In the space of one week, I had the following experiences:

While walking on campus one morning, I was behind a woman who must have bathed in perfume. The smell was distinctive and strong.

Another day, I was passed by a young man who reeked of food.

Two days later, a person near me had either not bathed recently or was wearing his clothing for the umpteenth day. His body odor was unpleasant, to say the least.

It made me think about having conversations with both students (who are about to enter the workplace) and employees about the way we smell.

Many people never learned the proper way to wear perfume or cologne. I actually like smelling a variety of scents. What I don’t like—nor do most of the folks I’ve worked with during my career—is when people drench themselves with the fragrance.

Let’s say you begin wearing a scent. After some period of time, your nose acclimates to your new odor such that you can no longer smell it. Since you cannot smell it after you put it on, you put on more. And then more again. At some point, you will be able to smell it, but others will be bothered by it because it’s incredibly overpowering. And that’s when someone visits the manager to complain.

What about when a person smells like food? I’ll use myself as an example. When I eat garlic, I reek for two days. I was not aware of this until I got married. When I eat garlic, it exudes from my pores, so I think about it before I partake. If I’m going to be in groups or places where I think it will bother people—like an airplane or a car—I pass on the garlic bread.

In our melting pot of America, every subculture enjoys foods that are strange or unusual to others. It’s a kindness to think about the impact foods with strong odors will have on people in the workplace.

And last, but certainly not least, let’s talk about body odor.

Most people shower and use deodorant daily. But some people wear the same shirts, for example, for a couple of days in a row. No amount of deodorant can mask the smell when that happens. After doing it often, the clothing retains the body odor even after being washed. So I wash my shirt, but as soon as I put it on—regardless of whether I’m wearing deodorant—the fibers interact with my sweat, and I smell.

Of course, there are other types of body odors, including bad breath, but I think you get the point.

Many people have adverse reactions to being around strong smells. Some just don’t want to smell pungent or fragrant odors. So if you’re in the workplace, please be considerate. If you’re not being considerate, your manager should visit you to bring it to your attention.

It won’t be a fun conversation. In fact, it’s one that most of us would prefer not to have.

As for me, I’ll pledge not to eat garlic when I’m going to be around you in close quarters.

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Lynne Richardson is the dean of the College of Business at the University of Mary Washington.

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