Re: OFF-TOPIC question about an office thing

Subject: Re: OFF-TOPIC question about an office thing
From: Dick Margulis <margulisd -at- comcast -dot- net>
To: James Jones <doc-x -at- earthlink -dot- net>
Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2006 14:22:57 -0400

James Jones wrote:

The reason for my posting this to this forum is that most listmembers work
in offices. I don't; I work from a home office. Perhaps someone here has some relevant experience with this kind of thing
and would be willing to share. Right now, I view this issue as being quite
rare and nearly unheard of. Yet, I may well be wrong.
My long-term girlfriend works as a manager in an office of a foundation
and a co-worker of lower rank has been complaining that her (my
girlfriend's) perfume makes her sick or nauseated. My girlfriend does not
wear heavy perfume. You can hardly tell that she's wearing any perfume at
all. Her perfume does not cause complaints from anyone else. Is this kind of thing an issue in offices? Thanks for your wisdom.


First, yes, it happens. There are several possible scenarios and, from what you have provided, it is not possible to determine which of them applies. I'll just lay them out and you and your girlfriend can discuss which of them makes the most sense.

1. Some individuals have a very low tolerance of any kind of fragrance or are particularly sensitive to certain fragrances. It doesn't matter whether the root of the problem is physiological or psychological; the fact remains that they have a hard time in a culture, such as ours, where most people use deodorant, scented soaps, or perfumes of one sort or another. Sometimes just the fact that you happen to wash your clothes with a detergent that has a masking scent is enough to cause a reaction. Your girlfriend's co-worker may be such an individual. As such, she has a right to ask that the employer provide "reasonable accommodation" under ADA--in this case by setting a policy against perfume use, for example.

2. Sometimes a worker has a personality conflict with a manager and, rather than confronting the manager on the substantive issues, displaces the conflict into some off-the-wall issue such as the one you describe. This is not always intentional; it just comes out that way.

3. People accommodate to fragrance (I spent fifteen years making and selling potpourri; so I have some experience with this). What can happen--and what may have occurred with your girlfriend--is that a person starts using a perfume one expensive drop at a time. After a few weeks or a few months, she doesn't detect the scent as prominently and tries using two expensive drops at a time. This continues to escalate. The people closest to her--you, in this example--accommodate right along with her. But she walks into a room full of strangers and people start giving her a wide berth. The solution here is just to use the original, judicious amount of perfume. If this is the case, then the co-worker is doing her a kindness by bringing it to her attention.


Well, Jane, it just goes to show you, it's always something! If it's not one thing, it's another! at


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OFF-TOPIC question about an office thing: From: James Jones

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