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Handling Inappropriate Coworker Behavior

Handling Inappropriate Coworker Behavior

Got any strange coworker stories to share?

Alison Green l Ask A Manager

May 18, 2010

A reader writes:

I found your blog while searching for help with a very uncomfortable and embarrassing problem. My co-worker has started wetting himself during work. I’m not kidding, this is not something to joke about as it could be a sign of serious health problems.

He wears beige colored pants and around the middle of the day, when he stands up, you can see a very large stain running down his pants. To make matters worse, he does not wash his pants, so one can see dried urine stains from previous days – by Friday it’s pretty bad.

What do I do? It’s very uncomfortable, it doesn’t smell good but besides the selfish thoughts of how it makes me feel, what about his health? Shouldn’t someone say something to him, based on health concerns alone?

I’ve mentioned this to his manager, he refuses to do anything. I’ve mentioned it to the HR director he said he would take care of it. Yet the problem persists.

Please advise – this is not something that is a very common problem so not getting much help by googling it.

Um. My first thought is that there’s no way this guy doesn’t know that it’s happening, but I suppose it’s possible that he really doesn’t. But it pretty much has to be a medical problem, right?

My next thought is that HR didn’t handle it even though they said they would because they’re too uncomfortable, which is a lame cop-out, and you should go back to them and tell them that they’re doing this guy a disservice by allowing this to become a noticeable thing in the office.

Normally I would say that if you are at all close to this coworker, you could consider talking with him yourself … but realistically, few people would have the balls for that, and anyway, this is a job for HR and they should do it. How about enlisting your own manager in helping you push for them to handle it?

You might also show HR this post, which has tips for talking to an employee about body odor, and there’s some stuff there that could be adapted.

One thing I mention in that post is that I think when there’s something really awkward to be addressed, it helps to think about how you’d want it handled if it were you. But I really have no idea how I’d want someone to say this to me (and I’m feeling pretty grateful to have bladder control just thinking about it).

What do you guys think?

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