I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.
December 11, 2011 8:43 AM   Subscribe

My new boss farts a lot. Never thought I'd be asking this question but how should I handle it?

He'll even say "I just farted, I hope it doesn't smell." Place of business is a one room storefront. There is practically zero customer traffic in the store so it is just the boss (owner), another male employee, and me (female). I haven't said anything yet because accidents happen, right? Now I know that he just doesn't care and farts whenever he wants to even if I am standing right next to him. I feel ridiculous even asking this question! What would you say to him?
posted by futz to Work & Money (37 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Nothing. But I would start looking for another job if it bothered me. He's the owner, and it's highly unlikely that what you say will change anything. It's not worth getting into anything over it, particularly if the other employee isn't saying anything.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:47 AM on December 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

How do you suppose he'd feel if you bought him a box of Gas-X?
posted by crunchland at 8:49 AM on December 11, 2011

Maybe he has IBS. You could tell him to take his business to the bathroom in a light hearted way. Tell him to cut that shit out.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:51 AM on December 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Can you form a united front with your coworker and go to him together? Make it a joke but serious?
posted by facetious at 8:52 AM on December 11, 2011

"I just farted, I hope it doesn't smell."

(with a smile): "Only a little! You had (sniff) cabbage for lunch?"
posted by Houstonian at 8:53 AM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

He may have IBS, Crohn's or another bowel problem. He may be acknowledging it because it does happen a lot - perhaps so often that he cannot get to the washroom every time.

If he does say it again and he's right beside you, try saying you have a sensitive stomach and it would help if he could move away from you beforehand whenever possible. He should at least be able to manage that courtesy, some of the time anyway. If he doesn't do that, I'd start looking for another job.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:02 AM on December 11, 2011

He'll even say "I just farted, I hope it doesn't smell."

This is the real problem here.

In this economy though, suggestions to 'get a different job' are pretty hollow.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:02 AM on December 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't understand this idea that farting is either a question of accidents or of not caring and deciding to fart. Unless he's pulling some intentional "pull my finger shit," it's highly likely that he is farting because his body has decided that it needs to fart.

I mean, if he comments or jokes about it, sure, make some kind of light-hearted response like Houstonian suggests: "A bit!" But as far as telling him to stop farting? Way out of line as a matter of manners, and doubly so because he is your boss.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:03 AM on December 11, 2011 [12 favorites]

The non-jokey answer will depend on what exactly you're doing for him in the course of your work and how hard it would be to find a similar job that was less flatulent.

If what you're doing is relatively "off the shelf" and getting a new job would be hard, for God's sake don't say anything. This isn't him hitting on you or groping you or asking you pointed questions about your religion or marital status. If you're in the US, I seriously doubt if you will find any state where anti-flatulence requests are protected by employment law. He's the owner, and he can fart all he wants, and if you ask him not to, in this case he can just replace you with someone who will shut the fuck up about it.

You only have any power to make any request or statement about his farting if you are doing something so boutique for him that it would be harder for him to replace you than it would be for you to find a new job.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:04 AM on December 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh god, I had this boss in high school. To this day, I do not use air fresheners of any type because the smell reminds me of synthetic florals layered over...oh god...the smell... He would address it at times which frequently made it worse, oh have mercy.

Your solution is going to come down to personalities. If you absolutely cannot stand it, you'll have to get a new job. My guess, though, is that he's jokey about it to cover up embarrassment so you can lightly address it by saying, "Well, if I didn't hear it you don't have to tell me and you can blame it on someone else!" Or getting potpourri or scent sticks or whatever to mask the smell or even making jokes. He probably can't help it, my old boss couldn't.

Or be blunt. "I don't care if you fart, but please warn me so I can move out of the kill zone." From the kind of guy he sounds like, sounds like he'd be more than happy to shout "Fire in the hole!"
posted by motsque at 9:17 AM on December 11, 2011 [8 favorites]

I'd ask the other employee about it and ensure there isn't a health issue involved before doing anything.

Since my mom's treatments for colo-rectal cancer, she passes a lot of gas. Sometimes it's loud and/or odorous. She's horribly embarrassed but can't do anything else about it - her diet is super restrictive to minimize side effects and she schedules outings around when she knows her system is least active. All she can do is apologize quickly and matter-of-factly and move on with life. Friends/Family just open a window if it needs to be done; they realize her dignity is important.

If it's not a medical thing and the boss is just uncouth, ask if it's OK to open a window or door or turn on a fan or something in the same tone he uses to announce his fart. Like "Eh, it happens. I'm going to ___ to circulate the air." If he says no, say "Well, I've noticed it happens a lot and it's just odd to me to get an announcement and then just stand right in the area. In the long run, I'd feel better if we did __ or you warned me but do you have an alternative?"
posted by adorap0621 at 9:22 AM on December 11, 2011

Probiotics help tremendously. You could gently find out if he knows about them.
posted by dhartung at 9:27 AM on December 11, 2011

I know 100% that it is not from a medical issue. Most people seem embarrassed when they are caught farting in public. I think that what my boss is doing is showing a lack of respect for me. I am not mad about this yet, just baffled. Why would someone do this? I think I can approach this with a witty remark and a bottle of Febreze. I am not a prude at all but I really don't want to marinate in his ass scent.
posted by futz at 9:37 AM on December 11, 2011

Light a candle and don't take it personally. If that is the worst thing he does you are blessed.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:40 AM on December 11, 2011

I have a relative who farts constantly. He won't mention it, but he knows it bothers people and it reeks. I honestly believe he just doesn't care (because he could excuse himself to the bathroom in the majority of instances)... the discomfort he is feeling is more important than the noses of those around him. Nothing has changed this -- people have been telling him and complaining about it (gently) for years. The likelihood that your boss is going to change his behavior based on anything is pretty close to zilch, sorry. The best tactic you can probably take is getting some deodorizers in place to combat the reek of his farts.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:07 AM on December 11, 2011

Maybe he needs to take some digestive enzymes.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 10:10 AM on December 11, 2011

"Yeah, but the issue is not the smell, it's that I have to breath air that came out of your ass! Can't you just step outside like we do when you have to pass gas?"
posted by Yorrick at 10:15 AM on December 11, 2011

Most people seem embarrassed when they are caught farting in public. I think that what my boss is doing is showing a lack of respect for me.

I fart a lot, and I have a very close friend who farts a lot, too. None of this, of course, is intentional or related to any medical issue of which I'm aware, and products like Gas-X hurt my stomach enough for that to not be an option. It is embarrassing. I have lost clients over it, as has my friend. And we've both come up with different strategies for dealing with this. I'll apologize if it looks as though someone has noticed I've farted. He, on the other hand, with announce that he has farted upfront, letting others know and circumventing his own embarrassment.

So, if he's saying something about it sometimes, he's aware of the issue and aware that it bothers or could bother people. I'm not seeing a lack of respect here. Running off to the bathroom to fart several times an hour or whatever just makes it more noticeable and more embarrassing (I've tried that route before).

Crack open a window, light a candle, get a bottle of Febreeze, and, as St. Alia said above, don't take it personally.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:21 AM on December 11, 2011

He may be used to working with people who don't care and not even realize that you do. Next time he does it, just say, "Can you do that over in the corner?"
posted by Etrigan at 10:53 AM on December 11, 2011

I guess I'm in a minority of folks who doesn't think a standard fart is a big deal? It's something our body needs to do, so unless these farts are particularly pungent and the store front is unventilated, or (I can't believe I'm about to type this) wet-sounding, I'd just ignore it. Farts happen. I certainly wouldn't take it personally unless he was going out of his way to fart at me.
posted by smirkette at 11:23 AM on December 11, 2011 [7 favorites]

1) Gas-X doesn't stop farting. It just minimized intestinal pain by making farting easier.

2) Medical or not, do you know anyone who can fart intentionally? It's not like he's doing it intentionally.

3) He could, though, try to manage the issue through diet or other medical stuff, though

4) any business owner is likely so busy that he doesn't feel he can make time to research, talk to a doctor, etc. -- but this is what he'd need to do. Devote thought and time to solving the problem. Instead, he's keeping his business running.

5) There are unusual products out there that can help actually reduce odor (see a bunch of previous metafilter questions). However, broaching the issue with your boss might require some delicacy.

6) You could consider giving him a subscription to metafilter. Maybe he'll be intrigued enough to look for answers to his problem himself.

7) If you can become friends with him, then maybe someday soon you can let him know that you'll try to become the kind of dependable employee that will allow him more personal time to eat right and maybe talk to a doctor.
posted by amtho at 12:06 PM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

4) any business owner is likely so busy that he doesn't feel he can make time to research, talk to a doctor, etc. -- but this is what he'd need to do. Devote thought and time to solving the problem. Instead, he's keeping his business running.

I appreciate that you took the time to answer but this just isn't true in this case. The opposite is true. I don't want to go into anymore detail than that right now.

2) Medical or not, do you know anyone who can fart intentionally? It's not like he's doing it intentionally.

He's intentionally not "holding it in" and then calling me over to help him with something as I walk into his fart cloud. A considerate person would wait a moment to let it dissipate, right?

So what is farting etiquette?
posted by futz at 12:45 PM on December 11, 2011

Miss Manners would say proper etiquette is to ignore it completely. Ben Franklin might say to embrace the wind from the bowels, or somesuch.

Practically, you probably have to ignore it best you can, while slowly and carefully looking for another job. And politely explain the reason you're leaving when you do finally depart.

Maybe you'll leave the place smelling better for your successors.
posted by rokusan at 1:12 PM on December 11, 2011

"He'll even say 'I just farted, I hope it doesn't smell.'"
"He's intentionally not "holding it in" and then calling me over to help him with something as I walk into his fart cloud. A considerate person would wait a moment to let it dissipate, right?"

He's being honest with you, which I'd take as an invitation to be honest with him.

As soon as he calls you over, ask him, "is it safe or should I wait a moment?"
If he tells you it is safe and it isn't, then respond, "I'll be there in about five minutes--last time you said it was safe and it wasn't."

Forget trying to teach him etiquette or good manners--just figure out a way to save yourself from his fart cloud.

God bless his honesty--it really gives you a good "out" to this situation.
posted by calgirl at 1:23 PM on December 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

It seems to me that there are cultural differences around farting. Some people think it's absolutely hilarious. Not me - I mean, you're making someone else inhale your atomized fecal matter. It's like someone spitting in your food. (Or more accurately, like someone shitting in your food.)

My suggestion - have him get a particular chair with a cloth-covered seat and ask him to sit down and fart on the seat when he has to do it, in hopes that the fart will stay more contained in the seat cushion. (If he's already sitting on a seat like that, maybe a more voluminous or more porous cushion?)
posted by XMLicious at 1:49 PM on December 11, 2011

I had a similar situation about 3 years ago with a co-worker and it was really an uncomfortable situation to be in, specially if there's a woman and a man involved but I remember that he was farting so many times and he never apologized or even mentioned it as if nothing ever happened. So one day, after he did it me and my other co-worker opened the window and sprayed air freshener, he then apologized and said that he's got a problem because of his diet (he eats a lot of beans and humus) it was disrespectful and I'm lucky that I've found another job and left that place soon after. I hope you find a solution to this problem and I suggest that you discuss it with your boss and tell him that it makes you uncomfortable and hopefully he will take it into consideration and start controlling his body and stepping outside or to the restroom when he needs to do it.
posted by AmyMh17 at 1:56 PM on December 11, 2011

I think people's bodies tend to work inherently different ways, and they assume that everybody else's works like their own.

Some people fart a lot, some less; more importantly, some have lots of warning before one comes out (allowing them to move away if inclined), some do not.

(I tend to fart a lot, and they often take me by surprise. Or, I'll have maybe a second's warning and there really is no stopping it. My daughter is like me, and my son is like his mother, who rarely ever farts. And we all share the same diet.)

Assuming there is something your boss can do is to make the mistake that his body works the same way yours does. Bottom line: his bowels have nothing to do with his respect or lack thereof for you.
posted by zachawry at 3:29 PM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Vick's vapo rub under your nostrils. Old EMT/cop trick.
posted by kamikazegopher at 4:47 PM on December 11, 2011

at least he hopes it doesn't smell. That's a start. I know some educated, advantanced-in-their-career men that will fart at will, even at a restaurant, like it ain't no thang. Other people around them didn't seem to mind either. ... my point: no matter how baffling this may seem, some people (usually men) genuinely don't think it's a big deal, like a tiny hiccup and assume they are automatically excused.
posted by Neekee at 5:10 PM on December 11, 2011

I know that you intend to raise the matter with him (and good on you for approaching this head on), but have you considered that it is incredibly unlikely that he will be able to promise to never fart in the office again? I say regardless of how well the conversation with him goes, have a back-up plan for those times when it does happen.

Maybe something like wintergreen might work to block out the smell for you? My darling is a gastroenterologist and, as you might imagine, he sometimes has to work in close conditions that are smelly. The nurses use wintergreen to essentially overpower the smell. They put it around the room and dab some on his face mask. Of course, one downside is that he can't smell wintergreen without associating it with incredibly messy/ deeply unpleasant situation from work.

Good luck!
posted by RosiePosie at 8:44 PM on December 11, 2011

Lactose intolerance can cause stinky, plentiful farts. Or maybe he doesn't eat enough fiber and/or get enough exercise, causing constipation & gas. If you feel comfortable, you can say "Gee, are you lactose intolerant?" or "I hope you don't have IBS or anything." And, you can put some menthol or pine-sol on your sleeve for occasional relief.
posted by theora55 at 9:00 PM on December 11, 2011

Medical or not, do you know anyone who can fart intentionally? It's not like he's doing it intentionally.

Sweet Maude, you don't know may teenage boys, do you?

Futz, from what you've said this guy sounds totally unpleasant to be around, not because of his flatulence, but because of the way he acts about it. My best suggestion is not to engage him on it, just to give him the 'stink eye', and walk away. Maybe he never progressed beyond that adolescent enthrallment with his own farts and thinks he's impressing you, but you might watch out for escalating disrespectful behavior. Then I think you'd find another job to be a breath of fresh air.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:50 PM on December 11, 2011

Buy him a copy of this book.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:52 PM on December 11, 2011

Maybe he never progressed beyond that adolescent enthrallment with his own farts and thinks he's impressing you

Or maybe he decided that it's ridiculous to be embarrassed about a natural bodily function that he probably doesn't have much control over. Add me to the list of people who're in the "eh, so what?" camp. Bodies happen, and they do all sorts of weird, sometimes disgusting, things. If you've got a body that tends more towards the disgusting end of it, there's no point spending your life constantly apologizing for things you can't control. And, relatedly, I'd stop assuming that people can universally just hold in their farts--I know people on both ends of the spectrum, including some who have no other medical issues and would like nothing more than to hold in their farts, but are unable to do so.

That said, there's something I'm not clear on from this question. Either he's farting and then immediately calling you over, forcing you to, as you said, "walk into his fart cloud", or he just happens to fart, and you're in the vicinity. If he's consistently actively asking that you join him when he's just farted, then, imo, this is disrespectful and rude--there's no loss in walking across the room to you, or waiting a minute for the smell to let up. If, on the other hand, he's just a guy who farts a lot and you're often in his immediate vicinity, then you are the one who's being rude about it.
posted by MeghanC at 3:52 AM on December 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

From where I am sitting, it sounds like he is just being a teenager about it. My friends and I are way older than teenagers, and we still enjoy gassing each other. My friend's dad farted on me while I was eating one time (banquet hall situation, I was sitting, he was standing behind me talking to someone), and it was one of the funniest things ever. My friend was mortified because he has good manners, but simultaneously thought it was hilarious.

So maybe he's just setting you up for some jocularity? Try responding in kind, with "fiber!" or "what did you eat!?!" or "that was a rough one, you better go clean up".
posted by gjc at 7:04 AM on December 12, 2011

Either he's farting and then immediately calling you over, forcing you to, as you said, "walk into his fart cloud"

This is correct.
posted by futz at 2:17 PM on December 12, 2011

Slowly train him to get some manners. Next few times, "Boss, that stinks; I'm going to take a break", and walk outside. After a few times, say "Boss, can you take that outside, please?".
posted by at at 11:25 PM on December 13, 2011

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