My office mate lets off noxious farts

I sometimes have to leave the room it's so bad! Should I say something?

Topics: Since You Asked, Medicine,

Dear Cary,

Since I am at work and need advice on this right now, I thought I would ask you. My office mate farts all the time and it really stinks. Sometimes it is so bad I can’t focus on my work and I have to leave the room. He is sort of my buddy so I don’t want to offend him, but I just can’t stand the stench. He has never mentioned it and neither have I. What should I do?

Gasping for Air in Mountain View

Dear Gasping,

What should you do? Mention it.

If it’s possible to drive somewhere with him to have lunch, mention it in the privacy of your car or his car. Mention it someplace where you can talk privately, outdoors or indoors. But mention it.

Mention it out of concern for his health. Be kind but forthright.

Just say that while you recognize that it’s a sensitive topic and you don’t mean to embarrass him, you are aware that excessive passing of gas may be a symptom of other medical conditions, and you really think he should see a doctor. Say that it’s extremely unwise to leave it untreated. Stress that he needs to have a full checkup.

If you have had personal experience with any kind of intestinal disturbance or disease, or you know someone who has, you might mention this. Citing personal experience is a good way to justify what might otherwise be regarded as an intrusion on his privacy. You can say that ordinarily you wouldn’t mention it, except that you have had a certain personal experience. For instance, I know someone who died from an infection that began as a toothache. So now whenever someone complains of a dental problem, I feel no compunction about saying, “See a dentist! Really! It might save your life! I’m not kidding! See a dentist!” Also, I must say with great sadness, just today we lost a dear, dear friend and workmate to colon cancer. So intestinal health is no laughing matter. I don’t mean to imply that his farting could be a symptom of cancer; I just mean that anything out of the ordinary ought to be checked out.

Treat it as an important medical issue to be handled in an adult way. He may be having other symptoms that he is reluctant to reveal or discuss. So by talking with him, you’ll be doing your office mate a favor.



Here’s a cautionary note: After you have raised this sensitive topic with him, you may feel relieved and lighthearted, and think that now that the topic is out in the open, it’s OK to make a joke about it. Don’t do it — not unless he laughs about it first. Even if you feel relieved, your office mate may still feel extremely embarrassed and sensitive. Remember that this is a professional relationship. Play it straight.

Afterward, however, in the office, if his noxious farting continues, you may feel justified in asking if he has followed up on your suggestion. You should not have to suffer in deadly silence.


Happy New Year! Book offer extended!


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