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Should Perfume Be Worn in the Workplace?

Updated on May 31, 2013
ChrisMcDade8 profile image

Christine McDade is a Human Resources professional (PHR & SHRM-CP) with over 18 years in the public sector.

Christine McDade is an experienced human resources manager.

Unless one works at the perfume counter at Macy's, it is always a good idea to consider the amount of cologne or perfume worn at work. While it is nice to have a special fragrance as an identity for others to recognize and admire, employees should take heed to understand that overdoing the fragrances may cause problems for others in the workplace. Sensitivity to certain smells, offending others and overdoing the amount worn are common issues related to employees wearing too much of their favorite fragrance at work. The impression one gives others when they wear too much perfume is off-putting because of the excessive nature of the scent. Employees are wise to be mindful of the fragrances they wear at work and during special occasions in the workplace.

Flowers delivered to the office can cause some problems for some employees in the workplace who are sensitive to smells.
Flowers delivered to the office can cause some problems for some employees in the workplace who are sensitive to smells. | Source
Sometimes, strong soaps can cause problems for sensitive people.
Sometimes, strong soaps can cause problems for sensitive people. | Source

What is the big deal?

Smelling nice is something that is very important to people. In fact, many people spend a lot of money on expensive fragrances much like they do on clothes, shoes and other wardrobe accessories. These items often are worn to work along with a favorite cologne, perfume or body spray. Many employees wear the fragrances to complete their outward appearance. Men and women alike include such fragrances as part of their professional wardrobe. These powerful scents come in many forms:

  • Perfume
  • Cologne
  • After-shave Lotions
  • Body Spray
  • Body Lotions
  • Shower Gels
  • Soaps
  • Hair Products (hairspray, gels, mousse, shampoos, etc.)

The items listed above are seemingly innocent, but when used excessively, can cause issues for people who meet them in the workplace. In cubicles, cramped offices and conference rooms, employees wearing strong fragrances can be almost toxic to their co-worker's nasal passages. Sneezing, migraines and difficulty breathing are a few common reactions for people who are sensitive to strong fragrances. Employers must make accommodations for persons who suffer due to strong fragrances being worn by co-workers.

Problems With Strong Frangrances

People with sensitivities to certain smells can experience health issues as a result of being around others who wear strong fragrances. Such smells, as well as being annoying, can trigger breathing and other health problems for employees. Some employers have had to discuss issues with fragrance sensitivities with their employees. For example, the City of Detroit, Michigan, implemented a policy to address wearing strong fragrances due to a lawsuit filed by an employee who had complained to management about a co-worker's strong perfume. In order to address such situations, employers consider and may choose to implement a policy for employees to follow. Employees may even request such policies to prevent allergic reactions from occurring.

Ways to Avoid Problems with Fragrances

In the event no policy exists related to the wearing of cologne/perfume, employees can help to avoid problems by being conscience of what they choose to wear to work. Since many people are sensitive to smells, it will be helpful if employees save the strong perfume for the weekends and their own special occasions. Wearing fragrances do not have to be banned, but employees should be mindful of how much they wear at work.

There are moments related to work that should be as "fragrance-free" as possible. Consider the following:

  • Job Interviews - To make a positive impression, interviewers prefer to not be distracted by strong perfume and cologne.
  • Meeting New Clients - Again, in order to make a good impression for purposes of sales and client relations, strong perfume and cologne can be received negatively by others.
  • Working with Co-workers on a Project - Working side by side with co-workers on a group project will mean spending time together to get the work completed. Strong fragrances worn by employees can be disconcerting to the others.
  • When Working Outside in Warm Weather - While deodorants and antiperspirants are needed when working outside during the warm weather, sweating on top of the strong fragrances such as perfume and colognes will not help keep a neutral smelling environment for employees.


Some Closing Thoughts...

People enjoy their special brands of perfume and cologne. Spending good sums of money on a preferred fragrance, it is not surprising that employees choose to make them part of their normal professional wardrobe. Like anything else worn to work, care should be given to these fragrances to make sure that they are worn in a professional manner. When care is given to the work and who is affected by such smells, employees will be able to avoid unnecessary problems.

Do you work with someone who wears a lot of annoying cologne or perfume?

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    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Chris,

      You are very welcome. And thank you for sharing a topic that some might be miffed at you for writing about.

      Perfume like harsh words should be quiet, and non-obtrusive at the workplace.

      I appreciate your following so much.

      Your friend,


    • ChrisMcDade8 profile imageAUTHOR

      Christine McDade 

      4 years ago from Southwest Florida

      Thanks for the comment. Perfumes and colognes are almost a staple or permanent part of our wardrobe these days. When they are worn at work, they can have different effects on people. We had a senior leader in our organization who wore the same cologne everyday. You always knew where he had been because of the scent he left. Have a great day!

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Chris,

      Loved this hub. Very well-written and presented. Voted up and away. I hope you will not laugh, but I had a "reverse," perfume problem when I was able to work.

      I worked in an office with about 12 employees and yes, some of them were female. No problem.

      We were like a small family, but this one woman, a close friend, didn't wear enough perfume, or she chose to just wear enough perfume to get attention and it worked.

      When she would bring copy to me where I ran a PC, I knew she was in my office for the subtle scent of Diamonds.

      I thought, if that small amount lends this much aroma, I wonder . . .well, you know. And this was not a complaint.

      And there were NO sexual anything.

      I cordially invite you to check my hubs and you might like them. Then be one of my followers.

      I would love it.

      Kenneth/ from northwest Alabama

    • ChrisMcDade8 profile imageAUTHOR

      Christine McDade 

      4 years ago from Southwest Florida

      I appreciate your comment. There are many people in the workplace, employees and customers, who are sensitive to these smells. Thanks for the input.

    • csilano profile image


      4 years ago

      I don't think perfume / cologne should be worn in the workplace. What smells delicate and pleasant to me may be over-powering to someone else. I skip the cologne on work days!

    • ChrisMcDade8 profile imageAUTHOR

      Christine McDade 

      5 years ago from Southwest Florida

      There are so many people with sensitivities to smells. Strong colognes and perfumes can be very bothersome for them. I am glad you were able to get a resolution for your situation. Thanks for your comments.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      I feel strongly that there should be a no perfume policy in offices. Especially ones where there are no windows and people sit closely together. Years ago I worked with a gentleman who wore incredibly strong cologne, usually trying to mask other odors. We were bunched together in cubicles and it was horrific.

      Many of us had to go to HR to discuss the problem and luckily it was remedied. Useful hub.


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