How do you spell malodorous? G-a-r-l-i-c, c-u-r-r-y, b-r-u-s-s-e-l-s-p-r-o-u-t-s...
Bad smells trigger bad moods, according to Pamela Dalton, an olfactory researcher at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philly. She goes on to say, "Smelling others' lunches in the office can make people feel as it they have lost control over their personal environment" and "...can distract us from what we are doing and change our mood."
What are the most smelly foods? Her study concludes: reheated fish dishes, fast-food french fries (really?), microwave popcorn (either you love it or vomit), burritos, liverwurst, onion, dishes with aged cheese; the list is a bit surprising. What about garlic, curry, green vegies, and hard-boiled eggs? An Australian company completely banned curry from the workplace.
If you aren't hungry, the scent of any food or snack can set you off. So, what is the answer? Should businesses impose rules against certain 'aromatic' foods? Would anyone adhere to the rules? People steal their co-worker's edibles from the lunch room fridge; a little posted sign, reading: "Be sweet, please don't reheat the following food groups: ... You really think that will deter the grub-seeking chow-hounds of the workplace?
Being considerate of those you work with is just plain ol' good manners. Equally distracting is someone opening a bag of their favorite chips and the crunching and munching that goes with it--don't forget the sounds of fingers being licked. While you are in the solitude of your cubicle, your neighbor is daydreaming about how they'd like to grab that bag, toss it in the trash, and spray the area with some gardenia scented product.
What foods would you ban?
The etiquette approach: If you must enjoy a loud or pungent culinary delight, at least go to the lunch room or take it out to the streets. Another option is to enjoy your crunchy treat on the way home. Besides eating at your desk should be done with some grace and discretion. Does the company really have to impose rules to remind employees to show courtesy and consideration during work hours.
Etiquette is an attitude.
Rosalinda Randall is an Etiquette Consultant and Owner of Your Relationship Edge. She has been spreading civility throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond for over fourteen years. She provides on-site workshops that will upgrade anyone's professional presence. 650.871.6200