NEW MOM ALERT! NEW MOM ALERT! LAUNCH THE ALERT FIGHTERS!
That’s right, bitchlings. Your humble Bitches have a whole entire NEW MOM. Her name is Kathleen and we are devoted to being good daughters to her. We do that by delivering spicy, spicy nuggets of adulting wisdom, served up with a soupçon of rage against the machine and/or patriarchy. And in return, she bestows upon us the highest tier of our Patreon donations!
Mama Kathleen, we’re so grateful for you and your generous patronage. We hope to make you proud.
Now, on with the program!
This time we’re covering a case study we simply couldn’t resist. Namely: How do you handle extremely awkward interpersonal issues in the workplace? Do you stage an intervention? An Ocean’s 11-style heist? An elaborate play the likes of which would make Hamlet look decisive and direct by comparison? Do you change your name and leave the country???
Or is the answer “none of the above”?
Our solution (hopefully) will not surprise anyone.
This week’s question
Today’s question comes to us straight from the mystical lands of Reddit (sometimes we just can’t resist). The question is as follows:
A waiter in the restaurant where I work smells bad and almost the whole staff has complained about his particular odor. The thing is, we (as management) don’t know how to address this issue because he is sort of sensitive (he has cried on the job over small verbal warnings). Any advice on how to approach this with him? I know it has to be one of us and in private but I don’t even know which words to use.– Anonymous Redditor
Believe it or not, this was the most controversial question of the season. By which we mean we Bitches actually argued over whether or not to include it! Yes, even the most stable work wives occasionally fight. It’s perfectly normal and healthy. And it’s not your fault at all, sweeties.
If you’re thirsty for more advice on navigating the workplace, check out these bad boys:
- Season 2, Episode 7: “How Do I Throw My Incompetent Coworkers under the Bus?”
- Season 3, Episode 5: “I Really Hate One of My Tasks at Work. Is There a Way To Escape It Without Quitting My Job?”
- Stop Over-Apologizing at Work
- How I Chessmastered Myself Into a Promotion at Work
- You WILL Regret Accepting Your Coworker’s Social Media Friend Request
- My Secret Weapon for Preparing for Awkward Boss Confrontations
This episode was brought to you by our sponsor Capitalize. And I can genuinely report that this was our favorite commercial to record this season: our take on a Michael Bay movie trailer. Because when I think of the heroic feats of financial assistance provided by Capitalize, I can’t help but think of an action movie trailer! Rolling over your old 401(k) to save it from bleeding fees and wasting its potential is nothing short of courageous and astounding. And Capitalize does it all for you… FOR FREE. Don’t hesitate. Do the thing. With Capitalize. Right now.
And of course this whole podcast thing wouldn’t be possible without our incomparable Patreon donors. We are constantly blown away by the fact that y’all actually just… want to keep us afloat??? In return for dumb jokes and the occasional recommendation to maybe spend less than you earn????? What is wrong with you generous motherfuckers?!?!?! Anyway, you too can become a generous motherfucker by joining our Patreon.
Episode transcript (click to reveal)
This episode, like all of our episodes, is brought to you by our beloved Patreon donors. So this week, we would like to thank Rebecca, Robin, and Rachel. Ooh, team R is killing it. Get on here other letters, you’re being smashed. An extra special thanks this week goes to Jennifer. Jennifer is a drop of purest mountain spring water sipped from your cupped hands at dawn while gazing across the stream into the eyes of a speckled fawn.
Doodly doo doo du doo doo du doo doo! Breaking news!
We have a new mom. This is so exciting.
New mom alert! Whoooo!
New mom alert!
[sing-song] New mom alert!
So for newer listeners, our top-level Patreon tier is you are our mom now.
Yup, that is the reward. You are our mom.
This started as our joke because Patreon was like encouraging us to like, oh make sure you set at least one that is like super duper improbably high ‘cause you never know.
Like a reach, you know. Like a hundred dollars a month.
Yeah, and we’re like no one would ever in their lives—
It would only be our moms.
So we’ve always called these select few our moms and now we have another one!
We have another mom.
It’s so exciting.
And the name of our most illustrious new mom is Kathleen. It’s a formal adoption, so Mama Kathleen, we will be in touch about which—what your choice is. Which Bitch you would like to adopt. Your choices are, you know, Kitty or myself, Piggy. You may not have Ducky, our illustrious producer. She’s ours.
Anyway, so, thank you, Mama Kathleen.
Thank you. Thank you, Mom.
We appreciate you adopting us.
We’re very capable. We’re like ready to be an amazing daughter. However, we’re very needy and we’re like please. Please, someone.
Yes, and we’re very high maintenance. [whining] Someone look out for us!
[whining] Please, oh my gosh.
No, before we started talking about Mama Kathleen, our new mom, you just told me that you not only did your full face of makeup but then you stepped back, looked in the mirror, and washed it all off and started again. So that is the level of dedication we have to the visual followers.
Yeah, okay. I kinda got on auto-pilot and did my going-to-a-friend’s-wedding makeup, like kind of my highest tier of makeup. And then panicked and realized like oh no no no, we’re going to do a lip color. We’re going to fill in these sparse-ass brows. We’re going to do some mascara and we are going to call it a day.
We’re going to blend our necks and that’s it.
I am here as your strategic low-energy friend just trying to look happy and healthy. Not flawless. God did not make this face symmetrical and you know what? Who am I to challenge him?
[laughter] You heard it here first. Bitches Get Riches: we are not here to challenge God.
Kitty & Piggy 3:03
We’re so devout.
Theme Song 3:06
If you need some dough
You don’t know where to go
In this patriarchal capitalist hellscape
Well here’s the ‘sitch
We’re gonna help you, sis
Because bitches get riches
Bitches get riches
Bitches get riches
Bitches get riches
And so can you
Alright, speaking of the Lord and our devotion to praising his name, let’s start our Worshipful Power Hour.
This religious podcast which coincidentally talks about money and dicks. I’m Kitty.
And we are the bitches in Bitches Get Riches.
We’re talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique, completely not ever been done before, unafraid to reference or not reference, put it in a blender, shit on it, vomit on it, eat it, give birth to it.
And we are here to reference memes that are extremely old.
But our time on this planet is limited.
So let’s get started.
Today’s letter comes to us from Reddit. This is our version of like ripped-from-the-headlines.
Guys, sometimes I just—I’m browsing and I see something in my civilian life and I’m just like, I have to answer this. No one is asking me particularly this question, but I am overflowing with an answer and I need to make someone listen to it.
Yeah. And I’m so sorry, but you guys have been voluntold. Okay so our Reddit question for the day. The question is: A waiter in the restaurant where I work smells bad and almost the whole staff has complained about his particular odor. The thing is, we (as management) don’t know how to address this issue because he is sort of sensitive (he has cried on the job over small verbal warnings). Any advice on how to approach this with him? I know it has to be one of us and in private but I don’t even know which words to use. [yells] Oh my god!
Okay. Alright so I really, I found this question and I advocated that we include this question because I recently was talking with two women in their early thirties who work in very, very different industries and this kind of sensitive subject came out. And we were actually talking about in the context of a roommate who has a certain odor. And to my complete surprise, both of these women said, oh yes, in the workplace I’ve had to deal with that. One of them had been a restaurant manager and had actually had to ask customers who did not smell good to please don’t come back! Which is just like—
Oh my god!
And another one had had to have this conversation with her subordinate. So that kind of opened my eyes to the fact that like, oh this is, I think, a far more common discussion than I had ever realized. And it is a very, very, very tricky one. And I just thought like, this is not the kind of question that y’all are going to get on any other personal finance blog. But this is an adulting skill.
This is an adulting skill.
Whether this is a coworker, a roommate, when you have someone in your life who you can’t just like avoid fully who has maybe a hygiene or personal body odor issue. How do you sensitively bring it up to them?
Totally. Yeah, key word being sensitively. ‘Cause I think we would all agree that like, if we had something in our teeth, we would want someone to courteously and sensitively say, “hey you’ve got something in your teeth” before you like go out into the world and have like 20 conversations or, god forbid, go on camera. Speaking of which, am I good? Am I good?
Kitty & Piggy 7:04
[baring their teeth at the camera]
I think I’m okay.
I think we’re okay. Great. Good job.
Alright, alright. Good. Phew.
For our auditory only listeners, we just checked each other’s teeth. But yeah like, you want somebody to help you with that! And I think that there’s this expectation that people are going to respond defensively. And yes, there are a lot of people out there who respond defensively, but even if they do in the moment, I think that with the clarity of time they would agree that they’d rather know than not know, you know?
It’s interesting, when I was browsing this Reddit thread—it was posted to, I believe, r/advice—and there were quite a number of comments that just made me want to scream with how bad the advice was. And those all had one thing in common in that they were all heinously indirect. There were people who genuinely suggested, ask one of your friends to come into the restaurant, pretend to be a customer,have them complain, so that then you can say, oh sorry, we’ve gotten a customer complaint. There was someone else who said stage—
What kind of Ocean’s 11 shit is that?
I’m telling you, there was another one, even wilder, where someone said stage a conversation between you and someone else who knows that this person smells bad where you say, oh, the strangest thing happened. A customer complained about a server smelling bad. Do you think it’s me? No, I’ve worn deodorant and washed my clothing recently and took a shower this morning, so I am confident that it is not me.
Oh my god.
Coworker, do you think it might be thou?
Oh my god!
And I’m like, what is this Shakespearean you’re putting on a play that you want people to overhear—
No. No no no.
This is how Hamlet solves his problems and you know what Hamlet’s key character flaw is? He. is. indecisive!
I hated it. This is a great example of a question where when people ask it, what they’re really saying is how do I get what I want without asking for what I want.
I had a boss once who like, any time I put my scented lotion on my hands, like I’d pull it out of my desk drawer, I’d put it on, and then like inevitably he’d walk by and be like, did you just put perfume on? And like the first time, I was like, oh no, I just put on some scented lotion. But he did it like dozens of times. And I was like, do you just not listen to the words I’m saying, or like do you have short term memory—like, what is the deal?
Do you think he was trying to tell you that the smell bothered him?
I—this is where I was going, Kitty. Thank you for stealing my thunder.
I realized after far too long that that was his really subtle way of being like, please don’t use that lotion in the office.
We live and learn and then get Luvs, it’s okay.
We live and learn. But here’s the thing like, I kept doing it and thinking that something was wrong with him, when if he’d just come out and said like, oh wow, that perfume or lotion or whatever that scent is, it’s really strong. Would you mind not using it around me? I would have been like oh my gosh, I’m so sorry, of course! And I would have not kept it in the office. Anyway.
Absolutely. I love, I absolutely love this genuine moment.
That you picked it up immediately and I was like, huh, I wonder if he has memory issues?
Kitty & Piggy 10:28
But perfect, perfect illustration of why the direct approach is always best. Yes, it’s uncomfortable but you really don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you are performing unnecessarily in order to avoid asking for what you want, which is for someone to change to accommodate you and your co-workers and the business around you. I do think that one important thing to do, if you find yourself in this situation, and this question asker clearly, since it’s a source of gossip among the employees already, it’s been confirmed that it’s not just your personal opinion. But I want to throw out that everyone has a unique body smell. Part of that body smell is determined by the bacteria that lives on your skin. Your sweat doesn’t usually—under normal circumstances, your sweat should not smell. It’s the bacteria that lives on your skin, much of which is beneficial and should be there. They chow down on your sweat and then they admit their own odors.
Mmm talk bacteria to me, baby. The human body is so sexy.
And like, it has a lot to do with your diet, your body composition, your pheromones. And the sense of smell—
Where you live, if you cohabitate with any animals.
Like everyone’s sense of smell and their preferences for certain smells is very, very different. Occasionally I have heard of situations where someone has really smelled terrible to someone else but they are the only one who thinks so. And it is clearly just an issue of like, their body chemistry is like, your body is telling you like, don’t make babies with this one. No, ma’am! Like, this is not the one. This isn’t it. Or they are like using a deodorant that just like—in the same way that like, some people think cilantro tastes terrible and soapy and other people acknowledge the truth which is that it’s delicious and you can’t have too much of it on a taco. Like it’s different. Everyone is different. So, validating. Validating is kind of key. If you’ve never heard anyone else mention it, and it’s really, really strong to you, I would say obliquely, don’t mention names, but talk to someone you trust and say like, have you noticed anyone on the team has maybe a smell? And if they’re even a little bit confused or surprised then the answer is no, it’s just you. But if someone smells strongly then everyone around them is like, yeah, I know who you’re talking about. Definitely know who you’re talking about.
I know who it is.
If you are experiencing this issue and you’re at a hundred thousand person global company with a huge HR team, like that’s totally different. In that case you’re going to want to go to HR. You’re going to want to talk to your manager, if you trust your manager to be discreet. Like, it’s a totally different thing. But I’m going to assume this is a small workplace, no HR team, and probably quite tight quarters and high levels of interaction with customers, where like a server with a strong body odor is absolutely like, oh that could really hurt your business. And so there’s a legitimate business need that you have the unfortunate job of communicating to this person.
Yeah, yeah. No and I think you need to, as we’ve said, just accept that they might not have a favorable reaction. Like their reaction might be really defensive, really offended. It sounds like you know, they say this person is really sensitive, so like just be ready for tears. And be like, you know what, it has to be done anyway because it’s going to improve this person’s life, it’s going to improve the business, it’s going to improve life for all the co-workers. So like the only solution here is to say something. If you smell something, say something.
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Kitty & Piggy
End of Sponsored Content 15:32
One of the things that I think is really critical on this, is that there are a lot of medical conditions that can cause a strange or unpleasant body smell. And those might be something that they know about. It might be something they don’t know about. For example, pre-diabetics can have an unusual kind of fruity body odor, especially in their mouths. There are other people where their bodies don’t process certain proteins or amino acids and it might make their sweat kind of smell like urine, and there’s nothing that they can do about it. Like, there’s a limited number of steps that they can take to correct that. So might be a medical issue. Might be something that they know about. Might be a hygiene issue. Might be something they have no idea about. I think going in with the approach of assuming it’s a medical issue that they already know about will kind of prepare you to not unfairly, unconsciously color your language with value judgments about them as a person or jumping to conclusions about like, you must not respect your co-workers if you come in and you don’t shower before you come in. Like, don’t bring that.
Oh god. I can’t think of anything worse—don’t do that. Don’t be that like, 10th grade bully. That’s just—that’s fucking awful.
If this is a conversation that you have to have with someone, the best thing to do is to like, kind of prepare them for the fact that you’re about to talk about something awkward. Please like, get them somewhere private.
And do it in private.
Yes. Do not bring this up in a staff meeting
If you have this conversation in front of other people, I swear to God I will come like a Final Fantasy Summon out of the sky and strike you down. No, do this in private and say like, hey can I talk to you? Do you have a couple of minutes? I have something that I want to bring up with you and it’s an uncomfortable subject but I really respect you as a teammate. I value you and I want you to be here and to be successful here. And so I need to have a difficult conversation with you. I have noticed an odor coming from your person. And I actually like that language because it’s a little bit non-judgmental in terms of like, is it your clothes?
It’s not like you smell.
Is it your personal—if you’re working in a white collar, like everybody’s at a desk, I’ve noticed a smell coming from your cubicle, because it could be that they have, you know, some food in there. A banana that they put in there three months ago that they forgot about and is now stinking up the joint.
I have many friends who are cat owners and they physically cannot clean out the litter box often enough for me to not detect even a whiff of that smell. There are some people who don’t have that reaction to the smell of cats. Or don’t have that reaction to the smell of dogs or chickens or any other animal and like, my point being like you just might not be aware that your beloved pet is getting all up in your business and their scent is becoming your scent. Or at the very least it’s getting on your clothes and that can be really hard to separate, you know.
Yeah. And people who have allergies, people who have deviated septums, it’s really common for people to not physically be able to smell very well. Like to absorb scent well. You never know. So I think being direct but not, unless you have a really good idea what the source of the smell is, I probably wouldn’t jump to making specific conclusions. If you smell that it’s mildew, then you can have a conversation around like, okay, so make sure your towels are fully drying before you use them on your body. You know, make sure that you’re taking those clothes out of the dryer quickly. Then you can give specific suggestions. But if it’s just a general B.O. smell, then I would I would keep it up to them and instead be direct and say, I’ve noticed an odor coming from your person. Explain the ways in which it impacts their job. Not too pedantically.
Yeah, don’t be like, and the customers are being driven away. Yeah, that’s a little hurtful.
But saying like, we work in a restaurant. We work in a tight environment. We’re all up close to each other. We’re close to our customers and it is really important that we have good grooming and hygiene. Is this the first time that you’re hearing about something like this? Have you ever gotten feedback like this before? Because if you haven’t, maybe it would be great time to set up a medical check-up and make sure that there’s—you know, I’d feel terrible if there was something that was wrong with you physically and you didn’t know about it. Or saying, you know, do you have any ideas about what the source is and what steps you can take, or do you need my help to kind of brainstorm? Leaving it a little bit up to them. In general, I think if people have a body odor, my hope is that they have some idea about it. And if they want help, if they need help, let that be something that they can choose to open up to you about. Like yeah, actually I’ve been really depressed and it’s been really hard for me to take good care of my body and I know I’m not showering as much as I need to. Or, you know, I’ve been trying to hide it from you but I’ve been living out of my car recently and I haven’t been able to shower and I’m really embarrassed about it. And then it’s like, okay, like now I can help problem solve with you. But you’re never going to get someone to open up to having a productive conversation, if you come at them without that necessary like, softness and empathy.
Yeah, don’t be an antagonist. I also think we need to be, you know, really sensitive in this case about talking about things like take a shower more often or make sure you’re washing your hair because there are—for example, I know a lot of black women are on a very strict hair washing schedule just because their hair gets damaged if it’s washed too often. And so if you lead with just try washing your hair more often or just try showering more often, that can seem as a really sort of underhanded racist microaggression.
Yeah, that’s why I shy away from a direct suggestion unless it’s very clear that like, oh, this smell is you’re not wiping well enough or you need to change your menstrual products more frequently or, you know, something very specific.
Yeah, yeah. And then you brought up the idea of like, oh, I’ve been living in my car and hoping nobody noticed. Like, that’s another reason to be super sensitive about it too. ‘Cause like, there are plenty of people who look totally fine, healthy, and successful on the outside, but on the inside they’re dealing with massive debt or they’ve just become unhoused or they had some other life occurrence that is horrifically affecting their ability to stay hygienic or more importantly, just like, you know—something tells me stress does so many horrible things to us that like—
I actually have a fantastic anecdote about this. So my husband has, to me, absolutely positively the world’s best smell. Like, I will huff his t-shirts. He just—he smells like my husband.
Ugh, I cannot listen to another Mr. Kitty sex story. Oh my god.
Hush! You will. Sit still. It’s story time. An absolutely incredible thing happens when he is under stress, and it has to be a very particular kind of stress. I first noticed this when we were playing a deception game at a friend’s house for like a board game night, those like social deception games.
Within 90 seconds, I want to say, I knew without a doubt that he was the bad guy that everyone was trying to discover.
Because of how he smelled?!
And I knew this because instantaneously his breath was terrible. And I was sitting next to him, so I like really noticed it and I was actually looking at him and I was like, oh my god, it’s you. And you didn’t tell me, your body told me. And I can—now that enough years have gone by that I can actually smell his shirt and smell if he had a hard day where he was under a lot of bad stress.
That is like, wife level 20 like, you are—
He can’t play those games with me! So now if we play them, I sit on the opposite side of the room to him because literally, otherwise I’m like, I know, right away because I can smell the fact that he is so uncomfortable lying that it just comes out of his pores!
This man will never be able to cheat on you. Where have you been? What’s her name? [sniffs audibly]
I would know—I smell her! I smell her on you!
I smell her on you.
But it doesn’t smell like perfume. It smells kind of metallic.
It smells like stress. Everyday stresses that we can go through and people’s mental state can really impact the way that they smell. And that’s why I think it’s best not to jump to conclusions and obviously never ever to be uncompassionate with someone who’s challenged thusly. If you are in this situation, you absolutely have an imperative to act. Not only because it’s in that person’s best interest.
In our letter writer’s case they have employees to look out for and customers as well. And another thing to consider is that like, you may be of a mentality of like, oh my god, I feel tormented by this person’s smell. I read a lot of comments from people saying, oh, you know, I used to live with someone or I used to work with someone whose body odor would make me gag and make me get migraines and make me flee from the office sometimes, and it’s like, that’s no way to live. That’s not fair to anyone so. This is one of those times where like, believe me, I’ve thought about this, I would rather be told that I smell bad than tell someone they smell bad.
Ohh, yeah. Yeah!
It is a very, very uncomfortable thing, and that’s good because it means that you understand how the other person would feel. You understand how sensitive of a topic that that is. And I think just owning the fact that like, hey, this is really awkward and I hate to have this conversation with you, but I want to be honest is I think the best case. Don’t stage elaborate plays.
Yeah god no. I want to be honest and I want to be caring of, you know, your situation and the situation of those around you. Like this is not—this is an intervention, you know, it’s for your own good. But you know, say it in a kind way. But yeah no staging elaborate scenarios or plays or Ocean’s 11-esque heists to get this person to smell differently.
No like—I saw people saying like oh, give them a gift basket of like lotions and deodorants. They totally will just think it’s a gift.
Hello passive aggression.
And I’m like no, no. The solution to this problem is not introducing more scents into this equation!
No! Oh yeah, that’s the other thing too. You cannot mask a bad scent with a more powerful pleasant scent.
Cat pee plus Febreze smells like cat pee and Febreze.
Cat pee plus Febreze. Yes, exactly. You just can’t mask that smell. You can’t like dunk—you can’t dunk a turd in perfume and make it not a turd. Not that people who have body odor issues are turds. But I have totally sat on planes behind people who are just drenched head-to-toe in perfume and it’s gag-inducing.
It’s unpleasant, yeah. I think in general it’s just courteous to try—like we’re all human beings. We make smells.
We make smells. But you should try to make those smells less strong.
We didn’t choose this life, this life chose us.
I didn’t choose the stank life, the stank life chose me.
But minimizing the number of conflicting scents you are giving to people who may not be able to consent. If this is a conversation that you have with a direct report in a situation like the one that this letter writer outlines, I think it’s good also to circle back with—since you already know at this point that it’s a bit of a source of office gossip. Or if you had multiple people or even just one person come to you and complain about it—
Yeah, go back to them and be like I addressed this with them like, let’s not gossip anymore, or even worse like let me know if the problem persists. But yeah, they’ve been told.
I spoke to this person about it. They’re aware of the issue now. Let’s give them a while to work on it. In the meantime like, please cut the chatter about it because it’s a personal issue and it’s sensitive and if it continues to be an issue, please come talk to me about it and let’s not be disrespectful to them by talking about their issue behind their back. Nothing sucks like knowing you are the center of an issue and no one will talk to you about it. That’s just my whole nightmare.
Unless you’re me, I want to be the center of everything and I want everyone to be talking about me all the time.
We’re talking about you and your stank ass.
And my stanky-ass lotion!
Alright, so are you good with that?
I am good with that.
Listeners, if you want us to answer your question, go to BitchesGetRiches.com and click “Ask the Bitches.” After all, this podcast is listener-supported. We are committed to never ever putting our best content behind a paywall. Only our worst content. So if you like what we do and you want us to keep doing it, you can support the podcast by joining our Patreon at patreon.com/bitchesgetriches. And if you need even more Bitches in your life, and who could blame you, you can read our articles or follow us on social media at BitchesGetRiches.com.
Alright, is there anything else they should know?
Yes. I have an opinion about the greatest metal vocal performance of all time. And it’s Bonnie Tyler’s I Need a Hero.
Good to know.
Kitty& Piggy 30:51