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Harassment in the workplace is a serious matter, and one that can take many different forms. While sexual harassment is sadly one of the most well-known variations, in Japan, companies have recently shifted their focus to a less frequently acknowledged form, caused by employees’ body odour.
Smell harassment, as the Japanese have dubbed it, involves employees having to put up with their colleague’s unpleasant body odour against their will. Since someone’s smell is a very personal matter, it can be difficult to broach the subject. As a result, team members who are bothered by their co-worker’s smell might be suffering in silence.
A new trend is supposed to put an end to that, by educating employees on the causes of body odour such as armpit sweat, in the hopes of preventing smell harassment at the office.
One of the companies adapting to the growing awareness of smelly employees is men’s cosmetics company Mandom. Earlier this year, the company organised a seminar on body odour which was attended by 40 staff members from mobile phone company SoftBank, the Mainichi reports.
“Body odour is a very sensitive subject, and it’s not easy to tell employees to their face that they smell”, one of the seminar’s participants told the Japanese newspaper. “But if we pass on the content of this seminar at our workplaces, problems with body odour may improve”.
Although sending whole departments to learn about body odour and how to prevent it can’t hurt, perhaps it’s also a way for managers to avoid having to talk to someone about their personal smell, a difficult conversation no one enjoys.
A spokesperson from Mandom told the Mainichi that the increased interest in combatting body odour could have something to do with a higher percentage of women in the workplace, as well as energy-saving awareness leading to warmer air conditioner settings in the office.
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