Thursday, December 07, 2006

Another question for you :)

Today I wore perfume to work, and I'll be the first to admit that I put on a little more than I'd like. I only got a little spray the first time, and when I went to do another little one, I got sort of a big one instead. It's a perfume I just got, and I think it smells really sweet and nice. Well, I hadn't been in the lab at work for 15 minutes when my coworker (remember The Whistler?) asks if I'm wearing perfume. I say yes. He then told me (for probably the 20th time) that his girlfriend only wears green tea and vanilla sorts of perfume, so light that you can hardly tell that she's wearing any. This is his usual comment when I wear any sort of perfume. Over the next five minutes, he made three more comments about it, sort of under his breath, but loud enough that he had to know I could hear him. He turned on the exhaust fan next to him ("It's giving me a headache, I gotta turn on the fan"), and even walked out the door ("I gotta open the door!!", like he's suffocating). At this point I was right in between super pissed and having pretty hurt feelings. One because at this point I can't do anything about it, two because I think it was really out of line for him to keep making comments about it, mostly because of point one, and three because I like the smell of this perfume, and his constant commenting feels like an attack on me personally. I finally had to leave the room (I believe my parting comment was "fine, I guess I'll just have to find somewhere else to work for the rest of the day"). I cooled off a bit, but I couldn't let it go, I had to say something to him about how what he said bothered me, because I believe not saying anything is telling them that this behavior is ok. So when I went back in I said "Do you think that next time I wear a perfume you don't like that you could restrict yourself to one comment?" He got all upset and was like "It's making me sick, dear" I said, "well, you don't have to go on about it so much, that's pretty rude". He says, "It's not rude!" I say, "Yes it IS rude!"
So.. what's your take? Was he out of line, or was I overreacting? I'll let you guys be the judge!

Edit: I'll say one thing, that little tiff has led to today being much more quiet in lab-land! Maybe I'll have to pick a fight with him every day from now on, so every day can be this pleasant! No stupid stories about his friends' stuff, not nearly as much whistling, it's beautiful!

14 fellow footsteps:

Anonymous said...


or at least bring this back up when you do his yearly review =)

SQT said...

Boy is this guy passive aggressive or what?

I have these types in my family so I know them well. Rather than just come out and say what's bugging them, they make constant little asides. They do this so they don't have to be the bad guy. They know one of two things will happen. You'll get angry and then they can play the martyr, or you'll end up doing what they want without a confrontation. Either way, they figure they win.

In my family the only thing you can do is confront them directly. That's what they're trying to avoid and it makes them really uncomfortable. I find if I'm really direct with them, they're much less likely to continue the behavior because they don't like direct confrontations.

I think that's why you had a quiet day today. He really didn't want to get into a direct conversation with you. I think you handled it very well.

Carrie said...

Thanks for this affirmation, sqt! :) It's true he avoids confrontation whenever possible, unless he's angry. Then he'll wait until you come in where he is, and just explode at you as soon as he gets the chance. He absolutely hates to be told he's wrong.

whimsical brainpan said...

As someone who has allergies and bad reactions to strong perfume I can see why it might have botherd him but he could have been an adult about it.

Mike said...

I think you handled it well. There have been a few of the girls at the plant that wore perfume to the the point of knowing there were in an area 5 minutes after the left...that's toooo much. But just being able to smell it wouldn't bother me at all.

Anonymous said...

Wow, is that what I am, passive-aggressive? Sqt just described me to the T. I always wondered what was wrong with me. I'm glad there is a name for it.
I agree that he was out of line, yet I understand where he is coming from about strong perfume. It bothers me also, but I highly doubt that your perfume was so strong that he couldn't breathe (that only happens when people put on a lot more than you describe). He did need to be talked to about his "over the top" behavior. However, be careful about confronting him too often. If he is like me, then he will be very scared and hurt and may never forgive you. He will not feel safe near you. Even though you have to put up with his un-interesting chats and whistling, it is probably better than working with a person who gives you the cold shoulder.

SQT said...


Didn't mean to offend. I've just seen a lot of harm come from such avoidance of conflict. My in-laws are going through serious marital problems, and my father-in-law passive-aggressive nature is making things almost impossible to work out. He's so bent on not being the bad guy that he won't engage in any kind of argument that might actually help the situation. Everyone knows what he is doing and he's not getting away blameless. But the behavior is so ingrained that I don't think he knows how to stop.

SQT said...

Oh, and I didn't mean to suggest being overly confrontational, that's not fair either. I just don't think it's fair to expect people to put up with nasty under-the-breath comments just to keep the peace. Asara has the right to tell the guy he's being rude IMO.

Carrie said...

Sara -
You know me, you know I wouldn't confront him unless it really bothered me. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've taken him to task for his behavior, and out of 7 years of dealing with it, I think that's pretty tolerant.
sqt -
I think you're right about the ingrained behavior. I think that not only does he not know how to stop, he doesn't really realize he's doing it. He has several other behaviors (like the whistling) that he doesn't consciously realize he's doing. When I first started working here, he would always whistle the same song, and I could call his attention to it when it started to get to me by whistling along with him. Invariably he wouldn't even realize he was doing it.
My main point here was just to ask if I overreacted in this one instance, I'm glad to see you guys feel I acted appropriately. Thanks!

Heather in Beautiful BC said...

You are a strong lady - me....I'd have gone in the bathroom and scrubbed until most of it was gone.

I hate confrontation :(

AND, I dislike most perfumes.... I totally avoid the perfume counters in stores and if someone tries to stop me by offering a sample, I gag and run!

hmmmmm, I wonder how I would have handled it if you were in the lab with me? I guess I'd take a tylenol, open a window near me, put on a mask and suffer it out, not too quietly though - I'd mumble and grumble under my breath, then take a poll of fellow employees and ask to have the rules changed to ban perfume in the workplace.

Ooooooh, I sounds like a mean, passive agressive bitch.......I guess you wouldn't want to have lunch with me the next day, huh?

SQT said...
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SQT said...
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SQT said...

Boy, I guess my family is unusual in that we pretty much say what we think.

We're not confrontational really, we believe in tact and understanding. But rather than mutter and moan we'd probably say something as nicely as we could. Something like, "I like you're perfume, but do you realize it's a little strong?" You know, tactfully suggest they wear a little less. I bet that would be the end of the problem. I have found that most people actually appreciate having certain things pointed out nicely rather than have people talk behind their back or making no-so-subtle gestures and remarks.

It's hard when it comes to the kids though. I had a woman I wanted to ream yesterday. My son walked up to her kid and pointed to a back pack the kid was wearing as if to say "hey-- look at that." My son didn't hit or do anything remotely aggressive and this woman had the nerve to grab my son's hand to prevent him from touching her kid and forcefully say "NO!" to my son. I was pissed. But I didn't want to make a scene in front of my kids in the Santa line. I wanted to yell at her so bad and tell her to get her hands off my kid. But I didn't. I just grabbed my son and picked him up. I did furiously whisper to my husband that I wanted to kill her. But I didn't say anything to her at all. I'm still fuming though, but I don't think saying anything would have made any difference. She's a psycho lady and there's no help for it.

Barb said...

I'm with Billy ;)