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Gas Problem Must Be Dealt With At Work

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

One of my colleagues I work with on a regular basis is constantly passing gas, but otherwise very polite.

This is a very awkward for me as a superior, in handling genuine requests by other co-workers to have some sort of discussion about the behavior as it seems to be a distraction on many levels.

How do I address this issue with the individual who is passing gas?


Fresh Air

Dear Fresh Air,

As this passing gas problem is causing a distraction, then you will need to speak to your colleague in private. It is very important to have the concern coming from you and you alone. Never mention that everyone in the office is offended and has asked you to speak to him.

When you meet with the colleague, have two topics to discuss with him, one being the flatulence and the other a work topic. While in your office, you could begin by saying something like, "I need to discuss some topics with you. One is about something that if I had this issue, then I would hope someone would let me know. I don't know if you realize it, but the passed gas smell is a bit overwhelming. Is there a medical problem of some sort that we need to talk about?" Then, immediately mention the second work topic, "The second topic is the meeting agenda with XYZ Company." Pause, and let the colleague either discuss topic number 1 or 2.

If your colleague does not discuss the passing gas, then let it go for now. See if there are any behavior changes in the colleague such as less gas passed, or at least an attempt to be more discrete about it. If there are no changes in the odor producing colleague, then have the discussion again.

Find out if your colleague has seen a physician for the gas problem. If not, urge him to do so. There could be an underlying medical reason for the flatulence such as irritable bowel syndrome or intestinal obstruction. Or, the physician can offer him tips to help reduce the flatulence.

If it turns out that there is a medical problem, then help your colleague by moving his desk to nearer the door in order for him to exit more easily if he needs to go to the restroom to pass gas. During meetings, have him sit near the door so that he can exit to the restroom if necessary.

If there is no underlying medical reason causing the flatulence, and there does not seem to be any behavior change, then speak to him again. Offer some advice as to help reduce the gas problem such as diet and lifestyle changes.


1. Try not to swallow excessive air: eat slowly, do not chew gum, and quit smoking.

2. Avoid flatulence causing vegetables such as asparagus, beans, broccoli, and cauliflower.

3. Avoid fruits such as apples, peaches, pears.

4. Avoid carbonated beverages.

5. Avoid dairy products, breads, and cereals.

6. Avoid overeating.

7. Keep hydrated.

8. Keep weight down.