probably doesn’t have a ton of workplace experience. something about the situation felt off to him, so he asked for help. And it might be a little easier to ask internet strangers for help than at work, where there’s the possibility of someone getting in trouble. Sometimes you just don’t know something.

  37. Plume*

    It’s so hard when lack of smell is involved.

    My late MIL, rest her soul, reeked. It was because she simply couldn’t smell when her animals made a mess in the home so it stank up the home and everything smelled.

    She showered, used deoeoderant, cleaned her clothes etc. but it didn’t matter because her house reeked and those smells seeped into her clean hair and clothes.

    Despite many direct conversations with her and lots of intervention to clean up her house regularly, the lack of smell meant she was never long from reeking again.

    1. Paint N Drip*

      Ugh that’s geniunely so hard. Especially with pets, the ‘solution’ is just a non-starter; if it’s a laundry problem, we can get a new machine or detergent or try a new routine… but I’m not getting rid of my pets! Hope she’s resting peacefully with all her fur babies (or…idk what you call pets like reptiles, but those too if that was her jam)

      1. doreen*

        I don’t think the issue is just having pets, I think it has to do with how many pets, the space they are in and how they are taken care of. My sister has had ten or more cats at a time and the finished basement where most of them lived stank* – but the smell didn’t get into her clothes because she didn’t keep her clothes in the basement.

        * It was so bad that the cats have been gone for three years, some of the sheetrock has been replaced and the basement has been repainted – and you can still smell it for the first few minutes you are in the basement.

    2. Bast*

      I grew up in a house with two parents who smoked indoors regularly. They denied there was ever a smell, meanwhile, I got comments regularly from others about how my clothes reeked of smoke. For the record, it was “normal” for me, so I did not notice it either, until I moved out into my own place where no one is allowed to smoke. I very much notice the difference now when I visit them. It can be so hard when you’re living in an environment and are used to the smell of it… whatever that smell is.

  38. Not my real name*

    Funnily enough, it was a coworker with BO that first brought me to AAM. I wasn’t the one who had to speak to them, it was a work friend of mine and I was trying to help her with how to approach it.

  39. MicroManagered*

    OP2 I’m really curious how gender roles/politics play into this situation.

    Like Alison mentioned, if an older man is telling a younger woman how to lift a box, there could be some casual sexism going on, or some resentment that a younger woman holds power over them, etc.

    But I think sometimes this is how women show care for each other and it’s not intended with anything more than that. I’ve been reminded about tax day or I dunno, incoming inclement weather, by women I work with. Sometimes they’re older than me, sometimes they report to me, sometimes not. I find it’s usually not intended as condescending, so I try to be curious when I receive it that way. I worked in an office once where an older woman (who did not report to me) would go around reminding every woman to schedule a mammogram, that our insurance doesn’t charge for a yearly mammogram, try to organize women to go together, etc. It came across REALLY weird to me at first, but later I learned she was a breast cancer survivor and that it came from a good place. So, anyway … just something to think about :)

    1. Saturday*

      Yeah, a lot has to do with the general tone of the conversation, but I was thinking something along the same lines. Some people just like to talk. If tax day is coming up, they’ll talk about the tax day deadline, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they think the person they’re talking to is clueless.

      Even the box thing – lots of people injure themselves lifting boxes! People don’t always know or bother to do it the recommended way, and if they’ve had an injury themselves, they sometimes want to warn others.

      Anyway, the LW obviously knows better than me how these conversations go, but I wanted to throw out the idea that it might not be happening just because they’re making assumptions due to her age.

      1. LW2*

        The gender piece is definitely an interesting part! I work with primarily women, so these were all interactions with women. For the box one, I even made a comment that my husband spent several years working for a moving company and is handling those logistics, and she still kept going.

        I think a large part of it is that I would try to stay polite and that signalled that I found it perfectly fine instead of wildly annoying.

  40. LB33*

    not a lawyer but what would be the difference say with a security camera that’s recording all the time vs recording a meeting? In other words when I enter a building i’m not alerted that i could be recorded, so from a legal standpoint why is it different ?

    Also, on #2, I suppose tone is everything but from here it sounds more like they’re just making small talk, I’d just ignore or give a nod and smile

    1. Lisa*

      Security cameras are generally in public (or semi-public) spaces where you don’t have an expectation of privacy, and often don’t record audio. Recording a conversation is different, both legally and ethically.

  41. Lurker*

    OP1: Do you need to text her for work-related reasons? If not, I’d just block her. You don’t need to deal with this.


    My mom has some medical issues that cause a strong BO. In addition to the typical advice already mentioned, her doctor suggested she wash her clothes in a detergent meant for cloth diapers. This has been a game changer. Before that, her “clean” clothes started to stink as soon as they warmed up with body heat.

  43. Old, not Wise*

    Look, for the first lw you could take this behavior as a lesson learned and keep a large distance between you and her.

    But having once been young and dumb, there are an all too large a percentage of people who will take this kind of interest/rejection as foreplay and be drawn in to trying to live up to her psycho expectations as some weird foreplay and in a few years you’ll be writing other harder core relationship advice columnists about restraining orders and abuse hotlines because you won’t take this simple advice today.

    Don’t do it.

  44. PBJ*

    I met several colleagues for the first time, in their bathing suits! (For context it was a dispersed workforce at a conference in a sunny location and some of us arrived a day early to enjoy the pool and sunshine).

  45. She of Many Hats*

    LW 5 – You may want to consider a modest one-piece swimsuit for business trips. I’m thinking more LL Bean one-pieces versus granny-swimsuits or religiously modest swimsuits. It allows you to participate with less room for annoying colleagues to make comments.

  46. Hudson*

    LW 2, this happens to me with a coworker my age. I assume it’s because I’m generally a bubbly and silly person, that she often feels the need to remind me to do basic things, or she will ask me questions that make me feel like she thinks I’m an idiot. I’ve started responding “yeah, I know!” in a cheerful voice. It hasn’t stopped the comments but it does make me feel a little better.

  47. Formerly Frustrated Optimist*

    For LW #2 – I’ve had some luck with saying (in a very cheery voice), “I don’t need you to tell me that!” The delivery has to be done quickly, and with a smile. But it does telegraph the message that the other person is overstepping.

  48. Coin_Operated*

    I can’t wear deodorant because it causes severe eczema breakouts in my underarms. Good Wipes are my best friend. I keep a stock of them on me and at my desk to keep the BO at bay and stay clean. Never had any bad smell complaints, and have never needed medical accommodations for it thankfully.

  49. Resentful Oreos*

    LW1 – chalk it up to a learning experience and avoid this coworker. This is why I am a big fan of young people having “starter” jobs in their teen years. This way they get to make mistakes in environments where it doesn’t matter that much, rather than in big-deal professional or skilled trades jobs where the stakes are much higher. Just give the coworker a wide berth, as she told you who she was the first time. (And you might have something to laugh about when you and your friends are exchanging old job tales.)

    LW2 – you have my sympathy, as I am a petite woman, and for years looked younger than my age, which apparently gives the rest of the world license to treat you like a not-too-bright child. I hated it, and just tried to be coolly polite (if it was obviously quasi-parental advice) or just kind of laughed and said “April IS the cruelest month, isn’t it!”, or whatever, if it was just meant as small talk about taxes. And I really was conscious of not condescending to other people just based on their youth or appearance. Now that I’m *obviously* not a spring chicken, I get far less of that attitude (though now comes the condescension addressed to older women – my name is not “dear!”)

    Swimsuit LW – of course people expect to see you in a bathing suit at a pool! Chances are your coworkers own bathing suits and go swimming. So don’t worry if they see you in your suit at a pool – maybe *really* skimpy attire might give pause, but, normal people expect to see people in bathing suits when they’re at a pool. (And it’s even more important to wear flip flops to and from the pool than it is to cover up in the lobby, because you don’t want foot fungus!)

  50. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

    Op1 #1 You’re right at the age where you’re going to start meeting “antisocial” people, by which I mean not introverts but people who CAN’T get along with others. Some of them will be folks whose family dynamic gave them unusual coping mechanisms that don’t serve them well out in the world. Some of them will start showing symptoms of mental illness, even if they were well-adjusted before. And some of them will start transitioning from casually using drugs to having an addiction that changes their personality in unpredictable ways.
    I’m not saying your coworker is any of those or none of those. I’m saying this is the time of your life when you’re going to start meeting those people, but because you don’t have a lot of context yet, you won’t be sure if it’s “normal weird” or “weird weird.” However, this shows you had good instincts about work priority AND good self-awareness in recognizing that your coworker is inappropriate. Trust those things about yourself, because they’re really valuable.

  51. The Hobbit*

    OP2 I’ve had a similar issue with an older employee doing the mother-hen thing like reminding me when to go to lunch because it’s 12:05 and I usually leave at noon on the dot or a little before. I tried to ignore it, but I reached my limit the other day.

    Her: Did you remember to bring your lunch?
    Me: (very annoyed/ did not mean to sound that annoyed) Yes, of course I did.
    Her: Well, sometimes you forget.
    (Yes, I’ve forgotten a handful of times, I have ADHD so sue me.)
    Me: I’m a big girl and can take care of myself.

    Also so what’s she going to do if I miss? I’m the one who has to buy lunch or run home to get it.
    (Insert shrug emoji)

  52. Not Alison*

    #2 – When similar comments happened to me, the most effective thing I did that stopped them was saying “thanks, last night my grandpa reminded me of the same thing” every single time (or something along those lines). I found my older coworkers did NOT like being compared to my grandfather and the comments stopped. YMMV

  53. Alle Meine*

    For the clothes washing suggestion with the coworker with BO. I have found that putting 1/2 a cup of white vinegar (other types will do in a pinch) with the regular load removes smells. It also helps with softening your clothes and will not aggravate eczema.

  54. Frango Mint*

    I had a coworker with a BO issue—-he was tall and heavier, and what the biddies at work called a Confirmed Bachelor, whatever that meant. His BO situation became intolerable at one point, and being -conflict avoidant, I waited until he was on vacation and left him an anonymous typed note. It basically said you have a problem with body odor, so please wash yourself regularly, use deodorant, and wear clean clothes.

    The dude became angry and confronted all 50 of us in the unit, asking if they knew who wrote the note. Of course, I was feeling partly guilty and/or amused by the whole scenario. He dropped the topic after he went around the office and got nowhere. Fortunately, he did clean up his act.

    I learned that everyone suspected Coco, the explosive older woman that sat directly across from him. She had a hair trigger temper and easily took insult. So it was highly unlikely that anyone would pursue that line of inquiry with her.

    Another time, the whole work area was complaining about the BO of the cleaning guy who would come through the office flicking a duster during work hours. One of the upper management folks was a friend from years back when we were entry level, so I called him and jokingly asked if his office was where I should call to report stinky cleaning men. He said “Oh, hygiene issues? Yes, you’ve called the right number”. The next day the cleaning guy came through, shot me a dirty look, but was totally freshened up. That was the pinnacle of my powers in 19years of employment at that government agency.

    1. OdorExists*

      As someone with a medical reason for body odor, I would be livid if someone did this to me. Absolutely livid. What are you, three?

  55. Sparky*

    In almost every job I’ve held (all professional, white-collar organizations except for my college job at a gym) there has been one smelly employee. Managers and HR have had to get involved. It’s never been a medical issue, it’s always been a lack of hygiene, or people who wore “natural” deodorants (I’m sure there are some that work, but the ones they chose did not.) I know it wasn’t a medical issue because the employees were all surprisingly open about the issue with their coworkers! The managers were mum.

  56. SophieB*

    For my first week of work at my current company, I attended a conference in Palm Springs. Part of the idea was to meet and bond with my new team, and we ended up going to the pool several times together that week (it was well over 100 degrees outside). Everyone was an executive at a national company, and yet here we were in swimsuits drinking poolside margaritas. I couldn’t resist sharing that it’s atypical for my brand-new coworkers to see my thighs, which we all laughed at.

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