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Personal branding with body odor

For decades I’ve brushed my teeth after lunch so I don’t smell like food all afternoon. Nobody’s ever complained.

Running around New York City from a young age exposed me to significant cultural diversity.

This prepared me for attending a Washington DC college with a large Middle Eastern population. Many denizens of the arid desert bathed less frequently than their American counterparts. Indeed, one student never bathed. After receiving countless complaints, one of his professors called this student to the podium, handed over a bar of soap and told him to bathe.

Naturally, this student alleged harassment, sued and got thrown out of court when the judge proclaimed: “You stink. Take a bath!”

Despite this colorful background, I welcomed a consulting gig for a large scientific organization whose team represented a wide range of ethnicities. I figured a global corporation meant a fascinating cultural mix with free-flowing, far-ranging lessons in language, food and humor.

However, one of the scientists came from a place where bathing wasn’t common, and that’s where my problem started. Having been brought up believing one should always smell nice, I typically found my stomach turning when downwind of her foul body odor.

Observing myself involuntarily nauseous and unable to concentrate when I was near this woman, I avoided her when possible or spoke with her from great distances.

One-on-one meetings in close quarters were obviously out of the question.

For some reason, many folks ignore the advice, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” when it comes to personal hygiene. This can be problematic for those on the wrong end of the equation.

Because just as I was reluctant to meet or work closely with this woman, others are sure to react similarly. Supervisors won’t want to risk litigation and thus won’t tell her the problem directly.

However, it seems a safe bet I’m not the only one who reacts this way to objectionable body odor. And failure to take that into account when walking your career path can almost certainly lose you professional opportunities, regardless of how good your credentials may be.

Call it woke, hyper-sensitivity or politically incorrect if you must. Yet we’re all always selling ourselves, and the last thing anyone needs to help their efforts is the moniker “Stinky.”

With that said, I wish you a week of profitable marketing.

Success smells sweeter at