Q: Your co-worker wears a strong perfume, and it's becoming too much to bear. How do you tell her that it's too strong and is bothering you without offending her?
A: Say, "Your perfume is lovely, but it seems to be triggering my allergies. I'm sorry to ask, but would you be willing to leave it off at the office?"
A reasonable person will be willing to accommodate you, particularly if you're kind when asking. Try to sound a bit apologetic rather than implying that she's done something wrong.
But, if she turns out not to be reasonable, this is something you can take to human resources for assistance. Workplaces are increasingly having to address fragrance sensitivities among employees, and it's something that HR should be willing to intervene on, particularly if it's causing you any physical symptoms.
ALISON GREEN, creator of website Ask a Manager
A: Discreetly ask around to see if other colleagues feel the same way you do. If they do, you'll gain more confidence in your approach.
Wait for the right timing, and find a way to have a one-on-one conversation to avoid putting her on the spot in front of others. Address the subject with her when you're in a calm state of mind. If you're too emotional, words will come out the wrong way. Remember that your tone of voice should not communicate criticism. A person wears perfume to feel attractive, so to find out that the perfume is, in fact, having the reverse effect is bound to feel embarrassing.
Say, "I've been meaning to ask you for a favor, but I didn't know how to say it. Then I thought to myself, if the roles were reversed and my co-worker felt this way, I would definitely prefer she tell me. I was wondering if you would mind not wearing any perfume at work. It may sound surprising, but since we spend many hours a day at work, the scent of a perfume can eventually become too intense and distracting."
MARTHA MORRICE, founder of Martha's Workshop, the blog for professional women